San Franciscans have long pointed their Suburus toward Lake Tahoe when it came time for a quick escape; but in times of Covid, reports of over-tourism (and related protests) at Big Blue have us looking to steer in another direction.
Just 25 minutes south of the lake sits a remote, cell service-less alpine paradise. Wylder Hope Valley, a luxury resort in the Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest, opened this summer for uncrowded, unplugged, and adventurous getaways.
The timing, of course, is paradoxical. Just as we're all looking for socially distanced escapes and refuge in the great outdoors, wildfire season has reared its ugliest head. Skies across Northern California have turned ominous shades of orange and gray, ash is "snowing" from the sky, and blazes are raging across the Sierra Nevada. It's not exactly the best time to travel.
We were lucky enough to check in at Wylder before fire season began and, trust us, you'll want to add it to your bucket list for when the smoke has cleared. When you do go, please remember to wear your mask in public spaces (yes, even when outdoors) to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and always leave no trace.
Luxury Cabins, Yurts & a Spartan Trailer at Wylder Hope Valley
A modern, amenity-rich reincarnation of Sorensen's Resort, a historic resort founded in 1926, Wylder manages to preserve the property's original integrity in a genuine way. "People have been coming here for generations," said Wylder CEO and founder John Flannigan. "It's become a big family tradition."
Since purchasing the resort in 2019, Flannigan and his team have been meticulously restoring the resort's hand-built log cabins one by one, with all 30 set to be completed by the end of the year. Utilizing natural materials like oak, pine, redwood, cherrywood, and slate, the cabins range in size from bungalows for one to two people to family-sized cabins that can fit up to six and three-bedroom homesteads that sleep eight.
My utterly charming log cabin, named Wa-She-Wu, had two bedrooms, one of which was an upstairs loft. It was quite roomy for just the two of us and would have been perfect for travel with another couple, kids, or parents. Wa-She-Wu was wonderfully cozy and chic, equipped with custom furniture, soft rugs, a full kitchen complete with a spice rack and dining table, an electric fireplace, living space, and a bathroom that had the feel of a sauna. While it wasn't actually, you can relax after a long day on the mountainous trails in the property's shared wood-fired sauna (currently available by appointment), which has been fully restored from its original construction approximately 80 years ago.
A short drive or hike from the cabins you'll find a campground where seven seriously luxe yurts have riverfront views that put the glam in glamping. Inside, there's a spacious Cal king bed, a sleeper sofa, fireplace, bar cart, and gorgeous bathroom with a soaking tub. One extra-large yurt is set on a private cliffside, completely off the grid; the only electricity is a propane fireplace.
Yet Flannigan's pride and joy is a fully restored 1951 spartan trailer with a bath, shower, and deck. For those who like it a bit more rustic (and affordable), there are sites for tent and RV camping as well.
Food & Drink at Wylder Hope Valley
(Courtesy of Wylder Hope Valley)
There aren't any restaurants within Hope Valley, but Wydler makes it so you never have to leave the grounds in search of a meal. Guests can of course cook at their cabins and campsites, but resort regulars will be pleased to discover that Wylder has retained the concept of the iconic Sorensen's Cafe, open for three meals a day with seating on a massive, new redwood deck. Those who know and love it can still get some of their favorite Sorensen's classics, namely the beef Burgundy stew (available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner), berry cobbler, and the quiche of the day. "Those recipes aren't changing," said Flannigan. "They've been on the menu for 40 years."
Standout dishes during my stay were the roasted rack of lamb persillade with goat cheese croquettes and the handmade gnocchi with brown butter sauce and prosciutto. But it's the dessert I've been lusting after since my departure. When my husband and I couldn't decide between the berry cobbler and the brownie sundae, our server let us in on an insider secret: order the brownie sundae with the berry compote poured over top. It was so divine it disappeared in no more than two minutes—both times we ordered it.
In addition to a great California wine list, Wylder just launched a new cocktail program thanks to a shiny new liquor license, and a general store offers tasty grab-and-go fare that can be enjoyed at creekside picnic tables. This is also a great spot to kick off the day's adventures, a place to stock your cooler with snacks, ice, and beverages, pick up outdoor and fishing gear, and splurge on fancy camping accessories from brands like Patagonia and Pendleton.
Endless Outdoor Adventures in Hope Valley
Set on 165 acres, Wydler is a place for explorers of all appetites. Take a dip in one of several swimming holes throughout the property—we found one with a small waterfall and had it all to ourselves—or go fly fishing along a creek. There are several private hiking trails that you can hop on just steps from your cabin, like the moderate PoPo's Trail. Doubling as a snowshoe trail during the winter season, PoPo's boasts the best alpine views; one morning, we even spotted a bear. The resort is also exceedingly kid-friendly. There's a handmade swing set, children's fishing hole, rock climbing, and future family programming, like movie nights, in the works.
Come Winter, Hope Valley will be the perfect jumping off point for snow sports at Kirkwood or a rejuvenating soak at Grover Hot Springs State Park, both just 20 minutes away. And while it's true that you can reach the shores of South Lake Tahoe in under half an hour, that—to be frank—would be missing the point. The magic of Wylder lies in its low key, natural bubble that feels far, far away from Tahoe's formidable traffic and crowds.
// Wylder Hope Valley, 14255 CA-88 (Hope Valley), wylderhotels.com