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7 Iconic US National Park Lodges to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

There are dozens of different ways to explore national parks. From backcountry camping to RVs to families just trying things out on a day trip, so many more people have happily discovered “America’s Greatest Idea” the last few years.

For many travelers, one of the draws of a national park vacation is the chance to stay in an iconic historic hotel. National park lodges are usually well-located, making them a convenient lodging choice for travelers. These hotels are also often steeped in history, embodying the spirit of the park itself. Many of these properties were built generations ago when simply getting the supplies to build a large hotel into the depths of the wilderness truly was a miraculous feat of engineering and human ingenuity.

Yosemite Ahwahnee Hotel
The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite – one of the most famous national park lodges.

My husband and are both history buffs, so we always seek out hotels with history whenever we travel. As a result, we’ve been making stops at a lot of the famed national park lodges in our travels with our kids.

If you are looking for a bit of rustic luxury with a heaping side helping of history on your next national park trip, here are 7 national park lodges to consider.

Top Historic National Park Lodges Across the United States

The country’s oldest national parks are all in the western United States. So predictably, if you are looking for an historic national park lodge, you need to head west of the Mississippi to find them. There are certainly some beautiful hotels in and around national parks elsewhere in the country, but the original lodges belong to the West. Our family’s favorites are:

The Ahwahnee at Yosemite National Park (California)

Ahwahnee Hotel Lobby Yosemite with Piano Player

Ahwahnee At A Glance:

  • Location: Yosemite National Park (Yosemite Valley, California)
  • Dates open: Year round
  • Rooms available: 97 rooms, 24 cottages
  • Concessionaire for booking: Aramark

Located in a prime position in Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahnee is the hotel most travelers envision when they think of a national park lodge. Built in the arts and crafts style and opened in 1927, the hotel has majestic views of waterfalls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point.

Hotel amenities and offerings scream old world luxury, from a piano player in the Great Lounge to a decadent Sunday brunch in the Grand Dining room (currently on hold in 2021, of course). The hotel’s rooms are currently being renovated in 2021. Standard rooms are basic but pricey – usually around $500-600 a night in peak summer season.

Read More: Guide to Yosemite’s Partial Reopening in 2021

Crater Lake Lodge (Oregon)

Crater Lake Lodge Exterior

Crater Lake Lodge At A Glance:

  • Location: Crater Lake National Park (Crater Lake, Oregon)
  • Dates open: mid-May to mid-October
  • Rooms available: 71 rooms
  • Concessionaire for booking: Aramark

Built in 1915, Crater Lake Lodge is one of the smaller historic national park lodges. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in views. The hotel’s back deck is located right on the rim of the caldera, with a vantage point of the lake and Wizard Island that can’t be beat.

Accommodations are definitely on the more rustic side (be prepared for no AC). But the price is more reasonable than many historic national park lodges, at about $200-250 a night in peak season for standard rooms. Be sure to schedule a meal in the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, perhaps with a pre-dinner drink on the hotel’s back deck with a view!

Read More: Taking a Volcano Road Trip through Northern California & Southern Oregon

Zion Lodge (Utah)

Exterior of Zion Lodge in Zion National Park

Zion Lodge At A Glance:

  • Location: Zion National Park (Springdale, Utah)
  • Dates open: Year round
  • Rooms available: 76 rooms, 6 suites, 40 cabins
  • Concessionaire for booking: Xanterra

Zion Lodge is the only in-park accommodation within Zion National Park. The hotel opened in 1924, burned and was rebuilt in 1966. It was restored in 1990 to a more original look. The property has multiple buildings not far from the south entrance of the park in Springdale, Utah. It doesn’t have the grand lobbies of some of the other properties on this list, but certainly has grand outdoor views.

Zion Lodge has a few more creature comforts than some national parks accommodations, with AC in all the rooms. The restaurant upstairs, Red Rock Grille, has fantastic food and gorgeous views.

Read More: Tips for Planning a Trip to Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Lobby of El Tovar Lodge in Grand Canyon

El Tovar Hotel At A Glance:

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park (Grand Canyon, Arizona)
  • Dates open: Year round
  • Rooms available: 66 rooms, 12 suites
  • Concessionaire for booking: Xanterra

El Tovar Hotel opened its doors in 1905, making it one of the oldest national park lodges. The hotel is perched just a few feet from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, with a famed dining room with large windows overlooking the view. Because it predates the arts and crafts period, it has a different look and vibe from most other national park lodges. Its architect intended for it to be a mix of Swiss chalet and Norwegian villa.

With rooms about $300 a night during peak season, this lodge is one of the more moderately-priced options out there at the largest national parks. But the popularity of the Grand Canyon, especially in spring break and summer, can often mean finding availability is the bigger challenge!

Read more: Visiting the Grand Canyon with Toddlers

Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Image courtesy Mary Solio, The World is a Book

Old Faithful Inn At A Glance:

  • Location: Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)
  • Dates open: early-May to mid-October (opening in early June for 2021 only)
  • Rooms available: 327 (includes suites)
  • Concessionaire for booking: Xanterra

Looking for a grand multi-story hotel lobby? You’ll find it at the Old Faithful Inn. This property was built in 1904 and is the largest log hotel in the world, complete with a majestic stone fireplace and gorgeous dining room. Many rooms overlook the famous geyser for the which the property is named.

Only open during Yellowstone’s peak summer season, demand to stay in this hotel is as high as it comes. Standard rooms often go for $400-500 a night during summer months, and suites are often well over $1000.

Read more: Geyser Gazing at Yellowstone National Park (from The World is a Book)

Many Glacier Hotel (Montana)

Image courtesy John & Tammilee Tillison, Park Ranger John & Tammilee Tips
  • Location: Glacier National Park (Babb, Montana)
  • Dates open: Early June to mid-September
  • Rooms available: 205 rooms, 2 suites, 7 family rooms
  • Concessionaire for booking: Xanterra

The Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park opened in 1915 on the eastern shore of Swiftcurrent Lake, in the northeast section of the park. This property was inspired by the look of Swiss chalets and is one of the larger historic national park lodges. Naturally, a towering hotel lobby is one of its most attractive features.

Standard rooms run around $300-400 a night in peak season. Demand is as crushing as it is at hotels in the other most popular national parks like Old Faithful Inn or the Ahwahnee.

Glacier National Park also has the distinction of having several historic lodges within or right near its borders. Also worthy of consideration are the Glacier Park Lodge and Lake McDonald Lodge. 

Read more: Review of the Many Glacier Hotel (from Park Ranger John)

The Inn at Death Valley (California)

Image courtesy Mary Solio, The World is a Book
  • Location: Death Valley National Park (Death Valley,California)
  • Dates open: Year round
  • Rooms available: 88 rooms, 22 casitas
  • Concessionaire for booking: Xanterra

This property was built in 1927 and known as the Furnace Creek Inn for many years. The Inn at Death Valley looks quite a bit different architecturally than many other historic national park lodges. The resort was built to blend in with the Southern California desert in the style of Spanish missions, giving it a unique style among historic national park lodges.

Having completed a major renovation in 2018-2019, the hotel offers the most in modern luxury of any of the properties on this list. It’s priced accordingly, with standard rooms averaging about $400-500 a night. The Inn is part of the larger area known as the Oasis at Death Valley that also includes more moderately priced and also newly renovated accommodations at the Ranch at Death Valley.

Read More: Death Valley National Park with Kids (from The World is a Book)

Tips for Staying at Historic National Park Lodges

For the best travel experience at national park lodges, here are the essential tips our family has observed in our stays over the years.

1. Reserve Early. Very Early.

National park lodges are incredibly popular places to stay and most of them are relatively small compared to the demand in national parks these days. It’s no surprise that reservations can be hard to come by. A lot of these lodges open bookings 12-13 months in advance. Most require only one night’s deposit and have generous cancellation policies. As a result, it never hurts to book ASAP, firm up your travel plans, and cancel later if you can’t make the trip happen. That’s better than making all your travel plans first and then being disappointed by a full hotel.

If you aren’t able to plan ahead, then checking for these cancellations is vital. Find out what the hotel’s cancellation deadline is and start checking about a week in advance of that. We were able to snag two rooms at the Zion Park Lodge a few years ago by checking daily a week or two before our trip. 

2. Expect – and Embrace – Dated Accommodations.

The cost of a few nights at many national park lodges can sometimes rival the prices of a luxury hotel like a Ritz-Carlton, especially if you are visiting during high season or a busy holiday weekend. But if you go into a stay expecting a hotel that looks like a Ritz, you will almost assuredly set yourself up for disappointment. Adjust your expectations.

Most national park lodges are purposefully rustic and are about staying in amazing natural locations. Many of these lodges aren’t regularly renovated because of their remote locations and out of a purposeful desire to protect nature, the surrounding environment, and limited resources. Some of them won’t have air conditioning or every familiar creature comfort. Research what you will and won’t have at each to be prepared. Then go in with an open mind to embrace the experience!

3. Pick Up the Phone.

Like many travelers these days, I like to do a lot of my travel planning and research online. But the concessionaires that operate the national park lodges (as well as the National Park Service itself!) still have a ways to go in putting all the information about these historic hotels online. If you have questions about amenities or need advice about transportation or logistics as your plan your vacation, your best bet is to call the front desk of one of these lodges and ask. This is especially true in 2021 where everything won’t be running as normal or at full capacity.

4. Prepare to be Off the Grid.

Many travelers expect luxury hotels to have high speed WiFi, but most national parks – including their lodges – don’t. These properties are not the places to plan to hop on a Zoom meeting or even necessarily to upload an image to Instagram. Yes, the WiFi may be that bad!

Of course, internet resources can be valuable even in national parks. So, download maps and directions or screenshot other important information you may need before arriving at the parks and losing reliable connectivity.

More National Park Information

Planning a vacation to one or more of America’s National Parks? Check out these related guides:

Visiting America's national parks?These top 7 national park lodges are well-located hotels full of history, from the Ahwahnee in Yosemite to Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone. Plus tips for staying in national park lodges for the best vacation experience.

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