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Big Bend's Chisos Mountain Lodge


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The Chisos Mountain Lodge is the only lodge in a national park in Texas (I know, I know, we only have two national parks to begin with), and I believe Big Bend National Park deserves better than what the concessionaire, Forever Resorts, is currently giving us. The Mission 66-era architecture will never be as beloved as the National Park Service Rustic architecture of places like the Ahwanhee in Yosemite or Old Faithful in Yellowstone, but its Mid-Century Modern  charm could be played up with some moderate renovation and redecoration. Condition of the physical property and its furnishings aside, it just feels like Forever Resorts is trying to squeeze every dime out of every square inch by cutting cost, and quality along with it. Food in the dining room is terrible institutional Sysco frozen nursing home-quality pablum. There is really nowhere to get out of the heat or cold and relax in the lobby (though the terrace is nice when the temperature is mild) because they've crassly filled the lobby with racks of crappy merchandise.

 

I think of Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas as the quality level Chisos Mountain Lodge could and should aspire to. The lodge is well-maintained, the new dining room has great ambiance in keeping with the feel of the original part of the lodge, and the food, while not aspiring to be anything fancy, is reliably well-done simple country style food for the most part. NPS needs to kick Forever Resorts out of there and find a concessionaire willing to invest in making the lodge better.

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That's interesting to know the Lodge rates poorly compared to peers. Big Bend Lodge is the only option in the park, and since the park is so big, it's a long way to any other options, Terlingua being the nearest. No competition, so they can get away with a mediocre property at a high price.

 

The last time I looked into it several years ago, the Big Bend Lodge was booked far in advance during peak season, and was quite expensive. So I have never stayed at the Lodge. I have camped at Chisos Basin and Rio Grande Village, and I have stayed at a lower-tier property in Terlingua.

 

 

Edited by MaxConcrete
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I stayed here in 2015.  I did have to book 8-10 months in advance.  I remember the whole place being very tired.  The rooms were rough.  I was willing to accept a dated room, but the mattress and bedding were easily 15 years old and very uncomfortable.  The restaurant was a highlight for what it was - great views, some decent dishes, good service, and nice patio with local beer.  It was great to stay in the park. 

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Interesting post. I've stopped at the lodge for a drink when I was at Big Bend in October 2015, but that's not where we were staying. We were at the Holiday Hotel in Terlingua. Now that's a surprising place. Looks like crap from the outside and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We got the Cinnabar Suite and wow, it was awesome. I highly recommend it, just don't judge it by the outside. I also highly recommend the Indian Lodge in Fort Davis for those going that way. They started renovating the place right after we left and I couldn't figure out why. It was awesome as it was. So if they made it better... I'll have to go back.

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2 hours ago, Firebird65 said:

Interesting post. I've stopped at the lodge for a drink when I was at Big Bend in October 2015, but that's not where we were staying. We were at the Holiday Hotel in Terlingua. Now that's a surprising place. Looks like crap from the outside and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We got the Cinnabar Suite and wow, it was awesome. I highly recommend it, just don't judge it by the outside. I also highly recommend the Indian Lodge in Fort Davis for those going that way. They started renovating the place right after we left and I couldn't figure out why. It was awesome as it was. So if they made it better... I'll have to go back.

Thanks for the suggestion of Holiday Hotel in Terlingua, I'll have to check that out. Yeah, I love Indian Lodge, rooms, common areas, and location just can't be beat. The Black Bear Restaurant, at least the last time I was there in 2016, was pretty awful though, worse even than Chisos Mountain Lodge's dining room. I posted a review about it, and ended up having a nice discussion with the management about it, so maybe it's improved since then:

 

 
Quote

 

Hi Mark, hope all is well with you. I'm sorry for the late reply, I was on vacation during the holidays. We definitely had a rough month this past July, we had a new head cook start in August. You're absolutely right that our previous cook left something to be desired, luckily our new cook has made large strides to ensure experiences are improved. We're currently always closed on Mondays/Tuesdays due to staffing, it's a challenge out here and something we're consistently working on.
There is a renovation scheduled but unfortunately due to funding it gets pushed back, we're now looking at a full renovation for 2020. We're working to improve what we can now but I do agree with you about the institutional feel and you're definitely not the first person to feel that way. During renovation we're hoping to make the restaurant look a lot more like the lobby to ensure consistency with the lodge feel.
I appreciate your feedback, I've shared this with my assistants and cooks and we're very much looking forward to improving our standards. Thank you for taking the time to give us some feedback. Happy New Year!

 

 
 
I thanked them for the response, said it sounded like they were on the right track to improving, and asked if they would ever serve liquor, or at least beer and wine. This is what they said:
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I appreciate it, thanks for letting us know. We were definitely aware but things never seem to happen as quickly as you'd like them to. We'd love to have drinks but unfortunately there's no public consumption of alcohol allowed on state property. It would definitely bring up the ambiance!

 

Though I have to admit, my wife and I defy that rule all the time. We go into the CCC lobby with wine and cheese and have ourselves a happy hour there every time we go. We try to be inconspicuous and drink the wine out of nondescript cups, but the cheese selection at Stone Village Market in town is too good not to enjoy with some wine, especially the Marfa Maid goat cheese.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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