THE LODGE is a rustic cedar-and-stone construct housing a grand lobby with a high timber-beamed ceiling and rock-rimmed fireplace bounded by overstuffed leather seating. The lobby's mascot, the bulky but quietly friendly stuffed “Eddie Bear,” will likely occupy one of the seats. It's hard to argue that sipping a beverage among the oak, cedar and hickory wood accents isn't made better by a big plush toy.
DINING at Wuksachi's Peaks Restaurant offers Alpine-style indulgence before towering windows with dramatic views of its namesake Sierra peaks. Executive Chef Jeff Graham is behind an eco-friendly program that pulls from the bounty of the neighboring San Joaquin Valley, utilizing local organic-produce farmers, and grass-fed beef ranchers, for dishes like braised Brandt Beef short ribs over barley risotto, and a chickpea fritter with organic leeks and pan-roasted oyster mushrooms. Sustainable seafood choices include creations like cedar-planked salmon, topped with grilled lemon Buerre blanc. For dessert, you won't be disappointed digging into Chef Graham's sugar-glass-topped take on the classic s'more. The adjacent Wuksachi bar also leans local, with a wine list that favors vineyards in Paso Robles, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Mendocino, as well as mountain-themed cocktails.
ACCOMMODATIONS at the AAA-rated three-diamond hotel that sits 7,200 feet above sea level include 102 nicely sized rooms in a cluster of chalet-style buildings along pine-fringed paths. Rooms range from a Standard, with a king-size or two queen-size beds and a desk, to a Deluxe with two queens or a king-size bed, along with a sofa bed, and Superior rooms, mini-suites that have either two queen-size beds or one king, and a sofa bed in a generous alcove that can be closed off with a sliding door -- perfect for some privacy from the kids on a family getaway. The interiors are in tune with their natural surroundings, with Mission-style furniture that's accented by cedar, stone and iron lamps. Modern-day amenities are offset by vintage black-and-white photos of the area's giant sequoias that have been drawing nature-lovers for generations.
NEARBY attractions include the big draw of the big sequoias in the Giant Forest, home to five of the planet's ten largest trees. The famed General Sherman is the largest of these, measuring 36.5 feet across its base. A 3,200 year-old giant named the President rises 247 feet above dense stands of sequoia trees and sugar-pine conifers. Getting there can include a roll through the Tunnel Log, a roadway passage that's cut through a massive fallen sequoia. It's all surrounded by hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Moro Rock is a must-see. 400 steps up a steep 1/4-mile staircase brings one to the top of the dome-shaped granite monolith, with undeniably impressive views of the park and the Great Western Divide. Two miles north of the General Sherman Tree, the Wolverton Snow Play Area welcomes sledding, snowshoe and cross-country ski enthusiasts to its wide snow hill and sprawling meadow. A 40 minute drive from Wuksachi Lodge, Crystal Cave offers a 45-minute tour of stalactites and stalagmites along polished marble paths at a cool and constant 48 degrees.
TIPS - Don't bring your luggage when checking in at Wuksachi's lobby – best to leave it in the car that you'll park in a lot closest to your room. Do bring a flashlight to navigate Wuksachi's footpaths after dark – though the front desk will be happy to lend you a light.
GETTING THERE - It's about a five-hour drive from San Francisco to a park entrance, with about an hour's travel time to the lodge. The distance from Los Angeles is slightly less. The Fresno International Airport is about 55 miles from the Wuksachi Lodge.
Article written in conjunction with a sponsored media tour.