A treehouse with all the creature comforts
Staying in a rustic treehouse appeals to some travelers, but others hold dear to the modern amenities and creature comforts of a hotel room. Skamania Lodge on the Washington-Oregon border won’t make you choose. The property’s new treehouses, nestled in the Douglas firs and overlooking a golf course and wooded hiking trails, have heated floors, hand-tufted wool rugs, Pendleton blankets, smart TVs, and double-side fireplaces that can be enjoyed from an inside sitting area or from the large deck.
“Treehouse” may not accurately describe these cozy abodes: They really resemble elevated cabins, each held aloft by supportive beams, a central column (that hides all the necessary piping and wiring), and a set of sturdy wooden stairs.
We discovered the lodge on a family trip to the area, and our treehouse proved perfect for a family of four: It had a king-size bed in the main room, a large bathroom with room for drying wet clothes (we visited during rainy season), a small fridge for snacks and kids’ leftovers, and a microwave and Keurig. A cozy nook — just big enough for a queen-size bed — lay behind a zippered canvas tent-like door. It jutted off the side of the treehouse 30 feet above ground and had three walls of windows, making it feel like a nest tucked in the branches — perfect for curling up to read or bird watch. Skamania has two of these “family treehouses” and two king treehouses, which have one room with a king-size bed.
Skamania sits in an idyllic setting: Below the Red Bluffs, which formed more than 200 years ago during one of the world’s largest landslides (don’t worry, it’s safe now), and above the Columbia River, which carved out the massive gorge and created the surrounding mountains during the last Ice Age. It’s also located in an 85-mile protected area — the nation’s only National Scenic Area — and just 45 minutes from Portland, Ore.
The lodge has 175 acres of greenspace and forests, a main building with standard hotel rooms, and several restaurants overlooking the Columbia River. You’ll find locally sourced meats, produce, and ingredients in the Cascade Dining Room — you can’t go wrong with Dungeness crab cakes and the Columbia River steelhead, but vegetarians may struggle for choices here. River Rock serves up more modest portions and shareable plates, and offers a good selection of salads, starters, burgers, and brick-oven pizzas.
I got up early one morning and ran along the property’s forested trails — winding past lakes and over bogs — and then followed a mix of paved and dirt paths around the golf course, by the volleyball and tennis courts, and past the communal fire pit (you can roast s’mores here at night) for a total of 4½ miles.
The biggest draw for the kids in our family — young and old — was the lodge’s new Aerial Park, a series of elevated rope challenges tucked in a forested patch next to the main lodge. While I clung to a tree on an elevated platform, gathering the nerve to tackle one of the park’s 23 elements, our kids fearlessly maneuvered their way from one challenge to the next, hooked in the whole time with a fail-proof harness and safety system. They scampered across shifting beams, between swaying logs, and onto a wooden raft that sailed between the trees. Then they reported back to me from the Eagle’s Nest — the highest spot on the course, 60 feet above ground, from which they could see sweeping views of the Columbia River.
Since our visit, Skamania has opened the Gorge Loop Fitness Trail, a 1-mile loop that includes five workout stations with three levels of difficulty at each one (ranging from “children” to “advanced”). The lodge has also introduced ax throwing. You can challenge friends, family, or strangers to ax-throwing competitions, during which you hurl steel axes at a bull’s-eye in a woodsy setting — what could be more fun?
You’ll find plenty to do beyond the property’s meandering driveway: Visit Waterfall Alley just across the Columbia River in Oregon, where you can drive or hike to more than 80 waterfalls (the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America). Then explore Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, and wander around the hip and outdoorsy town of Hood River — home to the Full Sail Brewing Company, Dakine, and a fascinating antique airplane museum, and known worldwide for its epic windsurfing and kiteboarding come summertime.
Or stick around the lodge and play a round of golf on the 18-hole course, visit the lodge’s onsite Waterleaf Spa, or go zip-lining. We know we’ll head back to Skamania soon to try our hands at ax throwing, see if mom is brave enough to reach the Eagle’s Nest, and sleep in a treehouse surrounded by Douglas firs.
1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson, Wash. Rates start at $169 for a room, $419 for a treehouse. $69 per person for aerial park; $30 per person for an hour of ax throwing. Fitness center and running outdoors are free. 800-221-7117, www.skamania.com