Rocky Mountains

Sorrel River Ranch Resort, Moab, UT

Sorrel River Ranch Resort is a remote oasis in an otherwise unforgiving landscape. The 17-mile drive from Moab heightens that remoteness, as does the sight of the Fisher Towers - three 2,000-foot-tall chunks of red sandstone near the sagebrush-scented ranch - but then you realize isolation has its perks.

The ranch house and rooms exude Western hospitality and are perfect retreats after a day of hiking in nearby Arches National Park or paddling on the Colorado River. Kick off your boots and soak in the hydrotherapy tub to melt away any kinks. Suites offer kitchenettes, plus sitting areas complete with gas-log fireplaces. Nearby, there's an outdoor swimming pool, along with massage rooms, weight room, sand volleyball court, and a barn where you can board your own horse, so you never have to leave the 240-acre ranch to play.

Dinner at the River Grill means first deciding on where to sit: a table near the copper-chimneyed fireplace or one out on the deck where you can watch the sunset torch the red rock pinnacles. It's almost as difficult to choose between entrées such as pork tenderloin with mango chutney or grilled salmon.

Come sundown, though Castle Valley is cloaked by darkness, overhead the star shows are unmatched.

ESSENTIALS: Thirty-one rooms. From $179, meals not included. Milepost 17 on State 128; (877) 359-2715 or www.sorrelriver.com. River Grill: dinner; (435) 259-4642. - Kurt Repanshek

GOLD LAKE MOUNTAIN RESORT AND SPA, Ward, CO

For those seeking an escape, this is it. Sitting 3 miles off the highway on a graded gravel road, the resort does not have phones or TVs in its rooms, but most guests will find the grandeur of the Rockies rising behind Gold Lake enough of a sensory overload.

Cabins, some of which are themed and furnished with antiques, range from chic and rustic to deluxe. Slip under the thick down comforter and enjoy your room-assignment draw: Birdland, for example, is a musical haven complete with a vintage Victrola.

In the lodge, a beamed room with a stone fireplace and lounge area at one end, chef Eric Skokan serves creative spa cuisine in Alice's Restaurant.

With the lake as your base, you can enjoy ice-skating and cross-country skiing in winter and canoeing and hiking when the weather's warmer. Still need more relaxing? Slip away to one of the lakeside hot pools for a soak.

ESSENTIALS: Eighteen cabins. From $145. 3371 Gold Lake Rd.; (800) 450-3544 or www.goldlake.com. Alice's Restaurant: lunch, dinner; (303) 459-3544. - Andrew Baker

INN AT LOST CREEK, Telluride, CO

No two rooms are alike in this cozy, contemporary inn opened in 1998. Most are one-bedroom, with sitting area, gas fireplace, kitchenette, and bath with steam shower; all have mountain views. Tucked within the massive Tyrolean-accented development of Mountain Village above Telluride, the inn is a short walk from ski area chairlifts. Its restaurant, named 9545 for its elevation, is a study in the simple elegance of warm wood furnishings; steaks and seafood are prepared with deft confidence.

ESSENTIALS: Thirty-two rooms. From $295. 119 Lost Creek Lane; (888) 601-5678 or www.innatlostcreek.com. 9545: breakfast, lunch, dinner; (970) 728-6293. - Jeff Phillips

 

KNOB HILL INN, Ketchum, ID

Scrupulous attention to detail - from the gardens and perfect framing of mountain views from the dining room patio to the quiet, understated comfort of the sumptuously furnished rooms and marble baths - makes this European-style inn popular year-round. Laze around the lap pool, with hot tub and sauna. Place, the inn's new restaurant, opened after our visit; former San Francisco chefs Rebecca and Steven Ludwig describe their menu as luxurious American comfort food.

ESSENTIALS: Twenty-two rooms and four suites, some with fireplaces. From $195. 960 N. Main St.; (800) 526-8010, (208) 726-8010, or www.knobhillinn.com. Place: dinner; (208) 727-6678. - Jeff Phillips

SARDY HOUSE, Aspen, CO

Like a sophisticated dowager, stately Sardy House - just a short walk from downtown Aspen - can ignore the proliferation of glitzy boutiques and resorts clamoring for attention around her. The 1892 redbrick masterpiece features oak staircases, tiny reading areas, and a pool, sauna, and hot tub. At Jack's restaurant, executive chef Josef Rasicci orchestrates such delicious entrées as beef tenderloin with potato croquettes.

ESSENTIALS: Fourteen rooms and six suites, most with jetted tubs. From $315. 128 E. Main St.; (800) 321-3457 or www.sardyhouse.com. Jack's: breakfast, dinner; (970) 920-2525. - Doris Kennedy

BARGAIN

IZAAK WALTON INN, Essex, MT

Train buff or not, you'll find this delightful trackside lodge as chummy and cozy as a club car. Overlooking a working railyard, the lodge was built in 1939 by the Great Northern Railway. Its decor is an agreeable medley of rail memorabilia. The Dining Car serves simple but hearty fare. Glacier National Park's backcountry is just outside the front door, or just curl up in one of the back-porch swings and listen to the passing trains go clickety-clack.

ESSENTIALS: Thirty-three rooms plus four caboose cottages. From $98, meals not included. On U.S. 2; (406) 888-5700 or www.izaakwaltoninn.com. Dining Car: breakfast, lunch, dinner. - Larry Borowsky