Fall Weekend Getaway: The Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, PA

Ease into the great outdoors at this ritzy-meets-rustic resort.

The Porch at John's Cabin at Glendorn | Photo by Sargent Photography

The Porch at John’s Cabin at Glendorn | Photo by Sargent Photography

A curious thing happened this summer. Travel + Leisure put out its annual list of the top resort hotels in the country, and Glendorn, a place in Bradford, Pennsylvania — a teensy rural town about ninety minutes south of Buffalo — crowned the list (and was ranked number six in the world). I was skeptical (the top resort hotel — in rural Pennsylvania? Really?) but also excited: My wife, kids and I were headed there a few days later.

Turns out they nailed it. The Relais & Château woodland retreat is located on 1,500 lush acres adjacent to Allegheny National Forest. We checked into one of the resort’s 12 stand-alone cabins, John’s Cabin, a four-bedroom haven named for oil baron John Dorn, who built Glendorn as his family getaway in the early 1900s. (There’s also a four-room lodge on the property.)

My kids, unimpressed by the accolades and amenities, were far more concerned with the simple things. They scurried outside to a small lake just steps away from our porch and set out to catch sunfish. When this proved unsuccessful, we asked Glendorn’s ruggedly handsome (or so my wife says) activity guide, Shane Appleby, for assistance. Glendorn was also recently named the top Orvis fly-fishing lodge in the country, and with Shane’s guidance, my 10-year-old son — a city kid with a pitiful amount of fishing experience — learned to fly-fish and caught a dozen rainbow and brown trout.

But what do you do with a big cooler of freshly caught fish? If you’re at Glendorn, you send your son to the kitchen in the main lodge — where they serve a $105-a-person prix-fixe dinner — and have him ask the chef to cook them. He obliged; that night, we had trout three ways.

As dinner wound down, my nine-year-old daughter reminded me that I’d vowed to make a fire outside our cabin for the requisite s’mores. I agreed, but wondered if I’d overpromised: I can make a fire about as well as I can rebuild a carburetor. So I was glad to see, as we walked back to our cabin, that the staff had already built us a roaring fire ringed with chairs, complete with a table holding all the ingredients for s’mores.

The next morning we pedaled tandem mountain bikes all over creation, taking breaks to kayak on a larger lake nearby, hang out with Shane at the shooting range, swim in the state’s first heated in-ground pool, and sip martinis (Shirley Temples for the kids) while we embarrassed ourselves in the billiards room. The day was much like Glendorn: a perfect balance of back-to-nature simplicity and over-the-top luxury. The good life indeed. ­

Field Guide: Weekend Getaway in Bradford, PA

Stay: The Lodge at Glendorn, 1000 Glendorn Drive, Bradford; rates start at $375 a night.
Play: The area around Bradford offers some of the best fishing and hunting in the country. For a sight you’ll never see anywhere else, take the 40-minute drive to Kinzua Bridge State Park, where you can stroll on a skywalk next to a partially collapsed railroad bridge above a gorge. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down at the glass floor.
Eat: The lodge has the best food for miles—this is very rural Pennsylvania—but a 15-minute drive gets you to Beefeaters, a solid old-school steakhouse in a converted public library. And kids will go crazy for Slice of the 80s (just down the street); think pizza, wings, a Madonna soundtrack and lots of Donkey Kong. Don’t worry: There’s beer.