Forest Idyll | Savage River Lodge
Smack in the middle of more than 700 acres of Maryland state forest, Savage River Lodge is a popular place to stay when the colors start changing in mid-September through their peak, usually in mid-October. Guests can choose from 18 two-story luxury log cabins and eight glamping yurts. There’s a welcoming central lodge for gathering. Despite its low-key nature, the dining room turns out elevated New American cuisine such as vegan red-lentil curry and wild-boar ragu.
Drive time from DC: About three hours.
Autumn activity: There are nearly 100 geocaches within ten miles. For newbies, the lodge offers instruction, and it rewards you with a glass of wine when you find the four nearby caches. And don’t miss the annual Heritage Days Festival, September 9 through 11.
Pretty cool: Every morning, you’ll find a basket with housemade muffins and orange juice at your doorstep, plus a dog biscuit if you’ve brought Fido along.
Pet-friendly? Yes, in selected cabins.
Luxury in the Round | Shenandoah Yurt
Surrounded on three sides by Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, the luxurious Shenandoah Yurt—with its dramatic skylight, vaulted ceiling, and panoramic windows—makes for an unusual family or friends getaway. Its two bedrooms and loft can accommodate up to eight, and amenities include a hot tub, wood-burning stove, large deck, and pool table. Luxe touches such as sleep masks and a dozen organic local eggs await guests.
Drive time from DC: Two hours.
What’s nearby: Visit the largest caverns in the eastern United States, Luray Caverns, about 25 minutes away.
Autumn activity: See how the fall color palette changes at sunset or sunrise from one of more than 70 overlooks along Skyline Drive.
Pretty cool: Fat-tire e-bikes are available for $50 a day; zip to Shenandoah National Park in 15 minutes and pedal along Skyline Drive.
Pet-friendly?: Yes, with a $50 fee and preapproval.
Fruit-Scented Sleeps | Showalter’s Orchard
Showalter’s Orchard offers three beautifully appointed one-bedroom cottages (sleeping two), amid more than 30 varieties of apple trees and two of peach on a hilltop overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. The cottages have full kitchens and bathrooms. Along with a family-owned orchard dating to the 1900s, there’s a hard cidery on the premises; a complimentary tasting for two is included with every stay.
Drive time from DC: Two hours.
What’s nearby: There are several wineries in the area, including family-owned Cave Ridge Vineyard, about 25 minutes away.
Autumn activity: Pick a peck of apples in the orchard and make some apple pie in your kitchen (pans and recipe provided) while sipping the house cider, sweet or hard.
Pretty cool: Instead of the cottages, you can opt to stay in a renovated 1970 Airstream, complete with a mini-kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor living area where you can sit a spell by the fire pit—under lights strung on trees—and enjoy the cool mountain air.
Up in the Trees | Ella’s Enchanted Treehouses
For the kid in everyone, there is Ella’s Enchanted Treehouses—three wooden houses on stilts amid 22 acres of woods adjacent to state forest. (A fourth tree-house is under construction.) “It’s a respite for families to ‘treelax’ and spend time outdoors,” says co-owner Stacie Griffith. Each with its own design, these are nothing like the backyard treehouse of your childhood. They come with full kitchens, beds, bathrooms, and heating/AC, and some feature barnwood sliding doors, rustic Edison-bulb lighting, reclaimed-wood beams, handmade swings, and fire pits. Don’t feel like cooking? Restaurants are within a 20-minute drive.
Drive time from DC: Two hours and 45 minutes.
Pretty cool: The DayDreamer, tallest of the houses, is wheelchair-accessible and ADA-compliant.
Sounds of Silence | Lost River Vacations
Mathias, West Virginia
Two tiny houses (with a third in the works) make up Lost River Vacations, on 22 woodsy acres between the Allegheny and Shenandoah mountains. The custom-built wooden homes, sleeping four and six, pack a punch in style and use of space, with the larger featuring a deck and hot tub. You’ll find breakfast and s’more fixings waiting for you in a recyclable goody bag. There’s even an electric-car charger onsite. Oh, and high-speed wi-fi.
Drive time from DC: Two hours and 15 minutes.
Autumn activity: “Fall is a magical time here—the weather is ideal for enjoying our hot tub, and our sauna should be ready by fall,” says co-owner Jane Jonas. Also, you can pick your own apples at Paugh’s Orchard in Quicksburg, Virginia, about 40 minutes away.
Pretty cool: Owned by three Gallaudet University alumni, the mini-resort is Deaf-owned, the homes built by Deaf craftspeople, and artwork created by Deaf people. It’s an effort to raise awareness of the talent and vibrancy of the Deaf community.
Glamping Under the Stars | Big Dipper Ranch
On a large field surrounded by woods, with sweeping views of the mountains beyond, Big Dipper Ranch hosts four large glamping tents on raised platforms, sleeping up to four each. Fall is a great time to visit. “In fact, it was a clear, cool fall day when we first saw the pond bordered by a sugar-maple tree in full autumn color,” says co-owner Lisa Buchanan. “Jud and I looked at each other and knew this was the place we wanted.” Every tent has its own covered deck, queen-size bed, fire pit, outdoor Adirondack chairs, grill, and picnic table. The bathroom situation?
Drive time from DC: Just under two hours.
Autumn activity: Stargazing is stellar—with little light pollution, the property enjoys unimpeded views of the Big Dipper and other constellations.
Pretty cool: The fishing pond on the property is stocked, and there’s a floating dock.
Luxe by camping standards: Each tent has its own bathroom tent on the back deck with an eco-friendly composting toilet and sink. Camping shower bags are available and can be hung in the sun for hot showers. For meals, bring a cooler and food to grill, or dine at nearby restaurants.
Pet-friendly?: Yes, though animals aren’t allowed on the beds.