Zachary Kirkwood pioneered his way to California from Ohio in 1860 and homesteaded three 160 acre parcels for his summer cattle ranching operations. Opened in 1864, the Kirkwood Inn, then called the Kirkwood Station, served as his headquarters and soon became a hostelry, post office, stage depot and today remains one of the best watering holes and eatery in the High Sierra. Built at the intersection of three county lines, Amador, Alpine and El Dorado, it served the Washoe Indians, cattle ranchers and others traveling along the route now known as State Highway 88. Rumor has it that during Prohibition, the bar was on wheels so it could be rolled across the county lines and out of the jurisdiction of the visiting sheriff. And the slot machines were hidden in the kitchen.
The Inn has preserved its rustic charm over the years, both inside and out with the painted wood sign, solid mahogany bar, dim lighting stone fireplace, timber furniture and turn-of-the-century log cabin design.
A hundred years later Bud Klein, Kirkwood Mountain Resort founder, brought his associates to share his vision for the Kirkwood valley as a family ski resort. Arriving during the winter of 1968 aboard a snow-cat in order to conduct a field snow survey, the group planned to stay at the Kirkwood Inn, but first they had to find it. The Inn was buried under the abundant snowfall for which Kirkwood is well known. The survey team used poles to probe down into the snow to find the top of the Inn. Eventually they found the chimney thereby locating the structure and dug their way in and lived in the igloo-like building for eight days.
Visitors to the Kirkwood Inn today sense its history as they enter through the undersized doorway to experience the down-home atmosphere. It is located on Scenic Highway 88 just over 65 miles east from Jackson or 15 miles west of the junction of Highway 89 and 88 in Hope Valley. The Inn features Western cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily complete with a full service bar.