The Perfect Weekend Cabin Getaway

Whether you're looking for a quick jaunt into the foothills or a cross-state journey deep into the Colorado wilderness, let this be your guide for putting together a spectacular cabin weekend. Happy trails.

Photo by Jeff Nelson

With all their suggestion of summer camp, cabins practically beg for the organization of some group games. Before embarking on your weekend getaway, assemble the necessary props for a few of these woodsy activities. The gang will appreciate your leadership—every camp needs a head counselor.

The Fun

Summer Camp Charades
This is basically a spruced-up version of charades (pun intended) with a woodsy theme. First, cut small slips of paper (20 to 30), pass a few to each person, and have everyone write down words or phrases that deal with the outdoors, summer camp, wildlife, etc. The more specific, the better. (“Smokey the Bear” rather than just “bear.”) Feel free to get funny. Prompts like “James Franco cutting off his arm in 127 Hours” or “John Muir French kissing a redwood” work great. Put all the clues in a hat. In the first round, one person picks a clue and tries to describe it using any words other than those contained in the clue. When someone guesses correctly, play passes to the next person, and so on. In round two (when the hat is empty), put all the clues back and repeat, but this time, the prompter can use only a single word: “arm,” “Redwood,” etc. Everyone has heard the clues before, which adds a memory element to the game. In the third round, no words at all—just charades.

Campfire Storytelling
There are dozens of storytelling games to play around a fire, but one that consistently gets people laughing (isn’t that the best kind of game?) is “Fortunately, Unfortunately.” One person starts a story with a single sentence. “Yesterday, we all went for a hike in the woods.” The next person in the circle adds to the story with a “fortunately” sentence. “Fortunately, we made it past the grizzly that attacked us.” The next person adds with an “unfortunately” sentence. “Unfortunately, after the struggle, Greg realized he had fallen in love with the bear.” Then on to the next person. “Fortunately, Greg has no luck with females—of any species.” Etc.

Customized Jigsaw Puzzle
This is a game you can play all weekend, particularly useful for filling downtime between other activities, when everyone just wants to sit around and relax. A few weeks before the trip, gather everyone together and snap a group photo—somewhere outdoors, preferably. Use the photo to order a customized jigsaw puzzle from a printing service like Shutterfly (shutterfly. com). Start assembling at the beginning of the weekend, and see if the group can put the whole thing together by trip’s end. Our recommended size for a single weekend with six people: 500 pieces.

Orienteering
For this one, you’ll need a few compasses, some brightly colored golf tees, a pencil, and paper. Split into teams, give each team a compass, and choose a group to go first. The leading team starts at a predetermined location, and (without anyone else looking) walks straight into the woods, counting their paces and noting the compass direction. Whenever they decide to stop (no more than 50 yards), they place one golf tee on the ground, write down the paces they walked and the compass orientation, change directions, and repeat the process. Do this until five markers are placed, creating a “course.” The next team uses its compass to follow the first team’s instructions, picking up the golf tees along the way. After the second team has succeeded (or not), they create a new course for the next team, and so on. Once everyone has sharpened their orienteering skills, break out a topo map of the area and try to navigate around the woods using just a map and compass.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
If you’re going for a hike near your cabin, this is a great way to build a little challenge into the outing. Type up a list of items that you’re likely to find in the area—the more specific, the better. Do some research to identify types of insects, trees, grasses, etc. that you might run into. Print out the lists for everyone to carry with them. To make it more fun, throw a wager into the mix—the last person to find all the items has to cook dinner, drive into town for a case of beer, etc.

The Food

Sometimes a weekend in the woods calls for a menu that’s a little more refined. Cabin cooking offers the perfect solution—all the pleasures of the great outdoors with a full kitchen to come home to. We turned to Jamey Fader, culinary director of Marczyk Fine Foods, who dreamed up these rustic options.

Cocktail: Laws Manhattan

INGREDIENTS
2 oz. Laws whiskey
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
Dash of bitters
Luxardo cherry
Sliver of orange peel

DIRECTIONS
In a mixing glass, add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Stir until incorporated. Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with Luxardo cherry and orange peel.

Appetizer: Mussels with Beer, Chorizo, and Grilled Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chorizo
3 Tbsp. shallots, sliced
1 Tbsp. garlic, sliced
1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
8 roma tomatoes, charred on grill until completely soft
2 lbs. PEI mussels
10 oz. pilsener or kölsch beer
3 Tbsp. cold butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add oil. Add chorizo and render. Be sure to crumble with a wooden spoon as chorizo is cooking. Once chorizo is rendered, add shallots, garlic, and herbs. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes. Crush these by hand as you add them to the mixture, breaking up any larger pieces. Add mussels and stir gently with chorizo mixture. Add beer and cover pan with a lid. After 90 seconds, uncover and check. Remove pan from heat the moment the mussels open. Whisk in cold butter a few cubes at a time. Serve immediately with grilled bread.

Entrée: Wood-Grilled Salmon with Green Chile Skillet Hash Browns and Tomatillo Salsa

INGREDIENTS
For the salmon:
6 salmon fillets, 5-6 oz. each
For the hash browns:
5 large Russet potatoes, coarse grated
1 c. roasted green chiles, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 c. white onion, finely shredded
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup chives, sliced
10 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
For the tomatillo salsa:
1 lb. tomatillos, removed from hull
2 de arbol chiles, seed removed
3 jalapeños, seeds removed and halved
1 1/2 c. white onion, chopped
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS
For the salmon:
Heat grill to medium high. Brush salmon with oil and season with salt, white pepper, and a dash of smoked paprika. Grill on each side for 2 minutes or until preferred temperature.
For the hash browns:
Rinse grated potatoes in a colander until water runs clear. The starch needs to be washed from the potatoes or you will end up with mush. Hand squeeze water out of potatoes until dry. Place potatoes in a mixing bowl and add green chiles, onion, salt, and pepper. Place a 10-inch non-stick sauté pan over medium-low heat and add 5 Tbsp. oil. Place potatoes in skillet and gently pack down to fill entire skillet. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until potato bottoms crisp and insides steam, about 10 minutes. To flip, press a large plate to top of skillet and, holding both skillet and plate, flip over. Slide uncooked side off of plate and onto skillet. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Once cooked, slide onto a plate and cut into 6 or 8 portions. Garnish with chives.
For the tomatillo salsa:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Place tomatillos, de arbol chiles, and jalapeños on baking tray and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Add onions, garlic, salt, and cilantro to tomatillos and purée in food processor. Place hash brown wedge in center of plate with salmon resting on top. Pour 1/4 cup of salsa over salmon and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes.

Dessert: Melon and Cucumber Granita

INGREDIENTS
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 lbs. honeydew melon, skinned, seeded, and diced
1 1/2 lbs. cantaloupe, skinned, seeded, and diced
1 lb. cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
Mint sprigs

DIRECTIONS
In a saucepan, heat sugar with 2 Tbsp. water to form a simple syrup. Remove from heat and retain. In a blender, purée melons and cucumber with simple syrup until smooth. Pour into a metal mixing bowl and place in freezer, removing to stir every 20 minutes to break up ice crystals as they form. Continue for 3 hours or until granita is completely frozen. Scoop granita into cups and garnish with mint sprigs.

The Stay

Cabins for all occasions Whether you’re looking for a quiet romantic getaway, an authentic ranch experience, or just a weekend with the family, Colorado has no shortage of cabins for any kind of trip. (All prices are per night unless otherwise noted.)

Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs

Opulent: Upscale. Luxurious. All the Trappings.

Dunton Hot Springs, Dunton

The digs:
13 hand-built cabins in a refurbished mining town that now serves as a luxury retreat, complete with saloon, dance hall, and hot spring bath house.

The extras:
Each cabin is different, but our favorite is the Well House ($2,165), with a private hot spring and cold plunge inside the main room, and a wood-burning stove in the corner.

How to book:
Their website (from $975).

The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Colorado Springs

The digs:
An all-inclusive wilderness resort run by the Broadmoor, with 13 one-, two-, and three-bedroom cabins organized around a grand lodge.

The extras:
Meals prepared by Broadmoor chefs, guided excursions including horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and mountain biking.

How to book:
Their website (from $800).

The Observatory at Alta Lakes, Telluride

The digs:
A Telluride icon, 13 miles outside of town, this single cabin has towering timber ceilings, king and queen beds, sleeping loft, hot tub, sauna, 10-seat dining table, and wood-burning fireplace with cut wood provided.

The extras:
Complete solitude at the end of a five-mile dirt road (two-wheel drive accessible), guided backcountry excursions available through the San Juan Outdoor School, and a cabin so beautiful that television producers have filmed commercials there.

How to book:
Their website (one to seven guests, $900; eight to 12 guests, $1,000).

The Home Ranch, Clark

The digs:
Upscale dude ranch with eight freestanding cabins surrounded by aspens, each one furnished by the owner of the ranch.

The extras:
An Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge, a threemile stretch of the Elk River cutting across the property, kids’ and teens’ programs, and barn dances.

How to book:
Their website (from $9,740 per week).

Classic: Rustic. Charming. Tried-and-true.

Buckeye’s Cabins, Leadville

The digs:
Four secluded cabins filled with antique furnishings and surrounded by aspens, situated at the headwaters of the Arkansas River with views of Mt. Elbert.

The extras:
Leadville, just five minutes away, has opportunities for whitewater rafting and riding the nearby scenic railroad.

How to book:
Their website (from $250).

Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hot Springs, Redstone

The digs:
Thirty-six-acre ranch with 13 studio to three-bedroom cabins (plus a ranch house, loft apartment, tiny house and furnished covered wagons), overlooking the Crystal River.

The extras:
The ranch has apple and plum orchards, hot spring pools, a 24-hour recreation lodge, an original 1913 homestead, an antique shop, and free fishing rods available.

How to book:
Their website (from $160).

Mt. Elbert Lodge and Cabins, Twin Lakes

The digs:
Nine cabins that sleep two to nine people with outdoor grills and fire pits, all sitting at the base of the Black Cloud Trail, which provides access to the top of nearby Mt. Elbert.

The extras:
Several easily accessible 14ers, the ghost town of Independence to explore, and Leadville just a short drive away.

How to book:
Their website (from $136 per night, two-night minimum).

Idlewild by the River, Estes Park

The digs:
Thirteen cabins on the banks of the Big Thompson River, one mile from the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, with hot tubs and private porches.

The extras:
Drive or bike up nearby Trail Ridge Road for views at 12,000 feet, or follow Fall River Road pass over the Continental Divide.

How to book:
Their website (from $169).

Romantic: Secluded. Intimate. Cozy.

Courtesy Smith Fork Ranch

Antero Hot Springs Cabins, Nathrop

The digs:
Three historic cabins with private hot spring pools and elegant architectural features like vaulted ceilings and French doors. Situated on a private plot of land with a creek running through.

The extras:
On-site massage and spa services available, as well as private chefs. Nearby St. Elmo ghost town, and fantastic fishing, whitewater rafting, and kayaking on the Arkansas River.

How to book:
Their website (from $275).

The Cabins at Country Road, Evergreen

The digs:
Seven gorgeous cabins set on the banks of Bear Creek, with a waterside hot tub, sauna, and complimentary breakfast.

The extras:
Perfect seclusion, plus impeccable design details and amenities like reclaimed wood floors, stained glass windows, feather beds, vaulted cedar ceilings, wraparound porches with rocking chairs, and marble bathtubs.

How to book:
Their website (from $275).

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

The digs:
Three hundredacre guest ranch on the Western Slope with three private cabins, plus a mountain house and attached private suite, furnished with antiques and Native American artwork.

The extras:
Activities include private fly fishing, horseback riding, skeet shooting, archery, and mountain biking. On-property spa, farm-to-table restaurant, and wine cellar.

How to book:
Their website (from $625).

Fall River Cabins, Estes Park

The digs:
Five cabins on the banks of the Fall River with secluded decks, grills, fire pits, and access to private hiking trails.

The extras:
Indoor Jacuzzis, full kitchens, gas and wood-burning fire places, and private hot tubs.

How to book:
Their website (5 one- and two-bedroom cabins from $309 to $349).

Family-Friendly: Large. Comfortable. Easy to access.

Pioneer Guest Cabins, Crested Butte

The digs:
Eight cabins spread across 10 acres of National Forest, with ample space for the kids and family dog to run around. Wood-burning fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens, and fire pits.

The extras:
A creek running past the cabins with waterside hammocks, high-speed wi-fi, and lots of adventure right outside the door, including hiking and mountain biking.

How to book:
Their website (from $209).

Yellow Pine Ranch, Cuchara

The digs:
Nine quaint and comfortable cabins and one bigger lodge with fireplaces plus full kitchens on a family-owned ranch with rich history and an emphasis on community.

The extras:
Horseback riding, fishing, summer barbecues, walking distance to the village of Cuchara.

How to book:
Their website (from $105).

Bear Creek Cabins, Evergreen

The digs:
10 one- to three-bedroom cabins and log homes just a short drive from Denver, located on a private fly fishing stream. Easy access to Red Rocks shows and other area attractions.

The extras:
Pet-friendly, local winery a mile down the road, 230 miles of hiking and biking trails nearby.

How to book:
Their website (from $109 per night).

Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby

The digs:
Dozens of fully equipped cabins on a 5,000-acre ranch run by YMCA of the Rockies, geared toward families with kids.

The extras:
Hiking, biking, craft classes, horseback riding, canoeing, ziplining, indoor pool with climbing wall, miniature golf, with dining hall on property.

How to book:
Their website (from $179).

More Than Just the Cabin: Experiences. Adventures.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Tabernash

The digs:
15 one-, two-, and four-bedroom cabins plus two bigger lodges on a 6,000-acre ranch with extensive guest activities.

The extras:
Zipline tours, an outdoor pool, yoga classes, kids’ cowpoke camp, movie theater, fly fishing shop with guide services, paddle boarding, trail riding.

How to book:
Their website (from $450).

Rainbow Trout Ranch, Pine

The digs:
16 two- and three-bedroom cabins on a dude ranch with large porches and access to all ranch activities.

The extras:
Horseback riding, whitewater rafting, scenic railroad, hayrides, kids’ programs, heated swimming pool.

How to book:
Their website (from $2,600 per week).

High Lonesome Ranch, De Beque

The digs:
Dude ranch with 38-guest capacity and four private cabins (two-, five-, and eight-bedroom) scattered across the property.

The extras:
Trail rides, western obstacle courses, cattle drives, hiking, fly fishing, skeet shooting, big-game hunting, turkey hunting, winery tours, and nearby golfing.

How to book:
Their website (from $397).

4UR Ranch, Creede

The digs:
Four Adirondack-style cabins on a historic 3,000-acre ranch organized around a central lodge, barn, and spa.

The extras:
Old-fashioned saloon, full spa and yoga studio, six miles of private fishing, kids’ programs, skeet shooting, golfing, hot springs pool.

How to book:
Their website (from $1,940 for three nights, single occupancy).