The Oregon Caves Chateau
June 6-8, 2004
by Jess Stryker
Planning to visit the Chateau? See our primary Oregon Caves Chateau Information page where you will find an extensive list of the Chateau's facilities and amenities, maps and directions, the Chateau's direct reservations phone number, and a number of specific suggestions that will make your visit more enjoyable.
The Chateau at Oregon Caves:
Dark menacing clouds were hanging in the sky as we left Grant's Pass, Oregon, driving toward Cave Junction and the Oregon Caves. By the time we reached Cave Junction and turned off onto the Caves Highway (route 46), the sun was setting and it was lightly raining. We drove up the Caves Highway for what seemed like forever. It didn't help that I had misread the mileage and thought it was much closer than it was! Soon it was dark, and a steady rain was falling. As we continued up the road, the road got narrower and the turns sharper. Visibility due to the dark sky and rain was limited to just a few feet in front of the truck and we were soon traveling at a mere 15 mph. I could tell by the look on Julie's face that she was getting concerned, we had been on the road for a long time with no signs, and we hadn't seen any lights or other cars for almost an hour. Were we still on the right road? Southern Oregon is known for it's unforgiving back roads that people get lost on, every few years someone gets stranded in the mountains far from a main road because they took a wrong turn.
The rain gave way to a combination of light mist and fog. We inched along, the curves in the road so sharp that even the peripheral light from the headlights couldn't illuminate the roadbed on the curves. Finally we saw a side road with a sign, so I backed up the truck and aimed my lights at it so we could see it. The sign was for Cave Creek Campground, and we sighed in relief- the campground was on the map and close to the park, so we were still on the right road! After a few more miles of twisting, narrow road we saw the Oregon Caves National Monument sign and found ourselves in the large day-use parking lot. We had been instructed to drive across the parking lot and take the service road to the Chateau parking lot. We found the service road and continued on, and after about a block we saw the hotel lights on our right. It was still raining and visibility was only a few feet. The road circled around the hotel, and I turned off on what I thought was likely the road to the guest parking. Instead I quickly found a picnic table in my way and realized I had turned up a paved walking path, rather than a road! I quickly backed out and a few feet further through the fog we found the lobby doors of the Chateau. With great relief we parked and stubbled into the lobby out of the foggy mist.
The lobby was quiet, warm and inviting, with a fire in the fireplace and several people sitting around the room reading. A huge stone fireplace stands in the middle of the room, and 30 inch diameter logs support the open-beam ceiling. Wood paneling, subdued lighting and wood furniture finish off the room decor, giving it a very comfortable and unpretentious feel. The gracious clerk at the desk welcomed us and checked us into our room, number 210, on the second floor. We grabbed our suitcases and walked up the rustic wood grand staircase to the second floor.
Our room was simple, with a fairly large bathroom. The bathroom fixtures appeared to be original, or at least close to original. The room was very clean with a queen bed, dresser, chair, and a small lamp stand. All the furniture was antique Monterey furniture, with a early California/Spanish style. The walls were painted a mottled brown color and the bright orange shag carpet gave them a orange brown glow. The room was a corner room, so we had two windows. We unpacked, had a couple of cookies we had brought with us and then went to bed.
The next morning we were able to see out the windows, and realized that although we were on what is officially the 2nd floor, there were actually 4 floors below us! As we looked out the window we were looking into the foliage of the trees which were growing from the creek bed about 45 feet below our window. We headed downstairs and had breakfast in the Caves Diner, which was 2 floors below our room on the courtyard level of the Chateau. The Diner windows look out on a large courtyard with a pond and waterfall. Very pretty, even in the rain. The Diner maintains it's original 1937 appearance, with counter seating and chrome steel swivel chairs with red or brown vinyl seats. The only thing not original here is the flooring, the original hardwood floors were damaged in a flood and have been replaced with linoleum. We had an excellent breakfast. The menu includes all the usual breakfast items of a typical coffee shop.
Most of the food served at both the Caves Diner and Chateau Dining Room is of local origin. The concessions for the Caves are operated by Oregon Caves Chateau, which is part of the local Illinois Valley Community Development Organization, a non-profit organization that works to improve the local economic and social conditions. Thus to the extent possible they obtain all supplies locally. Buffalo meat comes from a local ranch, trout from a local fish farm, and locally grown vegetables are used when possible. We did find that they were often out of some items on the menu, both in the Diner and dining room, this may be because we were there mid-week following a busy weekend, but also the attempt to buy local, and the minimal number of guests may result in shortages at times. We found it pays to have a "second choice" item in mind before ordering. The gift shop in the Chateau also sells a lot of local products.
After breakfast we took a tour of the caves, looked around the Historic District buildings, and took a lot of photos of the Chateau and the surrounding area. Lunch was again at the Caves Diner, where the menu features Buffalo burgers, beef burgers, salads, soups and a large assortment of sandwiches.
It finally stopped raining after lunch so we put on our hiking boots and hiked a few of the trails around the Chateau. There are several well-maintained trails that meander through the National Monument, they vary in length and difficulty. Many of the trees and shrubs around the Chalet and Chateau buildings are labeled with small signs telling the plant name.
Dinner was at the Chateau Dining Room which is next to the gift shop on the same floor as the Caves Diner. Along the back wall of the dining room large picture windows look out on the forested canyon. Some of the water from Cave Creek has been rerouted into a rock channel that flows right through the dinning room, creating a pleasant, relaxing trickling sound. The food was excellent, artistically arranged on the plates, and local wines were served. Other diners seemed equally pleased with their food. The menu includes steak, trout, salmon, and chicken entrees.
The next morning we reluctantly said goodbye to the staff, many of whom we had gotten to know by name in just our short stay. Our stay at the Chateau was very enjoyable and peaceful. All of the staff were very friendly, and most had a story to share. The atmosphere for our mid-week stay was very relaxed and laid back. A great vacation and a wonderful place to just chill out and unwind!
Planning Your Visit:
Information on the amenities and features of the Chateau can be found on our main Oregon Caves Chateau page.
Click Here for a virtual tour of the Chateau.
Oregon Caves Chateau Tour Index:
Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 2. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Interior Public Areas.
Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 3. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Guest Rooms & Ghosts.
Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 4. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Landscape.
Oregon Caves Chateau, Review. The Chateau at Oregon Caves- Review.
Oregon Caves Chalet Photos and information on the historic Chalet Visitor's Center building.
The Oregon Caves. Photos from the park service Cave Tour.
Oregon Caves Chateau- Planning Your Visit Brief history, extensive list of facilities and amenities, advice for visitors, maps and directions, reservations phone number.
Historic Hotels & Lodges