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10 cozy cabins that are perfect for a spring getaway

Big Cedar Lounge Glamping Tent Choose from cabins, cottages, and even luxurious glamping sites at Big Cedar Lodge in southwest Missouri. | Photo courtesy Big Cedar Lodge

Winter can feel exceedingly long, especially in a pandemic. But, as the season gives way to spring, the best cure for cabin fever is to seek out a cabin in the woods and rediscover nature’s unhurried serenity.

Across the region, you’ll find a treasure trove of cabins and cottages tucked into forests, overlooking lakes, or hugging mountainsides. Ranging from rustic to luxurious, the cabins’ amenities vary, but most have fireplaces or fire pits to warm you on spring evenings that may still be a bit chilly. Step away from your everyday routines and worries for a spring getaway in a cozy cabin.

1. Shawnee Forest Cabins

Herod, Illinois

Shawnee Forest Cabins Treehouse Cabin

Among the options at Shawnee Forest Cabins in southern Illinois is a Treehouse cabin with a hot tub accessed via a swinging bridge. | Photo courtesy ShawneeForestCabins.com

Nestled in the mountains and canyons of the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois are dozens of cabins and guesthouses that can accommodate vacationers from couples to large families, including Shawnee Forest Cabins (shawneeforestcabins.com). With 1- and 2-bedroom options, the cozy cabins have full kitchens and bathrooms, electric fireplaces, Wi-Fi, and fire pits; some have outdoor hot tubs. The Treehouse cabin’s hot tub is located on a separate platform in the woods accessed via a swinging bridge. Rates start at $139.

The cabins are close to the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, a breathtaking wilderness spot whose stunning rock formations are a highlight of the Shawnee National Forest. Explore the forest in spring as the canopy of oak, maple, and hickory trees fills out and trails come alive with wildflowers.

2. Woodland Cabins

Carbondale, Illinois

Woodland Cabins interior

Perfect for couples, the Woodland Cabins nestle on 44 secluded acres in the woods near Carbondale, Illinois. | Photo courtesy Woodland Cabins

Located on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest about 5 miles southwest of Carbondale, the Woodland Cabins (woodlandcabins.net) invite couples to escape to 4 luxurious accommodations set on 44 secluded acres. Perfect for romantic getaways, the cabins sleep only 2 people and come with a hot tub, a gas-log fireplace, an outdoor fire pit, and a private deck. Other amenities include a full kitchen, linens, and a barbecue grill. Three of the cabins offer views of the 3-acre pond. Rates start at $149.

The Woodland Cabins are located along the 40-mile-long Shawnee Hills Wine Trail that’s comprised of 11 vineyards. In addition to sampling the area’s bounty, you can golf, hike, and bike, while excellent fishing awaits in nearby lakes and state parks, including Giant City State Park.

3. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Middle Brook, Missouri

Johnson's Shut-ins State Park

Settle into simple camper cabins at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park for a rustic experience. | Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Of Missouri’s 92 state parks and historical sites, 16 offer lodging ranging from modern hotel rooms to rustic cabin outposts, including Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in the state’s southeast corner. Choose from 6 camper cabins that offer electricity, heating, and air conditioning but do not include water or restrooms; a modern restroom facility with showers is nearby. Each cabin has a picnic table, a grill, a compact refrigerator, and a microwave, as well as a queen-size bed and a futon. Rates start at $75.

With the cabins as a base, explore the park’s ancient splendors, including the dramatic shut-ins area. Surrounded by the St. Francois Mountains, the East Fork of the Black River courses around boulders, through chutes, and over small waterfalls in canyon-like gorges. If it’s too cold to swim in the river, view the spectacle from a boardwalk.

4. Lake of the Ozarks State Park

Kaiser, Missouri

Lake of the Ozarks Outpost Cabin

Outpost cabins at Lake of the Ozarks State Park provide a great base to enjoy the park’s natural wonders. | Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Nestled in an undeveloped cove along the shoreline of Missouri’s largest lake, Lake of the Ozarks State Park has 8 rustic Outpost cabins for campers who want an outdoor experience without pitching a tent. On cool spring evenings, a wood-burning stove will take the chill out of the air, but the cabins also offer supplemental heating as well as electricity, air conditioning, a microwave, and a dorm-size refrigerator. A shower house and bathroom is nearby. Several cabins allow guests to bring dogs. Rates start at $50.

During warm weather, the park’s 2 beaches fill up with families eager to splash in the lake, and 2 marinas rent fishing boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards to explore the lake and its 1,100 miles of shoreline. And year-round, follow 13 trails that showcase the lake and the park’s other nature features. In the Lake of the Ozarks area, you’ll also find plenty of shopping opportunities, golf, and dining.

4. Big Cedar Lodge

Ridgedale, Missouri

Big Cedar Lodge accomodations.

In the Camp Long Creek area at Big Cedar Lodge, some of the cabins might be simple, but they exude cozy comfort and luxury. | Photo courtesy Big Cedar Lodge

In the heart of the Ozarks about 54 miles south of Springfield, Missouri, Big Cedar Lodge (bigcedar.com) sprawls over 4,600 acres and sets the gold standard for wilderness resorts. In addition to 3 lodges, the resort has scores of luxurious log cabins tucked in the woods or situated along Table Rock Lake. Camp Long Creek, the resort’s newest addition that opened in 2019, combines rustic appeal with comfort in cabin huts, cabins, and cottages. For a memorable experience, try one of 18 glamping units that include a king bed crowned by a chandelier, a wood stove, and an outdoor stone patio with a fire pit and freestanding tub. Rates start at $231.

While at Big Cedar, you won’t run out of things to do. Five golf courses welcome players of all skill levels, and Fun Mountain at Big Cedar Lodge offers activities for the whole family with an underwater-themed bowling experience, a golf simulator, and a high-tech climbing wall. Tour the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail via electric carts at the Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve, which also boasts a history museum, several restaurants, a wine cellar, and magnificent views.

6. Patoka Lake Marina & Lodging

Birdseye, Indiana

Patoka Lake Marina & Lodging floating cabins

Gentle waves and the sound of lapping water will lull you to sleep in the floating cabins on southern Indiana’s Patoka Lake. | Photo courtesy Patoka Lake Marina & Lodging

You can tuck into a variety of cabins across southern Indiana, but for an out-of-the-ordinary spring escape, consider the floating cabins at Patoka Lake Marina & Lodging (patokalakemarina.com). Instead of looking out your window at a forest scene, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful 8,800-acre Patoka Lake, located just south of French Lick and West Baden Springs. Two- and 3-bedroom options are available from April through October.

Each of the cabins has its own deck, gas grill, kitchen, and private boat slip. You’ll be lulled to sleep at night by the sounds of water lapping outside the cabin and enjoy lovely views of the lake, which is surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest. Rates for 2-bedroom floating cabins start at $318. In addition, cabin options on land have up to 12 beds, and an on-site winery offers its own lodging, including 2-story suites in converted grain silos.

7. Mississippi River State Park

Marianna, Arkansas

St. Francis National Forest camper cabin

Bed down in new camper cabins at Mississippi River State Park and explore the St. Francis National Forest. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Home to the nation’s first national river, 2 mountain ranges, and 3 national forests, Arkansas deserves its Natural State nickname. Cabins, including more than 200 in Arkansas state parks alone, offer a front-row seat to the wonders. The newest options, which were slated to open in early 2022, are camper cabins in Mississippi River State Park, which borders the river in east-central Arkansas and is located in St. Francis National Forest through a partnership with the National Park Service. You’ll find 1 queen bed and 2 bunk beds in these simple accommodations that don’t have a kitchen but do include a grill and a fire pit outside. A bathhouse is nearby. Rates start at $68.

Seven bodies of water in the 22,600-acre forest offer plenty of places for fishing, kayaking, or other water sports. The park is located on Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway, which is dominated by a geological formation that rises as much as 200 feet above the surrounding flatland and forests. Get an up-close look at Crowley’s Ridge flora and fauna on the state park’s 1-mile Bear Creek Lake Nature Trail.

8. Devil’s Den State Park

West Fork, Arkansas

Devil's Den State Park cabin

Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the renovated cabins at Devil’s Den State Park have welcomed guests for generations. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Selected as a state park in the 1930s, Devil’s Den State Park has been a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts in northwest Arkansas for generations. Many of the park’s rustic stone and wood structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) remain today as vestiges of the park’s legacy, including the cabins. Renovated in the 1960s and 1970s, the 17 cabins include kitchens, air-conditioning, and heating, and they range from 1 to 3 bedrooms. Six more basic camper cabins also are available. Rates start at $121.

Rest up because you’ll want to explore the 2,500-acre park, which showcases some of the state’s most spectacular Ozark Mountain scenery, including lush plant life, wet-weather waterfalls, and dense forest vistas. In all, 11 trails crisscross the park, including a quarter-mile interpretive path that winds through the main CCC camp that was used during the park’s construction.

9. Poverty Point Reservoir State Park

Delhi, Louisiana

Poverty Point Reservoir State Park cabins

Revel in beautiful lake views from the deluxe cabins on stilts at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. | Photo courtesy Louisiana Travel

Although New Orleans and Mardi Gras are often the first things that people associate with the state, Louisiana’s natural resources are just as captivating. In northeast Louisiana, for instance, you can fish for largemouth bass and channel catfish in a 2,700-acre lake and catch a glimpse of birds migrating along the Mississippi Flyway at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. Settle in for the night in one of 8 deluxe cabins on stilts that seem to float over the lake, or choose a 2-bedroom lodge with a loft on land. Rates start at $150.

Nearby, the Poverty Point World Heritage Site preserves earthworks from an ancient Native American civilization. Follow a 2.6-mile hiking trail to see the park’s wonders, including a massive 72-foot-tall mound and enormous concentric half-circles formed with soil. A museum displays artifacts discovered at the site, including projectile points, beads, and small clay figurines.

10. Bayou Segnette State Park

Westwego, Louisiana

Bayou Segnette floating cabin

Floating cabins at Bayou Segnette State Park, located not far from New Orleans, have screened-in porches that overlook the park’s canal. | Photo courtesy Louisiana Travel

Dip a paddle or cast a line at Bayou Segnette State Park, which is situated where woodlands meet the marsh less than 30 minutes from New Orleans. Both freshwater and saltwater fish, including bass, trout, redfish, bream, and perch, can be found in the park’s waterways. When you’re ready to relax, bed down in one of 16 floating cabins that opened about 5 years ago. The 2-bedroom units include a kitchen, a screened-in porch overlooking the canal, and a living room/dining room area. Rates start at $150.

In addition to water sports, there’s a popular wave pool at the park and a 2.8-mile nature trail from which you might spot a bald eagle or a nutria, a massive South American rodent that’s found in south Louisiana swamps. If you don’t land your own fish, stop by the nearby Westwego Shrimp Lot, an open-air market where local fishermen sell their catch, and cook up a seafood feast before enjoying the sunset.

Dennis R. Heinze is a regional editor of AAA Explorer magazine.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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