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Best Vacation Lodges in The Rocky Mountains

Here are some great public-land getaways in the Rockies.

Best Vacation Lodges in The Rocky Mountains
Photo Courtesy of Colorado Sate Parks

I used to think of myself as the prototype hardcore outdoorsman challenging the most difficult conditions in pursuit of big game or trophy fish. Mother Nature was no obstacle, and steep mountain trails were simply stepping stones to success. Although I may still think of myself in that way, my body is no longer willing to prove it. Less sturdy bones and stiff old muscles today beg for consideration. My fishing days now begin well after sunrise, following a restful night in a local motel. Tents erected on hard rock mountain slopes no longer precede an early-morning bowhunt in the high country.

Most states today offer parks that have excellent camping facilities, including lodges, cottages or cabins. If you are an outdoorsman who would prefer a more luxuriant trip than a tent and air mattress experience, these rentals may be the answer. No more towing camp trailers and the laborious setup they demand — just pull up to your backcountry mansion, unload your bedding and hit the sack.

State park facilities are well-managed, clean and comfortable. All are positioned to offer excellent access to outdoor activities, whether it is hunting, fishing, or just exploring nature. Almost all are located with water-based recreation available. These parks offer something for everybody to enjoy. Regardless, the comfort of a cabin completes the enjoyment of the vacation for many families. Read on for some examples of enjoying our natural world with maximum ease and comfort.

RM Vacation Lodge MapARIZONA

Arizona has a reputation as a haven for record-book elk. Magnificent trophy elk are not rare in Arizona, but elk tags are. Turkey, predators, game birds and waterfowl also provide high-quality hunting. Surprisingly good fishing for warmwater species is found throughout the state, and good trout fishing exists throughout the northern mountains and along the Mogollon Rim. 


    There are five state parks in Arizona that offer cabin rentals. One of these parks, Kartchner Caverns, some 60 miles southeast of Tucson, is handy for one wishing to hunt Coronado National Forest. The cabins at Kartchner offer a comfortable respite from the day's hunt and rigorous Arizona climate. Be sure to relax in the evening with an ice-cold drink and enjoy Arizona's spectacular sunsets before jumping into a soft bed to sleep in air conditioned comfort. In addition, there is excellent warmwater fishing nearby at Patagonia Lake State Park.


  The nearly 2 million acres of the Coronado National Forest offer a variety of hunting options. This diverse area offers terrain ranging from arid desert to alpine mountains and 3,000- to over-10,000-foot elevations. Game abounds, including deer, bears, turkeys, javelina, predators and quail. Of special interest is Arizona's Coues deer, which are a prime reason to hunt this region. For greater details about hunting this area, consult the wildlife department website. 

If you love bass fishing, you can't do much better than a trip to Alamo Lake State Park near Wenden, Ariz. Alamo Lake is a 3,500-acre impoundment that's popular for excellent largemouth bass angling. The bass fishing can be some of the best in Arizona.

Crappie fishing at Alamo Lake is also very good, and night fishing for channel cats is popular as well. The upper end of Alamo Lake has a lot of dead standing vegetation and debris, which presents a hazard to boating. 

Kartchner Caverns State Park  - South of Benson, AZ - azstateparks.com - 877-697-2757


AccomModations: Four, two-room camping cabins are available. Each sleeps up to six and features mini-fridge, microwave, heater and air conditioning. Price: $89 per night. Rates may vary. 

Alamo Lake State Park - North of Wendon, AZ 

AccomModations: Four, one-room camping cabins are available. Each sleeps up to four and features heater and air conditioning. Price: $65 per night. Rates may vary. 


COLORADO

Trophy deer and a huge elk population make their home in Colorado, and they are spread across the entire state. Six of 7 state parks that have cabin rentals are located in prime hunting country. Turkey, predators, waterfowl and big game are found in nearly all of these areas. Most parks are in or near national forests as well. If you are in a state park, you are in a well-rounded recreation area with lots of four-season activities available. 

Located some 75 miles west of Fort Collins, scenic State Forest Park sits near the Wyoming border in the heart of Colorado's moose country — North Park. 71,000 acres of wild backcountry and water galore make North Park an outdoorsman paradise. Hunting in this park and surrounding national forest land is encouraged. Elk and deer abound, and pronghorn also occupy much of the surrounding grasslands. 

Two rivers and several still waters make the area a fisherman's paradise. The Delaney Butte Lakes just west of Walden include the Gold Medal North Delaney Butte Lake. These lakes consistently yield trophy trout. Several other lakes, including several wilderness alpine fisheries, and the North Platte River, add to this fisherman's delight. North Park Anglers fly shop in Walden offers advice, equipment and guide service for the region. Groceries, supplies, good food and gas are available in Walden. After a strenuous day in the field, you will appreciate a comfortable cabin to stay in for the evening.

Rustic cabins at State Forest are available for rent year-round. Nestled in a dense forest along the shore of North Michigan Reservoir, cabins support summer and winter vacations. In addition to the small cabins that sleep a maximum of six, there are two lodges, which sleep up to 15 and 21 campers, respectively. None have electricity, running water, blankets or bedding. Facilities are all available nearby in the park, itself. 

On the opposite end of the state is the scenic Navajo State Park, south of Pagosa Springs. This 2,100-acre park includes about 3,000 acres of the lake (Navajo Reservoir), which is largely in New Mexico. It is one of the best fishing venues in the region. 15,000 acres of watersport and fishing paradise makes Navajo a great destination for fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife viewing. 

Spend a full day on the water or hiking scenic park trails and you will be ready to relax with a cold drink and luxurious quarters to refresh for the next day. While at Navajo, you might want to visit Mesa Verde National Park or the majestic alpine heights of the San Juan Mountain range near historic Silverton — both about two hours away.

State Forest State Park - East of Walden, Co - 970-723-8366

AccomModations: Four cabins and two lodges available. Cabins include propane or wood stoves and sleep up to six. Lodges sleep 15 and 21. Price: $80 per night in cabins; $120 per night in lodges. Rates may vary.

Navajo State Park  - Arboles, CO - 970-883-2208

AccomModations: Three fully-furnished two-bedroom log homes are available. Each includes bathroom with shower and kitchen. Price: $110 per night. Rates may vary. 

Many of our region's public-land accommodations are located within a short distance of great spots for outdoor adventure and offer lodging that ranges from simple and rustic to well-appointed. Photo By Ron Sinfelt

IDAHO

Idaho offers the best to any outdoorsman, including the highest quality hunting and excellent, diverse fishing in an outstanding natural environment. Big and small game abounds, and world-class angling is around every corner in a land that offers millions of acres of public lands. From arid desert environment to high altitude alpine majesty, it's all here. Idaho offers, perhaps, the easiest access to prime big game licenses as well as a high hunter success rate. It also yields big bass, trout, and salmon. For what more could one ask?

Idaho's state parks are also top class. About half of the state's 28 parks offer lodges or cabins for rent — all in prime country. The parks are scattered across the state, and some are in special places like Harriman State Park, which offers fly-fishing on the legendary Henry's Fork. If you are a hunter, you will likely find state park lodging that fits you perfectly. As with other states, these cabins offer varying classes of sophistication, from full kitchens to cooking outdoors, but they all offer a warm, dry bed to soothe exhausted bodies after a full day on the river or trail. 

Harriman State Park lies within a wildlife refuge in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Known for its beautiful scenery and wildlife, Harriman State Park offers hiking, mountain biking, and horseback trails slinking through meadows, meander along river banks and through lush evergreen forests. Chances are that you want to come here to fish the eight miles of world-class spring creek waters flowing through Harriman State Park, known by anglers the world over as "the Ranch." Moose, elk and trumpeter swans are a common sight at Harriman. Rest well at night in Harriman's unique facilities, such as the famous Ranch Manager's or Ranch Foreman's House. 

Heyburn State Park features a diverse environment from full growth Ponderosa forests, flower filled meadowlands to lakes, rivers, and large marshlands. Controlled waterfowl hunting is allowed where a bounty of watery marshlands makes Heyburn a waterfowl hunter's hotspot as well as a birdwatcher's paradise. Good fishing for warmwater fish and trout adds to the attraction to Heyburn. Hiking, wildlife viewing and biking are popular activities as well. Heyburn's comfortable rental cabins make a welcome respite from the day's activities.

Harriman State Park - Island Park, Id - parksandrecreation.idaho.gov - 208-558-7368

AccomModations: Ranch Manager's House is a fully-furnished and equipped four-bedroom log home. The Cattle Foreman's House is a fully-furnished three-bedroom cabin with wood burning stove and kitchen.  Price: Ranch Manager's House $160 - $236 per night; Cattle Foreman's House is $110 - $181 per night. Rates may vary.

Heyburn State Park - Plummer, Id - 208-686-1308

AccomModations: Three two-bedroom cottages each sleep up to eight. Kitchens included. Two cabins each sleep five. All include electric, AC and other amenities. Price: Cottages start at $115. Cabins start around $50. Rates may vary.

We've covered several of the excellent hunting and fishing base camp options available to hunters and anglers. With these great choices and additional locations across the region, there's no shortage of opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts to find a spot near the action. 

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