Trail’s End Dinner Buffet Review
Trail’s End Dinner buffet is, bar none, one of the best dining values in all of Walt Disney World. Located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, it’s a great spot for all-you-can-eat comfort food. This WDW dining review features photos and thoughts about dinner at Trail’s End so you can decide whether it’s right for your vacation.
Trail’s End is the kind of joint where Chuck Norris and Sarah Connor arm wrestle as the “World’s Most Interesting Man” lies on the floor passed out from moonshine (his drink of choice now that he realized Dos Equis sucks) while Cool Hand Luke and Conan the Barbarian snap selfies with that glorious restroom mural. Trail’s End doesn’t need a ‘secret’ S.E.A. room because The League of Extraordinary Badasses who patronize Trail’s End are egalitarians who dine among the people.
Before we get to why Trail’s End is a Walt Disney World institution, let’s dispense with basic formalities concerning the basics of dinner at Trail’s End. The dinner buffet menu at Trail’s End features a robust selection country favorites at a relatively affordable price. Trail’s End participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. Due to the low cost, we view this as a better option for paying out of pocket, rather than for those trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. Now, here’s what you need to know to determine whether you want to break bread with these legendary badasses…
Like so much of Fort Wilderness, Trail’s End is an under-appreciated gem, overlooked by so many due to its remoteness that almost makes it feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. In reality, Fort Wilderness is actually in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, and pretty easy to access from Magic Kingdom via boat.
Those who have discovered this hidden gem tend to hype it up like crazy (as we did a couple years ago with our Trail’s End Breakfast Review—for a “best of both worlds” experience, try the new brunch at Trail’s End). Fortunately, unlike Le Cellier, Trail’s End actually lives up to the hype as a great place for a carnivorous feast (nice try, Canada).
Not only does Trail’s End live up to its hype, but it provides an excellent excuse to make the trek out to Fort Wilderness, where you can enjoy an experience that’s truly unlike anything at Walt Disney World. Few things beat an evening stroll around this area (especially at Christmas), and all of this is a surprisingly simple boat ride away from Magic Kingdom…
In our prior review of Trail’s End, I covered the ambiance of the restaurant, so I won’t rehash that here, suffice to say that it’s a fun, sometimes head-scratching mix of decor that gives it a charming and authentic vibe. I don’t want to spoil all of the puzzling elements of the decor here, but there’s a reason certain pieces of decor have their own cult-following among Disney fans. (There’s no shame in snapping a selfie with that bizarre cowboy mural in the restroom.)
In a nutshell, Trail’s End is what it would be like to visit a bed & breakfast operated by Christopher Walken in Mobile, AL. In that sense, Trail’s End’s theming is going to be an acquired taste. I know this will come as a surprise to everyone with good taste, but not everyone likes Christopher Walken. Likewise, not everyone will like the style of Trail’s End. It contrasts with many other Disney restaurants in the sense that the theme is a bit rough around the edges, and has a “homey” feeling. For me, this is pitch perfect with the rest of Fort Wilderness.
As far as the food goes, Trail’s End is basically a paradise for carnivores. In our Yachtsman Steakhouse Review, I dubbed that restaurant “Disney’s Awesome Salute to Carnivores Restaurant (of Excellence).”
With steaks the size of your head, that’s most definitely true on the upper end of the dining spectrum. Trail’s End is the Joe Sixpack counterpart to Yacthsman, a place where those on a tighter budget can go for a feast so euphoric and grand that they might need to be pushed out in a wheelbarrow.
The plate above features the Trail’s End dinner “greatest hits,” from my perspective. The standouts here were, without question, the fried chicken and smoked pork ribs. I think I ate approximately 23 pounds of these over the course of the meal. There’s also a salmon dish that I found pretty good by buffet standards (with its own country-inspired preparation). Then there’s the mac & cheese, which includes goldfish crackers to give it an added crunch and flavor. This is surprisingly effective, and I was tempted to over-indulge on mac & cheese before realizing I must stay focused on the meats.
You’ll also find a hand-carved beef station and peel and eat shrimp, but I found neither to be all that impressive. Both fine, but not memorable. I’m not sure whether this buffet ever had prime rib, but I’ve found the carved beef stations at buffets across Walt Disney World generally to be underwhelming since they stopped serving prime rib.
Normally, I wouldn’t waste my time on this, but several friends indicated that the chili at Trail’s End is fantastic. I will concede that it was pretty good, but I wouldn’t rave about it. That probably comes down to personal preference, as I think the ‘taste ceiling’ on chili is fairly low.
Even the best chili doesn’t trump average ribs (and the ribs here are better than average). It’s worth testing out a small bowl to form your own conclusions, though.
Loyal readers, I swear to you that this is not my plate. Not a single meat on the plate? I think you know me better than that. Sarah reports that the salads at Trail’s End were pretty good (I tried the tomato mozzarella salad because cheese, and it was good), but I don’t know why you’d want to waste your time on salads and baked potatoes when unlimited fried chicken and pork ribs are there for the taking.
On the whole, Sarah liked the Trail’s End dinner buffet, but wasn’t as enamored with it as I am. It’s definitely a restaurant that appeals more to those who want hearty, gluttonous country-style eating than those concerned with healthy choices (of which the options are far fewer).
My first trip to the dessert line, I started with soft serve, as I’m a total sucker for that.
This was a fatal mistake, given that soft serve tastes the same everywhere at Walt Disney World, and other unique options awaited on the dessert line.
Consequently, I wasn’t able to try as many of the other dessert selections as I would’ve liked. (Twenty-three pounds of fried chicken and ribs, plus a soup bowl of ice cream’ll do that to ya!) You may notice that the official Disney menu only lists fruit cobbler in terms of desserts. This is inaccurate, as there are numerous pies, cakes, and other choices.
The standout from my perspective was the “Trail’s S’mores” cake, which was warm and decadent. Everything was good, but this was amazing. It made me wish I hadn’t filled up on ice cream. “Regret” and “ice cream” are typically mutually-exclusive; these new feelings were confusing to me.
Now, you may look at this review and think, “that’s it?” which is exactly the response I’d expect from just scrolling through the photos. It does look a bit underwhelming, and certainly not as glamorous as so many other restaurants at Walt Disney World. That’s probably a large part of why Trail’s End flies under the radar of many guests. The reality is that there are some truly standout, homestyle options on this buffet that more than justify that ~$39 price tag. It’s gone up a lot in price over the last few years, but it’s still the cheapest dinner buffet at Walt Disney World.
Although I love the ambiance, I understand that it won’t be for everyone, but even that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. You’re looking at an all-you-can-eat meal here that works out to be only a few dollars more than a drink-entree-dessert meal at most counter service restaurants. (That might say more about price-gouging at the CS restaurants than anything, but it also speaks to the value of Trail’s End.) All of this is to say that you really should give Trail’s End a chance if you have not already. I suspect a good many people will fall in love with the location and the charm of the restaurant, and even if the environment doesn’t win you over, the food and price certainly will.
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Do you agree that Trail’s End is a hidden gem of Disney dining? If so, which buffet choices are your favorites? Not a fan of Trail’s End? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I never knew that there is always a better option for you to choose depending on your budget. Last evening, my aunt told us that she was planning to try a dinner buffet for her birthday next week, and she asked if I had any idea what could be the best option for us to enjoy the celebration. Thanks to this informative article, I’ll be sure to tell her that we can try the modern restaurant that I know as they have good reviews.
The dinner buffet at Trails End has not returned. We were there last weekend. It’s family style. But the food they bring you does not in any way compare to the buffet selection. And 3 parfait s for 4 people was the desert. Sorry. Price up selection down. Food just not what it once was. Hopefully the Buffet will return along with the dinner theater. Until then I will spend my money other places.
My family has eaten there many times. The best food at Disney . Would like to go again but just worried about going to a Buffet during Covid. Are you taking any precautions like serving people as they go through the line or is it still self serve at this point
I have read your blog its awesome
We live here in central Florida and whenever we get visitors from up north we take them to one of the Disney buffets and I have to agree with you, trails end is the best value for the product. It is now up to 35.00 a person but still so very well worth it and I personally love the salmon. Also the chef will be happy to make vegetarian dishes and personally deliver them to your table.
23 pounds of food is a bit much for dinner or any other meal that’s just plain gluttony
I think he was just kidding!
Ok you talked me into it. Do you know if they do anything special on Christmas Day
I don’t believe that they do, but I’m not totally sure. Sorry!
Thanks…didn’t even know this place EXISTED! I was looking into some interesting new places to try when we visit in January (and we are staying a full 2 weeks this time so we can be adventurous)…sounds like this is well worth an evening..
Alright Bricker, based on your recommendations we’re booking a few days to camp at Camp Wilderness and we’ll try Trails End. We normally just drive in and out the same day, but the campground seems so unique we have decided to give it a try. The buffet, well, anyone who steered us toward the Fried chicken at the Plaza in Disneyland can lead me anywhere. Keep up the good work
SOLD! Gonna go give it a try today.
… solid recommendation. The brisket was good (not great)… the ribs & chicken were delicious, sides were all on point… and desserts were awesome… excuse me while I nap now.
Our family always takes an afternoon to walk around Fort Wilderness during our past 3 trips to Disney World. We love it so much that we booked a 2 week trip this October! Renting a camper from a local place that will come and set it up for us. Trails End is definitely on the list for a breakfast and a dinner, and of course a visit to The Hoop de Doo Revue!
Great, great food and terrific character. Ft. Wilderness is a gem.
Ohmygosh, Tom. You were in rare form when you wrote this one. Informative AND hilarious. I’m tempted to book it now for our visit next week. Signed, A Loyal Reader. 🙂
While this is written from a self-confessed carnivores perspective, I have to point out that Trails End is one of the most vegan friendly buffets too! Google Chef TJ and his amazing multiple course concoctions. He’s a hero amongst the special diets at Disney crew.
Wow, I never would’ve guessed that. I don’t pay much attention to vegetarian/vegan options at restaurants, but it’s nice to hear that they’re a good option for vegans, as well. Thanks for sharing!
We loved our trip over to Trails End! I had also made a reservation for my 13 year old daughter for Archery Lessons and we visited the Tri Circle D Ranch to see the horses and my little one had a pony rude. We made an afternoon of it and plan to go back again next trip.
I’m sorry the pony was unfriendly with your little one.
My daughter & I ate here for the first time this April & we throughly enjoyed it. I especially liked the fried chicken. It was also the first time we went to Fort Wilderness. The boat ride from magic kingdom was great. We were so impressed with the whole area that we are making plans to stay in the cabins on our next visit. Next time – Hoop Dee Doo Revue!
Hoop Dee Doo is awesome! It is so, so fun. 🙂 We go almost every year!
Thank you for a great review of a hidden gem. We enjoyed our meal here during our November 2015 trip. A note for parents: if you have a picky child eater, they do not have to order the buffet-they can have the cheaper kid’s menu standard Disney offerings.