Douglas Merriam; Richard Mack

Perfect hideaways in the Southwest to get away from it all

Secluded amid sculptural rose-and-gold sandstone cliffs above the Ojo Caliente River Valley, Rancho de San Juan is a hideaway of the first order. Whether sitting on your private patio viewing the desert expanse bordered by silhouettes of the mesa familiar from Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings, or just roaming the grounds, it's almost impossible to separate the adobe structure from its earthy surroundings.

The inn borrows and blends the best of Latino and Native American cultures in luxurious accommodations. Gleaming wood and imported tiles, handmade pottery and tinwork, and the glow from the fireplace conspire to create a particular magic. A respite in the flower-filled courtyard, with the sound of water flowing from the fountain, is sure to soothe and refresh the weary soul.

Highly acclaimed for its four-course, fixed-price dinners and wine list, the rancho's dining room has a nightly changing menu that highlights local seasonal ingredients with European and Southwest flavors. The location, despite its feeling of grand isolation, is another plus: Santa Fe is only 45 minutes to the south; Ojo Caliente Hot Springs a half-hour to the north; and hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and sightseeing opportunities are close by.

ESSENTIALS: Six rooms plus 11 suites (10 in private casitas with jetted tubs) with fireplaces. From $185. Ten miles north of Espanola off U.S. 285; (505) 753-6818 or Dining room: dinner.

― Sharon Niederman



Despite the allure of the town, many guests at Garland's Oak Creek Lodge never set foot off the property during their entire stay. It's not that Garland's offers a compelling list of activities. Rather, guests come simply to soak up magnificent views, enjoy great food, and do ... nothing.

The lodge, an old homestead that the Garland family has been running as an inn since 1972, sits along the banks of Oak Creek. Towering rust-hued canyon walls provide a backdrop for the property's wood-and-stone cabins, which dot a manicured lawn. Oaks and sycamores, interspersed with fruit trees, provide shade and color.

The cabins are simple, decorated with handmade furniture, quilts, and braided rugs. Balconies and patios invite lingering; chaises scattered strategically on the grass suggest naps.

An outdoor cocktail hour allows guests to catch the last rays of light in the canyon, then it's into the main building to sample an ever-changing menu - herb-crusted salmon, perhaps, or rack of lamb, followed by a rich dessert - much of it made with ingredients from the lodge's orchard and organic garden. Though there's no lunch served, breakfast - such as local trout and corn fritters - can get you through to teatime.

The lodge does have a clay tennis court and a croquet lawn, plus access to nearby hiking trails and a swimming hole, but, admits owner Mary Garland, "the big sports here are reading, eating, and going to bed early." And therein lies Garland's appeal.

ESSENTIALS: Closed Dec-Mar; closed Sunday nights. Sixteen cabins, 12 with fireplaces. From $168, also including tea and dinner. 8067 N. State 89A; (520) 282-3343 or Dining room: dinner.

― Nora Burba Trulsson 


Sheltered by grandfather cottonwoods and secluded in the village of Galisteo, this 260-year-old hacienda is only 30 minutes from Santa Fe Plaza. The 10-table restaurant, recognized as one of the state's finest, serves an exquisite three-course, fixed-price dinner with highlights such as thyme-rubbed beef tenderloin in port wine sauce. Back in your room, light the fire, snuggle under your feather comforter, and watch firelight flicker over the room's foot-thick, gently rounded adobe walls before you drift off to sleep.

ESSENTIALS: Twelve rooms, nine with private bath, five with fireplaces. From $125. 9 La Vega; (505) 466-4000. Dining room: dinner.

― Sharon Niederman


The three-story, old-fashioned log lodge overlooks a bucolic meadow, ponds, and the west fork of the Little Colorado River, places where you can play horseshoes or fly-fish in the summer and ice-skate or cross-country ski in the winter. In the lobby, a native stone fireplace invites you to get cozy. Rooms in the lodge are airy, spacious, and decorated with pine and rustic furnishings, lace curtains, and quilts. The cabins, more popular with families, are plain and functionally basic. Featuring pasta, steak, and local trout, Amberon's restaurant has walls of windows and an outdoor deck to keep nature in view.

ESSENTIALS: Eight rooms and three cabins. From $95. 44 Main St.; (888) 475-6343. Amberon's: breakfast, lunch, dinner; (520) 735-7216.

― Nora Burba Trulsson 


Long a Tucson favorite, Hacienda del Sol was originally a girls' school before it became a guest ranch in the 1940s. As a guest ranch, it catered to sun-seeking Easterners and Hollywood celebs - it was one of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's hideaways. A recent renovation updated the inn's rambling, Spanish colonial accommodations and added a new restaurant, the Grill. The Hacienda's magnificent old cactus gardens remain intact.

ESSENTIALS: Twenty-three rooms, 7 casitas, and 4 suites, 11 with fireplaces; outdoor pool, hot tub, tennis court, and horseback riding. From $135. 5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Rd.; (520) 299-1501 or Grill: dinner, Sunday brunch; 529-3500.

― Nora Burba Trulsson


ELLIS STORE COUNTRY INN, Lincoln, NMBilly the Kid really slept here, but he never encountered the comforts of hand-stitched quilts, oak furniture, and lace that pamper modern travelers. Ellis Store started life as a sturdy two-room adobe in 1850 and has witnessed every twist and turn of this tiny town's history. In summer, breakfast is served on the cottage-style porch overlooking shady lawns. Proprietor-chef Jinny Vigil serves six-course gourmet dinners in the dining room, where the romance of the past lives on.

ESSENTIALS: Eight rooms, four with shared bath, plus two suites. From $79. On U.S. 380 in Lincoln; (800) 653-6460 or Dining room: breakfast, dinner.

― Sharon Niederman

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