The joy of playing outside during a snowy winter day doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. From spectacular lookouts to cozy cabins on the fringes of a vast wilderness, these five unique places to sleep are worth the effort it takes to reach them. Wherever you venture out, make sure to follow these winter safety tips for the best experience.
Log Cabins and History Near Pendleton
When westward-bound settlers arrived at a camp tucked among a grove of old-growth trees high in the Blue Mountains, they knew their journey on the Oregon Trail was coming to a close. Today Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area, about 25 miles east of Pendleton, offers travelers a much warmer way to spend the night. Each of the six rustic log cabins — equipped with bunk beds, a table and an outdoor propane stove — can sleep from three to five people.
Spend your days sledding or cross-country skiing at Meacham Divide Sno-Park a few miles east, one of the larger Nordic skiing areas, featuring more over 12 miles of groomed trails.
Book here. Cabins sleep up to five people. Reservations can be made six months in advance. Open year-round.
Cascades Views From a Lookout Tower
It takes a solid effort crossing the snow to reach the Clear Lake Butte Lookout south of Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest peak, but the reward for that labor is worth it. The cabin sits atop a 40-foot-tall fire-lookout tower on the summit of 4,450-foot Clear Lake Butte, with an unobstructed view over some of the Cascades’ mightiest peaks and forests. Climb up the tower and you’ll find a bed and a wood stove to warm the 225-square-foot space, but you’ll need to bring your own water to this seasonal rental.
Getting there is part of the fun, too. Bring your skis or snowshoes for an 8-mile adventure up U.S. Forest Service roads accessible from the Skyline Road Sno-Park near Government Camp. From there it’s 900 vertical feet to the lookout. Better to start planning now — this is one of Oregon’s most coveted backcountry winter hideouts, and it books up fast.
Book here. The lookout can sleep up to four people. Reservations can be made six months in advance. Open November 1 through May 31.
Warmth, Fun and Friends Near Mt. Hood
Often the only thing that separates an enjoyable winter cabin experience from an unforgettable one comes down to the friends you’re with. You can bring them all if you book a stay at the Silcox Hut, a remarkable high-mountain getaway. Perched at 6,900 feet above Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge on the Palmer Snowfield, the hut sleeps up to two dozen people in six small bunk rooms. A fireplace warms a large room with hand-carved tables, where you’ll find buffet-style suppers of belly-warming fare and breakfasts with fruit and pastries. A special snow-going SUV or a snowcat can ferry you and your gear up to the hut, and groups must rent the entire building. Down in the main lodge, guests are free to use the sauna, spa and showers, too.
Book here. The hut can sleep up to 24 people. Reservations can be made more than a year in advance.
Classic Overnight Huts Around Willamette Pass
About 20 miles southeast of Oakridge lies an extraordinary Nordic ski area in the Willamette National Forest. A network of trails leads snowshoers and cross-country skiers to a series of warming huts — only accessible on foot — where you can spend the night and extend your trip. Start off at the Gold Lake Sno-Park near the Willamette Pass resort and pop into the Gold Lake Patrol Cabin, the office and overnight quarters for the Willamette Backcountry Ski Patrol volunteers, where you can pick up maps as well as a hot drink (but not spend the night). From there you can make your way 2 miles to the Gold Lake Shelter, a three-sided warming hut with a sleeping loft, a wood stove and a picnic table. Other shelters in the area with sleeping lofts include the Bechtel, Westview and Maiden Peak shelters.
All of the huts are first-come, first-serve, although anyone wishing to spend the night must be accommodated. Open for overnight stays November 15 to April 30. Huts can comfortably sleep anywhere from four to a dozen or so people, and there’s no fee.
Snowy Getaway in the Wallowas
To really get away from it all, consider heading to a small town in Eastern Oregon and the Wallowas, where you’ll find the Cornucopia Lodge & Packstation in the southern part of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. About 12 miles from the town of Halfway, the off-the-grid lodge is only reachable by snowmobile or a special, snow-going SUV. Once you’re there, you have 287 miles of snowmobile trails to explore and some of the greatest backcountry skiing in the state with steep glades and open bowls.
The cabins at Cornucopia are each named after mining claims in the area and come with a sitting room, a small refrigerator and a way to warm water. Come evening you’ll gather in the main lodge for home-cooked meals and stories about the winter wonderland.
Book here. Reservations can be made more than a year in advance. Units sleep up to six people. Open year-round.