Trail’s End: The Hidden Gem of Disney Dining

First you have to catch a shuttle to the Fort Wilderness Resort.  Then you have to catch a second shuttle to the back of the resort. Then you have to walk a few hundred yards, where you can finally catch the sweet smell of success at the end of your journey.

The Trail’s End restaurant is not the easiest place to get to, but it’s well worth the long trip to get there. Located at the very back of the Fort Wilderness Resort and tucked behind the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, Trail’s End looks like just another building around the campgrounds.  It’s not until you see the small sign, partially hidden by the fall of Spanish moss, that you realize what you’ve found. And trust me, what you’ve found is a true treasure.

Trail’s End is an all-you-can-eat American buffet that few people seem to know about.  It’s open five days a week for breakfast and dinner and for brunch and dinner on the weekends, with a wide variety of food guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters.

And I can say that from personal experience.

Although I’ve only eaten during breakfast and brunch, I’ve never had any trouble finding enough to fill a few plates.

This was my first plate of three or four.  It’s not my fault they make Mickey’s face so delicious.

The buffet includes a variety of sweeter fare: blueberry muffins, apple crumble, walnut praline sweet rolls, and, of course, Mickey waffles. The latter has a number of options for toppings as well, including normal syrup, pecan praline syrup, and a Bananas Foster syrup, all of which look delicious.

Moving onto the next section, dishes include oatmeal, grits-with cheese the last time I went-yogurt, parfaits, and a selection of fruits; the fruits include fresh strawberries, oranges, and grapefruits, which are particularly nice if you’re coming from somewhere where fresh citrus isn’t available.

And then you get to the meatier fare.  The buffet offers a number of meats-bacon, sausage, beef hash-scrambled eggs, eggs Benedict, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy. Everything is replaced quickly (mostly because it empties quickly), so you’re getting everything while it’s still hot, filling you up for a day at the parks.

This year, I went to Trail’s End during Sunday brunch, so on top of all the aforementioned fare, the buffet also included fried chicken, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, various vegetables, chili, and ham sliced and served right in front of you. So whether you’re feeling traditional breakfast or some chicken and grits, you can walk away happy.

The only complaint I could see people having about the Trail’s End restaurant, aside from the location, is the price. Disney classifies Trail’s End as a second-tier restaurant in terms of pricing, costing between $15 and $34.99 per person. My brunch earlier this week, for example, was $23.  As far as Disney food prices go, though, any full meal around $20 is actually pretty cheap, and when you consider how much food you’re getting for your money, it’s even cheaper.

That price also includes a drink, which would cost you anywhere from $3 to $5 in the parks, so it’s an even better deal. As far as drinks go, the list includes soft drinks, juices, milk, coffee, and both iced and hot teas; the restaurant carries Twinings tea, which is one of the best brands for a cuppa in my opinion, and they have a wide variety of flavors. I suggest the Earl Grey.

My tea opinions aside, the price at Trail’s End may seem high, but when compared to other breakfast offerings in the parks or at the resorts, it’s actually a great deal. You’re getting an all-you-can-eat buffet, remember, so you can easily eat enough to justify the price.

The other thing I love about Trail’s End is the atmosphere.  The restaurant fits in perfectly at the campgrounds; that is to say, the building has a rustic look, the decor is country-themed, and the music is old frontier type songs that you’ll likely remember from your childhood summer camp.  There’s a general feeling of friendliness and camaraderie that buoys the spirit and makes one long for wide open spaces and good food cooked over a campfire.

Yes, I was creepily taking pictures of people eating in the midst of trying to get shots of the restaurant.  Pay attention to your food, people, not me!

Lucky for you, Trail’s End offers just that sort of food and then some, guaranteeing that you won’t walk away hungry. Although it may take some time to find your way there, that just gives you more time to build up an appetite and to take in the natural beauty of the Fort Wilderness campgrounds.  Trail’s End is a top-level restaurant hidden away at this resort, and although you can make reservations, so few people know about it that you can simply arrive and be seated likely within fifteen minutes. Some may be wary of the price, but trust me, you get what you pay for, and the buffet has such a wide range of sweets, meats, and hearty treats that you’ll eat enough to feel the price is justified. Add in the down-home atmosphere and the friendly staff, and you’re in for a dining experience you won’t forget.

So the next time you’re visiting Walt Disney World, take a trip out past the parks to Trail’s End. Your stomach will thank you.

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