Out West: On either side of the country’s most spectacular national parks, two unique lodges offer the perfect socially distant escape

Top among spectacular drives in the United States is the road between the northern tip of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The route winds through the length of Yellowstone, passing the park’s awe-inspiring Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake before connecting with the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, named after the late conservationist and beloved for its awe-inspiring views of the Teton mountain range.

On either side—whether you start in the north in Montana, exploring Bozeman, Emigrant, and Gardiner, or come from the Tetons in the south—time spent in the national parks is best measured in days rather than hours.

Thanks to a duo of one-of-a-kind luxury lodging options bookending the parks, so is a socially distant retreat outside of them. In Pray, Montana, the sweeping expanse of Paradise Valley is home to the Sage Lodge—a new secluded resort nestled into the banks of the Yellowstone River. To enter the Sage is to enter a world of Western beauty with a minimalist aesthetic marked by an immense pitched-roof lobby. Modeled after the style of the great park lodges of the early 20th century, the grand hall is anchored by a stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling views of Emigrant Peak, for which the area is best known.

A day’s itinerary can range from grabbing a thermos of coffee and settling in to read, daydream, or play vintage board games in the library to a full-on outdoor adventure. With everything from bikes, paddle boards, and snowshoes to yoga, axe-throwing, stargazing seminars, and guided hikes (including of the llama variety), there’s little reason to leave the property’s 1,200 acres.

Whether you’re a die-hard angler or a fly-fishing novice, the Sage takes pride in and full advantage of their spot on the river. Lessons start at the hotel’s private trout-casting pond before setting out on a half- or full-day float down the Yellowstone. In the heart of winter, opt for snowshoeing or a tour of the park in all its icy splendor. A spa on the premises, artfully tucked away behind a rustic wooden enclosure, gives little hint as to the immersive luxury inside, while at the hotel’s Fireside restaurant, Montana-inspired signatures include local flathead trout, bison tataki, and elevated takes on dishes—such as the horseradish-infused prime rib hash—that harken back to the hardscrabble gold-mining days of the West, albeit with a twist.

After making the drive south through Yellowstone and into the Tetons, Jackson Hole offers a natural resting place. A 55-mile-long mountain valley enthusiastically described (to wide disbelief on the East Coast) by John Colter in his journals from the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the Rocky Mountains, it gained prominence as a home to fur trappers and homesteaders before cementing its spot as a must-visit tourist destination.

In the heart of downtown, Hotel Jackson is located just steps from its early 1900s namesake—one of the first five buildings to make up the town. This iteration, equal parts modern and cozy, is all about a Scandinavian twist on a Western aesthetic. Weathered wood-paneled bedrooms, endless fireplaces, and cowboy-meets-hygge décor mingle in hues of greys, browns, and creams. At the Figs restaurant, Lebanese dishes such as the pomegranate syrup and arugula halloumi salad and the za’atar fries offer a delicious palette cleanse if you’ve gone heavy on the steak. After dinner, opt for traditional Turkish coffee served with all the gusto and flavor of the Mediterranean original.

A standout among the wealth of lodging options in town, Hotel Jackson is unique for the range and sheer amount of activities on offer. From a custom hat-making experience with local artist Sarah Kjorstad to all manner of snow activities (there is no Jackson Hole without its celebrated skiing slopes, after all), including everything from backcountry mountaineering to sleigh rides and heli and Nordic skiing, if you can imagine it, it can most likely happen here (solo or with a socially distant friend or family member in tow).

by Antonina Jedrzejczak, Ralph Lauren, RL Mag

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Eric Richards