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A Room in the Wilderness

Posted on December 3rd, 2017

A comfortable bed and a warm shower in the middle of the wilderness? Maybe even a glass of wine right along the trail? In the latest Trail Talk blog from MichiganTrailMaps.com , we write about our favorite middle-of-the-park lodges. The most challenging thing about these places is not hiking to them but reserving a room in advance.

In our last blog, we announced the launch of our new web site. In this one we announcing all the bugs we subsequently discovered in our eshop have been resolved. If you had difficulty at our eshop when the site was first relaunched, we apologize. To encourage everybody to check it out again we staging our first sale utilizing our new coupon feature. Plug Xmas20 into the coupon code space at check-out and you’ll receive 20 percent off any book or map in our eshop (but not 99-cent digital maps). We’re running the sale through December and all books can be personally autographed by the author. What a great stocking stuffer!

By Jim DuFresne

It’s one thing to book a room right at the trailhead. And it’s something else entirely to wake up on the trail, deep in the wilderness, in a room with a soft bed, hot shower, maybe even morning coffee. But no cars, rush-hour traffic or strip malls anywhere in sight.

Jim DuFresne

You don’t have to go to Switzerland, New Zealand or some other exotic destination for such a hike-in adventure. It’s possible here in the U.S., even in the Midwest. The key to such an off-the-road experience is knowing that such places exist and then booking that room well in advance.

Here are five of my favorite middle-of-the-park accommodations with booking information. It’s up to you secure that room.

Phantom Ranch: This lodge, offering both dormitory rooms and cabins, is a historic oasis nestled at the bottom of Grand Canyon and the only lodging below the canyon rim. It is on the north side of the Colorado River and can only be reached by mule, on foot or by rafting the Colorado River.

Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is about 4,600 feet lower than the South Rim.

Each dorm has 5 bunk beds, a shower and restroom while the cabins range in size and can accommodate from 2 to 10 people. The Phantom Ranch Canteen serves breakfast and dinner and there is a mule service that will carry your pack or duffle bag down and back up.

It’s a 7.5-mile hike to Phantom Ranch down the South Kaibab Trail and 10 miles on the considerably easier Bright Angel Trail. Either one requires most hikers 4 to 6 hours while the average hiking time up is 6-10 hours. A good rule of thumb is for every hour it takes you to hike down, it will take you two to hike up.

The demand for a room at Phantom Ranch is intense. But this year the Phantom Ranch has instituted a new online lottery system that replaces what was essentially a phone lottery when on the first of each month guests continually redialed trying to get through. For more information on the lottery go to: www.grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging/phantom-ranch.

The Leconte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

LeConte Lodge: In the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. LeConte is situated on an open glade at an elevation of 6,400 feet just below the summit of Mt. LeConte and, needless to say, gives way to spectacular views of the Smokies.

There are no roads to LeConte as it is accessible only by hiking via one of five trails that range from 5.5 miles to 8 miles in length. Guests are housed in hand built, roughhewn log cabins featuring propane heat, kerosene lanterns, clean linens and warm Hudson Bay wool blankets. Meals are served family style in the dining room.

The lodge is open from mid-March to late November with reservations accepted beginning in early October of the previous year. This is a place that you need to book almost a year advance. For more information on reservations or what is still available in 2018 go to: www.lecontelodge.com.

A cabin at Camp Denali in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

Camp Denali: Located in Kantishna, a former gold miner’s camp, this lodge is reached via a 90-mile gravel road through the heart of Alaska’s famed Denali National Park. Cars are not allowed on the park road, you reach it via shuttle bus, a four-hour ride that often results in sighting a variety of wildlife from moose and caribou to mountain sheep and brown bears.

Verging on legendary, Camp Denali is the best known among the handful of Kantishna lodges. Spread across a ridgeline, the camp’s simple, comfortable cabins feature picture-window views of Mt. McKinley, wood stoves and propane lamps and hot plates for morning coffee or afternoon tea. Nearby is a historic log lodge with a dining room, library and a modern shower facility. During the day activities range from guided hikes and birding to wildlife photography.

At Camp Denali guest can only arrive or depart on Mondays or Fridays, so plan accordingly.

The Rock Harbor Lodge, situated at the east end of Isle Royale.

Rock Harbor Lodge: At the east end of Michigan’s own Isle Royale National Park is Rock Harbor Lodge, reached by boat or float plane but not your car because there’s no roads or vehicles on this 210-square mile island. The lodge offers rooms with private baths and spectacular views of Lake Superior while overlooking Tobin are 20 cottages with kitchenettes, private baths and a studio type living area.

From Rock Harbor trails extend in almost every direction while a water taxi can be utilized to be dropped off at various spots on the island for return hikes to the lodge that would range from 6 to 15 miles. For more information, go to: www.rockharborlodge.com.

The Stokely Creek Lodge in the middle of winter.

Stokely Creek Lodge: Located in the Algoma Highlands just north of Sault Ste. Marie, Stokely Creek Lodge lies within view of Lake Superior at the foot of 1,880-foot King Mountain. The lodge with its rooms, cabins, dining hall and saunas is the destination for some of the finest Nordic ski and snowshoe trails in the Midwest. The trip into the lodge is only a five-minute ski or snowshoe trek but is far enough so you never see your car or any other vehicle until it’s time to go home.

Spread over almost 8,000 acres, Stokely Creek has more than 30 kilometers of snowshoe trails and 120 kilometers of cross-country ski trail with most groomed for classic and skate skiing. For more information on the ski season or reservations go to: www.stokelycreek.com.

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