Sixteen-year-old Enoch "Joe" Mills, came to Estes park alone from Pleasanton, Kan., in 1880. The beauty of the Estes Valley made him proclaim, "Before me loomed the Rockies, strangely unreal in the moonlight and yet very like the mountains of my imagination. I gazed spellbound. My dream realized."
Joe, the youngest of 10 children, soon dreamed of other things that would be fulfilled, way beyond his ideas at 16. His appreciation for Estes Park and the beautiful surrounding area helped him and his brother Enos work to establish Rocky Mountain National Park. Joe became a published author, one of his works is "A Mountain Boyhood." His discerning eye made his photographs outstanding; he also became an English professor and football coach at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.
Joe and his wife Ethel found the perfect place to build their hotel on the craggy north side of Prospect Mountain one mile south of Estes Park at 300 Riverside Drive. Joe constructed their Crags Lodge to fit into the beauty of the surrounding area. The rustic style furniture, made from Indiana Hickory, was built to last and is still in use today, making it seem that you are stepping back into history as you enter the lodge. The 90 windows with the original glass in the View Restaurant look over the valley. The porch overlooks Estes and the Big Thompson River 200-feet below.
The lodge opened to guests on July 4, 1914. Joe and Ethel's gift of hospitality made everyone feel welcome. The present manager, Krisy, welcomes visitors with that same friendly attitude. She has been doing that for 14 years, and her little girl has been with her in the lodge, visiting with guests just like the Mills' daughter and granddaughter.
Of course, rates have increased since this sign was posted in 1923.
No sick or tubercular guests
2 persons $3 a day -
$17.50 a week
1 person $3.50 a day -
$22.50 a week
Variety of rates according to room
The 1939 rates:
1 person $5 a day -
$32.50 a week
With a private bath
$6.50 a day - $42 a week
Kids under 6 - half rate
At that time they operated with the American plan of three meals a day.
It was known as the friendly house on the hill. When the Reed family bought it in 1968 the lodge was painted a pinkish color and became known as the Pepto Bismo lodge on the hill. In 1986, the third oldest lodge in Estes Park, was purchased by ILX Resorts Inc. and is now a Golden Eagle Resort and operates as a time share, or by reservations. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The third floor was recently remodeled. The biggest project was putting in an elevator. The lodge has 27 guest suites and an annex building has six more, each of them have a kitchenette, queen size bed, sitting room with hide-a-bed and full baths. The pool and hot tub are relaxing places to enjoy the scenery and to gaze at the stars. Guests are welcome to relax in the spacious lobby with coffee or hot chocolate and to look through the scrapbook of photos from years past. Table games are available to be played on the tables just as the Mills family and guests did in the early 20th century
The Mills' daughter Peg was raised in the lodge. Peg married Dorr Yeager, the first ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. They raised their daughter Pat Washburn in the lodge. It must have been a delightful place for the girls to grow up, interacting with guests, and having the mountain in their front yard.
The reputation of friendly hospitality holds true, and the 12 year-round employees want to carry on the Mills' dream. The restaurant is open from May through October and the same chef has been cooking the meals and catering weddings for seven years. The menu gives reasons to return because of the choices such as, steaks, trout, salmon, chicken, wild mushroom ravioli and nightly specials. The lodge is a beautiful setting for weddings and co-coordinator Keelee Doan helps to plan the perfect ceremony, and reception. It is also a wonderful place for conferences.
For reservations, please call (970) 586-6066. To learn more about the lodge please visit www.CragsLodge.com.