Looking for a fun alternative to a hotel? These 10 spots turn an overnight stay into adventure.
SLEEP IN A TREEHOUSE
Fall City, WA: So. This is what it feels like to be a tree. A branch sways. A bird flaps by. It’s just before sunrise, and I’m cuddled beneath a canopy of green needles and drooping pinecones. If the windowpanes next to my pillow could open, I’d palm the peeling panels of bark.
Instead, I just look: up (through the skylight), around (through walls of windows), and down, at the river rushing 35 feet below. I’m suspended partway up a 300-year-old, 160-foot-tall Sitka spruce, surrounded by a stillness unlike any I’ve ever felt before. I’m one with the forest. And, well, it’s pretty freaking cool.
Julia Butterfly Hill certainly didn’t have it this good: built-in cedar beds, leather reading chairs, handmade quilts. At TreeHouse Point, 10 minutes from Snoqualmie Falls, Pete Nelson has created a two-treehouse utopia, with more under way―plus giant hammocks hung 18 feet high, trails leading to a rocky riverfront beach, and a night sky filled with stars that you feel just a smidge closer to.
Downright cool: The Temple of the Blue Moon is accessed by a swaying bridge that shakes the house when someone walks the planks. From $195, including breakfast. ―Rachel Levin
SLEEP IN AN IGLOO
Telluride, CO: After a day of guided snowshoeing or skiing in the rugged backcountry of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, cozy up in a snow palace hand-built for two.
No, not by you―by Joshua Butson, owner of Telluride Alpinism, who learned to build igloos from a guide who lived with Inuits in Quebec.
Sturdy and windproof, the igloos are a surprisingly toasty 32°, warmed by natural insulation and body heat. From $300 per person, including guide, gear, and three gourmet meals per day; 970/728-4101. ―Jayme Otto
SLEEP IN A HUT ON WHEELS
Mazama WA: Edged by a river, with views of the Cascades, are six glass-and-steel cottages that let you commune with nature, in comfort.
Parked in the Methow Valley, each of the Rolling Huts is just 210 square feet, but picture windows and sunny decks make the mod space feel spacious.
Sorry, you can’t really roll around; the wheels were a nifty design solution, allowing the huts to be built on land zoned for RVs.
Downright cool: The modular living room furniture hides a secret: Separately, they’re a bench, table, and stools; pushed together, they form an extra bed. From $80; two-night minimum; 509/996-4442. ―Jaime Gross
Next: Spherical treehouses and sanitarium sleeping
SLEEP IN A PADDED ROOM
San Luis Obispo, CA: From the whitewashed walls and glass-doored cabinets, it’s easy to imagine the 1800s, when rattled patients checked into this sprawling Victorian for peace and quiet.
But these days, stays at what’s now the Sanitarium Bed & Breakfast are enhanced by in-room massages, organic eggs, and claw-foot metal tubs that could fit a family of four.
Downright cool: With spare simplicity and works by local artists, the rooms create a calm not found in a typical hotel.
From $190; two-night minimum; 805/544-4124. ―Samantha Schoech
SLEEP IN A FIRE LOOKOUT
Mt. Hood National Forest, OR: One of the world’s cheapest rooms with a (killer) view comes with a price: a four-hour uphill kick-and-glide over a groomed snowmobile trail. Destination? The historic fire lookout on Oregon’s Clear Lake Butte, one of dozens of U.S. Forest Service fire lookouts around the West.
It has a full-size bed (BYO bedding for additional guests) plus a gas range for fixing dinner, a potbelly stove for staying warm―and a 360° panorama that’ll keep you mesmerized till it’s time to turn in. $50; book at recreation.gov
Tip: For a list of fire lookouts around the West, check out firelookout.org/ lookout-rentals.htm ―Ted Katauskas
SLEEP IN A SPHERE
Qualicum Beach, B.C.: Meet Eryn (pictured above) and Eve, two oversize orbs made from Sitka spruce and yellow cedar that dangle from conifer trees like spiders from a web in a Vancouver Island rain forest.
Free Spirit Spheres’ treehouses sway ever so slightly in a breeze, and were built for guests of the curious and ecologically minded sort. An outdoor composting toilet is a fair trade for the utter bird-singing peace that comes with hanging in a grove of cedar, fir, and maple.
Downright cool: If you really love the orbs, you can buy one for your own backyard. Overnight stay from $118 U.S.; 250/757-9445. ―Faith Durand
Next: A room on stilts and retro trailer lodging
SLEEP IN A CAVE
Farmington, NM: Carved into the side of a sandstone cliff, Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast is a fully furnished grotto, 70 feet underground.
A narrow trail winds down from the mesa top to the 1,650-square-foot cave, which geologist-owner Bruce Black blasted out in the 1980s and opened a decade later.
The decor is nothing fancy (think college dorm room meets the Flintstones) until you realize you’re in a subterranean guesthouse, where anything that couldn’t be carried in―hello, fridge!―had to be winched over the cliff face.
Downright cool: The waterfall shower is a nice touch, but the biggest draw is the view of the La Plata River, 300 feet below, and the craggy spires of Shiprock on the horizon. Mar–Nov; from $260, including breakfast; 505/326-2461. ―Katie Arnold
SLEEP IN A WORK OF ART
Near Quemado, NM: You may have heard of the Lightning Field, an art installation spread across a Southwestern plain, but did you know you can book a front-row seat?
At the edge of this desert scrub that’s stuck with 400 electricity-attracting poles sits a lone log cabin. Linger on your porch and watch the lightning dance. May–Oct; from $150 per person; 505/898-3335. ―K.A.
SLEEP IN A STILT CABIN
Yelapa, Mexico: High above the Pacific and surrounded by leafy palms is V House, the newest lodging option at eco-swank Verana.
While couples commandeer the pricier rooms, you and five friends can take over these secluded open-air trapezoids that stand on stilts on a hillside. The shared bathroom is a small price to pay for fresh-caught fish, views, and a spa.
Downright cool: Access this paradise by boat―and a mule ride uphill if you’re too lazy to walk. Nov 1–Jun 7; V House $250, suites from $320; five-night minimum; 866/687-9358. ―Thomas J. Story
SLEEP IN A SILVER BULLET
Bisbee, AZ: Think of Lucille Ball in The Long, Long Trailer, and you’ll get the picture of the Shady Dell―a vintage aluminum-trailer park revamped into an inn, within the equally throwback town of Bisbee.
Choose among nine fully furnished trailers, including a polished shiny 1949 Airstream dubbed the Bridal Suite because it displays black-and-white wedding albums; the 1959 Boles Aero, with a gold-flecked starburst pattern on its walls; and a tiki bus decked out in Polynesian fantasy.
Happy hour here is like a tailgate party, with new friends and croquet on the artificial-turf patio.
Downright cool: The Dell’s itty-bitty Dot’s Diner ($; closed Wed–Thu) is itself worth a trip for burgers, milkshakes, and housemade cherry pie. From $45; 520/432-3567. ―Jennie Nunn