Carter House Inns
Best Inns to Explore Nature

When Robert Frost wrote, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” he might well have been anticipating a cozy inn at the end of a grueling hike. These California inns make it easy to explore the nearby trails and waterways teaming with flora and fauna, but also stand ready to welcome you back with warm hospitality and luxurious appointments.

Presidio National Park, uniquely situated within the city of San Francisco, is a green oasis encompassing close to 1,500 acres of wildflowers, watersheds, and wildlife. The Inn at the Presidio, located within the park, offers a unique opportunity to experience this oasis up close. While hiking or biking the 24 trails just outside the inn’s doors, guests overlook breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay from eight overlooks and vistas, along the way discovering some of the 300 species of birds that inhabit the park. For guests wishing to enjoy more of this natural bounty from inside, the brand new 42-room Lodge at the Presidio opens this June, offering breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, the city skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Yosemite National Park is known for its awe-inspiring vistas, majestic granite formations, and miles of trails. The Groveland Hotel, the oldest hotel in the area, allows guests to step back in time while preparing to venture out into the Yosemite Valley, complete with wrap-around porches and a delightful tiered patio. Just a block away, the Hotel Charlotte also comfortable accommodations for guests visiting Yosemite. The location of both hotels place guests closer to the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which is a less-traveled section of the park. Once described as more beautiful than Yosemite Valley by John Muir, this valley offers hikes along the edge of the lake featuring glaciated rock formations, majestic waterfalls, and the occasional bear or bobcat sighting.

The Farmhouse at Hammersky Vineyards is nestled among 25 acres in historic Paso Robles, a working vineyard that doubles as a private nature experience for guests. Outside the front door guests will find 20-year-old vines meticulously farmed to make the best Bordeaux-centric wines in Paso Robles, also creating unique opportunities for bird-watching, deer spotting or just taking in the sweeping vistas unique to Paso Robles wine country. Farther afield, Paso Robles boasts more than 13 pristine hiking trails. Whatever your nature-exploring preference, a glass of wine from the estate at the end of the day is as good a reason as any to head out this weekend to this wine country oasis.

Ojai is often referred to as Shangri-La because of its majestic beauty and serenity.  Surrounded by velvet green hills and the Los Padres National Forest, the area is a sought-after destination for rock climbing, hiking, and mountaineering. Located at the vortex of all this beauty is the historic Lavender Inn. Right now, there’s a stunning showing of wildflowers in the inn’s meadow, along one of the nearby easy walks, and in the area’s numerous, quiet hiking trails (some of which have waterfalls or swimming ponds). For a more pampered nature experience, Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours take guests on a scenic adventure past olive, orange, and avocado groves to visit a spiritual garden, an olive-oil farm, a birds-eye overlook, and the Topa Topa Mountains’ evening “pink moment”.

Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse is nestled on two acres amid a towering grove of cypress trees, just three miles south of Mendocino Village. After Jo Bradley and her husband Fred bought the property 20 years ago, they restored not only the farmhouse, but also the riparian corridor running along the south side of the property. Wildlife has rewarded the innkeepers for their hard work by returning to the property in abundance.  Common sights are native birds, gray squirrels, gray foxes, deer, Pacific Giant Salamanders, Great Blue Heron, chipmunks, and rabbits.  Just across the road from the inn is an ocean cove teaming with wildlife, including sea lions, harbor seals, oystercatchers, and osprey.

Above the picturesque town of Twain Harte, the McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn sits in a quiet forest hollow that attracts a multitude of woodland birds. Guests can watch the avian show from the inn's large bay windows or decks overlooking the forest. With close proximity to Columbia State Park, Calaveras Big Trees, Yosemite, Pinecrest, and Stanislaus National Forest, the inn also offers easy access to pristine hiking trails, biking trails, spectacular vistas, unique geological formations, wildflowers, sparkling lakes, and countless miles of streams and rivers.

Settlers chose the name Fortuna for their new town in Humboldt County to reflect how fortunate they felt, getting to live amidst giant redwoods on the Pacific Ocean, in a rich valley of flowing rivers. Little has changed since then, one notable example being the existence of The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel as the perfect basecamp for all of Humboldt County’s outdoor riches. Steps from the hotel, guests can take a stroll down the Fortuna Riverwalk, a two-mile path overlooking the Eel River, or visit the nearby Avenue of Giants, the world’s largest remaining old-growth redwood forest along the coast. Other outdoor adventures include bird-watching (with at least 29 different bird species common to the area), beach combing, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, and canopy tours.

The Victorian elegance of Eureka’s Carter House Inns is the stuff of dreams, especially against the backdrop of Humboldt County’s natural beauty.  Redwood National Park, where more than 200 miles of trails weave through prairies, old-growth forests, and beaches, offers the unforgettable experience of walking through a redwood grove on a fog-shrouded morning, water trickling over ferns and mossy rocks. Another must-see is Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, a mix of sandy beaches, open meadows grazed by herds of Roosevelt elk, ferns cascading down canyon walls, and lush stands of the world's tallest living tree species, the coast redwood. One of Humboldt Bay’s original ferries originally transported mill workers and families around the bay, but now boards guests for a 75-minute narrated cruise.

Sorensen’s Resort, in the middle of an aspen and pine forest, is a short drive from the Pacific Crest Trail and just south of Lake Tahoe, two of the West Coast’s most iconic natural wonders. But that’s not all the Sierra Nevadas have to offer nature lovers. There’s a hiking trail right on the property that makes its way to the bluffs overlooking Hope Valley, a great spot for lunch and a great excuse to have the resort pack a picnic for the trek. The West Fork of the Carson River, offering unparalleled fly fishing, also runs through the resort, and a short drive away are Grover State Park Hot Springs, the Hope Valley Wildlife Area, and the East Fork of the Carson River, known for its rafting.

In addition to being a paradise with ocean views, the Aurora Hotel on Catalina Island is also a doorway into one of Southern California’s most dramatic natural areas. Protected from development and with 54 miles of coastline, nearly 90 percent of Catalina Island is a wonderland of unique flora and fauna, rugged terrain, and spectacular vistas. The island provides a plethora of outdoor activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and biking. Through its Authentic Catalina package, the hotel offers guests the chance to see the island’s natural splendor—aboard a Jeep Eco-Tour or on a naturalist-led hike—while learning about the powerful forces that shaped this unique destination. Aurora’s concierge team is happy to arrange a customized adventure to suit any discerning outdoor enthusiast.

Cambria’s Ollallieberry Inn, an 1873 Greek Revival house a short walk from the quaint town center, is the perfect home base to explore the wilds of the Central Coast. Nearby Moonstone Beach offers multiple outdoor options: tidepools, surfing, picnics, bird watching, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, or strolling along the extensive wooded walkway that spans the oceanfront. Other enticing options for experiencing nature include elephant seal viewing, cycling the coast on bikes rented from the inn, horseback riding, whale watching, or just taking a drive along rural Santa Rosa Creek Road to view the countryside, complete with hawks, wild turkeys, quaint farms, and sweeping panoramic vistas. Central Coast Outdoors also offers top-rated kayak, bike and hike tours in the area.

Nestled atop a knoll overlooking Mendocino Village and the Pacific Ocean, among two acres of vibrant gardens and magnificent Cypress trees, sits the Joshua Grindle Inn. Mendocino entices guests with coastal and headlands walking tours, scenic hiking and biking along trails flanked by redwoods, kayaking through sea caves, and the famous Glass Beach in nearby Fort Bragg. Mendocino Headlands State Park, with its beautiful rock formations and natural bridges, is within walking distance. Russian Gulch State Park, with trails through redwoods and fern canyons that culminate at a beautiful 36-foot waterfall and a coastal trail that follows the bluff, is two miles north. Home to the Devil's Punchbowl, the coastal trail features an abundance of wild flowers in spring and early summer.

Catalina Island Inn, known for its friendly service, grand ocean views, deluxe amenities, and great value, is the perfect complement to a wild adventure on Catalina Island. Whether on a guided Jeep Eco Tour, hiking the Trans Catalina Trail, or biking through the island's rugged interior, guests are likely to see bison, bald eagles, foxes and mule deer. Catalina’s Mediterranean marine climate keeps it warmer than the mainland beaches in the winter and cooler in the summer, making the island the ideal destination for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing. In fact, the island is ranked high among other best-in-class destinations for snorkeling and scuba diving, and parasailing along Avalon’s beautiful coastline is a favorite pastime for visitors.

Just outside the Seven Gables Inn, one of the historic, showy mansions lining the Pacific Grove oceanfront, runs the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, a 15-mile network of pedestrian and bicycle pathways running along the spectacular Monterey Bay. The trail offers the perfect vantage point for spotting whales, otters, and harbor seals, and the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium is just under a mile down the path. Jack’s Peak State Park features quiet trails that lead to the highest peak overlooking Monterey Bay, and more ocean-front hiking trails are just a short drive away at Point Lobo’s State Park, just off Highway One. Other options for outdoor adventure include guided whale-watching tours, beaches, sailing, waterfalls, horseback riding, and scenic drives along Highway One, Carmel Beach, or Old Coast Road.

In Santa Rosa, the Gables Wine Country Inn lies at the base of Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Preserve.  The 1,100-acre park features grassy hillsides, oak woodlands, and several creeks that all provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.  The park’s trails are open for hiking, biking and horseback riding.  One of the trails climbs 1,100 feet, offering panoramic views of the region.  The park’s entrance is just one-quarter of a mile from the inn.  The 140-year-old Victorian inn offers seven elegantly restored rooms with 12-foot ceilings, beautiful antique furnishings, and private bathrooms with claw-foot tubs.  A gourmet breakfast and winery passport is included with each stay.

Located in a pretty Victorian village of Ferndale, Gingerbread Mansion Inn is also close to several state and federal parks which offer visitors the chance to enjoy majestic trees and beautiful ocean views in one destination. A short walk takes guests to the beautiful historic cemetery. Short drives take guests to Avenue of the Giants and the tallest redwood trees, famous Lost Coast beaches and its beautiful scenic drive, Centerville beach, countless hiking trails, and much more.  The Gingerbread Mansion Inn is one of Northern California’s most photographed inns.  The opulent Victorian features 11 guest rooms furnished fine antiques, private claw foot tubs, and fireplaces. The inn serves afternoon tea and wine as well as a full breakfast.

One doesn’t expect to find peak nature experiences in the suburbs, but Sweet Dreams Bed and Breakfast in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California specializes in the unexpected. Just under three miles away from Sweet Dreams is a hidden treasure: The Japanese Garden. Surprisingly unknown to many (even long-time locals), the garden is beautiful and serene, belying its proximity to the city. Perfect for picnics and nature-watching, the Japanese Garden features ponds fed from reclaimed water. The garden’s purpose was to demonstrate a positive use of reclaimed water, in what is usually considered a delicate environment, a Japanese garden.

Donner Lake  Inn
Creme Brulee French Toast from Donner Lake Inn
Serving syrup is not necessary with this French toast, which can be made the night before and can double for dessert.
Centrella Inn
Free Tickets to Local Attractions in California
Save on the price of admission with packages from California B&Bs that include complimentary tickets to local attractions.
Santa Ynez Inn
At the Crossroads of Wine Country and Old West
On the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley, the valley’s namesake is its most western-style town. Santa Ynez sits at the...
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