Great National Park Lodges
You pull yourself out of bed, bring your coffee to the front porch, and there—right in front of you—is the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon.
That’s the appeal of staying at El Tovar, which has graced the rim of the canyon since 1905. But it’s hardly alone; you’ll find great national park lodges all over the U.S. and Canada. And staying at one doesn’t mean camping and freeze-dried dinners. The best lodges offer gourmet food, personalized service, and rustic yet often elegant interiors.
Many are landmarks dating back to the park system’s early days. In 1903, officials at the Northern Pacific Railroad were inspired to create a lodge with local logs and stone. The result, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, has a towering lobby that became a model for national park architecture. For something a bit more modern, try the 23 renovated suites and heated outdoor pool at Alta Crystal Resort by Mount Rainier, WA.
You might even encounter a celebrity or prime minister during your stay. (The El Tovar staff once had to hush Paul McCartney because a guest complained about his piano playing.) But that doesn’t mean the prices are out of reach. Double rooms start at about $207 at El Tovar and $180 at Oregon's Crater Lake Lodge.
Find out how the right lodge will improve your next national park visit.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite National Park, CA
Art Deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Arts and Crafts influences all contributed to this 1927 landmark’s design. More recently, a renovation drew upon Yosemite’s historical archives to determine appropriate textiles and colors, giving an English country-house look to the interiors—rich tapestries, stained glass, and hand-stenciled beams. The most elaborate rooms feature balconies and views of Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, or Half Dome. After a day in the great outdoors, take your complimentary afternoon tea on the patio overlooking Glacier Point.
Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, MT
Evening glacier tours are, naturally, one of the popular activities during a stay here. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, the hotel feels like a Swiss chalet, with windows opening to Swiftcurrent Lake and a dramatic lobby with tree trunks as the support poles. Opt for a suite with lake view and balcony, or a refurbished lakeside room. Then go outside and fly-fish in a setting that will soothe your soul, or take the ferry across the lake and hike to Grinnell Glacier. The century-old landmark has almost completed a 15-year rehabilitation that includes upgrades to its lobby and nearly half of its 215 rooms.
Glacier Bay’s Bear Track Inn, Glacier Bay National Park, AK
Yes, you really can see black bears and moose from your bedroom at this gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. Guests praise the personal service—look for appetizers and homemade cookies each afternoon—and innkeepers can help arrange excursions from watching humpback whales to taking a dogsled ride. Ice climbing, fresh- and salt-water fishing, guided kayak trips, and visits to Admiralty Island to view brown bears are also popular. On your return, sink into the suede sofas and warm yourself by the lobby fireplace.
Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA
If an island with wild horses doesn’t sound romantic enough, consider that secluded 16-room Greyfield—the only inn on the island—was the choice of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette for their 1996 wedding party. The former home is exuberantly southern, with a sprawling front porch, extensive gardens, and homegrown collards and kale on its locally sourced menu. The all-inclusive price includes everything you need to have a good time: three daily meals, bikes, kayaks, fishing equipment, beach gear, and excursions with a naturalist to spot birds and wildlife. Sun yourself on 18 miles of wide beaches, or stroll through the exotic terrain of a maritime forest.
Crater Lake Lodge, Crater Lake National Park, OR
Oregon may not bring to mind images of volcanoes, but the state has an explosive past. Crater Lake Lodge is positioned right at the end of a caldera (or huge crater) formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano. The upheaval produced lava walls stretching 2,000 feet high and the nation’s deepest lake, an exquisitely clear, jewel-toned blue. You can learn about the park’s geology on boat tours that run from late June to mid-August. At the lodge, ask for a lakeside guest room for the best views.
Alta Crystal Resort, Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Alta Crystal Resort lies just outside the northeast entrance to the park, giving it the closest proximity to Sunrise, the area’s highest point. Each of Alta Crystal’s 23 renovated suites has a fireplace and a small but fully equipped kitchen. An arched log entry and handmade doors enhance the appeal of the two-story honeymoon cabin. The pool and hot tub stay heated year round, and you can join the resort’s bonfires, barbecues, and other nightly events in July and August (on weekends in other months).
Zion Lodge, Zion National Park, UT
This is the only lodging option that puts you inside Zion National Park. Western-style 1920s cabins combine fir flooring and oak-and-wicker dressers with modern amenities like 300-count cotton sheets. Another 81 guest rooms and suites include private porches or balconies. A 100-foot-high cottonwood tree marks the front lawn, which has a great vantage point for stargazing. The lodge does its part to be a good park tenant. Cabin rooms include an on-demand water heater and LED lighting, and suites have filtered drinking water faucets (no water bottles are sold on site). A redesign of the restaurant's walk-in coolers is saving a million gallons of water a year.
El Tovar, Grand Canyon, AZ
Built on the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1905, El Tovar was once so far from civilization that fresh water had to be delivered by train. It’s since become one of our greatest national park treasures, with plenty of civilized touches, including suites with sitting rooms. Bring your morning coffee out to the front porch or lounge deck and gaze at the play of light on the canyon. Then head back inside for a hearty breakfast of Sonoran Eggs, with beans, chorizo, an array of salsas, and fry bread.
Jenny Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, WY
Authentic log walls, handmade quilts, and down comforters make nights cozy in the cabins here at the base of the Tetons. The inclusive room rates cover breakfast and a five-course dinner daily, plus horseback rides, bike rentals, and the joy of having a front porch in one of the nation’s most photographed mountain ranges. As part of a new sustainability effort, rooms have high-efficiency lighting and recycled carpet.
Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
Closed for several years, Volcano House reopened in 2013 following a $7 million renovation that preserved the character of architect Charles Dickey’s original 1941 design. Talk about a view: some rooms overlook Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, while others face native Hawaiian rainforest of ohia lehua and koa trees, accented by tall hapuu tree ferns. Watching the crimson-feathered apapane fly from branch to branch while Halema’uma’u Crater erupts about two miles away is an otherworldly sensation. Even the fireplace in the hotel’s Grand Lounge is made of lava rock.
Furnace Creek Resort, Death Valley National Park, CA
The luxurious Inn at Furnace Creek rises like a mirage from the red rock of the valley, offering Moorish-influenced stonework, gardens of date and fan palms, spring-fed swimming pools, and an elaborate Sunday brunch. A mile away at the Ranch at Furnace Creek, you can golf at the lowest course in the world—214 feet below sea level—or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through desert and mountain scenery. To explore the most remote areas of Death Valley, rent a Jeep four-wheel drive from a vendor across the street from the inn.
The Inn at Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga National Park, OH
George and Katie Hoy have lovingly tended to this bed-and-breakfast for more than 25 years. It has all the antiques, floral patterns, and fresh meals that you’d expect—with eggs from the inn’s own hens and ingredients from the gardens—plus an enviable position overlooking 67-foot Brandywine Waterfall. The suite is in a former barn, though it’s hard to imagine hay where now appear wide plank floors, a sleeping loft with king-size bed, and a Jacuzzi for two. Guests appreciate the birding, bicycling, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
In winter, guests can strap on cross-country skis and head out for the day right from the Chateau, which is best known for its magnificent lakefront location, surrounded by snowcapped peaks and tall firs. Summer brings pleasures like hikes, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and rides on the sightseeing gondola. Members of the Rolling Stones and the British royal family have been among the guests at this upscale 550-room resort, and the movie Doctor Zhivago was filmed here—along with an episode of the reality TV show The Bachelor.
Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, WY
One of the world’s most famous geysers is your next-door neighbor when you stay at this historic log-and-stone inn that has hosted six presidents and all Three Stooges. The lobby is appropriately elegant, with a massive stone fireplace and handcrafted clock of copper, wood, and wrought iron. The absence of TV, radio, and Internet access in the suites encourages folks to get outside, whether to explore trails and boardwalks, bike to the Morning Glory pool, or hike to backcountry geysers.
McKinley Chalet Resort, Denali National Park, AK
In 1913, a team of four explorers was the first to reach the summit of Mount McKinley, also called Denali, an Alaskan Native name meaning “The Great One.” This resort, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of that feat recently, is located on the banks of the Nenana River and is a fine starting point for your own adventures, including river rafting trips, wildlife tours, flightseeing, backcountry dining, and more.
Waterton Glacier Suites, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
The prairie, the Canadian Rockies, and Waterton Lakes National Park are all at your doorstep when you stay at this all-suite property. Guest rooms are decorated with works by Canadian artists and feature locally crafted furniture. Try to time your visit to September, when prices drop to off-season rates, the crowds thin, and the wildlife—deer, bighorn sheep, bear, elk, moose, even a cougar or two if you’re lucky—is easier to find. And don’t leave without sampling afternoon tea at the nearby Prince of Wales Hotel on a bluff overlooking the lake.
The Chateau, Oregon Caves National Monument, OR
The charming six-story Chateau looks much the same as it did at its 1934 debut. It still has a fantastic setting adjacent to the main entrance of the cave and within old-growth forest atop the Siskiyou Mountains. After hours, walk monument trails, and you’ll feel you have the world to yourself. You can play board games under the lobby’s massive beams and sample local bison, wines, and microbrews in the dining room, where, nearly 80 years ago, the kid’s toy View-Master was invented.
Rush Creek Lodge, Yosemite National Park, CA
When the 143-room Rush Creek Lodge opened on a 20-acre wooded tract about a mile from Yosemite’s northwestern entrance in the summer of 2016, it became the first new resort in the region in more than 25 years.
Canyon Lodge & Cabins, Yellowstone National Park, WY
After a $70 million overhaul, Canyon Lodge & Cabins, the largest lodging area in Yellowstone, has opened five eco-friendly buildings with a total of 409 rooms. Visitors will be only a half-mile away from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its postcard-perfect Lower Falls.