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Wellness / January 5, 2016

5 places to escape everyone you know

Written by: Mitch Harris

The holiday season is just around the corner now—in a few short weeks, we’ll all be awash in rich food, expensive gift obligations, and visits from extended family members.

And that’s… great. It’s great. But it does get me thinking a bit more about solitude, and about the lengths I’d be willing to go to experience it.

So this week, I spent a lot of my office time googling remote mountain cabins and other such hideaways. These five stuck out as my personal favorites.

Phantom Ranch, Arizona

Phantom Ranch in evening light. NPS photo.

There aren’t many lodging options at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, there’s only one—and just getting there is a full-on adventure.

The easiest way to reach the lodge and cabins at Phantom Ranch is by the 7.3-mile Kaibab Trail, which descends from the canyon’s south rim. Most visitors hike to the ranch, but many arrive on pack mule or by rafting down the Colorado River.

If you go: Phantom Ranch is popular despite its remote locale, so you’ll want to make reservations well in advance. Dorm rooms and full cabins are available—rates start at $47/person. To get a good idea of the vibe overall, check out this video.


Palikū Cabin, HAwaii

The Palikū Cabin---well worththe 9.3-mile hike in. Photo by Kelsy Shepherd.

The scenery of Haleakala's high volcanic slopes isn't just otherworldy, it's practically Martian. Photo by Michelle Maria.

When I hear the words “wilderness cabin,” the image I call to mind isn’t usually one of a tropical island paradise. But not all rustic lodging is surrounded by evergreens and grizzly bears, and Hawai’i’s Palikū cabin is proof.

The cabin is accessed by the 9.3-mile Sliding Sands Trail: a rugged but extremely scenic hike that winds through the wild volcanic heart of Haleakala National Park. Palikū is the most remote of three wilderness cabins in the park.

If you go: Each of Haleakala’s wilderness cabins is equipped with 12 bunks, running water, a gas stove, a wood-fired furnace, and a composting toilet. A stay in each cabin costs $75 per person per night, and the cabins can be reserved 180 days in advance. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.


Viking Lodge, Alaska

Aesthetically, the Viking Lodge is about what you'd expect from a wilderness cabin in Alaska. NPS photo.

Wrangell-St. Elias is rightly considered one of America's most beautiful national parks. Photo by Brian Petyrtyl, NPS.

Where backcountry cabins in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park go, the Viking Lodge is pretty easy to get to. Though it’s located in the middle of one of America’s wildest places, the cabin is just a 10-minute walk from the nearest road.

The Viking Lodge is just one of 14 cabins available for public use in the 13.2 million acre national park. It’s among just three that are accessible by a day’s hike—the rest must be reached by air taxi.

If you go: The amenities at the Viking Lodge are very rustic. Wooden bunks and a wood stove are provided, but running water and firewood are not. Advanced reservations are required (details here), but there is no fee for use of the Lodge. 


The New Dungeness Lighthouse, Washington

Few professions are as archetypally lonely as that of the lighthouse keeper. But some for a week or so, complete social isolation can be sort of nice. Photo courtesy of the New Dungeness Light Station Associaion.

Washington’s New Dungeness Lighthouse has been maintained by volunteers since the Coast Guard withdrew its last keeping in 1994. The remote lighthouse is now available for rent to families, couples, and individuals for one week stays… provided they maintain the property and keep the light on (of course).

If you go: Lighthouse rentals are only available to members of the New Dungeness Light Station Association. Fortunately membership is easy to come by—you just have to pay $35 per individual or $50 per family.

The rental itself costs $350 per adult per week, and $195 per child (6-17). The lighthouse is almost booked solid through 2015, but weeks are available next year. See a schedule.


The Frying Pan Tower, North Carolina

Nothing says "I need some space" like 34 miles of sea water. Photo courtesy of Frying Pan Tower, LLC.

North Carolina’s Frying Pan Tower is remote, to say the least. The repurposed drilling platform sits about 34 miles offshore, where it was once used as a light station to warn incoming ships away from shallow waters. It’s since been purchased by a private owner, and now serves as one of the coolest B&Bs on Earth.

Guests stay in upscaled versions of the dormitory-style rooms used by the tower’s 20-person staff. This gets them access to a full kitchen, a rec room, and high-speed wireless internet. They also enjoy the tower’s driving range, skeet shooting, and its easy access to deep sea fishing. Divers often use the tower as a base camp for diving, as there are several ancient wrecks in the area.

If you go: A typical weekend stay (Fri-Sun) costs $498, and includes a ferry ride out to the platform and back (guests can also arrange a private helicopter ride for about $1,300). A full list of accommodations with a booking schedule is available online.

Do you have questions or comments about this piece? Email them to [email protected].

Featured photo by DrPhotoMoto.

about the author

Mitch Harris

Mitch Harris embraced the Every Day Carry trend long before it was cool. From the day he got his first pocket knife, Mitch has devoted himself to staying prepared for every eventuality. Through his position at Shoulders of Giants, he’s able to keep his kit stocked with the very newest and best EDC gear.

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