When you’re staying at Fernow Cabin, it takes a while for your brain to adjust to the extreme isolation of this renovated U.S. Forest Service guard station. You might think you hear a car, but it’s actually the wind in the pines. Humans are few and far between, but there’s a black bear that likes to wander in the nearby meadow. And cell service? This is a place with zero bars, even if you hike to the highest ridge (where the view is spectacular, by the way). Plus, the cabin has no electrical outlets to charge your phone.
At first, you might feel a tinge of panic: What will I do with myself? But after a few hours of sitting in an Adirondack chair on the front porch while watching deer grazing in the meadow, you’ll stop thinking about your phone and start listening to the wind blowing through the pines.
Located on Coconino National Forest land between Flagstaff and Sedona, about 23 miles down Forest Road 231 (Woody Mountain Road), Fernow Cabin is part of the Forest Service’s Rooms With a View rental program. In the early 1900s, this forested draw was occupied by potato farmers who took advantage of springs trickling from limestone bluffs. In 1915, the Forest Service established a guard station named in honor of Bernhard Fernow, chief forester from 1886 to 1898.
The agency’s small cabin stood until 1962, when a logger misjudged the height of a ponderosa pine that came crashing down on the structure. The current log cabin, built in the late 1970s to house firefighters, was used only sporadically. In 2000, Fernow Cabin opened as a rental for visitors looking for some peace and quiet.
The four-room cabin sleeps up to eight in two bedrooms and a loft that’s perfect for kids. There’s a refrigerator, a fully equipped kitchen, solar-powered lights and even an indoor shower with hot water. Large windows look onto a verdant meadow and steep hillsides terraced with limestone benches.
But the best thing about Fernow Cabin is just beyond the front porch. A ramble in any direction leads through centuries-old ponderosas more than 100 feet tall. In summer, the forest floor is padded with ferns, flowers and monsoon-nourished mushrooms. For bigger adventures, nearby trails lead into the Sycamore Canyon and Red Rock-Secret Mountain wildernesses, or you can drive several miles on FR 231 to where it dead-ends at the Edge of the World, an overlook offering an unmatched view of Red Rock Country.
Back at the cabin, you might be surprised how much you relish the quiet and isolation. And you’re not alone. “Always hate to leave,” one couple from Mesa has written in the guestbook. “Two nights just isn’t enough. We love being out of touch with the world.”