Wyoming Wonders: Brooks Lake Lodge & Spa Celebrates 100 Years

By Amber Gibson

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Located in Dubois, at 9,200 feet in elevation in the Shoshone National Forest, Brooks Lake Lodge & Spa is easily one of the most remote luxury resorts in the continental United States. In fact, the 100-year-old lodge is so remote that guests must travel the final five miles to the property via snow coach or snowmobile, adding to the feeling of secluded escape.

There are only seven rooms and eight cabins, with a maximum of 24 guests per night in winter and 36 in summer, enabling the all-inclusive resort to maintain its world-renowned five-star service.  The lodge enjoys frequent media acclaim and was named one of the “20 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S” by U.S. News & World Report in 2021.

A snowmobiler rides through the entry to Brooks Lake Lodge. The historic resort is so remote that guests must travel the final five miles to the property via snow coach or snowmobile. (Courtesy photo from Brooks Lake Lodge)

In the summer, Rocky Mountain trail rides, fishing, hiking and canoeing are popular activities. But in the winter, general manager Matthew Tousignant said nearly three quarters of bookings are returning guests who come for snowmobiling.

“This is the steepest, deepest and most beautiful powder and terrain in all of the world,” Tousignant said. “It’s perfectly suited for snowmobiling.”   

Tousignant grew up snowmobiling in the woods of Northern Minnesota—an area that can’t hold a candle to Brooks Lake. With 400 to 600 inches of snowfall each winter, the Shoshone National Forest is snowmobile heaven. Guests can ride across 600 miles of groomed trails and 2 million acres of untrammeled backcountry terrain with one of the lodge’s guides. There’s snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice fishing, too, for guests who prefer more low-key ways to commune with nature. 

Tousignant has managed historic lodges and public lands for over 15 years, most recently at Old Faithful properties in Yellowstone National Park, with 1,500 employees and 70,000 daily visitors. It’s a stark contrast to the intimate, high-touch service at Brooks Lake Lodge, which has invested over $1 million in renovations during the past three years to preserve the property yet modernize the guest experience. For example, new high-end snowmobiles are purchased each season for the fleet of 25 snowmobiles, and Tousignant recently purchased a new snow coach.

Pictured above is the front entrance to Brooks Lake Lodge in the winter, with Rocky Mountain views in every direction. (Courtesy photo from Brooks Lake Lodge)

Despite its middle-of-nowhere setting, the lodge offers plenty of options for five-star pampering and hibernating from the winter cold. There’s an on-site Rocky Mountain Spa, although massages and Reiki energy healing are not included in the all-inclusive rate. Guests can pad down the hallway to the Governor’s Tea Room (named after lodge namesake, Bryant Brooks, who was Wyoming’s seventh governor) in their robe and slippers to enjoy crumpets, cookies, fruit and teas by a crackling fire. Meals are served in the Great Hall, under three-story vaulted ceilings, beneath wagon-wheel chandeliers and surrounded by a private collection of Western art.

The lodge was originally built in 1922 as the first stopover for vacationers heading to Yellowstone National Park. Soon thereafter, it was converted into a dude ranch and became a vacation destination for wealthy Easterners in search of a quintessential western experience. Today, it’s listed on the National Park Services Register of Historic Places, and the original building’s Western Craftsman architectural style has been carefully preserved.

While winter is truly otherworldly, summer is Tousignant’s favorite time of year at Brooks Lake: “When you’re riding horseback in the high alpine meadows with meadowlarks chirping and wildflowers in full bloom, surrounded by outrageous jagged ridgelines, it’s absolutely awe-inspiring. Whatever deity you might believe in, this place will make you feel closer to that than anywhere else on earth.”

Whitney Hall, director of food and beverage, has worked at Brooks Lake Lodge & Spa for 18 years, starting as a pastry chef right out of culinary school. There is nowhere she’d rather work.

The Governor’s Tea Room is where guests enjoy afternoon tea daily. Crumpets, cookies and tea are served by the crackling fireplace under an antler chandelier. (Courtesy photo from Brooks Lake Lodge)

“I’m from Texas and fell in love with the beauty of Wyoming’s mountains and trees, streams and rivers,” she said. “But I also fell in love with the idea of what Brooks creates for their guests and staff. We quickly become a family, because we’re so isolated on this mountain.”

Hall’s deep fried chocolate chip cookie dough is now a staple on the winter menu, served with a scoop of ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and powdered sugar. Over the years, she has befriended  many guests, crafting bespoke menus to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and other milestones.

“Our guests become family as well,” she said. “You might arrive as a stranger, but you always leave as family. That’s the motto that we strive for as a staff.”  

Documentary filmmaker and author Jim Dutcher certainly feels that way. His first visit to Brooks Lake Lodge was on a family vacation in 1956; he saw his first wolf while working as a wrangler on the ranch when he was a teen.

“During a visit 30 years later, I saw another wolf and realized I was looking at the subject of my next documentary film, ‘Wolf: Return of a Legend,’ which won an Emmy,” Dutcher said. “That realization changed my life and career, and my wife Jamie and I have been visiting the lodge annually since 1994. Of course, the stunning mountains, lakes, streams and wildlife are a highlight at Brooks Lake Lodge, but my connection runs much deeper than the landscape.”

This year, in celebration of the centennial and due to high demand, the lodge is extending its winter season through March 21, 2023.

“Brooks Lake Lodge is truly one of our nation’s treasures,” Tousignant said. “The views here are absolutely stunning, and they’ll steal your soul.”

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