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Play where you stay: Great hotels for active vacations

Travaasa is located on the coast of Maui.

Travaasa is located on the coast of Maui.  Credit: Travaasa

This summer, our family stayed at a LOGE hotel in Bend, Oregon, where we had a very atypical hotel experience. We took turns lounging in the bright orange hammock hanging from the ceiling of our room. We rode the free Raleigh loaner bikes down a paved trail, with sunlight filtering through giant evergreens. Later, under a twilit sky, we swam in the pool and roasted marshmallows — multiple fire pits are scattered over the property — and ducked into the industrial kitchen to make our own meal. We felt like we were camping, but with a little more structure.

LOGE stands for "live outside, go explore," and the hotel chain makes it easy to do that. Each room of the Bend location is outfitted with hooks to hang your bike, ski racks, shelves for gear, and tile floors that can handle melting snow or mud. The lobby triples as a wine bar, coffee bar and game room. This property was a formerly disconsolate motel made over in fresh vintage Howard Johnson colors. There are five locations in Oregon, Washington state, Colorado and California; one more will open in Washington in 2020. Go to logecamps.com for details on other locations. And read on for other hotels that let you play where you stay.

LOGE Bend

19221 SW Century Dr., Bend, Oregon; 541-382-4080; logecamps.com/bend-or

Price: Rooms from $50 for a hostel bunk to $110 for a room with one queen and a twin bunk bed.

Basecamp Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, California

This hipster spot aims to get you off the bed and onto the hiking trails, into the water (five-minute walk to the lake) or out on the slopes (it's a four-minute walk to the gondola to Heavenly ski resort). Some rooms have multiple bunk beds, for families or a group willing to share. Inside the Great Indoors suite, a tent straddles the king bed, and you can enjoy the picnic table and camp chairs, faux fire pit, and ceiling stars, all without the predatory presence of mosquitoes . . . plus a regular bathroom. Phew! Basecamp is also on Lake Tahoe's North Shore and in Boulder, Colo.

4143 Cedar Ave., South Lake Tahoe, California; 530-208-0180; basecamptahoesouth.com

Price: Rooms from $79.

El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara, California

Here by the beach, cedar cabins and safari tents offer luxury camping. Never had a tent massage? Remedy that right away. But first, earn it, by doing the lodge's challenge ropes course, dogging yourself downward in a yoga class or jumping on a complimentary beach cruiser bike. By leaving campus, you can kayak, horseback ride, surf the waves or tootle around on a Segway. Vineyards nearby? Check.

11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, California; 805-685-3887; elcapitancanyon.com

Price: Rates start at $155 for a safari tent.

Gwen Hotel, Chicago

Indulge in "urban glamping" on the Magnificent Mile in a huge, lavishly furnished bohemian tent on the 16th-floor balcony. The upscale s'mores are made with Mexican chocolate, cayenne marshmallows and a gold-leaf garnish. When you roll out of the tent, you can savor yoga on that balcony with its spectacular skyline views, rent a bike and use the concierge's bike map, or follow running trails around Lake Michigan. This experience is seasonal and includes round-trip airport transportation and a two-bedroom suite in case you want to retreat indoors.

521 N. Rush St., Chicago; 312-645-1500; thegwenchicago.com

Price: Urban glamping starts at $5,500.

Hotel Domestique, Greenville County, South Carolina

Cycling superstar George Hincapie opened this hotel in the city of Travelers Rest because of its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The biking routes through the mountains echo alpine climbs like those on the Tour de France and throughout Europe. Rent a Scott bike or bring your own, and staff will design a ride for you and pop it into the complimentary Garmin. You can also arrange a ride with a local professional rider to get a more focused workout. Drive one of three complimentary BMWs to the nearby golf courses or vineyards, or swim in the saltwater pool.

10 Road of Vines, Travelers Rest, South Carolina; 864-516-1715; hoteldomestique.com

Price: Rooms from $246.

Muir Trail Ranch, Fresno County, California

The historic ranch is a hiker's dream: You can't get to it without hiking, horseback riding or helicoptering (so long as it starts with an H, it seems). Everyone there is sinewy and bliss-eyed from the beautiful effort of arriving. Set in the John Muir Wilderness in California, halfway along the 211-mile John Muir Trail, the ranch can be reached via a five-mile hike from a lakeside trailhead (you and your baggage get a free trip across the lake, and a horse takes your pack to the ranch for you). Lay your sleeping bag on a real bed in a tent cabin or log cabin, eat communal dinner with other travelers, and soak in hot spring baths with views of a meadow and a granite peak. If you have a large enough group, you can book the ranch to yourselves for a week. It's rustic for sure, but Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed here, and the website promises many people whose work we would "recognize immediately" have been guests. Open seasonally, June through September.

92595 Kaiser Pass Road, Lakeshore, California; 209-966-3195; muirtrailranch.com

Price: Rooms from $190.

Primland, Patrick County, Virginia

Despite the name, you can be saucy at this property in Meadows of Dan. Eschew the mansion on the grounds (although you'll want to stargaze in its observatory) and stay in a private lodge, cabin or one of three tree houses for the experience Primland calls "ritzy but rugged." The treehouse named Golden Eagle was built by a French company and involves nary a nail driven into the host oak. Activities abound: 18-hole golfing on a course that made Golf magazine's list of the "top 100 courses anyone can play," guided tree climbing (no joke), biking, water sports, geocaching, horseback riding and a multitude of other things, including tomahawk throwing. Sport shooting is a specialty of the property: Guests can don tweed hats and waistcoats and get their "Downton Abbey" on at the European Style Released Pheasant Shoot. Or, in season, they can wear orange for a day of modern hunting. Those who prefer not to aim at live creatures can visit the 14-station clay-shooting course.

2000 Busted Rock Road, Meadows of Dan, Virginia; 866-960-7746; primland.com

Price: Rooms from $340.

Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Nestled in the Grand Tetons, this resort offers physical activity year-round. In summer, go white-water rafting, or ride the chairlift for 8,000 feet and then leap off the mountain with your paragliding instructor. In winter, you can sign up for a ski mountaineering clinic, wielding your ice ax and fixing rope to climb up the terrain, then skiing down in an exhilarating rush of "job well done." Take a dog-sled ride to the hot springs, go on a snowmobile safari into parts of Grand Teton National Park that are otherwise inaccessible, and participate in night skiing, heli-skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. The accommodations are ski-in, ski-out in winter, when the annual snowfall is more bounteous, the website boasts, than at any other resort in the Lower 48.

400 E. Snow King Ave., Jackson, Wyoming; 307-733-5200; snowking.com

Price: Rooms from $89.

Travaasa, Maui, Hawaii

It's hard to find a Hawaiian hotel that doesn't make you excited to swim, snorkel, paddleboard, etc. under a bright and cheerful sun, but Maui's "experiential resort" Travaasa goes the extra step. On a typical day, there are a dozen activities, including standards such as horseback riding and outdoor yoga with a view of palm trees, and more offbeat choices including Hawaiian spear throwing, coconut husking and ulu maika, an ancient Hawaiian sport akin to bowling. Another Travaasa locale is set to open in Lenox, Massachusetts, in a historic Vanderbilt property. Go to travaasa.com for more info.

5031 Hana Highway, Hana, Hawaii; 808-248-8211; travaasa.com/hana

Price: Rooms from $475.

Tyler Place Family Resort, Franklin County, Vermont

This 165-acre, all-inclusive resort in Highgate Springs really is like camp. Counselors will lead kids through activities while adults rock climb, skeet shoot or garden, to name a few of the many options. Three meals are provided, and then you retire to your family's private cottage for the night.

175 Tyler Place Road, Highgate Springs, Vermont; 802-868-4000; tylerplace.com

Because activities and meals are included, rates vary depending on family size and age of guests. Rates start at $184 per person per day for the first two adults in a reservation; infants start at $41; ages 2 1/2 through 10th grade, $137 per day. 

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