The lodge is in a great location for exploring Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. It's about halfway between the Grant Grove and the General Sherman tree, an hour and a half drive out to Cedar Grove and about 2 1/2 hours to Mineral King. But the lodge is past it's prime and definitely showing it's age. The main building was a bit run down. The reception/main dining area was cozy but the adjacent game room was pretty much in disarray with boxes lining the walls. Also, while the area surrounding the main lodge is well lit at night, there was not ample lighting leading out to the Forest Cabins at the edge of the property which was concerning in bear country after dark.
My husband and I stayed in a Forest Cabin which are much newer then the other accommodations offered. The cabins are beautiful- with wood floors, huge windows, vaulted beamed ceiling and a deck perfect for enjoying your morning coffee. They are spacious and well appointed. Downstairs has a very comfortable king size bed, leather couch, kitchenette and full bath. The upstairs "loft" area has a small bedroom with bunk beds and a half bath. The cabins are situated at the far end of the property so they are nice and quiet. The only neighbors you will have will be those staying in the adjacent 3 cabins. The downside of the location is first- as I mentioned- there is not much lighting leading out that way. As we stayed towards the end of October it was quite dark when we walked back after dinner each night. Secondly, you are not able to park near the cabins. The main parking area is outside of the main lodge building so trekking our luggage all the way out there across the dirt was quite taxing. They do offer wheelbarrows to cart your luggage around the property but the staff gets around the property in a golf cart and it would've been nice if they took you and your belongings in that. My biggest complaint about the Forest Cabin is that it wasn't quite clean. We arrived 2 hours prior to check in so I'm not sure if that was a factor. Everything looked clean upon arrival but on closer inspection we saw that the trash had not been taken out, the area under the toilet seat had not been wiped down and there was soap scum all over the shower rack. Aside from these issues we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the cabins.
The Montecito Sequoia Lodge is listed as an all inclusive property which is something I haven't encountered in my National Park travels. As we visited during off peak season there were not too many activities being offered at the time. But we were there to see the parks so that was fine by us. I have read mixed reviews about the meals and was pleasantly surprised. They do not offer fine dining by any means. But the food was decent. And it was nice to know where we were going to eat each night. Many of the National Parks are off the beaten path and do not have a wealth of dining options- particularly during off season when many of the concessions are closed for the season. While I do not expect NY quality food while travelling to these locations, the cafeteria style burgers and fries often found in the areas around the visitors centers gets tiring. So it was nice to come back to the lodge for a home style meal each night. Some meals were better than others- the lasagna hit the spot but the fried chicken left something to be desired. But the best part was that upon request they packed us a lunch each day- sandwich, chips, fruit, granola bar and juice box. It was great to have with us as we hiked through the park each day. My biggest complaint about the meals were the limited times they were offered. As each meal was only available for an hour (dinner was between 6-7) we had to schedule our day around the meal schedule with little option for variation. I think a 2 hour window, at least for breakfast and dinner, would allow more freedom for guests to structure their day as they wish.
I would also like to note- my husband is in the military and just returned from a 9 month deployment. This trip was a 2nd honeymoon of sorts and was quite difficult to put together. Once our plans were finally in place, the government shutdown and the parks closed. When I called to Lodge to find out about possibly cancelling our trip, they allowed us the option of waiting until the last minute to see if the parks would reopen and would give us the option of cancelling the day prior if they didn't. While this seems like the obvious thing to do, we were not given the same option for the Yosemite leg of our vacation. So I appreciate their willingness to do the right thing by their customers even if that meant losing a reservation last minute for them.
Overall I struggled over whether to rate this a 3 or 4 star property. There are some significant shortcomings. But we had a great stay and loved the Forest Cabin so I am putting more weight on the positives offered here.