President John F. Kennedy once said: “National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the Earth as we know it today.”
Americans have treasured national parks for more than a century. And one of the best places to appreciate that “majesty of the earth” is in a park lodge.
If you thought that staying overnight in a national park meant roughing it, you might want to take a closer look at your options.
This is a true place to relax and unwind. Another national landmark, the Old Faithful Inn opened in 1904 and is considered the largest log structure in the world, with 327 rooms. When it opened, it proudly featured steam heat and electric lights. Facilities have been upgraded, but some things haven’t changed: no radios, TVs or air-conditioning in rooms.
Fire destroyed the original Zion Lodge in 1966. It was quickly rebuilt and a 1990 remodel restored its original rustic charm. Rooms are described as “modern but not fancy.” The lodge is conveniently located near Zion National Park hiking trails. As one satisfied customer on Yelp said: “There's something extra magical about waking up in the park.”
The Majestic Yosemite (aka the Ahwahnee Hotel) opened in 1927. It’s another gem from architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who designed park lodges and railroad depots across the West. The Majestic Yosemite is located in the center of Yosemite Valley, near Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. It’s also famous for its “Bracebridge Dinner” Christmas tradition, a festival held each year since the hotel opened.
Glacier Park Lodge is located just outside Glacier National Park. It was built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway and many visitors still arrive by train. As the hotel says: “Douglas Fir logs tower over the lobby, a fire crackles in the stone fireplace and guests gather to share stories of the day’s adventures.” And what adventures! The park covers more than 1 million acres, including more than 700 lakes, sections of two separate mountain ranges and more than 700 miles of trails for hiking. Enjoy!
This majestic hotel, right on the rim of the Grand Canyon, opened in 1905. El Tovar has 78 rooms and no two are alike. According to the hotel’s website, El Tovar was envisioned as a cross between a “Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa.” A National Historic Landmark, it is widely considered the crown jewel of Historic National Park Lodges.
What a view! Crater Lake Lodge is on the southwest rim of the Crater Lake caldera, overlooking the amazingly blue lake 1,000 feet. It was built in the 1915 and restored in the 1990s, but it’s still a bit more rustic than some other national park lodges. Many guest rooms have a tub but no shower.
Built as a home for a Carnegie heir and her husband in the early 1900s, Greyfield Inn is an all-inclusive experience. Room rates include three meals each day, access to bikes and kayaks, tours of the island, use of beach and fishing equipment and ferry transportation to the island off the Georgia coast. It’s also a storybook wedding destination; John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette held their wedding reception here.
Visitors to Jenny Lake Lodge don’t just get elegant accommodations in a beautiful setting. They can also get complimentary daily activities such as guided horseback rides, yoga classes, croquet and bocce. Visitors stay in free-standing cabins at this resort, which started as a dude ranch in the 1920s and is now an elite vacation spot.
Set in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this historic lodge has been recently restored, but has managed to keep both its roots and unbelievable views. The Volcano House is perched on the rim of Kīlauea caldera, overlooking the summit of Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Pull up a window-side seat in the Rim restaurant for a view of the active Halema‘uma‘u Crater and some seasonal Hawaiian dishes.
Located in the Denali Canyon right by the Nenana River, the lodge is only about two miles away from the magnificent Denali National Park. This is where wilderness meets modern amenities. There is a shuttle that will take you to the park where you can engage in adventures such as river rafting, ATV and flightseeing.
Travel back in time. Even though it was built in 1934, in a marble canyon, and has been renovated several times, the Chateau has kept its original charm. Explore the caves on a tour of the Oregon Caves led by a park ranger and hike through majestic old-growth forests on Oregon Caves National Monument's trail system. The lodge is open from May through September.
This is Crystal Mountain's only lodging with both a heated pool and hot tub. There is also a recreation lodge. All rooms have fireplaces, kitchens, and even satellite television. Although you won’t need it because there is much to do in his small resort tucked in the national forest. Bonus: The lodge also has several dog-friendly suites.
Built more than 100 years ago for outdoor adventurers and alpinists, Chateau Lake Louise is nestled among mountain peaks, the Victoria Glacier and a beautiful alpine lake, within the bounds of Banff National Park. The high-end resort continues to offer outdoor activities like guided hikes, cave tours and canoe rentals, while featuring premium services through their spa and fine Canadian dishes at Fairview.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort / Yelp
The rustic cabins surrounded by evergreen trees offer the perfect escape in Olympic National Park—the hot spring pools are an incredible bonus. Soak in the mineral water after a long day of exploring or book an appointment with the on-site massage therapists, staying at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a great way to end a day in the park.
Ross Lake Resort is a remote getaway like no other. The rustic cabins that make this resort stand out don’t just sit on the shoreline, they float on the lake. The beautiful views and serenity of the North Cascades wilderness is a big draw, but getting there isn’t easy—Ross Lake Resort isn’t accessible by car. Visitors can get there by boat or truck and must bring their food and supplies, as there is no grocery store at the lodge. There are fish in the lake, though, and the resort offers guided fishing trips and boat rentals.
Staying here means having the Canadian Rockies and Waterton Lakes National Park right in your backyard. The best time to go if you don’t want to break the bank is in September during the off-season. Fewer people, lower prices and an abundance of wildlife – what else do you need? With little luck you will see deer or other animals grazing from your patio door.