The John Muir Lodge
The timber-and-stone lodge is fronted by a wide covered porch and flanked by public deck-balconies with chairs and rockers that offer Sierra-sunset views. Inside, a large lobby has a rough-hewn, open-beam ceiling and clusters of twig-framed sofas, chairs and game tables that guests can use with a collection of boardgames. A towering painting of John Muir presides over an antique redwood mantel atop stone fireplace that's usually got a few logs going. The great room can host gatherings like ranger Frank Helling and his snowy beard channeling the lodge's namesake naturalist for a living history presentation. The place exists to unplug, so it's no mistake that there are no TVs in the lobby or guestrooms -- though there is free WiFi in public spaces.
Accommodations keep with the woodsy and somewhat Spartan theme. Natural light fills 34 rooms that have hand-crafted wood furniture and a few modern amenities like iPod docking stations and coffee makers. A Standard room comes with two queen-size beds and a Deluxe comes with a king and a sofa bed.
Dining is found a quick walk down the road in Grant Grove Village at the Grant Grove Restaurant, an open-design family-friendly eatery that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an espresso bar on its patio. The village, which serves as a base to explore the nearly 900,000 acres of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, also has cabins for rent for a more outdoorsy experience. It's all within walking distance of historic Grant Grove and its stands of giant sequoias and fern-flush meadows.
The General Grant Tree is a main attraction on a paved 0.8-mile loop that winds under the boughs of its fellow behemoths. Standing at 267 feet, the mighty sequoia is the world's third-largest tree and was designated the nation's official Christmas in 1928. Yuletide celebrations at its base continue to this day. The nearby Fallen Monarch is a massive long-felled sequoia that's been hollowed by wildfires and now lies as a tunnel that one can walk through. The ancient hull has been used as a shelter by Native Americans and early settlers, and has also served as a saloon, a hotel and a stable for the U.S. Cavalry that was sent in to protect the newly created national park in the 1890s. A short drive takes one to Panorama Point, a picturesque vista overlooking King's Canyon.
Getting There. The lodge lies three miles from the Kings Canyon Big Stump entrance, which is about 250 miles from San Francisco and 225 miles from Los Angeles.
Article written in conjunction with a sponsored media tour.