Sun Mountain Lodge
Location: Winthrop, Washington
Price: From $172
Why We Love It: The magnificent views here have been awing guests for decades. Established in 1968 in central Washington’s Methow River Valley, the Sun Mountain Lodge is an aerie atop a foothill boasting immense 360-degree vistas: the mountain terraces and spires of the North Cascades and thousands of acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Guest rooms and a dining room are built around those views. I’ve been fortunate to stay here four times, teaching writing classes for the EASE Cancer Foundation and hiking on glacially carved slopes where strong winds cause trees to grow sideways.
I have been here with friends and colleagues, but never a romantic partner: I wish! Instead, each time, I sent my husband and our two sons cascades of photos: Mount Gardner from my room, the horse ranch I can spy from my class, the nearby Lake Patterson, where people fish, and even the stuffed bison in the lobby (his name is Floyd) and the massive musk ox and caribou heads mounted above the fireplace. Every season has its charms: sunflowers and wildflowers in spring and summer, the brilliant red foliage of fall, and, in winter, snow (not to mention the annual Ski to the Sun Marathon and Relay, a 40K race that begins on the valley floor, continues on what’s touted as North America’s largest ski-trail network, and finishes at the lodge).
My husband would love to skate-ski here. We’d both like to tackle some of the daylong rock climbs around Mazama, 23 miles to the northwest. My friend Jill LaRue, a nurse who works the conference, mountain bikes the trails around the lodge. If you hadn’t packed for all of the recreational possibilities, you can square things away at the lodge’s sizable gear-rental shop. This being Washington, it is perhaps unsurprising that the salmon served at the lodge is always great. And if you have time for further exploring, you might try snacks and soup at the Rocking Horse Bakery and Little Dipper Cafe in the quintessential mountain town of Winthrop, ten miles east, or visit the funky cabin-like Mazama Store in Mazama. —Alison Osius, Outside travel editor