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The Lodge at Cloudcroft: A grand hotel in the mountains of New Mexico

I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled up to The Lodge at Cloudcroft. It reminded me of the grand resorts of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, although on a cozier scale. The rustic exterior and interior, fireplaces, even tables for playing checkers and chess in the library. And it was surrounded by woods. It seemed light years away from the rest of the world. In a special place where time flowed much slower.

The Lodge welcomes visitors with its distinctive and historic tower
(c) Neala Schwartzberg McCarten

The Lodge is a true mountain retreat surrounded by the Sacramento Mountains and almost a quarter million acres of the Lincoln National Forest but with the rustic luxury you’d be hoping to find.

It was the abundance of timber that was the original lure. The first building was constructed in 1899. But by 1908, the new owners – El Paso and Southwestern Railroad System made it into a popular destination resort offering the coolness of a summer respite in the generally hot southwest.

Sadly, just one year later on June 19th, 1909, a fire destroyed most of the original structure. The Lodge rose from its ashes 2 years later on a new (and its current) location. Central air and heating have been added, but the deep sense of history that permeates the building has not changed and much of it looks the same as it did when it was rebuilt. The Lodge’s not quite 50 rooms and the public spaces have a Victorian feel and the corridors are filled with fascinating memorabilia.

The Lodge has temporarily sheltered Judy Garland, Gilbert Roland, Clark Gable, and even Pancho Villa. In the 1930s the resort was managed by Conrad Hilton, who was born and raised in San Antonio, New Mexico. It is said that Garland and Gable carved their names into the wood of the Tower. And if you climb up, you can see those names incised in the wood, under a protective glass frame. But it is impossible to know if it is genuine or not. Both Garland and Gable did stay at the Lodge while filming nearby, but that’s as far as authentication goes.

And there’s also a ghost. A friendly, beautiful ghost. The story dates back to the early 1900s when a beautiful red-haired chambermaid supposedly disappeared from her rooms after her lover found her in the arms of another. Some guests have reported eerie encounters, but it makes for a fun story behind the restaurant that today bears her name – Rebecca’s.

There aren’t many places to eat in the town of Cloudcroft and Rebecca’s appeals to both locals and guests with attentive service and a well-balanced menu. And the food was beautifully prepared and presented.

Of course there are the winter activities although the road up to The Lodge could be intimidating in frigid weather. But from April through October you can play golf on one of the world’s tallest course at 9,000 feet above sea level. There’s also mountain biking or hiking on trails in the Lincoln National Forest. The Lodge also offers special events and packages. And there’s some intriguing sights in the area.

There’s the historical museum (Sacramento Mountains Museum & Pioneer Village) but there’s also the National Solar Observatory reached by a ride through the tall pine trees and woods of the Lincoln National Forest.