Checking In: Suttle Lake Lodge in Deschutes National Forest, Oregon

Checking In Suttle Lodge
Quaint, cozy and just remote enough to get you off the grid. This is Suttle Lodge. Photo: Annie Fast

We arrived at Suttle Lodge during off-season (early November) and were greeted by the heavy smells of damp leaves and smoke rising from the lodge chimney — oh thank god, a warm fire.

I had enlisted a friend in this stay-cation, and we came up with a plan to stop en route from nearby Bend (less than an hours drive), to hike Black Butte, a popular four-mile round trip hike with panoramic views of the Cascade Range. The hike was invigorating, with the lower half winding upward through moss-covered trees, climbing up above the treeline into a frost-covered wintery wonderland, and ending at an historic fire outlook shrouded in freezing fog. Good thing we were dressed for all conditions.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
Plop yourself next to the fire, enjoy a cocktail and some yummy apps, and start plotting your next adventure. Photo: Chris Hornbecker

This was the perfect prelude to Suttle Lake Lodge. We arrived ready for a warm fire and a cocktail, and within minutes of walking through the ornately-carved wooden doors, we had an artisanal bourbon aperitif garnished with a sprig of Douglas Fir in hand, and were lounging fireside snacking on a delicious appetizer of roasted fall vegetables and creamy whipped feta. Nearby, fuzzy new resident, Thor – a brown lab puppy – was cuddled up, also enjoying the cozy vibes.

Suttle Lodge is a remodeled classic lakeside lodge, originally built in the 1930s, located in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters, Oregon. The timber lodge, surrounding cabins and boathouse were recently remodeled and reinvigorated by the same group behind the Ace Hotel Portland and reopened in August 2016. The minimalist, organic aesthetic combined with the authentic lakeside Northwest setting feels like a lived Wes Anderson “Moonrise Kingdom” experience. In other words, it’s pretty perfect.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
A clean, minimal and polished feel inside the lake’s Boathouse. Photo: Annie Fast

The Lodge has a somewhat relaxed proprietary approach; the reception desk is tucked into a small closet-sized room, with morning and afternoon hours tied to check-in and check out. At check in, you receive a room key secured to a floating keychain, and a quick rundown of bar and kitchen hours, info on the Wi-Fi (it works best in the lobby lounge), and a heads up that there is a landline phone in your room, there’s one TV on property (upstairs in the lodge by the ping pong table), and the in-room fireplace turns on via the thermostat…and that’s about it. The lodge is run more like a guesthouse than a traditional hotel in that there isn’t a full time front desk staff.

As is the case with any destination in a distinct four-season climate, your stay at Suttle Lake Lodge will vary depending on time of year. In the summer, the Boathouse on the lake is open for meals and drinks; they also offer paddleboard, kayak (single and tandem), canoe and mountain bike rentals. There’s a dock and plenty of beachfront property to hang out on, as well as outdoor seating in front of the lodge looking out over the lake. It can feel like a real party atmosphere. In the fall, the atmosphere is more muted – in a good way.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
This lakeside cabin is the stuff dreams are made of. Photo: Natalie Puls

The entire property is 15.5 acres, so there’s room to roam. The capacity of the lodge and cabins also limits any feelings of overcrowding. The two-story lodge has 11 rooms, which each can sleep up to four people. There are also five lakeside cabins that can sleep up to eight people – these cozy two-story cabins are what memories are made of. They feature an open kitchen, a gas fireplace, and lakefront porches with a full-size Traeger grill ready to go. The kitchens have small refrigerators, and the lodge offers up Yeti coolers for day use, as well. There are also eight no-frills rustic camp cabins set back in the forest, each with their own grill and a shared bath.

The lodges, cabins and boathouse all received a major remodel with the new ownership. The rustic bones of the lodge keep the historic character, while the deep blue walls, color-blocked Pendleton wool blankets and custom unstructured fabric chairs lend it a modern, if somewhat monotone feel. The cabins and boathouse are all bright whites and polished wood, making for a sunnier more upbeat atmosphere.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
A loft room inside one of Suttle Lodge’s cabins. Photo: Annie Fast

Visitors are drawn to Suttle Lake Lodge for many reasons. There are ongoing events, including live fireside music music from local musicians to touring bands, and the ‘Cabin 8 Artist in Residence Series’ that culminates with a casual art show in the lodge. The lodge is also a foodie destination, with menus created by chef Joshua McFadden of Portland’s celebrated Ava Gene’s restaurant. Suttle plays host to frequent themed dinner parties hosted by renowned chefs, which are quietly listed under the “Happenings” tab of their website – and they sell out quickly.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
A brisk, sunny walk around the lake is a perfect afternoon spent at Suttle Lodge. Photo: Annie Fast

Beyond the happenings and amenities at the lodge, many like us visit simply for the location. On the morning of our visit, we were greeted by sunny skies, so we set off for the 3.5 mile hike around the lake, the single-track trail is well marked and passes through the two campsites (closed for the season) on the opposite shore of the lake taking in the views of nearby Hoodoo Ski Area (a short nine mile drive east on Highway 20).

While our fellow visitors were few in numbers, we did get a chance to chat over cocktails at the lobby Skip Bar and over breakfast the next morning. There was talk of plans for the day including hiking the Sahalie and Koosah Falls loop trail on the Mckenzie River, a 20-minute drive southeast, or soaking in Cougar Hot Springs, further south on Highway 126. Another group was headed south to Crater Lake. All in all, everyone was on the same page, combining outdoor adventures with the comforts of the lodge.

Checking In Suttle Lodge
Adventurers, rejoice. Photo: Annie Fast

As we were leaving, we noticed the staff setting up tall snowplow guides in the parking lot, preparing for the winter season of skiing, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing—we hadn’t even left yet and were already plotting another visit.

Rates at Suttle Lake Lodge range from $110–220 per night, rustic cabins from $75–$125 per night, and waterfront cabins from $300-$400 depending on season and day of the week. The lodge is dog-friendly and kid-friendly, but note that breakfast in the off-season can be a little late for early risers (9 a.m.) so plan accordingly.

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