Wander Minnesota: Lost Lake Lodge
It’s so tucked away into the woods that you could easily drive right by it and never know it’s there—perhaps a good reason for the name: Lost Lake Lodge. A few minutes north of Brainerd and just past the Gull Lake, Lost Lake Lodge is a small, cozy resort that’s unlike most other resorts around the state (and is the state’s smallest all-inclusive resort).
Here’s the thing about Lost Lake Lodge: it takes a best-of-both-worlds approach. It has the small, cozy cabins of a traditional mom-and-pop resort, with plenty of lakefront and water activities, and it combines them with the services of a high-end luxury resort—including phenomenal dining, which is included in the rates (breakfast and dinner).
Whereas most cabin resorts are “housekeeping,” meaning guests bring their own towels and other amenities, expect to cook their own meals, and don’t receive any cleaning services during their stay, Lost Lake Lodge does provide towels, amenities, and daily cleaning services. The larger cabins have kitchens, but while the restaurant is open, most people won’t need them. The cabins themselves are well maintained, with far-better-than-average beds and bedding.
Lost Lake Lodge was built by Ray and Fran Schwartz and opened in 1946. Initially it was just a restaurant, no lodging, but the Schwartz’s always intended to bring that aspect into to, and in 1947 they built the first two cabins, adding cabins every two years from that point until they had 10 cabins by the resort’s 10th anniversary.
But while the intention was to add lodging, it was never meant to be large-scale, and that has stayed true through today. There are currently 14 cabins and no immediate plans to add more. Even if the current owners wanted to, there would be room for just two more buildings, but 70 of the 80 acres owned by the resort is dedicated to forest preservation and hiking trails.
People who have previously enjoyed cabin vacations that involved lots of fishing—and lots of eating of fish—may wonder what happens at a resort where dinner is included. Is it worth fishing? No problem—Lost Lake offers everything you need to clean and freeze your fish to take home with you, or you can bring it to the lodge’s chef, who will cook it for you.
Speaking of the chef, if you’ve ever traveled to an all-inclusive resort (such as those in the Caribbean) that offered lackluster food served in big piles under heat lamps at a buffet, Lost Lake will be a revelation. All meals are cooked to order from a seasonally changing menu, with ingredients sourced locally when possible. Recent visitors enjoyed the foraged omelet, made with eggs produced on local Amish farms, filled with Gouda and locally harvested shiitake mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns.
Lunch is not included in the rates, although the restaurant is open. But breakfast portions are large enough that you may be able to sail through until dinner. (Note: the restaurant is also open a la carte to the public.) All meals are served by friendly, well-trained staff. Lost Lake has a long tradition of hiring people locally, including teens, who start out busing and doing dishes and, if they have the skills, work their way up to serving. These teens return year after year, even summers when they’ve been away at college. Today there are students who work at the resort who have had parents who worked there too.
Lost Lake is very popular with families during the summer, some of whom have been coming for generations and are now introducing grandchildren to the resort. There’s plenty to do to keep kids busy, whether it’s swimming in the lake, playing outdoor table tennis, hiking, biking, evening campfires, and a kids’ program during the summer which focuses on fun, but manages to sneak in a little learning on the side (building solar ovens to make s’mores, creating balloon rockets, etc.).
But families aren’t the only visitors. Couples’ packages are very popular at the resort, as well as small conferences, and this spring the resort hosted a book club weekend, complete with local author. Groups are welcome—there’s room at the fire pit for everyone.
It is a best of both worlds—the growing community of Brainerd is nearby, as is the charming shopping town of Nisswa. But when you’re at Lost Lake Lodge, it’s easy to forget those places exist. And isn’t that the best way to spend a vacation—away from it all?
My thanks to Lost Lake Lodge for having me as their guest.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.