Central Oregon is so breathtaking you rarely have to stray very far from a main thoroughfare to find bliss. Such is the case at the newly revamped Suttle Lodge on the shore of Suttle Lake in the Deschutes National Forest, just off US-20 about 35 miles outside of Bend.
Ownership is brought to you by the same folks responsible for the catchy Ace Hotel group. Accordingly, there is the requisite turntable, wool throws and other woodsy accoutrements. Wes Anderson comes to mind, but the mildness of the interior design is much gentler than a movie set. Overall, it feels warm, genuine and takes a deserved backseat to the beauty just outside the Great Room windows. After all, a majestic panorama complete with scattered Ponderosa pines, the lake and the ever-upward reaching Mt. Washington lies just outside.
Eleven rooms sit inside the lodge, with a host of detached cabins on the grounds as well. Refreshingly, there are no televisions and the Internet and cell service is spotty. Guests are treated to Bend’s Backporch Coffee Roasters, gas fireplaces and raised ceilings hoisted up by heavy timber beams. The rooms are far from audacious, reminding more of one’s quarters at a refined summer camp. These relatively simple cabin-esque rooms align with the great lodges of old — fully functional, lightly and warmly lit and nudging people toward the spacious Great Room or outside to take in the starry night sky. For such a night, flashlights are found at every door to encourage evening exploring, while friendly staff is on-hand to help with wintertime snowshoe or summertime canoe, kayak and SUP rentals for daylight hours.
Typically, the adjacent Boathouse serves as the lodge’s restaurant and main provisions hub, however, during the winter, the lodge’s bar, The Skip, assumes restaurant duties due to inclement weather (it will be up and running again in spring). Off this winter menu, guests enjoy trout chowder and fried winter squash to the crackle of a large natural fire. There are board games a’plenty and guests are encouraged to settle into one of many plush fireside chairs to enjoy their meal.
The menu is the work of Josh McFadden (from Portland’s Ava Gene’s) while the cocktail list was orchestrated by Sean Hoard, who’s spent quality time at both Teardrop Lounge in Portland and the famed cocktail bar Please Don’t Tell in New York. Comforting items like beef stew and salmon melts share the menu with toasted cracker crust pizzas and a solid, diner-style burger. Cocktail highlights — especially amid a snowy winter stop — included the Snow Shovel (apple brandy, reposado tequila, maple, bitters) and the Table Sled (bourbon, lime, demerara, Doug fir). A handful of regional wines and beers are available as well.
The lodge, occupying the site of several that came and burned down before it, feels like a backwoods public works project from a century ago. Staring at the stream of cars descending Santiam Pass from a barstool at The Skip, it’s easy to imagine the highway as it was long ago: a wagon trail. And while there’s every reason to stay and daydream at the lodge, there are also countless trails and waterways within a short distance of Suttle Lake for those with designs on true Deschutes National Forest sublimity.