In the midst of a chilly December day, the allure of retreating to a snug cabin nestled beneath the pine trees, with a crackling fireplace and a warm mug of cocoa in hand, becomes especially enticing. Picture a scene adorned with flannel, shared with friends, where delectable food and the comforting embrace of four wooden walls under a snow-frosted A-line roof create an idyllic winter haven. For those seeking a nearby escape that encapsulates the essence of winter, the foothills and Sierra regions offer a plethora of properties catering to cabin stays throughout the year. Some of these establishments stand out as particularly inviting, with owners and operators eagerly anticipating a more hospitable snow season than the previous year.
Danish Hygge at Desolation Hotel
Nestled in Hope Valley at an elevation of 7,000 feet, Desolation Hotel is draped in hygge, a Danish and Norwegian term embodying warm contentment. Positioned as perhaps the quintessential mountain cabin resort within a two-hour drive of Sacramento, Desolation Hotel boasts 27 standalone cabins sprinkled amidst a grove of white-trunk aspens, just off Highway 88. Previously known as Sorensen's, the property transitioned to Wylder Hotel in 2019 and, this past summer, to Desolation Hotel. Apart from cabins, the location includes campsites, seven luxury yurts, and a 1951 Spartan trailer at its campground beside the Carson River.
Each cabin at Desolation Hotel is a unique haven with its own distinctive charm. From the vintage woodstove in the Creekside cabin to the A-frame beauty, St. Nick's, sourced from Santa's Village in Scotts Valley, the diversity caters to different preferences. Foxtail is a compact studio, while Johan's, the first cabin constructed, offers a distinct decor. Families or couples traveling together may find Sierra House, with its loft bedroom and additional single bed accessed by a ladder, particularly appealing. The cabins feature oak floors, pine walls, fireplaces, baths, and kitchens, providing a complete experience. With a deliberate absence of televisions, guests are encouraged to reconnect with each other and their canine companions, as all cabins are dog-friendly.
While cooking is optional, the on-site cafe, retaining the Sorensen's name, serves beloved dishes such as the beef burgundy stew that has been a menu staple for four decades. Emphasizing farm-to-table fare, the cafe ensures hearty mountain cuisine without overwhelming patrons.
Desolation Hotel Hope Valley offers more than just a cozy retreat; it has hiking trails on the compound, and wintertime activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and access to downhill skiing and snowboarding at Kirkwood Ski Resort. With minimal nighttime light pollution, the location is ideal for stargazing, complemented by the provision of telescopes and night binoculars.
Brandon Crudup, the general manager of the Hope Valley property, aims to uphold the hotel's status as a recurring destination for family traditions while expanding its appeal for weddings and corporate retreats. The success of this winter's business, Crudup notes, hinges on the snowfall, with the previous season's substantial snowfall impacting the property.
Cabin Camping in Style at Camp Richardson
In South Lake Tahoe, Camp Richardson houses 17 year-round cabins that grace the shores of Lake Tahoe between The Beacon Bar & Grill and Tallac Historic Site. While additional cabins open during the bustling summer season, the year-round cabins boast relatively low occupancy rates in winter, providing a serene escape beneath tall pines, with the lake lapping at the icy sand on the nearby beach. Though cabin occupancy can rise during Christmastime, the period between New Year's and April offers a refreshingly open schedule. Camp Richardson's winter cabins range from Hudson, a studio for two, to Studebaker, accommodating eight and perched close to the lake.
All year-round cabins at Camp Richardson are equipped with heaters, gas fireplaces (excluding Hudson), full kitchens with cooking utensils, bathrooms with towels, and bedding. The year-round availability of The Beacon provides an additional incentive for guests to traverse the snow for a hot toddy or a Rum Runner, a boozy tropical fruit cocktail.
Luxury on the Lake at Rollins Lakeside Inn Resort
Further down the hill, on the shores of Rollins Lake just outside Colfax, awaits a welcoming cabin resort. The journey involves a drive through the woods on Highway 174, followed by meandering along ever-narrowing country roads leading to Rollins Lakeside Inn Resort. Owned by Scott and Linda Fetty, the resort offers three two-bedroom and six studio cabins, each fully equipped and ranging from $149 to $329 per night. Positioned at an elevation of around 2,200 feet, the property often sits below the snowline in winter, a feature that appeals to many guests.
Rollins Lakeside Inn Resort, open year-round, presents captivating views of the pristine lake—a 900-acre reservoir winding through 26 miles of foothill shoreline. The cabins come complete with kitchens, baths, linens, towels, televisions, and outdoor grills. To boost wintertime business, the resort offers extended stays, attracting traveling nurses, PG&E workers, and other guests seeking a long-term retreat. Situated about 6 miles from Grass Valley and Nevada City, the resort serves as a base for guests to enjoy holiday street celebrations, explore boutiques, galleries, coffeehouses, and restaurants in the nearby towns. Numerous trails in the vicinity, including those leading to Rollins Dam and the challenging Stevens Trail, cater to hikers, while anglers can try their luck at catching trout, bass, and various other fish in the lake.