“Nestled between the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater, HCML is at once both celestial and earthy, and the designs honor both.”
Inspired by Flagstaff’s natural beauty, four seasons and mountain charm, High Country Motor Lodge (HCML) has created a boutique hotel complete with a Nordic Spa Experience.
Phoenix-based Classic Hotels & Resorts acquired the property in January 2020 and has undertaken a $13 million renovation project to transform the former Days Inn into a stylish northland retreat.
“Our Plunge Pool is part of the Nordic Spa experience,” said HCML General Manager Tara Lehr. “Hydrotherapy, the process of going from a hot environment and plunging into a cold pool has great health benefits. It oxygenates the blood, bringing it to the surface, and when you plunge into the cold pool, it pushes all that new oxygenated blood into the organs to help revitalize and recalibrate the body.”
At 80,000 gallons, Lehr believes that the HCML Plunge Pool is the largest in Northern Arizona and says it is open year-round. Included in the Nordic Spa Experience are two saunas and an oversized hot tub.
The 123-room hotel offers three private cottage suites, two junior suites, almost 4,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, a restaurant called The General Store and an indoor/outdoor bar. The game room has a pool table and a collection of board games.
“The idea behind The General Store is to offer provisions and food that is healthy, such as our house-made oats with fresh berries, locally-sourced granola, breakfast items and healthy refreshments such as adaptogenic drinks that help to elevate and relax,” said Lehr.
Beer and wine are also offered at The General Store. “We feel that Flagstaff is a beer-centric community and we want to support local breweries, so selections on our tap are really important,” said Lehr. “Our Pinsa is a Roman artisan-style hand-pressed pizza, called Elevated Pizza. The dough is flown in from Rome. There are no GMOs and a lot of our gluten-free / gluten-sensitive guests have been able to enjoy it.”
All produce is sourced locally.
The General Store also sells outdoor gear, hats, shirts, sweatshirts, soaps and their signature coffee, Copper Cow, a Vietnamese pour-over coffee that is also offered as a room amenity.
Partnering with Lehr, Assistant General Manager Andrew Tyler joined the HCML team in January. “I graduated from NAU eight years ago and was looking for an excuse to move back, as I love Northern Arizona. This project is amazing. It’s a communal space where people can come and have a fun adventure, relax and recalibrate. I like Tara’s description of our property: ‘Rugged Luxury.’”
Catering to locals as well as visitors is important to management. “We are implementing a Mug Club, which will be for our local ambassadors,” said Lehr. “Each guest will have their own mug that will be assigned and numbered so when they visit us they will be able to enjoy discounts on their food and beverages.” Seventy mugs are offered, and there is a waiting list.
“I recently met with friends for a drink in the cocktail lounge at High Country Motor Lodge and we were oohing and ahhing over the unique space they created,” said International Minute Press owner and Greater Flagstaff Chamber Ambassador Traci Hansen. “It has this really cool blend of vintage and modern that is unlike anywhere else in town. They’ve put a lot of attention into the details that make it feel rich and inviting and I can see it becoming a popular gathering place for locals and visitors.”
The outdoor patio and dining area includes fire pits adjacent to the lawn area, where activities like movie nights, lawn games and heavenly views take place.
The team responsible for HCML includes San Francisco-based Adean Studios, local architect firm Synectic Design and Charleston, South Carolina-based Stitch Design Co. (SDCO) Partners that crafted the hotel’s branding and played an important role in the property’s vision and programming.
“The brand development for HCML was born of the awe-inspiring beauty of the high country desert of Flagstaff and the irreverent spirit of restless ramblers everywhere,” said Stitch Design Co. Creative Director and Founding Partner Amy Pastre. “Nestled between the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater, HCML is at once both celestial and earthy, and the designs honor both.”
“One of our pillars for the hotel is the Cosmos, and we are working closely with Lowell Observatory to possibly have star parties here where we can educate our guests about the importance of the dark sky ordinances in Flagstaff as well as education for our guests about the planets and the galaxies,” said Lehr.
Phoenix couple Kevin Peterson and his fiancée, Patty Lu, stayed at HCML for the first time and were impressed. “There isn’t anything else like this in Flagstaff,” said Lu. “It is so well thought-out and so well-designed; it really is a great addition to the area. The pizza is really good, too.”
Classic Hotels & Resort is a family-owned hospitality and management company based in Phoenix. Founded by Sam and Peggy Grossman, other properties include The Scott Resort & Spa, Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, Laguna Beach House, The Inn at Laguna Beach, La Playa Carmel, Hotel Carmel, and a recent acquisition, El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley . FBN
By V. Ronnie Tierney, FBN
High Country Motor Lodge is located at 1000 W. Route 66. For more information, call 928-774-5221.