Located on the eastern side of the North Cascades Highway, high in the hills above Winthrop, Washington sits Sun Mountain Lodge, a special year-round resort that easily balances luxury, nature and family activities – all with a 360 degree breath-taking view. My family had an opportunity to visit Sun Mountain Lodge this summer, and we found the atmosphere to be very relaxing and accommodating, and the activities diverse enough for everyone in our family to have a good time.
Sun Mountain Lodge has 96 mountaintop guest rooms with a spectacular view, including several ADA rooms. Only a few rooms have TVs, our did not – which my family initially found hard to comprehend. I mean seriously, how can you live without a TV? As it turned out, not having a TV in our room actually enhanced the relaxing experience of the resort. Typically my special needs daughter gets overwhelmed on trips, especially if the weather is hot, so she requires more time in the room to decompress. That wasn’t an issue this trip; Sun Mountain Lodge was quiet and peaceful, and it’s mountaintop location in eastern Washington gives it a warm dry temperature, kept cool by soothing sage-scented breezes (which didn’t bother her asthma – bonus!) In addition, we found so many things we wanted to do that we ended up spending very little time in our room. If you require a room with a TV, mini-fridge, etc, determine the features that your family needs to ensure a great stay and call Sun Mountain Lodge to have them suggest the best room for your needs. Sun Mountain Lodge also has cabins on Lake Patterson a couple of miles down the hill from the Lodge, where you can rent a cabin and/or enjoy lake activities like fishing, boating and swimming. See more photos of our room on my blog.
Trails for Hiking, Biking and Horseback Riding
Summer activities at Sun Mountain Lodge include outdoor options like hiking, fishing, mountain bike riding and horse back riding, as well as indoor activities like wine tasting, spa and salon services and shopping in Winthrop, a cowboy town nearby. My family really enjoyed hiking. There are over 250 miles of signed trails around the resort area; plenty of options for horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking. My daughter with special needs has a push chair that can go off road a little, and we found two trails that we could climb as a family: View Ridge and Sunnyside. These trails are a little over a mile long and provided fantastic scenery, and wild life sightings, including the two deer that followed us from a distance.
The highlight for my girls was horseback riding. There are several options: a one and half hour trail ride, a half day trail ride, and private rides, in addition to the ride to the Cowboy Breakfast and Dinner rides. My daughter with special needs has issues with her hips and can’t sit fully straddling a horse, additionally she doesn’t sit independently, so I wasn’t sure if they could accommodate her. We went to the horse corral and met the program owner, Deb. She was very comfortable finding a way for my daughter to ride and provided a lead ride around the parking area. My daughter couldn’t have been more excited; her smile beamed the rest of the day. Meanwhile my 15 year old took an hour and a half trail ride without parents, which pretty much made the whole trip for her – both the horseback ride and having her own space.
The Cowboy Dinner
When you plan your trip to Sun Mountain Lodge be sure to sign up for at least one of the Cowboy Breakfasts or Cowboy Dinners. I really enjoy a campout breakfast, but the odds of waking my teens up in time for the Cowboy Breakfast and having an enjoyable day are slim, so I opted for the Cowboy Dinner.
What makes it “Cowboy?” Diners either arrive on horseback or take a wagon ride along trails to a clearing, where dinner is prepared on an open barbeque next to a large campfire. We took the wagon ride and arrived at the clearing, those that came by horseback put their horses in the corral, and we all gathered with coffee and cocoa while the cook finished making dinner. I could get used to this kind of picnic, not being responsible for anything, not making dinner, helping with the fire, or setting the table. Definitely a nice break, allowing this mom the opportunity to relax and socialize.
Dinner was traditional cowboy food, but I doubt that the cowboys had it this good. Chicken, steak and salmon were options from the barbeque, with yummy baked beans, fresh slaw, watermelon, and berry cobbler with fresh cream for dessert. I am gluten-free, and the cook had special options for me – including cobbler without the crust, it was wonderful. After dinner we roasted marshmallows, serenaded by Cowboy Hank and special guest Rick Dougherty from the Kingston Trio. Definitely a memorable evening. See more photos at the Cowboy Dinner on my blog.
I had the opportunity to experience a spa service at the Sun Mountain Lodge – but with all of the options on their spa menu, how was I going to decide? Then I saw the treatment called Spa Crazy.
Spa Crazy is for moms like me who are so excited to finally have a chance to enjoy being pampered, that you don’t want to miss a thing. Feel like you could use a body scrub to remove dead cells and liven up your skin? Check. A body massage to soothe and relax aching, tight muscles? Check. A scalp massage to relieve tension and ease relax the lines on your forehead? Check. A peppermint foot scrub to liven up your pedicure and give you renewed energy? Check. The Spa Crazy has all of these treatments wrapped up in a 75 minute session and did not disappoint. I definitely walked out feeling like a new person.
Sun Mountain Lodge also has great winter activities, which I look forward to experiencing next visit. If you are interested in a stay at Sun Mountain Lodge, talk to their reservations desk to set up activities and determine the best room accommodations for your family.
Sun Mountain Lodge
Disclaimer: Sun Mountain Lodge provided my family with a 2-night stay, Cowboy Dinner and spa treatment for our review. The opinions and experiences are my own.
Karin Sheets is a techie, travel writer and mother of two teens, one of them with special needs. She encourages all families to live the adventure of life. Her personal blog is www.specialneedstravelmom.com and you can follow her @ionMyAdventures on Twitter or www.facebook.com/SpecialNeedsTravelMom.