Not many, if any, hotels can boast its very own inbuilt movie museum – but this is just one aspect of the ranch-style Red Cliffs Lodge in southeastern Utah.
And more, the property is actually located in the stunning red-rock region of the state known as Moab where more than 120 movies have been filmed.
Driving along meandering Highway 128 leading to the lodge one is mesmerized by the sheer scenic beauty of the vivid 2,000-foot red rock formations stretching their sinewy fingers to the Heavens. The region is nicknamed Moab Utah Badlands or John Ford country, after the famous film director, known for movies such as ‘Rio Grande’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
Lodge owner Colin Fryer has taken full advantage of this close connection to the movie world by buying a collection of artefacts from the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission and installing a comprehensive movie museum (Moab Museum of Film & Western Heritage) on the ground floor in a room near the reception desk. Here you’ll find costumes, photos, posters, autographed scripts, and a wide range of props from saddlebags and furniture to rifles and miners’ lamps. More than 120 movies were filmed in this region, not to mention commercials and fashion shoots.
As we did, ask for a lodge overlooking the meandering Colorado River with the fiery sandstone as a stunning backdrop.
Our suite, 301, featured a slanted varnished wood ceiling, terracotta tiled floor and a kitchenette with microwave oven, refrigerator, toaster and coffee-making facilities. Furnishings also included a wooden table and chairs and comfortable sofa and flat-screen television. The walls were decorated with wood-framed Wild West scenes – mainly cowboys on horseback rounding up cattle.
Outside on the patio, my companion and I sat contentedly one evening at a wicker table imbibing on wine made here at the Castle Creek Winery, with grapes sourced within a 90-mile radius. Hot days, cool nights and sandy soil help produce quality grapes while late summer sun encourages good sugar content with high acid levels. The winery, the largest in Utah, produces nine vintages, five whites and four reds.
Aside from fine views and fine wine, there are other reasons to visit Red Cliffs Lodge. At the ‘Cowboy Grill,’ indoors or alfresco, you can try Rocky Mountain Oysters. Strange, you might think. Fresh oysters in the middle of the Utah desert? Actually, ‘oysters’ is simply the nickname for fried bull’s testicles, a specialty dish here. Enticing, eh! For another rare meat treat, order elk medallions, with its mild gamey taste.
Aside from the lodge’s own wines, quirky drinks include ‘Hair of the Dog,’ your choice of beer with a house-made Bloody Mary mix, or ‘Cactustini,’ Grey Goose vodka, a hint of prickly pear cactus juice with sweet and sour.
As for ambience, views through the restaurant’s broad windows are spectacular – directly on to the swirling Colorado River and towering red sandstone formations.
Interesting decorations around the room include framed blankets and rugs woven by Native American people including members of the Navajo tribe, the wool sheared from churro sheep. Plants and berries were used to dye the red and blue yarn. Some of them are believed to be 200 years old. The restaurant walls are also adorned with framed black and white scenes from movies. For before or after drinks, there is also the Wild Horse Bar with its 20-foot rock fireplace.
As for events, the lodge offers several alternatives: The John Wayne room for 40-75 people; the Colorado Room for 200 or the Rio Grande for 300, with a large deck overlooking the river.
Interestingly, as Red Cliffs Lodge is 20 miles from the nearest water supply system, its owners have drilled a deep well and installed a special filter system to provide pure drinking water for guests.
Aside from the inspiring landscape, ripe for hiking, rafting, kayaking and mountain biking, the lodge itself also has an outdoor pool and jacuzzi, a gym, tennis courts and a corral for horseback riding.
A stay at Red CIiffs Lodge means enjoying a slice of the old-style American West and homestead relaxation far away from traffic lights and skyscrapers.