“You have arrived at your destination,” your GPS will chirp as you approach the entrance to the Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, just outside Glen Rose, though your kids will probably point out that you’re still in the middle of nowhere. So pass through the gates and soldier on for two more miles down a winding one-lane road. That’s when you’ll see it: a limestone building, high atop a ridge, with a roof of bowed steel and forty-foot-high windows that overlook a placid lake dotted with lily pads. Situated on 11,140 acres of rolling prairie, this high-end hideaway is so posh and so remote (and so pricey) that you’ll half expect to run into a post-op celebrity on the lam from the paparazzi. Instead, you’ll exchange knowing glances with other guests who’ve come to this all-inclusive haven for the same reasons you have: to lounge poolside, enjoy the outdoors, lounge poolside, dine like royalty, and lounge poolside.
WHAT TO DO
Your vacation begins as soon as you put your car in park (or land your helicopter on one of three helipads). A bellhop zips over to unload your luggage, offers you a chilled strawberry lemonade, and whisks you to check-in. The 51 rooms and suites in the Main Lodge are kitted out with accoutrements you’d find in a cattle baron’s rustic manse: cognac leather club chairs, Texas pecan armoires, leather flyswatters, telescopes, handcrafted wooden rockers on the balconies, boot brushes on each doorstep. If it’s privacy that you crave, reserve one of the four cabins or two guesthouses that are hidden away in the live oaks on secluded parts of the property.
After you’ve settled in, head to the Beretta Room, adjacent to the main lodge (I’ll let you guess what it’s filled with), to meet with a wildlife concierge who’ll spur your enthusiasm for Rough Creek’s activities: Hiking! Biking! Kayaking! Five-stand shooting! Tennis! Paintballing! But start by Renting A Four-Wheeler and zooming off on a guided tour to get the lay of the land and see the resort’s namesake creek, the five-mile nature trail, a few of its 63 ponds, and a bathing bison or two. Book in advance to snag an evening jaunt that departs just as an orange sunset is melting into the foothills.
A view of Gunn Mountain.
Some of the most pastoral expanses of Chalk Mountain Ranch are accessible only by equine escort, so pull on your cowboy boots and head to the stables to join a wrangler for an unhurried Horseback Ride through the open spaces. With my patient mount doing all the work, I trotted out to survey one of the ranch’s highest peaks, Gunn Mountain. Hikers can climb to its summit via a handy 137-step staircase for an unparalleled panoramic view. At night, it’s an ideal vantage point for stargazers.
A prize bass.
Early birds who meander down to the fishing shack on the eighty-acre Mallard Lake will get first dibs on the Four Bass Boats bobbing in their slips. There’s an array of rods for the taking, a mini-fridge stocked with tubs of night crawlers, and detailed instructions on how to Catch A Lunker (“Be quiet, watch, and hang on”) and recount your victory post-release (“Stretch the truth”). The fish-to-guest ratio is so favorable that your children won’t even need to master the sport’s trickiest skill—patience—as they pull in one largemouth bass (or perch or crappie or catfish) after another.
Let’s not fool ourselves. It’s blazing hot this time of year. Thus, the efficacy of a Texas vacation spot depends entirely on one question: How speedily can you plunge yourself into water? From the front door of the lodge, it’ll take about sixty seconds. If you’ve purposely left your progeny far, far away, head to the Tranquil Adults-Only Pool. If you’ve got the whole family in tow, make a beeline to the Multilevel “Party” Pool, with a 66-foot slide, lazy river, and hot tub. Dotted with cabanas and equipped with a snack bar, it’s adjacent to a 45-foot-tall climbing wall, 650-foot-long zip line, and bungee trampoline, an energy-draining trifecta sure to tucker your kids out.
After a cursory self-diagnosis—lumbar strain from my horseback ride, stargazing-induced neck crick, tennis elbow, cuticles gone wild—I checked myself into the Spa at Rough Creek. A hot stone massage, it turns out, can cure a variety of ailments. So can the Texas Tea Wrap, the Honey Dew Body Scrub, and the Margarita Pedicure (best enjoyed while sipping the drink). Even though this sybaritic sanctuary smells as flowery as a sorority house, men are lured in by the Hunter’s Massage (with special attention paid to your gun-toting shoulder), hot towel facial, and hand and foot grooming (manly parlance for a mani-pedi).
Given how far-flung Rough Creek is, I was girding myself for mess-hall fare when I headed to dinner. Instead, I feasted on sophisticated dishes that echoed the rustic elegance of the high-ceilinged dining room: Grilled South Texas Antelope on a pillow of polenta, Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut with pesto-infused portobello mushrooms, Vanilla-Bean Banana Pudding drizzled with a ginger-caramel sauce. Even more impressive is that chef Gerard Thompson, who was hired away from a hoity-toity Santa Barbara resort, is largely at the mercy of FedEx. Ingredients that aren’t sourced locally or grown in his modest garden have to be flown in daily. Both the lavish breakfast spread and a three-course dinner are included in the nightly rate, but brace yourself for the 21 percent gratuity tacked onto every meal and adult beverage.
You’ll be perfectly content to stay put within Rough Creek’s confines, but consider taking a day trip to nearby Glen Rose, where you can go tubing on the Brazos River or take a self-guided safari at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. If you’ve secretly had it with nature and are going through acquisition withdrawal, hightail it to Granbury’s historic square to stroll through antiques stores, knickknack-y gift shops, and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. (Uninterested parties can abscond to one of the town’s seven golf courses.) On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, you can catch a first-run movie at the Brazos Drive-in, a throwback that’s been open since 1952.
WHAT TO BRING BACK
Ask for an extra loaf of the cheddar-jalapeño bread, made from scratch at the lodge every morning.
Rough Creek Directory
1800 W. Pearl, in Granbury;
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
2299 County Road 2008, near Glen Rose;
Along Houston, Pearl, Bridge, and Crockett streets, in Granbury;
Rough Creek Lodge and Resort
5165 County Road 2013, near Glen Rose;
Rates start at $270 a night.