A Luxury Forest Retreat in Northwest Pennsylvania
A mist lingers on the brook as the sun begins peaking over the tree-covered hills. I cast the line again into the slow moving water. Immediately, there’s a tug on the line, “A fish! I got a fish!” “Start reeling it in!” our guide yells.
I start taking in the line as quickly as I can, but I’m too slow for this fish. The trout is gone, and I’ve likely scared the others away too. For my first time fly-fishing, just hooking a fish was fun, and thankfully this is just the beginning of a full day of activities.
Getting to The Lodge at Glendorn
Being from the West, I haven’t explored the East as much I’d like, but this fall my boyfriend and I drove across Pennsylvania to visit a secluded resort situated near the Allegheny National Forest, The Lodge at Glendorn.
Along the way, the small towns charmed and the leaves dazzled. (It’s true what they say; fall colors are better in the East.) We traveled along winding roads with dense foliage before reaching the stately gate leading to The Lodge at Glendorn.
Just 17 miles from Allegheny State Park, this sprawling 1600-acre estate was the longtime family compound and vacation retreat for the Dorn Family from 1927-1995, but was opened to the public in 1995 and then auctioned off in 2009.
The Lodge at Glendorn then became the only Pennsylvania accommodation to carry the highly regarded Relais & Châteaux name, making it part of a global group of independently owned luxury hotels and restaurants.
But we chose to visit because of their diverse outdoor recreation opportunities, There’s guided fly-fishing like I tried, shooting sports, hiking, biking, and kayaking on property. In winter, activities transition to ice fishing, curling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Recreation is paired with upscale accommodations, an updated spa, and incredible cuisine in a remote, intimate environment.
The Lodge at Glendorn is located in Bradford, Pennsylvania, which is within driving distance of many city centers, including: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City, but is remote enough to be a true forest getaway.
When checking into The Lodge at Glendorn, you’re given a glass of champagne to enjoy, a map of the facilities, and guided to your cabin. All 14 cabins on property are luxurious, but ours, the Miller Cabin, had the special distinction of being the oldest, featuring rustic cupboards and the original stove that gave it a cozy charm.
But our favorite thing about the Miller Cabin was its location. Set along the Fuller Brook, the patio was a perfect spot for enjoying the gourmet cheese plate waiting in our fridge upon check in. We also drank our morning coffee there and warmed up around the fire-roasted s’mores in the evenings.
Across the road and over a small bridge, you’ll find the spa, pool, and The Big House, where you can dine, relax, and even stay if you don’t need a full cabin.
While we could have taken the relaxation route and visited the spa on our trip, we instead opted for the opposite and challenged ourselves to try every, ok almost every, activity offered by the resort.
Non-guided activities are included with your stay and available without a reservation. There is equipment available for kids and adults to use for nearly every sport.
In the evenings before dinner, we liked exploring the property on mountain bikes. We even biked down to Bondieu Lake, where canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are available to use all summer and fall. Or you can simply hike the property and visit scenic overlooks and historic cabins along the way.
In winter, Glendorn transforms into a snow-covered wonderland where hiking trails become cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding terrain. All gear rentals are included.
The standout activity for us was the guided fly-fishing. I’ve been hearing about the art and challenge of fly-fishing for ages, but going out to the lakes and streams on the Glendorn property and really learning how to entice the fish was as intriguing as it was frustrating. We visited three spots in our quest for fish, and I caught one on my line before reeling him in too quickly, causing an escape. Experienced guides can teach angling amateurs basic casting and catching skills, or help pros catch fish along the Glendorn streams and nearby rivers.
Plus, Orvis-endorsed guides are on staff The Lodge at Glendorn, meaning they’re skilled in helping experts, and amateurs like me, hook the trout that swim in the Fuller Brook. This clear, spring-fed brook offers three miles of private fishing at the resort with a plethora of other fishing ponds, creeks, and streams nearby for nabbing steelhead (when in season).
Gourmet Dining at The Lodge at Glendorn
Typically, when we go biking or hiking in the wilderness, our dinner ranges from freeze-dried pasta to tin dinners over a fire. Not so at The Lodge at Glendorn. You can enjoy rugged adventures in the forest by day, and dine on chef-prepared, gourmet cuisine morning and night.
Each of our days began with a hearty breakfast (included with your stay) served on the enclosed patio selected from an ever-changing menu. Breakfast breads, omelets, and a soufflé-style dish served in a tiny pan kept us full all morning as we charged on to our activities.
Though optional, I highly recommend the picnic lunch if you’re venturing off lodge property during the day. We hiked in the Allegheny National Forest, and having gourmet sandwiches, salads, and cookies packed in a hiking-friendly pack made it easy to stay out in the wilderness all day.
But the one not-to-miss food experience is dining privately in the Big House’s basement wine cellar. The intimate space fits just one couple and you’ll eat surrounded by a collection of wines around the world.
The three-course meal features seasonal dishes like an incredible creamy pea risotto and decadent chocolate desserts paired with a bottle of wine recommended by the chef.
The Allegheny Reservoir and Hiking in the Forest
While it’s hard to want to leave the sprawling resort property, it’s worth driving the scenic loop in the Allegheny National Forest, and stopping to do a hike or two. (Get the picnic so you’ll never be far from gourmet fare.)
Stop in at the Visitor’s Center if you’re curious about the fascinating history of the Allegheny Reservior (Pennsylvania’s deepest lake), which was created from building the Kinzua Dam in 1965. The dam was constructed in the Army Corps of Engineers era and its creation caused the lose of many acres of fertile farmland for the Seneca Nation of Indians and the destruction of two small towns, Corydon and Kinzua, the remains of which still lie beneath the waters.
Built to reduce flooding in Northwestern Pennsylvania, the dam has been hailed a success and is used recreationally by thousands every year, but if you talk long enough, you’ll still find many saddened by the loss of their old hometowns. The memory of these places is memorialized in photos and stories found at the Visitor’s Center.
The best short hike we found on the loop begins at Kinzua Beach and involves a 1.3-mile slight uphill climb to the Rimrocks, a huge boulder formation with built-in stairs to an observation deck have been built on that favorite offers views of the reservoir. When you climb the stairs back down to return to your car, continue up along the rock first to feel the cold air coming out of crevasses in wall. If you’re feeling daring, step into the cracks to explore small rock caverns where it’s rumored geocaches are hidden.
Rates and Booking Information
I can see why people return to The Lodge at Glendorn year after year, impeccable service, food, and an endless supply of activities made a favorite trip of ours…and we can’t wait to go back someday!
Daily rates start at $400 and go up according to the size and style of accommodations you select. Expect the best price by booking in the off-season, but note that great events are offered for the holidays.
Breakfast is included and the three-course dinner is $100 per person. Request the wine cellar when booking if you’d like to dine there. Fly-fishing and shooting sports are best booked in advance, but all other options are available at your leisure. Get more information at Glendorn.com or by calling 800-843-8568.