The 5 Best Northern California Lodges for a Cozy Fall Weekend
Lake views, mountain views and the best leaf peeping in the state
Fall is officially here — so now’s the time for a weekend of hiking and board games with friends beside a toasty log fire. Five Northern California lodges from Mendocino and Siskiyou Counties to the Eastern Sierra each fit the bill for a cozy getaway. Highlights include vintage railroad cabooses comfortably renovated with ensuites and Scandi-chic cabins with perks like a wood-fired sauna to a historic retreat among the Redwoods.
Originally built as a fishing camp in the 1920s, Tamarack Lodge sits on the shores of Twin Lakes, making it an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding Sierra wilderness. The lodge rooms are lovely here, but with their wood paneling and authentic fireplaces, the historic California Craftsman cabins dial cozy weekend-in-the-mountain vibes up to a perfect 10. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout should you feel like renting rods and reels, and nearby trails lend themselves equally to mountain biking and hiking, including Crystal Lake Trailhead, which rewards with spectacular views of Mammoth Lakes Basin. Although just a mile from downtown Mammoth, don’t skip dinner reservations at the lodge’s storied Lakefront Restaurant.
The recently remodeled historic Rio Nido Lodge sits in a sweet spot between Guerneville and Healdsburg in Wine Country and has six suites, several providing access to a shared outdoor space. Book the Starling Suite or Honeymoon Cottage for private hot tubs and patios. Decor skews modern mountain, and rooms are kitted out with Pendleton throws, antler chandeliers and robes. Said to be “one of the oldest watering holes along the Russian River,” Rio Nido’s bar and cafe serves breakfast and lunch, plus small bites and dinner with live music on weekends. Alongside locally made goods, the mercantile is stocked with items perfect for picnic lunches.
Although it sits on the Mendocino coast, guest rooms at the Stanford Inn are paneled in pine and redwood and feature wood-burning fireplaces, so it ticks all the right boxes for a cozy fall escape. If you have a pet you prefer not to be parted from (cats, parrots and iguanas have all been hosted), then congratulations — because they are welcome here, too. Borrow bikes and cycle the Big River Trail or mosey through downtown Mendocino. A redwood outrigger canoe is another way to explore the river before returning for dinner at Ravens Restaurant, which has won awards for its entirely plant-based menus. Sign up for a class at the organic garden or join a seasonal mushroom exploration tour and nature walk, which are only offered during the fall.
Whether you pick a cozy cabin, a luxury yurt or the restored Spartan trailer, you’ll get off-grid in style at this all-season mountain retreat just south of Lake Tahoe. Activities flow with the seasons, so plan to hike (there are 127 acres to explore on the property, including Popo’s Trail), fish at nearby Granite Lake or along the Carson River, stargaze and sit beside a bonfire pit at night or hop in the wood-fired sauna. Sorensen’s Cafe (named after the Danish sheepherder who first opened a resort in Hope Valley back in 1926), which is famous for its mountain hospitality and hearty home-cooked meals, also has live music every Friday and Sunday afternoon.
Anyone who is a) keen to explore Mount Shasta or hike a section of the famous Pacific Coast Trail in Castle Crags State Park and b) has always fancied sleeping in a converted boxcar should look no further than this railroad resort in Dunsmuir. It’s home to 28 renovated Union, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railway cabooses, each one with a full private bathroom and nice-to-haves like coffee makers and high-speed wi-fi. Some boast bay windows and climb-up cupolas for catching the sunset or enjoying a cup of tea, and most are pet-friendly. The Dining Car Restaurant was built inside a restored, 1889-era railroad carriage; book ahead for reservations.
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