The Best National Park Lodges in the U.S.

The Ahwahnee/Majestic Yosemite Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Photo by

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns calls our National Parks "America's Best Idea." One could argue that Burns also meant the concept of the park lodge. Designed for easy access to nature, these lodges are old-school examples of sustainability, beauty, and comfort after a long day on the trail.

Most of these lodges and inns are found within the boundaries of a national park. In cases where there's no lodging in the parks, we found properties that are just a stone's throw away. Some of these lodges are century-old reminders of an earlier era; newer properties offer more modern grandeur while still authentically reflecting the natural surroundings. After all, camping isn't for everyone.

Photo: The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee) in Yosemite National Park.
View from a balcony at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park Photo by Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Where: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho

Why it's Worth a Stay: A partnership of the Yellowstone Park Association and the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Old Faithful Inn opened in 1904 as a way to provide luxurious accommodations for visitors to America's first national park. In the lobby, gaze up at the 76-foot-high ceilings and admire the four levels of balconies with railings and supports created from gnarled branches. The stone chimney is crafted from 500 tons of rhyolite quarried within five miles of the inn. And yes, this lodge offers incomparable views of Old Faithful itself.

Dates of Operation: May to early-October; other buildings, such as the newer Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and nearby Riversbend Lodge, are open during the winter.

Rates: $115-$572

Contact: www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com

Photo Caption: View from a balcony at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park.
Zion Lodge in Zion National Park, Utah. Photo by Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Where: Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah

Why it's Worth a Stay: Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood (the visionary behind many national park lodges) and built in 1925 by the Union Pacific Railroad, Zion Lodge was enjoyed by all until a fire destroyed the main building in 1966. A new structure was built several months later. Some of the cabins, which were added in the 1920s, were recently renovated. And as the only lodge in Zion, its location is hard to beat -- the park's signature canyons and hiking trails are within walking distance.

Dates of Operation: Year-round

Rates: $209.69-$270.69

Contact:
www.zionlodge.com

Photo Caption: Zion Lodge in Zion National Park, Utah.
Exterior of Asticou Inn near Acadia National Park. Photo by Asticou Inn
Where: Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Why it's Worth a Stay: Acadia National Park is spread out across most of Mount Desert Island, and although not officially on park property, Asticou Inn has an enviable spot overlooking Northwest Harbor. Built in 1883 by a schooner captain and entrepreneur A.C. Savage, the 48-room inn is dressed up with classic New England touches -- lots of florals, rocking chairs, and knotty round rugs. The inn is close to the Asticou Azalea Garden, and the rest of the park can easily be explored by bike or car.

Dates of Operation: Mid-May to mid-October

Rates: $155-$380

Contact: www.asticou.com

Photo Caption: Exterior of Asticou Inn near Acadia National Park.
Interior of the Ahwahnee at Yosemite National Park. Photo by DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
Where: Yosemite National Park, California

Why it's Worth a Stay: It's no secret that people love this park for its Giant Sequoia trees, waterfalls, and granite cliffs. But if you want to escape the crowds, soak in views of Half Dome, Glacier Point, the Royal Arches, and Upper Yosemite Fall from the comfort of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly The Awahnee. The hotel, which opened in 1927 and was refurbished in 2004, has 99 rooms over six floors and two dozen cottages scattered on the property.

Dates of Operation: Year-round

Rates: Vary according to room type and time of year

For more information: www.yosemitepark.com

Photo Caption: Interior of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel at Yosemite National Park.
Glacier Park Lodge Photo by Chuck Haney/Glacier Park, Inc.
Where: Glacier National Park, Montana

Why it's Worth a Stay: Built in 1912, the 161-room Glacier Park Lodge -- with its nine-hole golf course, day spa, and outdoor pool -- almost makes the nearby glaciers an afterthought. But since the park is over 100 years old, you really should try to leave the lodge at least once.

Dates of Operation: Early June to late September

Rates: $159-$499

Contact: www.glacierparkinc.com

Photo Caption: Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park.
El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park. Photo by Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Where: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Why it's Worth a Stay: Opened in 1905 and renovated in 2005, the 78-room El Tovar has hosted the likes of Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt and is now a registered National Historic Landmark. The upscale hunting lodge, on the South Rim, offers canyon views wherever you look. Expect turndown service, themed suites (including one named after Western author Zane Grey), and creative cuisine served in an elegant dining room.

Dates of Operation: Year-round

Rates: $207-$513

Contact: www.grandcanyonlodges.com

Photo Caption: El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park.
Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend, TN. Photo by Dancing Bear Lodge
Where: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Why it's Worth a Stay: Since there are no lodges inside the park anymore, you can't beat this property's location a few miles away in Townsend. Some guests even take the bike path to one of the park's most visited attractions, Cades Cove. Built in 2000 as Maple Leaf Lodge, the current owners bought it in 2004, renovated the rooms, and renamed it. Today, Dancing Bear has 18 cabins and 21 rooms on 36 acres.

Dates of Operation: Year-round

Rates: Vary according to room type and time of year

Contact: www.dancingbearlodge.com

Photo Caption: Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend, TN.
Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park. Photo by Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Where: Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake, Oregon

Why it's Worth a Stay: Although the park itself opened in 1902, Crater Lake Lodge took a decade to complete. The 71-room lodge, which originally opened in 1915, was completely rebuilt in 1995. More than half of the rooms offer views of the amazingly blue lake, which is the deepest in the United States. Enjoy the enormous stone fireplace in the Great Hall from your perch on a wooden rocking chair.

Dates of Operation: Mid-May to late October

Rates: $179.99-$318.99

Contact: www.craterlakelodges.com

Photo Caption: Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park.
Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, WY, near Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Terra Resort Group
Where: Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Why it's Worth a Stay: This is the newest of the bunch. Built in 2008, the sleek Hotel Terra: Jackson Hole is a LEED-certified property that keeps its Western environment in mind with a modern twist: expect rooms with flat-screen TVs, up-to-date ammenities, and organic cotton sheets. It's just a mile from the park and an hour from Yellowstone. Its slightly more traditional sister property, Teton Mountain Lodge, is next door.

Dates of Operation: Year-round

Rates: Beginning at $199, vary according to room type

Contact: www.hotelterrajacksonhole.com

Hotel Terra: Jackson Hole in Jackson Hole, WY, near Grand Teton National Park.
Interior of Paradise Inn in Ashford, Washington. Photo by Mount Rainier Guest Services
Where: Mount Rainier National Park, Ashford, Washington

Why it's Worth a Stay: One of only two lodging choices inside the park, Paradise Inn was built in 1916 and is surrounded by meadows and miles of trails. Its 121 rooms were recently renovated. Unplug completely: you sleep in beds, but without the distractions of telephones or televisions.

Rate range: $119-$281

Dates of Operation: Late May to early October

Contact: www.mtrainierguestservices.com

Photo Caption: Interior of Paradise Inn in Ashford, Washington.
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