The 10 Best National Park Lodges to Stay In Instead of Camping
EXPERIENCE THE GREAT OUTDOORS IN THE DAY AND HAVE COMFORTABLE BED AND A DELICIOUS MEAL AT NIGHT.
With more than 63 parks in the National Park System, each trip to a national park can be a unique experience. Whether you're there to hike, swim, see iconic sights like Old Faithful or to just get away, it's always a great choice to travel to one of the country's many beloved national parks.
But no matter where you travel, you'll always need a place to put your head at night. The park system is renowned for its stellar camping options, but sometimes you need a little more than the hard ground to sleep on. In that case, opt for a national park lodge.
Most parks have incredible lodging facilities, from the ultra-glamorous that come with amenities like spas, elegant restaurants, and golf courses, to the more modest which keep you focused on the majesty of the nature that surrounds you, with a real mattress to sleep on and dining options beyond the pack of granola bars that's been sitting in your bag. Read on to discover the 10 best national park lodges the U.S. has to offer.
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The Best National Park Lodges
1. Old Faithful Inn
Watching an eruption at Old Faithful, the reliable geyser in Yellowstone National Park is a quintessential national park experience that all travelers should have. Yellowstone, the country's first national park, is also one of the most popular, and while there are numerous camping options throughout the park's 3,472 million square miles, which span three states, there's nothing like staying at Old Faithful Inn, where it's possible to see the famous geyser from the lodge itself.
"The rooms line the exterior of the seven-story lodge, but the lobby ceiling goes all the way to the top floor," says Melanie Musson, a travel expert with Quote Inspector. "Each level has a balcony that overlooks the lobby. The entire building is wooden, so the lodge has a warm, rustic feel even though it's impressively grand."
Not only does the lodge offer unbeatable views, it's also a National Historic Landmark, and by far, the most popular lodge at the park, so be sure to book early.
2. Zion Lodge
Located in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park is among one of the country's most popular parks and people flock in droves to see its steep red cliffs and majestic waterfalls. Located on more than two acres of the park is the Zion Lodge, a historic hotel and the only lodge located inside of the increasingly-popular park, which offers up 76 hotel rooms, six suites, and 40 cabins.
"The Western-themed Zion Lodge in Utah's Zion National Park features both spacious hotel rooms and quaint separate cabins," says Leslie Carbone, a travel blogger at Sancerres at Sunset. "It is easily accessible to the park's hiking trails and seasonal shuttle."
Another perk of this lodge? Guests can use their cars in the park while staying there, which is normally forbidden when the seasonal shuttle is in use. The park began implementing its shuttle system in 2000 to help cut down on the popular park's traffic congestion.
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3. Lake Crescent Lodge
Between the mountains, the forest, and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Olympic National Park seems to have it all, but a highlight of the park is the stunningly-blue Lake Crescent. Located right on the shore of the beautiful lake is the Lake Crescent Lodge, one of the best accommodations for visitors to the park. While the park is open all year long, the lodge only operates from the end of April through the end of December.
"This historic lodge is situated on a clear glacially-carved lake that was gouged by huge ice sheets thousands of years ago and later, filled with steep valleys," says Lisa Cesaro, the senior director of marketing for Aramark Destinations. "Today, the stunning blue-green color of this lake has visibility as far down as 60 feet in some areas."
Conveniently, the lodge also offers boat rentals for guests who are interested in doing more than just marveling at the lake.
4. Grand Canyon Lodge
Most of the visitors at Grand Canyon National Park visit the park's south rim. Located in Arizona, and convenient to major highways and cities like Flagstaff and Phoenix, the southern portion of the park receives 90 percent of its visitors. The other 10 percent opt for the north rim, which is tougher to get to because of its higher altitude. Because of this, the park's north rim is more secluded, and great for a traveler who wants to take in the natural beauty of the park away from the massive crowds, and staying at the Grand Canyon Lodge is a perfect way to do it.
"Located on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Lodge offers stunning views and easy access to the park's breathtaking attractions," says Matt James, the founder of travel website Visitingly. "From the lodge, you can take a short hike to the canyon's rim and take in the sweeping views. The Lodge features guest rooms, cabins, and a dining room. People should stay here instead of camping to enjoy the views and the convenience of the lodge's amenities."
While there are many lodging options on the canyon's more popular south rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge is the only available lodging option for anyone wanting to break away from the crowds a bit and stay on the park's north rim.
5. The Ahwahnee
Jesslyn Tan Yu Xuan/Shutterstock
Made of more than 5,000 tons of granite, the exterior of The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park seems to blend in with the steep mountains behind it, but the interiors of the hotel do anything but blend in. Aside from nature lovers, this hotel also attracts fans of the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film "The Shining," because the interiors from the film's fictional Overlook Hotel were based on the real interior of The Awahnee, including its red elevator doors.
"[The hotel is] a structural marvel built to court the powerful and wealthy, and has entertained notable figures like Queen Elizabeth II, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Gertrude Stein, to mention a few," says Jenny Ly, a travel writer and the founder of Go Wanderly. "At the very least, grab a seat in the lobby and listen to the pianist, who is said to be willing to play even the most unusual requests."
For a short time from 2016 until 2019, the hotel was named the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, due to a legal dispute over the its trademarked name, and while the name is certainly applicable, it's since had its original name restored.
6. Glacier Bay Lodge
It's understandable why visitors flock to Glacier Bay National Park in southern Alaska. The park covers 3.3 million acres of mountains, coastlines, and of course, glaciers. While the park provides campgrounds, the Glacier Bay Lodge is an easier place to stay the night if you're not experienced in camping in the Alaskan wilderness.
"This remote Alaska location has an excellent campground near the lodge and the campground is free," says Jennie Flaming, a travel writer at Ordinary Adventures. "However it is a very, very wet place, there are lots of mosquitoes and bears. The combination of those makes the camping experience a bit more of a challenge than most and it is not a great place to camp for the first time."
Not only does the lodge help visitors stay off the wet grounds and away from potentially dangerous wildlife and the always-irritating mosquitoes, but it also has a lot of amenities that make it an attractive place to spend the night. The hotel, the only one in the gigantic park, offers friendly dining options, gorgeous sunset views, and day tours of the park.
7. Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Many visitors travel to Yellowstone National Park to catch a glimpse of Old Faithful, but that's not the only sight worth seeing. The massive park, which spans three states, is also home to Yellowstone Lake, the largest body of water in the park at 136 square miles with over 110 miles of shoreline. Situated right on the lake is Lake Yellowstone Hotel.
"Lake Yellowstone Hotel offers stunning views of the lake and its surrounding landscape," James says. "The hotel features a range of guest rooms, cabins, and suites. Guests can take in the views of the lake from the hotel's outdoor terrace and enjoy activities like fishing, boating, and horseback riding."
Dating back to 1891, it's the oldest operating hotel within the park. The hotel has three different dining options, including an elegant dining room, as well as a more casual canteen with stunning views of the lake.
8. The Death Valley Oasis
As both the country's driest and hottest spot, Death Valley National Park may certainly well be in need of an oasis for parched and overheated visitors, and the Death Valley Oasis, one of the park's lodges is there for them.
"The Oasis is a resort and spa with four restaurants, two spring-fed pools, a hotel, and horses for desert rides, all centered on the world's lowest-altitude golf course, a par-70 at 214 feet below sea level," says Matthew Bowley, a travel expert and marketing manager at Solmar Villas. "Death Valley, with its breathtaking scenery and rich history, epitomizes the spirit of the American West."
Like any true oasis, the Oasis offers a spring-fed pool to guests who want to beat the record-setting heat in Death Valley.
9. Many Glacier Hotel
The Many Glacier Hotel, located in Glacier National Park, is aptly named. Surrounded by several of the park's mountains, it's a prime spot to set off exploring the glaciers that the park is named for. The chalet-inspired hotel is also the largest set of accommodations located within the park.
"With view-filled lounges, exposed log beams, and a three-story lobby with a Chickering baby grand piano, the structure, which underwent a partial renovation in 2016, has all the cut-out wood detailing and earth-toned terraces of the past," says Lillian E Dodd, the lead publisher and travel editor at The Hobby Kraze. "The Ptarmigan Dining Room offers delectable continental fare and Montana microbrews at night, which you may savor while taking in the panoramic view of the northern Rockies, possibly after you have just finished hiking, bicycling, or climbing there."
The hotel doesn't offer amenities like a television, so staying there makes guests feel like they've stepped back in time. The lakeside Many Glacier Hotel offers Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback riding, and evening ranger programs.
10. Crater Lake Lodge
As its name suggests, the highlight of Crater Lake National Park is Crater Lake itself—a lake that's formed in a volcanic crater and is well known for its deep blue color and clarity. Many visitors to the park don't want to leave the edge of the stunning lake, and guests at Crater Lake Lodge don't have to.
"The lodge itself was built in 1915 and it looks every bit the part, it's constructed with heavy dark wood, with a huge stone fireplace that's perfect to curl up with after a long day of hiking and exploring," says Jessica Schmit, a travel blogger who runs Uprooted Traveler. "The best part of the lodge, though, is that it's constructed at the edge of the lake itself, perched 1,000 feet above the caldera below."
The lodge also offers amenities like boat cruises, hiking trails, and shopping, as well as three different dining options, from the elegant Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, to the more casual Annie Creek restaurant, which offers up hearty meals.