By Jen Bianco, Contributing Writer
It was very exciting getting to visit the brand new Cresto Ranch tented camp at Dunton Hot Springs and check out the property for Glamping.com.
The eight safari-style tents at Cresto Ranch are large (640 square feet) and spread out over the property, providing spectacular views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. The four tents near the river are named after trout (Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brook and Brown) while the four along the hillside are named after local mountain peaks. Spa services are available in a tent on the property.
The heart of the Cresto Ranch is the restored farmhouse, which was originally built in the late 1800’s and has been thoughtfully restored. Some of the original furnishings have been refurbished and are still being used today. The farmhouse serves as Cresto Ranch’s communal living room, dining room, and bar.
Guests meet at the farmhouse for drinks and meals. At Cresto Ranch, the food is gourmet, and reflects the Colorado environment. The chefs use a lot of local ingredients like pheasant and venison. I really enjoyed trying these foods and appreciated that the chefs had no problem with food restrictions or preferences.
Cresto Ranch does a great job of keeping fine dining relaxed. They keep some of the tradition of the old west alive by offering communal meals, with guests dining family style either on the outside deck or at tables inside the farmhouse (they offer in-tent dining to guests who would prefer this option).
Communal dining became the social highlight of the day. All the guests and the staff were very nice and interesting. Not only did it make meals lively and memorable, but it also allows guests and staff to know each other better, adding to the resort’s intimate and personalized service.
Lunch was served outside, overlooking the Delores River where we ate on authentic German bier tables. The chef suggested wine pairings or lunch and dinner, which allows guests to sample of some of the best wines from the resort’s sister property, Sutcliffe Vineyards.
Here’s the menu chef Daniel Sopiwnik served for lunch the day I arrived
Spinach & Arugula Salad
Served with Champagne vinaigrette, farm-fresh cucumbers, and heirloom carrot confetti
Wild boar, elk, spiced apple, blueberry and Cabernet Sauvignon sausage
Double chocolate chip cookie
2011 Sutcliffe Vineyards Pinot Gris
2009 Sutcliffe Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Before dinner each evening, the chef rang the dinner bell to summon guests to the farmhouse. It’s details like this that make Cresto Ranch both quirky and unforgettable.
Drinks and meal times provided a really nice and casual atmosphere for guests to mingle. One couple visiting Cresto Ranch was checking out the new tented camp after staying at the Dunton Hot Springs twice in the past year. I’m not sure there is a bigger vote of confidence than that kind of repeat business, but after a few days I understood the resort’s enduring allure.
I stayed in Rainbow, a tent near the river. It was spacious and comfortable, complete with a desk area, a porch with a table and lounge chairs and an ensuite bathroom. The Wi-Fi signal was strong and the king size bed was extremely comfortable and topped with warm and luxurious bedding. Each tent has a gas stove that was a nice touch when waking up on cool mountain mornings. There are no televisions at Cresto Ranch and I didn’t miss having one. Each tent also comes with a pair of mountain bikes so guests can explore the expansive property.
The bathroom was impressively large for a tent, complete with side-by-side sinks and a large soaker tub. The flash heater meant there was no shortage of hot water, so you could have a nice soak after spending the day hiking, mountain biking or taking advantage of other outdoor activities. Heated towel racks kept the bathroom warm and cozy in the night.
With the sounds of the river lulling me to sleep, I was surprised just how easy it was to relax and unwind at Cresto Ranch. There are enough activities (everything from horseback riding and fly fishing to rock climbing) to satisfy adrenaline junkies, but it’s also a great place to chill out for a few days and do nothing more than read a book while listening to the sounds of nature.
Hummingbirds abound at Cresto Ranch. After watching them my first day, they helped lull me into some kind of relaxed state. While sipping a margarita (the staff knew how I liked mine after I ordered my first) I found myself a bit in love with everything about Cresto Ranch– the spectacular surroundings, the fabulous food and good company of the warm staff and other guests. By the time I left I was already planning my return visit to Dunton Hot Springs during the winter.