As the dead of winter sets in and a new year beckons, the need to unplug, unwind, and recharge is off the charts. To that end, we’ve found six secluded North American destinations where you’re encouraged to put down the devices, exhale, stop and smell the evergreens, and then jump out of a helicopter onto an Alaskan glacier. Or search for sheep herds from the back or a horse, storm watching, snowmobile the Continental Divide at top speed, or try your hand at metalsmithing. If you prefer your hiatus to feature more hibernation and less hyperventilation, we’ve got winter travel ideas involving grounding activities like forest-bathing and searching for first editions of your favorite book for you too.
Adrenaline Action in Alaska
Go wheels down and up in the backcountry of southcentral Alaska with help from the ever-expanding adventure biking program at Winterlake Lodge by Within the Wild. With six cabins (ranging in size from 300 to 1,000 square feet) situated between the Tremble and Hayes glacier and the Tordrillo Mountains, the eco-lodge offers guided mountain biking at the new High Camp. Those craving even more high (literally) stakes spins can drop into their ride along an almost vertical mountain spine or volcanic island (Augustine Volcano) from a helicopter. The helicopter can also deposit guests atop remote glaciers to explore on foot.
Plan your trip during the dog days of Iditarod season—this year that means March—as Winterlake is one of the 50-year-old race’s official checkpoints. Chef-owner Kirsten Dixon throws an ice cream social for guests and mushers and guests can try their hand at mushing on the actual trail, travel to the overnight canine camp and learn to cook over a campfire on a glacier, or play with the just welcomed litter of future racers who will be raised on property.
Woo Woo Wellness Out West
Run away to California’s ruggedly beautiful redwood coast, about four hours north of San Francisco, where the secluded Inn at Newport Ranch sits atop the steep windswept headlands. The constantly crashing Pacific provides a 24/7 soundtrack that is particularly pleasant when taking a soak in the outdoor hot tub as the setting sun fills the 180-degree panorama with color. Continue your recharge at the spa where you can get a variety of standard massages and join a yoga class. Enhance the appointment with a more far-out treatment like shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), sound healing, tuning forks vibrational therapy, or polarity energy balancing.
The lush landscape figuratively nourishes your soul while also literally filling your belly. If not pulled from the organic garden, most meal ingredients are sourced within a small radius of the inn including through foraging. Tap into your hunter-gatherer roots on a mushroom expedition. A guide takes guests on an informative four-hour UTV exploration of the 2,000-acre ranch to scavenge for edible shrooms. The package also includes a fungi-forward fireside lunch and making an inoculated mushroom log to take home.
Live out Your Yellowstone Fantasy in Wyoming
If binging the hit Kevin Costner cattle-ranching drama has you daydreaming about big hats, wide-open spaces, horseback riding, or woodsy interior design, slide into your boots and head for the hills, err, snow-capped mountains of the Cowboy State. While the show is technically set and filmed in Montana, this part of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming exudes a very similar scenic vibe, and what better way to get away from it all than by vacationing in the least-populated state in the nation at an all-inclusive property consisting of only seven rooms and eight personal log cabins. Tucked into the Shoshone National Forest at 9,200 feet above sea level since 1922, the historic and alpine-chic Brooks Lake Lodge and Spa in Dubois take care of all the details and most of the equipment you’ll need whether you want to try your hand at ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling along the Continental Divide, or wildlife viewing from the back of a mountain-bred horse accustomed to steep terrain and high altitude. You’re most likely going to spot herds of bighorn sheep, moose, and deer.
Extend the trip a few days to include stops in Jackson Hole—where you simply must get coffee, baked goods, and a huckleberry croissant white chocolate bar (a collab with Compartes) at Persephone Bakery—Grand Tetons National Park, and the titular Yellowstone park as well. All are less than four hours away by car from Brooks.
Bibliophile Break in Upstate New York
If one of the Rs in R&R stands for reading in your perfect vacation formula, head upstate three hours from New York City to the tiny town of Hobart where word nerds will find their people, plenty of product, and a plethora of places to escape into the pages of a paperback. That’s because Hobart is the only book village east of the Mississippi although the concept isn’t a novel one. (It dates back to the 1960s when Richard Booth turned several historic buildings into bookstores in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.) Established by Don Dales in 2005, Hobart has seven independent bookshops within walking distance of each other and many more booksellers within a 50-mile radius. The largest is Liberty Rock, which boasts hundreds of secondhand stories in all genres, while Adams’ Antiquarian Books stocks antique tomes that date back to the 1600s (and more current bestsellers) and LionEyes Books has art-centric reads. Creative Corner Books caters to cooks, crafters, and hobbyists and serves tea. New York Books & Ephemera specializes in works about all facets of Empire State characters, culture, architecture, and history. Pick up local food products and artisan-made gifts as souvenirs in its shop within the shop. The Children’s Community Library hosts storytime for the littles and authors pop in for the Winter Respite Lecture Series, signings, and the annual Festival of Women Writers. Like most of the bucolic hamlets found in the Great Western Catskills, Hobart’s main drag also plays host to art galleries, vintage clothing boutiques, and antique shops.
Where To Stay
Nestled within a refurbished 1830s inn, any of the five suites at The Bull & Garland offer cozy nooks and pillowy beds to curl up with a classic, but it would be hard to beat a warm bubble bath and a bestseller in the Equestrian’s high-backed copper soaking tub on a chilly day in Delaware County. Feast on fiction and fish and chips (or sweet potato curries and scotch eggs) in the property’s English-style gastropub. Prose can also be enjoyed on the porch or in the beer garden.
Workshopping in Wisconsin
If your new year resolution is to become the best version of yourself, head to Wild Rice Retreat, a Midwestern sanctuary surrounded by pines, crisp air, and the ruddy shores of Lake Superior, to start your evolution. To that end, it hosts a wide variety of retreats covering artistic disciplines (writing, photography, painting, jewelry making), expression/mental health, physical movement (mostly yoga), and self-improvement endeavors and that programming often integrates the breathtaking natural surroundings. So do the new Scandinavian-inspired accommodations with their oversized windows, minimal décor trinkets, and porches. When you aren’t in class, take advantage of the cedar sauna, cold plunge, and rain shower, warm up by a fire pit, take a hike to the shore, or meditate in the state-of-the-art Peace Pod.
A mile from the tranquil center is Bayfield, a town known for its berry bounty, apple orchards, and as the “Gateway to The Apostle Islands.” (Kayaking to its sea caves is a bucket list moment.) The lovely little town is also quite proud that it isn’t home to a single stoplight or fast-food chain.
Storm Chasing in Canada
British Columbia’s Pacific Rim, and more specifically Vancouver Island from Tofino through Ucluelet to Port Renfrew 80 miles south, consistently gets some of the world’s most explosive weather—churning shallows shooting up through the Blowhole, whipping winds that lash out at forests and the sides of buildings, 25- and 30-foot waves that come from far out on the open sea and crash on barrier rocks and craggy coastlines splintering massive logs as if they were twigs, even the occasional thunder, and lightning. The island averages 12 feet of rain a year, with most of it coming down between December and the beginning of March. What started as a local pastime has become a cottage tourism industry over the last decade. There’s something about watching Mother Nature and the mighty Pacific face-off, feeling the mist on your face, the chill in your fingertips, the salt in your hair that makes you feel alive and makes problems seem less significant in the scheme of things. For dauntless boarders, it’s also become a magical and unique surf experience to check off the life list. Even if a storm never comes to fruition, the island is a place of austere yet breathtaking scenery guaranteed to make for a memorable hike or kayak.
Where To Stay
And although it might sound dangerous, Twister tornado chasing it is not. The Wickaninnish Inn was built by an owner who spent his childhood watching Tofino weather from a battened-down cabin and who wanted to let others experience the thrill … safely. Rooms are outfitted with full rain gear and rubber boots for those who want to get a closer look, but guests can just as easily hang out behind the hurricane-proof glass windows in their quarters, in public areas where you can pair watching with wine and light bites, or in some of the treatment rooms at The Ancient Cedars Spa. Boot and coat dryers like at ski lodges are available. Some rooms even have tubs and fireplaces that are perfectly positioned for the show of surf and sky.