Top 10 hotels for nature lovers

Stroll out your door and into paradise from these well-situated lodges


The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
By all means, sleep in if you like, but when you open your curtains in the morning at the opulently rustic Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch ― at the base of beautiful Beaver Creek Mountain 20 miles from Vail ― the heart-shaking panoramas will compel you to grab your walking boots and get moving. You can stroll on your own or along with Bachelor, the resident yellow Labrador retriever whose infectious energy comes in handy while hiking the Village-to-Village Trail, a wooded 6-mile trek that begins directly outside your door and connects the villages of Bachelor Gulch, Arrowhead, and Beaver Creek. Breathe in the crisp high-altitude air, watch for roaming deer, and behold the bright-hued aspen leaves that whisper in the breeze. INFO: From $150; 970/748-6200. -Lori L. Midson


West Point Inn
This is the perfect spot for a back-to-nature experience ― from the comfort of a rustic Craftsman-style lodge and surrounding cabins on the south slope of Mt. Tamalpais. There's no television; cell use and propane-generated power are limited; furnishings are austere; and getting there requires a nearly 2-mile hike along fire roads. But one look at the amazing views of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, and the East Bay from the inn's massive wraparound deck and it will all be worthwhile. Plus in the morning, Mt. Tam's trails are at your feet, from the steep descent down to Stinson Beach to the climb up East Peak. Pack in supplies for cooking up meals in the large communal kitchen; a little extra for sharing is a good idea too. INFO: From $35 per person, $18 ages 18 and under; no overnight guests Sun-Tue; closed to day-hikers; 415/646-0702. -Rich Ehisen


Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
We could go on about the beauties of the Wasatch Mountains in fall ― the quaking aspen shining against mountain granite, the cerulean skies. We could go on about the pleasures of staying at Snowbird ― their jolly Oktoberfests, the great Sunday brunches, even the angular '70s architecture that still looks remarkably at home here in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Still, passionate but lazy hikers that we are, here's what we like best: Snowbird is a ski resort. That means you can ride the aerial tram to the top of 11,000-foot Hidden Peak and then hike down. Stupendous scenery and no uphill! Snowbird has four different lodging options: the dramatic (and newly renovated) Cliff Lodge and Spa; condos at the Lodge at Snowbird and Iron Blosam; and the cozy Inn at Snowbird. INFO: From $69; 800/232-9542. -Peter Fish


Granite Park Chalet
You might be tempted to burst into song at the glacier-carved mountains, hanging valleys, and lush carpets of wildflowers in the "Crown of the Continent," as explorer George Bird Grinnell called this spot. The 1914 chalet is within the park, perched on a rocky outcropping at the nexus of four trails; the 7.6-mile, moderate Highline Trail is the most popular, with views of glacier peaks and the park's rocky Garden Wall along the Continental Divide. The 12-room backcountry shelter offers bunk beds and a kitchen where guests take turns cooking; you can order freeze-dried food (from $5.58) and linens ($15) in advance. The view from the front porch is pure Bierstadt: rocky peaks, clouds, sky ― absolutely regal. INFO: Through Sep 8; call now for last-minute cancellations, or book ahead for next year starting in Oct (lodge opens in late June); from $68; 888/345-2649. -Caroline Patterson


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