The 8 Most Beautiful Lodges in America's National Parks
When visiting the country’s most scenic destinations, stay in the country’s most scenic accommodations.
One hundred years ago, America's national park lodges were some of the country's finest architectural treasures — grand records of the moment when luxury and nature first met. They brought their lucky guests experiences they'd likely never had — and they still do just that.
These historic spots, host to a century of presidents and visionaries, still remain some of the national parks' best lodges, but now they share space with remote resorts and modern retreats, each vying to rest among the country's most scenic destinations. Should you wish to stay in any of the lodges below, one thing is for certain: Plan well in advance.
Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park
Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914, this Swiss chalet-style lodge was quickly nicknamed the "Gem of the West." The stunning four-story lobby will be your first taste of this historic inn, its 200-plus rooms unfurling along the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake, with countless balconies and terraces offering panoramic views of the "American Alps" just across the water.
Miles from the well-trafficked Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier Hotel is a remote alpine cathedral, an escape rivaling any in the Rockies. Trails — including to Grinnell Glacier — weave a maze around the lodge, kayaks and canoes are available for rent, and Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback riding, and ranger programs begin steps from the lodge's doors.
Denali Backcountry Lodge, Denali National Park
The 92-mile Denali Park Road — the only one into the park — snakes a wild route that ultimately ends at Denali Backcountry Lodge, deep in the Alaskan tundra. It's one of the most remote in-park lodges in the system, and just getting there is a memory in the making: Via shuttle, you'll head out on a six-hour wildlife tour that doubles as your transport to the secluded lodge.
Upon arriving, drop off your things at your private cabin — there are 42 in all — and then visit the check-in desk to sign up for the week's activities. On offer are guided hikes for all levels, bike rentals, botanical walks, and — in true Alaska fashion — fly-fishing and gold-panning. You'll want to be back at the main lodge in time for dinner — always fresh, local fare with a twist of backcountry comfort.
The Oasis at Death Valley, Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a land of contrasts — and so, too, is The Oasis at Death Valley, with juxtaposition built into its name. A verdant old-Hollywood getaway in the middle of the country's most unforgiving landscape, it combines 3.4 million acres of views alongside private casitas, swimming pools, golf courses, and Spanish mission-style restaurants.
A recent $100-million renovation has put both sites — The Inn at Death Valley and The Ranch at Death Valley — closer to their roots, when celebrities like Clark Gable hid away in one of 10 suites. But now, with 300-plus guest rooms and casitas, this once-elite getaway matches the size and grandeur of its extraordinary (and extraordinarily bizarre) surroundings.
Jenny Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park
While the views at nearby Jackson Lake Lodge — and its 60-foot windows — loom quite literally large, Jenny Lake Lodge relishes no competition when it comes to pine-washed serenity and semi-inclusive offerings.
Once a dude ranch, the 37-cabin eco-resort has mastered the tiniest touches — handwoven quilts, complimentary wine with a round of croquet — alongside Wild-West sophistication. Take a cruiser bike around the nearby lakes, hike the trails out your front door, or opt for a guided horseback ride before sitting down to dinner, a nightly affair with no fewer than five courses.
Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Balancing on the edge of the Kilauea caldera, Volcano House has the wildest, most incandescent view of any national park lodge. Trails lead right from the meditation room into the native ohi'a lehua and along the caldera's edge, to steaming vents and grand, cataclysmic views — Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes.
The lodge itself has 33 guest rooms, with a handful of cabins and campsites in the nearby Namakanipaio Campground. The main floor is nearly all windows, providing ample opportunity to sit with your morning coffee — or evening cocktail — and do little but take in the glow.
The Cabin on Coney Island, New River Gorge National Park
In the newly minted New River Gorge National Park, you can do the unthinkable: Rent your own private island. A two-minute paddle via kayak or canoe gets you to your seven-acre hiding spot, where you'll have access to your own sandy beaches and trails. Yours is the only cabin on the island, with room for up to 10 people — three bedrooms, one and a half baths — to tuck in at America's newest national park.
The New River Gorge has been a paddling destination since well before its lofty redesignation; for Coney Island guests, the cabin sits at the confluence of the New and Greenbrier rivers — the perfect spot to splash along one of the country's oldest waterways.
To book: airbnb.com
Ross Lake Resort, North Cascades National Park
Twelve individual cabins (and three bunkhouses) float on logs on Ross Lake's western banks. It'd be a serene escape in any park, but North Cascades' 30,000 annual visitors — compare that to Olympic National Park's 2.5 million — rarify this ultra-remote getaway. With no direct road access, visitors can either hike in or take the Diablo Lake Ferry.
There are no common areas — no dining rooms or restaurants — but the resort does offer plenty of ways to get on the water, in addition to one hard-to-come-by amenity: endless solitude.
To book: rosslakeresort.com
The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park
The Ahwahnee, a 121-room granite, steel, and timber masterpiece of "parkitecture" by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, rests on the floor of Yosemite Valley, with views onto Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point. Its list of guests — from Queen Elizabeth II to Ansel Adams to Barack Obama — is as majestic as the valley itself.
The Dining Room is just one example of why this lodge is befitting of queens and presidents: 130 feet long with 34-foot ceilings held up by towering rock columns, and a window framing the surrounding views. If the national parks are America's "best idea," lodges like The Ahwahnee remain timeless portals to that inspiration.