Hotel revives hospitality in Red Cliff
Vail CO, Colorado
RED CLIFF ” The fish tacos at Mango’s Mountain Grill, the only restaurant in Red Cliff, have been enough to lure visitors to this sleepy outpost for years.
Now, a hotel strives to keep those guests overnight.
Located across Eagle Street from Mango’s, the Green Bridge Inn opened in July with an Old West motif that hearkens back to Red Cliff’s mining roots.
My boyfriend and I recently drove the nine windy miles south of Minturn, across Battle Mountain, to spend the night in this town of 350 residents.
The Green Bridge Inn, with its three stories of wraparound porches and signs for “Spirits” and “Provisions,” looks a bit like an old western saloon. We checked in at the convenience store/liquor shop on the first floor, where we received a code for our suite.
Currently fetching $149 per night, the suites have an upscale lodge feel, with wood floors, a king-sized bed and a bathroom with a glass-doored shower. Subtle Victorian touches like white subway tile in the bathroom form a pleasant contrast to modern amenities like a flat-screen TV.
After checking out our room, we headed over to Mango’s for dinner. The restaurant has two bars and a pool table, and judging by the look of the clientele, a beard requirement for patrons.
As we sampled the restaurant’s specialty, a fish taco ($5), we admired the scene on the street through the window. A few dogs roamed the road while a group of children who had been hanging out in the street for hours reared up on minibikes.
“Those children are practically feral,” my boyfriend observed.
Indeed, Red Cliff has an outlaw vibe. With its collection of defunct and old buildings, it looks like a ghost town where anything could happen. Yet the town’s looks are deceiving. The population has actually grown from 259 in 2000 to about 350 today, the mayor estimates. And the thriving artist community has sprouted up in studios across town, along with several sleek, upscale houses. Still, this quirky hub roughly a half-hours’ drive southwest of Vail is an interesting choice for a hotel.
“We’re kinda off the beaten path,” Mayor Ramon Montoya said. “There’s a lot of tourist traffic that comes through town. Now it’s a matter of getting the word out: Not only can you visit and have good food, but you can stay as well.”
Red Cliff hasn’t had a hotel for decades. Former resident Bud Beck, 83, said the Shrine Lodge, a modest two-story affair, opened in the 1930s but closed down in the mid-1950s.
Red Cliff’s first hotel, The Star, emerged in the 1880s. It was the local Waldorf-Astoria complete with imported chefs, according to the 1940s book “A History of Eagle County.” Though it sounds fancy, pictures show a rather basic building with a wooden false front and canvas covering the rest of the building. In 1883, a smallpox outbreak killed two guests of the hotel.
The Star apparently had competition in the form of the Southern Hotel on Water Street, but that inn burned down in 1882. Other hotels that apparently operated during that era include the Eagle Hotel, which burned down in 1917 and the Quartzite Hotel, which was torn down in 1936, according to “A History of Eagle County.”
To launch a hotel in a town where nearly every hospitality story has ended with “and then it burnt down,” takes guts. Of course, architecture has come a long way since the pioneer days.
The Green Bridge lnn belongs to Eric Cregon, a 37-year-old Red Cliff local, and his business partner, Tim Parks. The pair also own Mango’s.
They bought the property where the inn stands about four years ago, with hopes of moving Mango’s to the lot. That plan fizzled when the men realized a sign shop on the now-hotel land was too beat up to convert into a restaurant.
Instead, Cregon and Parks hatched plans for a $4.6 million inn on the property, made from environmentally-friendly materials like beetle-kill pine.
Owners are selling the 14-room hotel as a place to crash for people who already plan to travel to the Red Cliff area. They hope to attract snowmobilers who cruise along Shrine Pass, rock climbers who scale boulders on the outskirts of town and Mango’s patrons who want to avoid driving home after a night of revelry. A concert featuring the all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Belles later this month could prove the first test of the inn’s ability to attract Mango’s patrons.
After spending a peaceful night in our suite, the boyfriend and I set out to find Red Cliff’s historic cemetery.
We motored past the old school building that now serves as the community center and continued up a rocky dirt road to the cemetery.
A painted-white iron gate that read “Greenwood Cemetery” gave way to a forested hillside dotted with gravestones.
Many of the stones dated back to the 1800s, and we marveled at how many of those people had died young. While ornate iron gates encircled some plots, others had been artistically decorated with glass-encased statues of flower-studded crosses. The first grave dug in the cemetery belonged to Sylvester J. Lindsey, who was mauled by a bear in 1880, according to “A History of Eagle County.”
While a tour of historic sites can entertain hotel guests, outdoor activities up the adrenaline quotient. Shrine Pass offers plenty of snowshoeing trails while three creeks that converge in Red Cliff provide fishing, locals say.
Of course, the customer base at the hotel could swell if the proposed Ginn Development becomes a reality. The developers propose building a ski resort the size of Beaver Creek on Battle Mountain between Minturn and Red Cliff.
For now, the Green Bridge Inn offers a comfortable taste of the Old West to weary travelers, and with some luck, it will meet a more auspicious fate than the hotels in the history books.
High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Green Bridge Inn
Where: 104 Water Street in Red Cliff, at the intersection of Eagle and Water streets, across Eagle Street from Mango’s Mountain Grill
Price: Currently $119 for a room, $149 for a suite; Depending on the season, rooms can range from $89 to $259
Features: Convenience store, liquor store, handicap-accessible room
Not permitted inside rooms: Pets, smoking
More information: Call 970-827-5228
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