Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.
If you’re longing to escape it all, now’s the time to get reacquainted with nature—and these hotels across the U.S. make quite the introduction. From peaceful beach hideaways off the coast of Florida to thrilling adventures in the Rocky Mountains, each resort offers wild destinations where travelers can avoid crowds, get some much needed fresh air, and enjoy out-of-doors activities like scuba diving, stargazing, and hiking in some of the country’s most beautiful national parks.
The Resort at Paws Up — Greenough, Montana
“Luxury” and “cattle ranch” aren’t words that typically go together—but then a stay at The Resort at Paws Up isn’t your average vacation, either. Set on 37,000 acres, guests can choose between private homes and full-service, safari-style tents with heated bathroom floors, spacious decks, and butler-service. The sprawling property offers authentic Montana dude ranch activities like horseback rides, s’mores cooking classes, and cattle drives with its resident Black Angus cows. For those who want to venture further afield, there’s also fly-fishing on the Blackfoot River, white-water rafting, and rappelling off Lookout Rock, where Lewis and Clark once stood.
Little Palm Island — Little Torch Key, Florida
The only private island resort in the U.S., Little Palm Island is proof that you don’t have to travel far for a blissed-out tropical getaway. Accessible by seaplane or boat, the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property’s pristine beaches and thatched-roof bungalows are only 28.5 miles away from Key West. Here, guests are encouraged to unplug—you won’t find televisions in the rooms, and cell phone use is restricted in public areas. Not that anyone comes here to watch CNN. In addition to arranging tours of local highlights like the Great White Heron Wildlife Refuge, the Dolphin Research Center, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which includes the world’s third largest barrier reef, Little Palm Island has lots to do onsite. Guests can borrow fishing equipment, paddle boards, kayaks, snorkel gear, Hobie Cat day sailers, and even 13-foot Boston Whalers to visit nearby sandbars and reefs.
Post Ranch Inn — Big Sur, California
Often described as one of the most beautiful hotels in the country, this American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property is a reflection of its magnificent setting: 360-degree coastal views of rugged seaside cliffs and the Santa Lucia Mountains. Sitting 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, many of the rooms feel like sophisticated treehouses, complete with skylights that allow guests to take in a clear night. With 100 acres of unspoiled land dotted with redwoods, there’s plenty to explore. Choose from activities like guided nature hikes, stargazing with the in-house amateur astronomer, falconry, and whale watching. (If you forget your binoculars, you’ll find a pair thoughtfully placed in each room.) To reach nearby destinations like Pfeiffer Beach or Jade Cove, guests are welcome to borrow one of the property’s Lexus Hybrids.
Blackberry Mountain — Walland, Tennessee
If you’re looking to visit the Great Smoky Mountains, you can’t get much closer—or refined—than this. The sister property of James Beard Award-winning Blackberry Farm, Blackberry Mountain offers 5,200 acres of wilderness equipped with luxury cottages and cabins right on the edge of the cherished national park. Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, horseback riding, and rock climbing are all highlights. But if you’re in a market for a less strenuous activity (perhaps you’re more into mushroom gathering or sporting clays?) you’re sure to find it in the 32-page Field Guide the resort issues at check-in. Here, there is truly something for everyone and every speed.
Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa — Gateway, Colorado
Created by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that a stay at this American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property is always full of adventure. The resort boasts a full-service outdoor center where guests can arrange guided rafting and fly fishing tours on the nearby Dolores River, rent mountain bikes and UTVs, and hunt fossilized dinosaur tracks in the surrounding rock formations. While the resort’s own backyard, Unaweep Canyon, is undeniably picturesque, it would be a shame to skip the abundance of national parks nearby, including Arches, Canyonlands, and Mesa Verde—particularly when Gateway Canyons has its own helicopter available for air tours.
The Point — Saranac Lake, New York
Staying at The Point isn’t unlike going to a summer camp for adults—if those adults happen to be the Rockefellers. Built for William Avery Rockefeller in the 1930s on a secluded peninsula, this resort is the only Adirondack Great Camp from the Gilded Age open to the public. Much of the activity centers around Upper Saranac Lake, from swimming, waterskiing, and cruising in a classic 33’ mahogany Hacker-Craft speedboat. Of course, the upper echelons of society didn’t exactly rough it back then, and guests aren’t roughing it now, either. There are also more leisurely pursuits like croquet and badminton, and should you get hungry, the kitchen is open for requests 24/7.
Amagani — Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Positioned in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Amangani is the ideal base camp for adventure in not one but two celebrated national parks. In-house naturalists lead private tours of the nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton, whether you’re in the mood for a butte-top hike, a visit to Old Faithful, or American wildlife safari of wolves, bison, and black bears. Photography tours, horseback riding, rafting, paragliding, and hot-air ballooning can also be arranged. Of course, being based in Jackson Hole, the outdoor fun doesn’t end in winter. Amangani is 20 minutes away from ski lift access in Teton Village where you can arrange lessons, rent equipment, and spend your day on 2,470 acres of slopes.
The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island — St. Simons, South Carolina
If space and privacy are what you’re after, then The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island will deliver. Placed in a permanent conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy, the barrier island is committed to protecting its 11,000 acres of undeveloped coastal wilderness. The all-inclusive lodge and cottages only allow 32 guests at a time to stay overnight and explore the resort’s tranquil beaches, gnarled oak groves, and wildlife-rich marshlands. A dedicated ecological management team is on hand for activities like birdwatching (keep an eye out for bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, and afterdark “owl prowls”), looking for loggerhead sea turtle nests, and shelling. Guests can also borrow equipment for surfing, canoeing, and fishing, and have their catch prepared for that evening’s dinner.