There is a nothing like a crisis to reveal the character of a person or organization, and Cedar Pass Lodge got the chance to show its mettle on June 19th when a wicked South Dakota storm passed through.
We got a private tour of the cabins from Cedar Pass Lodge Manger Jenny Brown.
In the interests of disclosure, we were not staying at Cedar Pass Lodge's cabins, but in the nearby campground -- both of which are run by Forever Resorts. While we paid our own way through the Badlands, Forever Resorts hosted us for free later in our travels.
I've already told the harrowing tale of our encounter with tornado-driven winds that night in an earlier post -- http://www.ayearintheparks.org/?p=224 -- but I wanted to share a review of our experiences with Cedar Pass Lodge.
Cedar Pass Lodge includes 15 cabins, a cafe, and gift store. The cabins enjoy spectacular views of the rock formations, and the locally handcrafted pine chairs and benches are a great place to relax and enjoy the Badlands vistas.
The old 1920s-built cabins were torn down and replaced in 2013. The new cabins are some of the nicest cabins that we've seen in the national parks, so far. Even though we didn't stay the night, Cedar Pass Lodge Manager Jenny Brown took a few moments from her busy day to show us around. Here's what the cabins look like inside ...
After a few nights of sleeping in the camper, these beds looked real good to us.
The cabins look rustic on the outside, but are pretty cushy on the inside.
These cabins were some of the nicest we've seen in all of the parks we've visited.
We really liked the extra care they took in upgrading the cabins. The cabins and furnishings were all locally crafted, and even the interior siding was made from fallen beetle-killed pine logs to lessen the environmental impact in keeping with Forever Resorts' National Park commitments. Even an old shed was preserved and repurposed as a laundry cabin to preserve the local history.
In checking out other reviews of Cedar Pass Lodge, I noticed that almost all of the negative reviews were posted before Cedar Pass Lodge came under new management and replaced the aging 1970s-decorated cabins. If you see a bad review before 2013, it probably has little to do with today's Cedar Pass Lodge.
We enjoyed a couple of meals at the Cedar Pass Restaurant, and were really pleased with the food and service. I dove into the local cuisine with a Sioux Indian Taco, which is fry bread topped with refried beans, buffalo meat (or vegetarian spicy black bean burger), shredded lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and black olives. This was a huge, hearty dish that left me with a complete second meal for leftovers. My wife is a bit of lettuce aficionado, and loved the salad bar with fresh greens that were a noticeable improvement from the plastic-bagged iceberg lettuce you usually find on the road.
We didn't get to try everything that sounded good, but the menu includes lots of environmentally sound choices, South Dakota-made wine and beer, and something called Kuchen which is the official dessert of South Dakota.
Cedar Pass Campground
Scrambling on the rock formations between the campground and lodge.
The views from the campground are stunning and make you feel like Kevin Costner's character in the movie "Dances with Wolves" as he discovers the wide-open beauty of the plains and badlands. The campground is right out in the open, so every site has sweeping, panoramic views of the rock formations and prairie. Each of the tent sites and most of the RV sites also include picnic tables with these cool, shaded awnings to ward off the hot sun.
Camping is also reasonably priced -- Tents: $20 a night (for 2) and $3 for each additional person. Kids 15 and younger camp for FREE. The campground features flush toilets and pay showers. RVs: $35 a night (for 2) and $3 for each additional person. Kids 15 and younger camp for FREE. RV sites include electric, but no water or sewer hookups. There's plenty of water close by, though, so you might want to bring a big jerry can to top off your water tank if you're staying for a while.
Cedar Pass Campground
The other great thing about the campground is location, location, location. We've been to lots of state and federal campgrounds that are near really awesome natural and cultural features, but many of these campgrounds are tucked away into the woods away from the cool stuff that you've come there to see. With Cedar Pass Campground, though, you are right in the thick of things and can enjoy much of what you came to the Badlands to see without even leaving your campsite.
As for the crisis I mentioned above, Cedar Pass Lodge passed with flying colors. Not only did they open the lodge and basement to all cabin and campground guests when the big storm blew through, but the staff went the extra mile -- passing out cold water bottles from their store and keeping everybody updated on the weather and what was going on back at the campground. We were very impressed. Thanks for a great stay, Cedar Pass!