Drakesbad is a great vacation spot, particularly if you know what to expect. It's very casual, friendly and comfortable. It is not luxurious, gourmet, or upscale. The ranch is 80+ years and shows it. Furniture in the lodge is rickety but comfortable. There is no wifi, no tv, no electronic distractions whatsoever.
Lodging. There are several types of lodging at Drakesbad, all of them are basic, comfortable and rustic but sturdy log furniture. As you enter Drakesbad, you'll pass by several bungalows. These are the best lodging. They have two double beds, a dresser, a chair, a closet, a full bathroom and a shared back deck. The deck over looks the meadow, the mountains and the sunset. Lovely setting. The beds are fine, but not new. The shower water pressure is limited. We had a mouse in with us as well. There is self-controlled heating and kerosene lights. The best bungalow for privacy is #6, the furthest away from everything but no one walks by your room on the way to anything.
On the other side of camp, are the cabins. These are much less appealing. They are more run-down, they have a double and single bed, their patio looks out the back and while the views are fine, they aren't as expansive. And, behind the cabins is the horse corral, so you do get some smells. We only stayed in these two, so I don't know how the lodge rooms would be (it is above the public hang-out area, so I am imagining there is some noise). Cabins come with a half bathroom, but showers are accessed at the pool. #12 is furthest from the pool area.
Food The food is basic, limited in choice and quantity (at least for dinner). Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style or you can order a packed lunch. Breakfast is expansive with lots of do it yourself choices including toast, bagels, fruit, yogurt, granola, and a hot cereal. One hot dish is served each morning. We had french toast (store brought bread in a light egg batter--nothing to speak of) and a southwestern omelet (a couple of eggs with cheese, covered in a very thick jarred salsa). Neither stood out. But they were not bad.
We had only packed lunches on this trip. You fill out a form with a meat, cheese, drink choice. The sandwich comes on very basic wheat or white sandwich bread, with a few slices of meat and one slice of cheese. Tomato and lettuce come in a separate baggie with mustard and mayo packets. The sandwich tastes great when you are hiking, but it is in no way gourmet. In addition to the sandwich, there is water, soda or juice, one cookie, carrots and chips. The cookies seemed to be made on site do not appear to be homemade from scratch.
Dinner is one meat entree and one veg option, salad and a grain. It is served at individual tables (not family style) with wait service. A little loaf of bread is on your table when you sit down (this bread is homemade and is great--why not make bread for the sandwiches?). A dessert is offered at the end. Our entrees while we were there were either chicken Parmesan or veg lasagna. We had the chicken. It was cooked correctly but it was not chicken Parmesan--the sauce seemed like jarred tomatoes with tons of oregano and the slice of cheese seemed like leftovers from lunch. But, it tasted fine. It was served with several slices of zucchini. Salad was a very small Caesar and they do not do dressing on the side. It was never clear if seconds were allowed. Dessert was chocolate mousse with redi-whip. It was tasty, creamy, but basic. Second dinner was Caribbean shrimp with risotto or a frittata with asparagus and basil. The Shrimp was nicely done (not overcooked) with a small selection of Caribbean veggies and pineapple. There were four shrimp. The "risotto" was sticky rice with some kind of creaminess to it. AGain, the food was good, but it was not gourmet. Dessert was strawberry shortcake. But what that meant was crumbled up cake in a cup with a few sliced strawberries and redi whip.
I don't want to criticize the food, but I want to present an honest description of what to expect.
Wine and beer is available for purchase.Prices are very reasonable with no bottle over $40. We had a Beringer Cab which was decent. Dinner is served quickly. We barely had time to finish one glass of wine before we were all done.
Hiking: By far this is spectacular. We did two hikes: the devil's kitchen, a short 2 mile from the lodge; and the 5 lakes hike a 10+ mile hike. Both were fantastic. I'll be back just for those and for many others we didn't get to. Neither hike was crowded. And on the 5 lakes we saw two other people during the entire hike. The hike required lots of elevation change and work but rewarded with great views and an incredible waterfall.
Common Areas: Outside there are many places to sit overlooking the meadow and mountains, all beautiful. There is a big firepit, lit up at night when a smores box is available to make your own smores. Expect lots of children running around. There is a hot springs heated pool around 98 degrees with private, individual showers. Bring your flip flops! There are coolers at the pool with soda and beer to be purchased. The lodge has a big common area with a fireplace, chairs, games and books as well as a porch for sitting. Beer and soda is also available here for purchase. You can also fish. They will cook your fish for you and serve it to you for dinner. One table caught ten while we were there.
Service: Wait staff serve dinner and bring juice and your entree to your table for breakfast. The managers are around and available for questions (one of them is the chef) throughout the day. Other than that, the place is basically serve yourself. If you want a beer, you fill out a form saying you took it and you are billed at the end. At the end, you'll pay your tips if you want to. One set of tips for the waitstaff, the other for the managers.
Guests: When we were there, there was a mixture of family reunion group, a few couples and several families. There were lots of kids under 10, Many of the people knew one another, clearly returning year after year. It's a very friendly but not intrusive place.
The place is great and you won't be disappointed as long as you come in with realistic expectations.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In 1916 Congress established Lassen Volcanic National Park as the fifteenth national park in the United States. Privately held Drakesbad bordered the park in the southeast corner. The Sifford family continued to run their beloved Guest Ranch as good neighbors of the Park Service each summer for forty-two years. To preserve the Ranch and guarantee continued quality service for generations to come, Drakesbad was sold to the US government in 1958 for inclusion in to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Since that sale there have been three park concessionaires: for the past 36 years Drakesbad has been run by California Guest Services where the emphasis is still on outstanding customer service! All rates include three meals per day and lodging! All accommodations are rustic and quaint, most without electricity. The use of kerosene lamps is a welcome respite from the modern world and adds a distinct and old time ranch feel to your stay. All rooms include a full or half bath and are gas heated. Housekeeping services are provided daily. As a member of the Green Hotels Network, we make every effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle at Drakesbad. General Information Drakesbad Guest Ranch is open (pending weather conditions) June through mid October. The Ranch is closed mid October through to May. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Drakesbad Guest Ranch Hotel Chester