10 Best Backcountry Cabins

10 Best Backcountry Cabins

Love downhill skiing, but hate the crowds most major resorts attract? Check out Ken’s Cabin in Colorado’s high country, situated near tons of backcountry skiing. Part of the Summit Huts Association, the one-room log cabin was first built in the 1860s, when the road that runs near it was just a wagon trail over the Continental Divide. It was restored and added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1990s, and sleeps just two or three people. Located just a few miles away from Breckenridge, it's accessed via an easy snowshoe up an old railroad grade.

Hike (or ride horseback) about seven miles into the jagged peaks of Montana's Glacier National Park, where you’ll find the Granite Park Chalet. A bunkhouse built in the early 1900s, it once sheltered parties that were crossing the park by horseback in the days before Going-To-The-Sun Road was built. Day hikes from the chalet offer views of the toothy northern Rockies and turquoise mountain lakes. There’s no electricity, but backpackers may cook their own meals in a shared community kitchen, and full linen service is available to those who'd rather leave their sleeping bags packed away.

Doublehead Cabin offers sweeping views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, not to mention easy access to Doublehead ski trail, which was cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Located on the east side of 3,053-foot North Doublehead Mountain in New Hampshire, it’s accessible via a steep, 1.8-mile trail used for hiking and backcountry skiing in the winter. Its amenities include eight wooden bunks and a wood stove.

Southern backpackers looking to escape oppressive summer heat have long headed to LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for respite—the lodge sits near the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte, where temperatures stay cool even as the valleys below bake. Visitors also enjoy sweeping views of the Smokies from the rocking chairs on the porch of their one-room huts or 2- and 3-room cabins, all pleasantly rugged, with no electricity or showers. Family-style dinners are served nightly in the common dining area, a charming, rustic room lit by kerosene lamps. Of course, the comfort and beauty up top are hard-earned: You’ll be hiking at least 5.5 miles and climbing more than 2,500 feet in elevation to get there.

Spend the night in this tiny, Scandinavian-style log cabin, and you'll wake up to views of Lake Tahoe from your front door. The Wild Cat Cabin, located 2.5 miles from the nearest parking lot in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, lets Nordic skiers, snowshoers and hikers experience the quiet side of this popular vacation spot. It also provides easy access to the Flume Trail, known as one of the most scenic mountain bike trails in the country. Its website indicates that it sleeps "two comfortable, four snugly." A bonus: Two gallons of drinking water are provided daily.

Located in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, The Len Foote Hike Inn offers hot showers, family-style dinner and breakfast, and educational programs on topics ranging from worm composting to storytelling. The easy five-mile hike in and the relatively plush amenities (read: electricity) make this a great pick for newer backpackers—or for experienced backpackers looking to introduce less-experienced friends to the joys of backcountry life.

You'll have to cross-country ski 11 miles into the forest to get to Flag Point Lookout, a 60-foot, 1920s-era fire tower on the eastern slope of Oregon’s Mount Hood. But the views from the 225-square-foot room up top—which is furnished with a bed, table, chair and wood stove—are well worth the effort. The lookout, on 5,650-foot elevation Flag Point Butte, sleeps four, and is available for rental during the winter months.

If it’s far enough off the beaten path for a moonshiner during Prohibition, it’s far enough off the beaten path for solitude-seeking backpackers. And solitude is exactly what you’ll find at Jones Mountain Cabin in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, thanks to a difficult four-mile hike in. The cabin, a two-story log structure built by moonshiner Harvey Nichols in 1855, is one of more than two dozen cabins maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Like most of the cabins listed here, it has no electricity or running water. But it does provide a natural spring, a wood-burning stove and a huge porch to stargaze from. Sleeps 10.

Located in the remote, 60,000-acre Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula, this cabin sits on the bank of the rushing Big Carp River. It's one of 19 "rustic" cabins in the "Porkies," and is situated in the loveliest part of it, just a short hike from the shoreline of Lake Superior. It sleeps six.

If cross-country skiing is your thing, the Cassal Hut, the most remote and private of the Rendezvous Huts in Washington's North Cascades, is your dream come true. The hut sits along more than 100 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails through the remote Methow Valley. It sleeps as many as 10 people, and offers a fully-equipped kitchen and a wood-stove heater, among other basic amenities. All the Rendevous Huts are lovely, but Cassal offers especially killer views of the Cascades.