Review: The Wylder Hope Valley Is the Platonic Ideal of a High Sierras Lodge
Hiking, swimming and sleeping soundly with a backdrop of peaceful mountain solitude
Good news: For those of us who grew up without a family place in the mountains, Wylder Hope Valley can supply us with the stuff of our childhood dreams (plus some adult revisions): basically, a log cabin with an exceptional spice rack and enough wilderness activities to fill out even a European’s allotment of vacation days.
Get going — there’s still enough summer left (and cabin availability) to make this particular wish come true in 2021.
The first thing to know is it’s refreshingly not in Tahoe. It’s in Hope Valley.
Hope Valley is at the northern tip of Alpine County — an area rather artfully described by the local tourism agency as crossed by Highway 88, “the route of explorers, emigrants and goldseekers” — including Kit Carson, who scouted these passes in the mid-19th century. Today, their ghosts have been joined by vacationers, adventurers hiking through the National Forest land and anyone looking to dip a metaphorical toe into Lake Tahoe while actually relaxing, sans traffic, crowding and five-star hotels with seven-star prices. It’s a reasonably quick and mostly beautiful drive up to Stateline; give it about 25 minutes.
Get high, stay high
Of course, the whole point of Wylder Hope Valley isn’t that you won’t want to leave. (Possibly except for a quick trip to the antique shops and historical homes and waterfall hiking of nearby Carson City, which we have discussed separately.) Wylder Hope Valley is admirably set up so that you’ll have your hands full experiencing the property in full, whether that’s cooking in your literal log cabin (sleeps one to six, depending on the configuration, and they’re better equipped than your Luxe-category Airbnb), picking up a couple bottles of California wine in the general store, or hiking to the nearby summits for a view into that titular valley.
Pick your fighter: Cabin, yurt, tent, trailer
Speaking of those cabins: They are gorgeous. No exaggeration: The cabins are everything you’d want your vaguely Swedish-themed resort cabins to be. (And I say that as a person once stuck in a cabin for a week at a Swedish highway rest area, which was a lot more zen and wholesome than that description suggests.) The beds are plush, the showers have excellent water pressure and those kitchens are incredibly well stocked. If you’ve come with a trunk full of groceries, you are 100 percent doing it right. (My cabin literally had more spices than my actual kitchen does at home, though I admit that the vibe chez moi is and will remain Seamless-centric, even after the pandemic/end of the world.) If you’re looking for something closer to nature, skip the cabin and sleep in a yurt, tent or the Spartan trailer. (I’ll be in the cabin.)
Long days, short summer
So what to do while you’re on site? The summer-camp-for-adults vibe is no accident, and Wylder Hope Valley is an admirable mix of upscale amenities with old-fashioned charm. There’s hiking up the mountain behind the resort, swimming on the property in the Carson River, and family games (think: bean bag tosses) scattered here and there. I spent most of my recreation time in the best possible way: horizontal on a bench inside the sauna. And if you get bored (doubtful), take a look at a zoomed-in Google Map of the spread between Wylder and the lake, and you’ll see nothing but trailheads, including access to the Tahoe Rim trail (via the trailhead at Big Meadow). Don’t feel like hiking? Take a dip in the river. And while summer > winter for yours truly, winter brings skiing, snowshoeing and atmospherically snowy hot springs. But why wait?
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