In his real estate career, Erick Harrell has always been attracted to historic properties. And as a native of the Pacific Northwest, he’s always had a soft spot for log cabins. That made the place now known (again) as Don Hoel’s Cabins an ideal fit — in every way but one. “I do wish Don Hoel had an easier name to pronounce,” Harrell jokes.
Travelers through Oak Creek Canyon might know the property as the Butterfly Garden Inn, which it was during the previous owner’s tenure. But that name covers only one chapter of its history — which started in the 1920s, when the first five cabins were built. Those buildings “have an attention to detail that you don’t often find in early cabins,” Harrell says.
Arriving in the 1940s and running the property until his death in 1983, Hoel (pronounced “hole”) turned the site into a destination. His family continued as owners of Don Hoel’s Cabins until the early 2000s; today, there are 24 cabins, 20 of which are available to rent. Harrell, who took over as owner in 2020, says changing the name back to honor Hoel outweighed the ambiguous pronunciation.
With so many cabins, it’s easy to find one that works for most group sizes. Mary’s Giant Skipper — named, like most of the cabins, after a butterfly species — is one of the original log cabins and sleeps two, while Blue-Eyed Sailor has three bedrooms and room for six guests. Kitchens, fireplaces and outdoor grills are among the amenities available in some buildings, along with a newly added summer comfort: air conditioning.
Of course, what’s outside the cabins is what drives many guests. The property offers expansive Oak Creek frontage that’s recently been made more accessible, and it’s only a mile from the West Fork Oak Creek Trail, one of Arizona’s most popular hikes. The on-site attractions include the vintage-style general store, which Harrell says offers “a little bit of everything,” and the cafe, which features locally roasted coffee and sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats.
Harrell, who also owns the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas and other properties in the Sedona area, says his goal with Don Hoel’s is to preserve and celebrate the cabins’ history. “There are inscriptions on rocks that date back to weddings that happened there in the early 1940s, before World War II soldiers went off to war,” he says. And the clientele reflects that long history: About once a week, Don Hoel’s welcomes third- or fourth-generation guests. “For me,” Harrell adds, “it’s just a fantastic place that’s been almost untouched.”
Don Hoel’s Cabins
9440 State Route 89A
Oak Creek Canyon, AZ