Get out the pack, Jack. Make a romantic plan, Fran. No time to be coy, Roy. OK, you get the drift.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, maybe you’re looking to impress someone with a night or two that will ignite the fire. We’ve got you covered, with our favorite romantic getaways of all time. These trips are perfect for best buds and to save for future mates, too.
The Outside staff have pretty much ditched the roses-and-chocolate rigamarole in favor of road trips to remote Southwestern desertscapes, ridgetop hikes, and fly-fishing excursions followed by steamy soaks in hot springs. Because, for most of us, nothing cements a relationship like outdoor appreciation. If your partner doesn’t share the awe of a spectacular sunset, the joy of a sweaty mountain-bike ride, or the seduction of fireflies on a porch in Appalachia, we ask: Is that person really for you?
Here are some of the best romantic getaways that have sparked Outside relationships and friendships over the years.
Valley of the Gods
(Photo: Courtesy Christopher Keyes)
Location: Southeast Utah
Why We Love It: When my wife and I discuss the formative months of our relationship, we inevitably begin to reminisce about a weeklong 2016 meander through southeastern Utah. A maiden road trip is the ultimate relationship test. Can we get along for hours on end in the car? Are our tastes in music compatible? Are we both comfortable with a blank itinerary and no clue where we’re going to eat or sleep each night? Pringles or Doritos? It was on the first day of that trip that we learned the answers: yes, yes, yes, Doritos. We were a perfect match.
If you were to ask us to pinpoint the location where everything fell into place, we’d also provide matching answers: Valley of the Gods, about two and a half hours south of Moab. Tucked between Bears Ears National Monument to the north and Goosenecks State Park to the south, this 152-square-mile plot of BLM-managed land is sometimes referred to as Little Monument Valley. Explore it via its 17-mile dirt access road and you’re quickly surrounded by the same massive sandstone spires you’ve seen in countless westerns and postcards, but with hardly any other visitors competing for the photo ops.
We turned onto that road around 4 P.M., drove six miles in, and turned again onto a short, dead-end spur road, where we pitched our tent just beside a massive wash. Then we cracked open some beers and sat on the back of my car to watch the sunset. There were no other sounds in the universe save for the whoosh of an occasional breeze, and the colors changed every two minutes. Most people probably wouldn’t describe Valley of the Gods’ rugged, barren landscape as romantic. But for a magic half hour each evening, I can’t think of a more romantic place on earth. —Christopher Keyes, Outside Inc. vice president and general manager, Outdoors
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm
The lavender harvest in New Mexico tends to happen midsummer, so take advantage of the bloom in early summer and enjoy a stay with wonderful scents and sensibility. (Photo: Courtesy Sergio Salvador/Los Poblanos)
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Cost: From $350
Why We Love It: If a 25-acre lavender farm with wandering llamas, artisanal purple gin cocktails, and beautiful gardens and courtyards that the affianced dream of booking for their weddings doesn’t appeal to your romantic sensibilities, this place will change your mind. Los Poblanos is a lovely, quiet getaway from the whirrings of the world. I recommend it frequently to friends or generally anyone traveling through Albuquerque with time to spare.
My husband and I came here to celebrate an anniversary years before the media began bestowing it with awards, but we have returned a handful of times since, to enjoy family celebrations at its farm-to-table restaurant, Campo; sit down to a leisurely brunch (we can’t seem to order anything but the eggs Benedict—those homemade English muffins are worth the hourlong commute); and take part in the convivial special dinners that are quickly booked by local Burqueños and held at one or two very long tables.
Stay a night or two in a North Field room with a fireplace (make this request, as not all have them), but get there early enough to spend time out on the patio, surrounded by the rows of lavender, at their height in June, and watch the shadow of dusk fall slowly over the towering Sandia Mountains. If the weather’s nice, and it tends to be in Albuquerque, borrow a bike and ride along the Rio Grande. Make s’mores at the fire pit. Wake up late and walk the farm’s fields, visit the chickens. Savor the relaxed pastoral atmosphere. Time with your partner in such a setting can’t but work wonders. It has for us. —Tasha Zemke, Outside associate managing editor
Lake Crescent Lodge
Lake Crescent Lodge is located in the northern section of Olympic National Park. I’’s open on weekends from early January to April 21 and then open daily the remainder of the year. (Photo: Courtesy Mikaela Ruland)
Location: Inside Olympic National Park, Washington
Why We Love It: Lake Crescent is my happy place. Its perfectly clear, deep blue waters are ringed by majestic evergreens and framed by rolling mountains. The best spot along its perimeter is the Lake Crescent Lodge, a white, Victorian-style property built in 1916. There’s a beautiful sunroom for grabbing drinks, and a verdant lawn rolls down to the waterfront, where Adirondack chairs are positioned perfectly for sunset viewing. There is also a sit-down restaurant on-site, but national park food always leaves something to be desired, so instead, my husband and I opt to grab takeout from Frugals, a burger drive-through in Port Angeles, and enjoy a picnic by the lake.
For my 25th birthday, we managed to snag a room in Lake Crescent’s historic lodge building; there are newer buildings and cabins on the premises that offer private bathrooms, but the original lodge, with its lace curtains and wood paneling, charmed us. Each year my husband grants me my birthday wish—a canoe paddle on one mountain lake or another. It’s the only day of the year he’ll get in a watercraft with me, due to my hopeless paddling skills. After 20 minutes of me steering us in circles, he patiently does all the work to navigate us around the lake while I take pictures and eat sandwiches. It’s heaven.
That year we grabbed the earliest canoe rental possible–7 A.M.—and took off across Lake Crescent before any motorized boats ventured forth. The water was like glass, and early-morning fog rose from its surface. We peered down at submerged logs and skirted the shoreline to avoid the more than 600-foot icy depths with no sounds other than birdsong. —Mikaela Ruland, National Park Trips associate content director
Ojo Caliente and Taos Spa, Resort and Hot Springs
The Ojo Caliente resort is located 50 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and 40 miles west of Taos, in Georgia O’Keeffe country. (Photo: Courtesy Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa)
Location: Ojo Caliente, New Mexico
Price: From $239 per night; from $45 for soaks on weekdays
Why We Love It: Angie knew what was coming when we left Denver for an extended weekend getaway in Taos, New Mexico, a few years ago. We’d been together for three years and had spent the previous eight months discussing our future and The Big Question. It was time. We’d already picked out the engagement ring and planned an itinerary: Dinner at The Love Apple. A hike in the Sangre de Cristos. An afternoon in downtown’s plaza.
But our most anticipated spot was Ojo Caliente, a well-known spa resort west of Taos. We’d visited Ojo Caliente (Spanish for “hot eye”) the year before, and it immediately became our favorite hot springs. Seven outdoor geothermal pools of varying warmth surround a cool soaking pool and mud bath. The smell of burning cedar and mesquite waft through the grounds. Staff ask everyone to keep conversations to a whisper. And the compound is tranquil, tucked in among the piñon and cottonwood trees at the base of a rocky bluff and surrounded by a network of hiking trails.
We kicked off our getaway by spending a day in relative silence, soaking in the hot water, enjoying each other’s company, and unwinding with a massage. We booked a private pool and ate at Ojo’s restaurant that evening. Two days later, we hiked up 13,167-foot Wheeler Peak and exchanged rings at the top, just as we had planned. —Fred Dreier, Outside articles editor
The Grand Traverse
(Photo: Courtesy Sierra Ducatt)
Location: Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Price: Variable, depending on whether you do it yourself or use a guide company
Why We Love It: When my girlfriend and I started dating, we thought it would be a good idea to try the Grand Traverse, a 14-mile line across ten summits with 24,000 feet of vert. She had lots of experience climbing, but she’d never been on a multi-pitch adventure before, let alone a multiday alpine effort. For some reason, we decided it was a good idea anyway. Over three days in July, with the help of Exum Mountain Guides, we traversed the Teton skyline, moving fast over complicated terrain, camping in a tiny tent on small ledges, and relishing in the splitter weather. It was the kind of trip that either demolishes a relationship or hardens it into something that lasts. We’ve been together for nearly a decade since. —Matt Skenazy, Outside features editor
Granite Park Chalet
(Photo: Getty/Rachid Dahnoun)
Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
Price: From $140
Why We Love It: When my wife and I got married in September of 2000, our grandparents weren’t happy. Not because they didn’t like our choice of partner, but because they couldn’t attend the wedding. The 7.6-mile hike to the remote site we’d chosen to tie the knot—Glacier National Park’s historic Granite Park Chalet—was just too much. But we were enamored with the century-old stone-and-wood structure, located just west of the Continental Divide, atop a hill with sweeping views of Glacier’s peaks and valleys, scenery made even more spectacular by the light show that happens when the sun dips below the jagged horizon.
Our wedding party, just under 30 strong, trekked to the chalet via the Highline Trail, which hugs the famed Garden Wall, a sharp ridge that at the time was laced with glittering streams and sprays of wildflowers. If you find romance sleeping at tree line in an alpine wonderland, miles deep in the wilderness, Granite Park Chalet is your spot. But full disclosure: room service is not one of the perks. You’ll cook meals on the chalet’s propane stove and schlep water from a nearby creek.
Yes, we pressed our wedding guests into pack duty, asking them to help us haul in three days’ worth of drinks and food. My mother-in-law-to-be baked a wedding cake on-site, and the bridesmaid decorated the chalet’s community dining room. But the collaborative spirit only added to the allure of holding our celebration here. How good was the reception? After seeing the pictures, even our grandparents were happy. —Dennis Lewon, Outside Inc. director of content
Shenandoah National Park
(Photo: Getty/Ron Watts)
Location: Near Sperryville, Virginia
Price: Variable, depending on whether you pitch a tent in the park (campsites from $30) or stay at a local Airbnb or hotel
Why We Love It: They say Virginia is for lovers. I haven’t traveled enough around the state to vouch for that, but I’ve spent many weekends at this national park, and I think you could honestly say that the Shenandoahs are for soulmates. Just north of Sperryville, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there’s a dirt road that distances you from gas stations and billboards and delivers you to the base of a gorge known as Little Devils Stairs. Each time my then-boyfriend and I set off on the modestly challenging two-mile trail, the hushed vibe instantly reset our moods and our rhythm.
There’s something different about this place, unlike other hikes I’ve known, and how it sequesters you among the crowded trees, obscuring daylight. Away from the tensions of everyday life, it brought on an almost tangible expression of what filmmaker Jason Silva refers to as a “cosmology of two.” We navigated moss-covered rocks and fallen trees, danced in a stream, gawked at what appeared to be bear tracks, geeked out at the geography, and paused solemnly at a cemetery.
We stayed at a rustic (and slightly terrifying) old cabin loaned to us by a friend. It had shoddy cell reception but was comfortingly close to the trail and replete with an outdoor shower, cast-iron cookware, firewood, and our hauled-in provisions. Sitting on the porch at dusk, we joked about DIY glamping while sipping Champagne and watching fireflies the size of lanterns dance with the constellations. My memories have since outlasted that relationship, so “soulmates” may not be entirely accurate. But then, as with pretty much anything in life, it is what you make of it in the moment. —Renee Marie Schettler, Yoga Journal executive editor
Sun Mountain Lodge
Rooms at Sun Mountain Lodge either face the Methow Valley or national forest. (Photo: Courtesy Sun Mountain Lodge/Jamie Petitto)
Location: Winthrop, Washington
Price: From $172
Why We Love It: The magnificent views here have been awing guests for decades. Established in 1968 in central Washington’s Methow River Valley, the Sun Mountain Lodge is an aerie atop a foothill boasting immense 360-degree vistas: the mountain terraces and spires of the North Cascades and thousands of acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Guest rooms and a dining room are built around those views. I’ve been fortunate to stay here four times, teaching writing classes for the EASE Cancer Foundation and hiking on glacially carved slopes where strong winds cause trees to grow sideways.
I have been here with friends and colleagues, but never a romantic partner: I wish! Instead, each time, I sent my husband and our two sons cascades of photos: Mount Gardner from my room, the horse ranch I can spy from my class, the nearby Lake Patterson, where people fish, and even the stuffed bison in the lobby (his name is Floyd) and the massive musk ox and caribou heads mounted above the fireplace. Every season has its charms: sunflowers and wildflowers in spring and summer, the brilliant red foliage of fall, and, in winter, snow (not to mention the annual Ski to the Sun Marathon and Relay, a 40K race that begins on the valley floor, continues on what’s touted as North America’s largest ski-trail network, and finishes at the lodge).
My husband would love to skate-ski here. We’d both like to tackle some of the daylong rock climbs around Mazama, 23 miles to the northwest. My friend Jill LaRue, a nurse who works the conference, mountain bikes the trails around the lodge. If you hadn’t packed for all of the recreational possibilities, you can square things away at the lodge’s sizable gear-rental shop. This being Washington, it is perhaps unsurprising that the salmon served at the lodge is always great. And if you have time for further exploring, you might try snacks and soup at the Rocking Horse Bakery and Little Dipper Cafe in the quintessential mountain town of Winthrop, ten miles east, or visit the funky cabin-like Mazama Store in Mazama. —Alison Osius, Outside travel editor
The Highlands at Harbor Springs
(Photo: Courtesy the Highlands at Harbor Springs/Margaret Menefee)
Location: Harbor Springs, Michigan
Price: From $200
Why We Love It: I am turning 40 this month, and to celebrate, my husband and I are spending our first weekend away from our three-and-a-half-year-old. We didn’t want to travel too far, and we also wanted something that both felt luxurious and had skiing. That last bit was important—I was born and raised in Sun Valley, Idaho, and having recently relocated to northern Michigan from New Mexico, I thought our skiing options would be fairly limited.
But then I discovered the “Deer Valley of the Midwest,” the Highlands at Harbor Springs (formerly known as Boyne Highlands). Booked! We’re staying in a slopeside Gleneagles Ultra Luxury Suite in the resort’s historic and recently renovated main lodge, and I’m looking forward to the soaking tub, Italian linen sheets, bidet, record player, included breakfast, and ski-valet service. And the highlight: a snowcat-accessed moonlight dinner at the resort’s mountaintop North Peak restaurant the night of my birthday.
It’s not going to be the deepest skiing of my life, or even my season, but I can’t imagine a better way to turn 40 than a fancy, toddler-free ski weekend with my favorite ski partner. —Katie Cruickshank, Outside Inc. director of digital sales strategy
Lake Creek Road Dispersed Camping Area
(Photo: Courtesy Sierra Shafer)
Location: Ketchum, Idaho
Why We Love It: A few summers back, my boyfriend and I went on a quest for a weekend retreat in Idaho that led us just beyond Ketchum, to the Lake Creek Road camping area. Nestled along the eponymous creek, it became the perfect haven for a few days of mountain-biking adventures and tranquil post-ride relaxation. The beginner-friendly White Clouds Trail, which guided us to a mesmerizing vista, was practically at our doorstep. The Corral Creek Trail, weaving through sage and aspen, provided a captivating forested singletrack experience, revealing glimpses of the majestic Pioneer Mountains.
Also close by was Frenchman’s Hot Springs, an idyllic setting for rejuvenating soaks, enhanced by the refreshing flow of the nearby Warm Springs Creek. What made the getaway truly special was the sense of being off-grid, with no interruptions from cell-phone service, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the weekend. Evenings were spent reconnecting by the campfire under the incredibly bright stars. It was a much needed escape from the ordinary. —Sierra Shafer, Ski editor in chief
The New Mexico–Colorado Borderlands
(Photo: Courtesy Abigail Barronian)
Location: The San Juan River and Pagosa Springs
Price: $500 for a day of guided fishing; rooms at The Springs Resort and Spa starting at $340
Why We Love It: Over Thanksgiving, my boyfriend booked a day of fly-fishing from a drift boat on the San Juan River, a fishery in northern New Mexico that’s well-known for its absolutely massive trout. There are a few area outfitters with similar offerings, like Duranglers and Float ’N Fish. Neither of us had ever fished with a guide, and after countless long days wading upriver and tying rig after rig, it was a treat to have someone else do the dirty work so we could just fish. Then we drove through a blizzard to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, about an hour and a half away from the takeout, to stay at the eponymous hot spring resort, where we soaked late into the night. The next day we caught little trout in the river below the resort and once again soaked until we were prunes. This is a good trip to take in the colder months, when there are smaller crowds on the (very popular) river. And the hot springs are that much sweeter when the weather’s unfriendly. —Abigail Barronian, Outside senior editor
Cape Alava, Olympic Wilderness Coast
Cape Alava is the westernmost point of Olympic National Park and the lower 48. (Photo: Getty/Jonathan Mauer)
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington
Price: $8 per person per night for a backcountry-camping permit; park-entrance fee additional
Why We Love It: The northern stretch of Olympic National Park coastline is pretty much my favorite place on earth, period. It’s the place where I always feel totally present, which is the main reason I’d take a partner there for some quality time. The ocean, the remove from roads and other people, and the terrible cell service make the rest of my life seem very distant, and the world shrinks to the rocky beach, the waves, and my companions. The tide pools full of anemones, starfish, and other sea life in the large intertidal zone at Cape Alava make it my preferred spot, and you can pitch a tent at dozens of campsites strung out along the rocky beaches.
Starting at the Lake Ozette ranger station, it’s a three-ish mile hike through windblown forests and peat bogs on a well-maintained trail to reach the cape. The effort-to-scenic-payoff ratio is unmatched, and the mellow route to campsites on the coast avoids a few backpacking pitfalls that can spoil the romance—no one is going to bonk, it’s easy to loop back to the car for forgotten essentials, and the short distance means you can bring extra goodies like a bottle of wine or a small watermelon.
The downsides include the long drive to get there (five hours from Seattle, longer if you have to wait at the ferry), the hassle of securing a permit on Recreation.gov, and potential storms and high winds once you’ve arrived. Full disclosure: I’ve never taken a partner here, just friends, although one friend I brought along did leave the coast as more than a friend, so make of that what you will. But if I ever wanted to spend a few days with a sweetheart, to simply enjoy the picturesque surroundings and each other’s company, I’d take them to Cape Alava. —Miyo McGinn, Outside assistant editor
AutoCamp Joshua Tree
(Photo: Courtesy AutoCamp)
Location: Joshua Tree, California
Price: From $223
Why We Love It: Think of romance, and you might think of iconic destinations like Paris or Venice, but I feel most connected to my partner when we visit Joshua Tree. We recently stayed in AutoCamp for an overnight excursion to the high desert, and the amenities and proximity to the national park—a quick six miles—made it one of our loveliest weekends together. The property’s Airstreams have been converted into trendy tiny homes but offer the novelty of vanlife. (And when you’re living out of your van in wintertime, there’s no complimentary hot cocoa and cider bar, as there is here the entire month of December.)
We had a great time in ours: the beds are plush, the bathrooms are large, and there’s heating and A/C. Also, every airstream unit comes with a private outdoor fire pit and dining area with a table and chairs, so you can cozy up next to your beau and toast with s’mores while stargazing up one of the darkest, most decorated skies in the world. Not interested in sleeping in a converted Airstream? Check out its cabins. AutoCamp is so romantic that it literally hosts weddings on-site at its large gathering space. It also hosts loads of activities, day and night, from themed hikes and new-moon soundbaths to concerts and cultural tours. —Emma Veidt, Backpacker associate editor
Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout
Location: Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana
Why We Love It: More than 8,000 fire towers perched on high points across the U.S. at their peak in the 1950s, giving lookouts a vantage to spot the telltale curl of a wildfire start before it could spread. Today, only a fraction of those still stand. But at a few of them, backpackers can spend the night, enjoying panoramic views and stellar mountaintop stargazing for themselves.
For the first anniversary of our first date, the woman who is now my wife and I ventured up to one of those—Garnet Mountain Lookout, elevation 8,245 feet—to try and claim some of that magic. From Bozeman, it’s a 26-mile drive to the Garnet Mountain Trailhead and from there it was a 3.5-mile hike to the summit, through a conifer forest and wide-open mountain meadows that still held late-spring snow on their western faces. Before long we’d settled into the fire tower, a squat, two-story building with a woodshed on the bottom and a full wraparound porch surrounding the square living quarters on top. Furnishings were solid but spartan—a small pantry, a propane burner and wood stove, a table, and four bunks, each just big enough for two determined lovebirds to squeeze into. But when that night’s sunset lit the hills, I would have taken it over any palace. —Adam Roy, Backpacker executive editor
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