Trail's End at Disney's Fort Wilderness: Walt Disney World Dining Review

by Carolyn Brooke, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 10-27-2011

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Dining

Our last visit to Walt Disney World (from the UK) was in May 2010. After many years of visits to the World, we realised we had only ever eaten in Counter Service restaurants, and so decided to take the plunge and try the Trails End Buffet this time, having read many good reports about it! We were not on the Dining Plan, so this would be paid for out of pocket.

Fort Wilderness - Trails End Restaurant Food photo
Fort Wilderness - Trails End Restaurant Food

Breakfast buffet food at Trails End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness.

Charlie and I arrived at Pop Century, our ‘home’ for the next week, quite late in the afternoon on Thursday, May 13, 2010, checked in, unpacked, grabbed a couple of refillable mugs, and headed on out to find Trails End.

Following the direction signs, we drove to Fort Wilderness Campground, as we had a reservation at 7:30 p.m. As this was to be our very first meal in a Disney restaurant other than a fast food place, we were really looking forward to this. I had made a reservation there 180 days previously with the on-line reservation service, which had proved very easy to use.

On arrival at the Campground, we parked the car and waited for a shuttle bus to take us to the far end, where the restaurant is located. One came along within five minutes, and we really enjoyed the next part of the journey, agreeing that it looks like a lovely place to camp. When we got off the bus, we still had a little while before our reservation time, so we had a wander around a couple of kiosks and looked at the pins etc., before checking in at the podium. We were given our very first pager, which we spent a few minutes admiring, before going to sit on some rocking chairs on the porch. We were loving this!

We only had about a 10 minute wait before the pager went off in a display of sparkly flashing lights, and we were shown indoors to our table. First impressions were very positive, we liked the look of this place a lot! We sat for a few minutes before our server came over to us. She did seem somewhat terse with us, but we took no notice and ordered two adult buffets and two glasses of Sprite. She told us to help ourselves from the buffet, and while we were gone she left us glasses of iced water. We went up to the buffet – and I must say we were really impressed by the choice and quality of the food here. It was lovely! I had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, macaroni cheese and gravy to start with. Charlie got more or less the same as me, but also tried some other vegetables as well. We got back to the table and began our meal. Eventually, after a few minutes, the server finally turned up with the glasses of Sprite. We did think that she was maybe not feeling the Disney love, but we didn’t think much of this as we were not relying on her to bring our food to us, as we were serving ourselves anyway.

The food was super-yummy, and we quickly went back for seconds! Having polished off the second plate, we then hit desserts – soft serve ice cream with a sprinkling of Reece’s Pieces for me, and a plate of brownies and mini pastries for Charlie. The whole thing was really lovely, and we would definitely go there again, feeling it was really good value for money.

The only slight downside to this visit was our server – she had virtually ignored us all evening, and then as we were finishing desert, she attempted to whisk our plates away before we were completely finished. This is something Charlie hates, and it immediately put him on edge. Then she took away his glass of iced water without saying a word to him! We stared after her in disbelief, before he muttered something to me about ‘how rude’. She returned a minute or so later and slammed a fresh glass on the table by him, saying “I thought you were done with the water!” before turning and leaving again! She then brought the bill, and had the nerve to tell us that the gratuity wasn’t included on it. No, and it never was either, as we left the exact money and declined her invitation to leave her a tip! I have never done that before, but just felt that she was definitely lacking in basic manners, never mind Disney magic.

Anyway, we decided not to let this upset us or ruin our visit, so we left the restaurant, and went back to one of the kiosks to get a Fort Wilderness pin for Charlie, before walking slowly down towards the beach area. We stopped for a quick look around a trading post type shop that we found, before a slow walk along the beach towards some loungers with very few people on them. We sat down on a couple of loungers and had a nap for half an hour! It was lovely, so relaxing. The temperature had dropped a little and we were comfortable without being cold. There were a few kids racing about on the beach, but nothing that kept us awake!

At 9:45 the Electrical Water Pageant came past us, which was really sweet. Then, at 10:00 p.m., the Wishes fireworks show began at the Magic Kingdom, and the music and narration was piped in to our beach via hidden speakers. I had known that this would happen, and had planned it as our ‘something new to do at Disney’ for this trip. This was so romantic, and a lovely fitting end to our first day at Walt Disney World.

Afterwards, we walked back to the bus stop, and caught a bus to the car park, before driving back to Pop Century. We stopped off at the food court to pick up coffee and hot chocolate in our mugs, then went back to our room to fall exhaustedly into bed at around midnight!

Our overall impression of this restaurant was VERY favourable, and we enjoyed it very much. So much so that we have booked another two visits there when we return to Walt Disney World for two weeks in November this year, (free Dining Plan for the first time!), and recommended it so highly to my family that they went there for the first time in September – I think they liked it!

Fort Wilderness - Trails End Restaurant Exterior photo
Fort Wilderness - Trails End Restaurant Exterior

Entry to the Trails End Restaurant at Settlement Outpost. It is next door to Pioneer Hall.

About the Author:
Carolyn lives in the UK, first fell in love with Walt Disney World in 1989, and has visited 10 times since then, as well as 6 visits to Disneyland Paris. Her dream is to live in a fairytale castle with her handsome prince; failing that, regular visits to any Disney park anywhere in the world will do!

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Reader Comments:

Our family has dined at Trails End for several years. We love it there! I agree with the review concerning the food and how wonderful it is. As for the server, I am so sorry that there was bad service. We have been dining at Trails End with Donnell as our server and make it a point to visit him with each visit. Donnell exemplifies Disney spirit. We have written letters to Disney to boast about him. We send his family Christmas cards every year. We call ahead to make certain he is there. When you plan to dine at Trails End, make it a point to request Donnell. You will love him as we do and he will make your experience quite magical smiley for :)

     disneyac on October 28, 2011 @ 7:33 am
Hello! I'm so glad you didn't let the poor service you rec'd at Trails End spoil your meal! You did the right thing, in my opinion, by refusing to leave a tip. We've eaten there twice now, and thankfully, our server each time was fine. But if we had rec'd the same service you did, we'd have not left a tip either...and, sad to say, my husband would possibly have let it spoil his whole meal. I agree that the food is very good there and am glad you've decided to give it another go on your next visit. I hope you will have a completely positive experience full of pixie dust type magic! smiley for :)

     BunnysGran on October 28, 2011 @ 10:22 am
I loved the review just as much as I have enjoyed the food at this venue which is one of the least expense boofays on property.

What was especially nice was that Carolyn did not let the server's attitudfe detract from her enjoying the food at Trail's End or the romantic interlude at the beach!

Perhaps this particular waitress would do better at The Whispering Cnayon.

     goofy1313 on October 28, 2011 @ 10:52 am
Sounds like your waitress previously worked at Whispering Canyon Cafe where they are encouraged to be rude (in a playful way of course).

     dusten on October 28, 2011 @ 11:44 am
This sounds like a very odd situation. smiley for :eek: Do Disney servers make more than other servers who work for tips? I'd have to say a server would have to do more than that for me to stiff them of the pay for their job altogether, although I certainly would have left significantly less than their recommended 18% as it is understood and even expected that higher tips are for better service, and lower tips for service that needs improvement.

     fromscratchmom on October 28, 2011 @ 1:06 pm
This has always been one of the hidden gems of WDW, and one of my favorite restaurants.

I have found the cast members here can occassionally be hit or miss. We've had a few that seemed a bit inexperienced or simply looking to run through the motions and get us out of there.

However, I've also had some really awesome servers here. At one point, we were making it a point to request Bob as our server. It's been a few years now, so not certain he's even still there, but he was always a really fun guy. We went in with about 10 people once and I told him I wanted my drink in a large glass because I was really thirsty. Instead of bringing us the normal beverage glasses and a few pitchers of soda to share, he brought us each a pitcher of our selection and told us he brought us the large glasses to enjoy (no other glasses). So, there we were, all drinking straight from our pitchers as if they were large mugs. Lots of fun and laughter was had that night.

Their breakfast was always a treat also.

     Crissup on October 28, 2011 @ 6:19 pm
On average, for the total number of castmembers at DW, the amount of CM's that are like that are relatively few. But it seems they mostly tend to be the one's working as servers in the restaurants.
However...this type of behavior is inexcusable and I would've done the same as you did (no tip.)
In addition I would have definitely shared my experience with the manager!
How else will they learn?

     Johnny Tremaine on October 29, 2011 @ 10:05 am
We have eaten at Trail's End twice and enjoyed our meals there both times!
It is a great buffet for a great price! smiley for :waytogo:

     Luvsun on October 29, 2011 @ 4:30 pm
Is it the same fried chicken they serve at the HDDR? Because that chicken is soooo GOOD! :facelick:

     ilovedisney0_0 on October 30, 2011 @ 12:53 am
Yes's the same chicken.
The food at Trail's End and HDDR come from the same centrally located kitchen.

     Johnny Tremaine on October 31, 2011 @ 2:40 pm
We also love Trail's End... it is a real hidden gem. So sorry for your server's attitude. I hope that she was just feeling unwell, but totally unacceptable behavior! Mentioning it to the manager is not a bad idea either...

I have appreciated FANTASTIC service there...we travel with two special needs boys (now young men) and our servers have always been extremely accommodating.

Our favorite way to get to Trail's End is a longer way, but just lovely. We get to the Contemporary and take the launch from there to Fort Wilderness and back again. One favorite memory is being on the beach watching the sunset. So romantic and some awesome pictures! That was our 25th anniversary kids smiley for :)

We will be back in December and I look forward to a meal there once again. YUM!

     DebbieV76 on October 31, 2011 @ 5:24 pm
We love FW and Trail's End! We actually made a last minute ressie there during our stay at FW after we had dropped in to pick up a pizza and saw all the great family-style choices available there. We arrived a bit early and kiddo was really entertained by the horseshoe game out front. We had a really nice server, and the buffet offered hot and plentiful food. We noticed staff frequently checked on the buffet, quickly wiping up any spillage and replenishing stock. DM and I noticed server taking tray of food from kitchen into the side door to the HDR. We all enjoyed theice cream sundae bar, and the fact that we were already back at our resort with warm, full bellies after a great day in the parks. The only downside was table of loud guests next to us who insisted on talking on speakerphone on their cell phone, but the experience at TE still is one of our faves from our trip. We would gladly eat there again!

     mouseketeer1 on November 1, 2011 @ 8:41 pm
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Updated 10-27-2011 - Article #743 

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