Mountain Lake Lodge: A Great DC Getaway
By William Triplett
Don’t know about you, but when it comes to a quick getaway this time of year, the mountains hold a special place for me – particularly when my wife and I can survey them in the chilly late winter from the comfort of a cozy cabin or lodge with great views, a bottle of wine, and a crackling fire on a stone hearth. The only thing better is if the place is pet-friendly and we can bring the dogs. Yes, we’re pathetic that way – some of our best vacations have usually involved not much more than hanging with our fur-kids in a quiet, welcoming place.
We hit it fairly big with a visit to Mountain Lake Lodge, which is perched at some 4,000 feet of elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia. Surrounded by a 2,600-acre nature preserve, and about a 4.5 hour drive from where we live just outside of Washington, D.C., Mountain Lake Lodge seemed to fit our idea of where to spend an extended, unplugged weekend.
The website touts a long list of outdoor activities, like canoeing, hiking, and mountain biking, and the resort also sports a tree-top network of sky bridges, rope ladders, and zip lines. In warmer weather there’s swimming and golf, too. But we liked the part about the exact kind of room described above – with a fully stocked tavern and a new restaurant in the main lodge. And yes, canines welcomed.
Mountain Lake Lodge is actually the overall name of the resort, which comprises the Main Stone Lodge, the smaller Chestnut Lodge, and several cottages and rustic cabins, much of it dating back to the early 1900s.A recent multimillion dollar renovation has brought the resort well into the21st century.
We stayed in the Chestnut Lodge, pretty much immediately taking advantage of the fire place and the balcony with its panoramic views. The fully stocked Stony Creek Tavern inside the Main Lodge provided the bottle of dry white. Later on, the dogs really dug the many hiking trails, though we only did about3 of the 22 miles available. We did our “big” hike around Mountain Lake itself, over some challenging terrain through often thickly wooded, narrow passages. Good exercise and good fun on a cool afternoon with broken sunlight.
Harvest, the new restaurant in the Main Stone Lodge, features locally sourced produce, meat and fish. The dinner menu leans toward the gourmet, and while not cheap, the prices are perfectly reasonable given the quality of the food and imagination in preparation. By which I don’t mean fancy or exotic, just creative – like a fennel-spinach-crab cream sauce drizzled, say, over a piece of fresh fish perfectly grilled. And the wine list will not disappoint.
The uber-friendly staff are quick to offer suggestions and/or help for taking part in any number of the available activities. They’re also extremely proud of the fact that for the first time in its history, Mountain Lake Lodge will be open through winter – and offering cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing. But after stuffing ourselves with great meals, we tended to just walk the dogs, then retire to our room to do even more relaxing either reading by the fire or gazing at the mountains from the balcony. Definitely our kind of weekend.
For more info, visit Mountain lake Lodge
William Triplett is a contributor to The Daily Beast and the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in the The Washington Post,
The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.