The small towns that serve as gateways to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as the parks themselves, offer a varied but somewhat limited selection of lodging possibilities. Both parks have handsome lodges and cabins, owned by the National Park Service and managed by concessionaires. Rates for the park lodges are controlled by the park service and are not outrageous.

Outside the parks you'll find chain motels, independent mom-and-pop motels, and a few small bed and breakfasts, often in historic homes. Rates vary, but these towns are tourist traps, and you are unlikely to find bargains, especially during the busy summer season. Resist the temptation and stay in or as close to the parks as you can afford.

The best -- and perhaps only -- way to really save money on lodging is to go in the off season, preferably just before or just after the high season. We recently spent a week at Zion National Park in late March. The cool, spring weather was perfect for hiking, and lodging cost close to half of June or July rates.

Although you don't have as many choices for lodging, eating, and camping inside Bryce Canyon National Park as you do at larger parks, such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon, to our thinking, what is offered at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon is a perfect complement to your national park experience. In addition to being well managed, the lodge and park campgrounds offer incredible views and a rustic, rugged, mountain atmosphere that can't be beat.

However, let's not put down the facilities available in the nearby gateway communities. Here you'll find a variety of lodging and dining choices, often at lower prices than inside the park, as well as campgrounds with RV hookups and all the other amenities that are lacking in the national park campgrounds.

Room tax adds about 11% to your lodging bill. Pets are not accepted unless otherwise noted.

For additional information on area lodging, contact Bryce Canyon Country, operated by the Garfield County Office of Tourism (tel. 800/444-6689 or 435/676-1102;

We offer one note of caution. Communities and facilities as much as an hour away from the park boast that they are the best places to stay when visiting Bryce Canyon. We disagree.

Although you can often find attractive facilities at very reasonable rates by driving far from the park, we don't think it's worth it. For one thing, you will spend too much time, energy, and money to get here to waste time commuting.

Perhaps more important, though, is that Bryce Canyon is especially delightful early and late in the day; and the closer you are to the park, the more likely you are to be on the rim for the spectacular sunrise and sunset colors.

All of the properties discussed here are in or near the park.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.