Aug. 25 marks 100 years since America's National Park Service came to life. The United States' 400-plus national parks will celebrate the centennial next month, and we find the breathtaking natural landscapes work up quite an appetite for fine dining.
SMITH FORK RANCH
Smith Fork Ranch is a secluded luxury ranch in Crawford, midway between Aspen and Telluride. Near the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park and surrounded by forest and a view of the Rocky Mountains, it has five cabins accommodating up to 28 guests for weeklong visits. With the end of the summer drawing near, now's the last chance to try the summer package. Chefs from the ranch's Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning restaurant will take guests horseback riding and searching for mushrooms and other local delicacies, returning to create a meal with the collected ingredients along with the ranch's produce and local meats. Depending on what's in season, sample menus include rustic flavors such as duck rillettes, squash cakes and juniper-crusted elk rib-eye. Other private outdoor tours offer something for everyone: There's fly-fishing, shooting, gardening, even scavenger hunts for children. Weekly rates for the summer package range from $7,500 to $38,700.
L'AUBERGE DE SEDONA
After a pleasant day of hiking the region's red rocks, L'Auberge de Sedona welcomes guests down a private road to the hotel, with a view of the famous formations in stark silhouette. Cress is the luxury prix-fixe restaurant here, with an outdoor dining patio just steps from Oak Creek. The wine list, a Best of Award of Excellence winner, is strong in California and French selections, with almost 5,500 bottles in inventory. To celebrate the National Park Service centennial, executive chef Rochelle Daniel is hosting two six-course grand tasting dinners (Aug. 11 and 18), with local beer and wine pairings and accents of foraged wood sorrel and garlic mustard. The dinners seat eight people each and run $240 per person. A two-hour drive away, the Grand Canyon will be full of events celebrating the park's birthday.
PARKS AND WINERIES
When visiting wineries in California, the only conceivable dilemma comes not from the lack of options but from having too many. This fall there will be a new perspective to explore as the state's 27 national parks and monuments hold centennial events such as stargazing sessions and ranger tours. If you plan accordingly, you can take advantage of nearby wine regions' harvest festivities to get a taste of wine and wildlife alike. For example, wine tourists may not know that Channel Islands National Park, sometimes called the Galápagos of North America, is just a ferry ride away from Santa Barbara wine country, whose harvest weekend runs from Oct. 7 to 10.