BRADFORD, Pa. -- Nature-lovers have their choice of rental cabins in the woods of Pennsylvania, some big, some small. None is as luxurious as the 12 log and stone structures (some with as many as seven or eight bedrooms) that comprise The Lodge at Glendorn, a former private retreat near Bradford that opened in 1995.
Nestled on 1,500 wooded acres abutting Allegheny National Forest, the resort built by the Dorn family in the late 1920s speaks to the Good Life.
In fact, it's tough to imagine a prettier spot to use as a base for a fall foliage trip in northwestern Pennsylvania.
In addition to stocked ponds for fishing and more than 20 miles of private hiking trails, it offers guests a spring-fed heated swimming pool, a spa, tennis courts, horseback riding, mountain biking and even a skeet and trap shooting range with trained instructors. (Yes, trying to hit those tiny clay discs while they're flying through the air is as hard as it looks; I got a bruise on my shoulder from the recoil.)
Winter activities include snowmobiling, curling and cross-country skiing. Though with more than 40 wood-burning fireplaces warming the cabins and all-redwood Big House (where four more suites and rooms are located), you'll want to spend the afternoon snuggled up with your sweetie in front of a roaring fire. In winter, with snow piled up in its densely forested woods, Glendorn could be the most romantic place in the universe.
On my trip there in August, however, it was in the 90s, and our cabin was un-airconditioned. But if anything, we couldn't have been more thrilled with the log- and-plank sided Miller cabin ($750/night), one of the earliest cabins on the estate, dating to 1927. Paneled in chestnut, with two wood-burning fireplaces, a vintage stove and a jar full of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen table, it was like something out of a fairy tale.
We spent several happy hours after our skeet lesson riding bikes, kayaking and fly fishing on private Bondieu Lake. And the four-course gourmet meal in the two-story Great Hall after a round of cocktails ($100 per person, excluding tip) was terrific, if not particularly ground-breaking cuisine. Breakfast the next morning in the sun-drenched sunroom (pancakes, bacon and coffee) was equally lovely.
The original lodge was built in 1929 by Clayton Glenville Dorn and his son, Forest, who made their fortune in the early 1900s devising a way to extract oil from depleted wells by forcing water into them. As their family grew, so did the estate, with the Big House being expanded eight times to accommodate grandchildren. The first cabin to go up was a brick bungalow on a brook-side bank that came to be known as "The Roost" (it rents for $1,395 a night and accommodates nine in five bedrooms); next came "The Hideout," the elder Mr. Dorn's private retreat on a wooded hilltop ($895 a night, with a private shooting gallery). Nine more followed over the next decade.
Very little has changed over the years: Much of the resort's charm comes from the fact it still feels very much like a private home -- in addition to original furniture. wood- and tilework, you'll find photos, books and family artifacts. Many celebrities have checked in over the years -- Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstong both entertained here -- but no one is going to kiss and tell about any of today's stars.
An Orvis-endorsed resort since 2002, and the first establishment in Pennsylvania to qualify for membership in the prestigious Relais & Chateaux association of hoteliers, Glendorn isn't something you stumble upon. Set back in the woods on a private drive, you have to be buzzed in through the stately wrought-iron gate, and then drive a half mile to the Big House. But when you get there, you'll feel very much like you've arrived.
The Lodge at Glendorn is at 1000 Glendorn Drive in Bradford, Pa. Rates start at $450 a night for a room in the Big House, and $750 a night for a private cabin, plus a $100 resort fee. Breakfast and many of the activities are included. Info: glendorn.com or 1-800-843-8568.
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay. First Published September 15, 2013 4:00 AM