An overnight stay in a national park lodge is a excellent way to enhance the
experience of a national park visit. The lodges are generally situated in scenic
areas where guests are able to enjoy a variety of activities and experiences.
Several lodge dining rooms, including those in Yosemite's Ahwahnee and the
North Rim's Grand Canyon
Lodge, are magnificent. Walk a short distance outside the front door of The Chateau at Oregon
and take part in a ranger-guided cave tour. Walk down the
lane from Kettle Falls
Hotel in Minnesota
's Voyageurs National Park
and stand beside a waterway where French-Canadian trappers long ago portaged canoes.
Stand on the second-floor deck of Cedar Grove Lodge in California
Kings Canyon National Park
and delight in the roar of a rushing mountain stream. Walk out back of Oregon's Crater
Lake Lodge (photo upper left) and enjoy a view of one of North America's most beautiful lakes.
Gaze out the window of Olympic National
Park's Kalaloch Lodge and take in the Pacific Ocean
surf crashing into the driftwood-filled beach. These are just a few of the
experiences enjoyed by travelers who choose to stay in a national park
Lodging in America
national parks varies from the exquisite to tent cabins. Likewise,
prices range from $65 per
night for tent cabins in Wyoming's Grand Teton
Bay Village to over $700
per night at
Jenny Lake Lodge in the same park. Rooms in Yosemite National Park
’s Ahwahnee (photo right) cost
approximately $500 per night depending upon the date. The wide
range of facilities and prices makes it important to understand the type accommodations being reserved.
National park visitors are sometimes disappointed with their lodging
facilities, but it is often because they didn't fully understand the
type lodging that was reserved.
A different and more suitable facility may have been available in the
same park or at the same location. National park lodges are
often rustic and without many amenities you may be accustomed to in commercial hotels. You are
unlikely to have access a swimming pool, may be without a television, and don't
expect that someone will be available to park your vehicle. Some lodges don't
have telephones in the rooms. You may even find that
it necessary to walk down the hallway to use a shower. Remember, these
facilities are in national parks, not downtown
, Los Angeles
or New York City
Many of the lodges were built decades ago and some over a century ago.
Most of the 405 areas administered by the National Park Service do not offer
lodging within the park boundaries. For example, some very popular national
parks such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park
), and Rocky Mountain
) do not offer regular overnight
visitor accommodations within the parks. At the opposite extreme, Yellowstone
has nine lodging facilities scattered about the park, including three in the
Old Faithful area.
National Park in
has four very different lodging facilities in Yosemite
Valley, one hotel (the historic Wawona) near the park's south entrance, and two
with tent cabins on
Pass in the High Sierra.
(Virginia) has three lodging facilities and the
Blue Ridge Parkway
offers two locations with overnight accommodations. Six lodging facilities are offered in
National Park, plus
Glacier Park Lodge that
sits across from an Amtrak stop. Many Glacier Hotel
is situated in what many consider the most scenic
location of any national park lodge.
National Monument offers a
unique lodge with nearby cave tours provided by National Park
Service rangers. Use the link to the left for a complete
listing of national park lodging facilities.
Overnight lodging facilities in the national parks are operated by private
concessionaires, not the
government or the National Park Service. For example, Xanterra Parks & Resorts,
a private corporation, operates all the lodging facilities in Crater Lake
National Park (Oregon), Zion National Park (Utah), Glacier National Park
(Montana), and Yellowstone National Park.
The same company also operates two of
the four lodging facilities in Death Valley National Park (California) and all
but one of the lodging facilities on Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim (Arizona).
Forever Resorts operates lodges in Big Bend National Park
(Texas), Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah, photo
upper left), Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim
only), Isle Royale National Park (Michigan), Mammoth
Cave National Park (Kentucky), and Badlands National
Park (South Dakota). ARAMARK, a large and
diversified hospitality business,
operates lodges in Mesa
National Recreation Area (Arizona), Glacier Bay
National Park (Alaska),
Yosemite National Park (California), and Olympic
National Park (Washington). Delaware North is the
concessionaire for lodging in Shenandoah
National Park (Virginia),
Sequoia National Park (California), and Olympic
National Park (photo right).
The superintendent at each
national park exercises ultimate oversight over
retail operations, including lodging, and must generally
approve the prices charged for rooms, food, tours, and items sold in gift shops. In
most cases, the National Park Service owns the buildings although some remain
under private ownership. This latter group includes The Inn at Furnace Creek,
The Ranch at Furnace Creek, and Panamint Springs Resort in Death Valley National Park. In some instances, the concessisonaire retains a
partial leasehold interest, such as when major improvements or additions
paid for by the concessionaire have
Facilities and Occupancy
Most national park lodges are at maximum occupancy during busy summer
months (winter months for Virgin Islands, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Death Valley national parks) so it is advisable to
make reservations well in advance if you plan to travel during high season. For very busy units including California's
National Park, it is not
unusual for reservations to be made nearly a year in advance. Likewise, make
lodging at least five to six months ahead of the expected arrival date. It helps to be
flexible with regard to the dates and types of rooms you will accept. Rooms
without a private bath are less expensive and generally easier to book because
travelers demand private bathroom facilities. The famous Old Faithful Inn in
Yellowstone National Park offers rooms with and
without a private bath. Likewise,
Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park, both
National Park Inn and Paradise Inn in Washington's
National Park, and the
Yosemite National Park each offer both types of
guest rooms. Rooms with a community bathroom are likely to save $50 or more per
night compared with rooms that include a private bathroom. Even rooms with a private bath can
vary in quality at a given location. For example, the Old Faithful area of
Yellowstone National Park offers rustic cabins, rustic rooms in Old Faithful Inn, and upscale
rooms at the newly constructed Old Faithful
Lodges in regions that experience harsh winters are
generally open seasonally.
For example, Glacier
National Park lodges close
each fall and reopen in late spring or early summer.
Crater Lake Lodge and Mount Rainier’s
Paradise Inn each receive huge amounts of snowfall and have relatively short summer
All three lodges in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park close for the
winter and only two of Yellowstone’s nine lodges, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, are open during the winter. Snow Lodge can be reached
only via snow coach and snowmobile.
Lodges in areas with more temperate weather conditions
are often open year round.
Chisos Mountains Lodge in Big Bend National Park
is open all year. Likewise, the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, and Curry
Yosemite National Park
are open all year.
National park lodges typically require
at least one night's deposit when a
reservation is made. Some lodges require more than one night's deposit, sometimes
Triangle X Ranch
in Grand Teton
deposit equal to
35 percent of
the total cost
cards for a
policies vary by
operation, so it
is important to inquire about the
refund policy in the event your plans change. It is not unusual that at least
48-hour notice is required for a refund. Also, be certain to request that a
sent by mail or
email so you can
carry it along
on your trip. On
had been lost
slips saved us.
Make certain the
receipt for the deposit.
While it is most convenient to stay in a single lodge, we sometimes choose
to move from one lodge to another within the same park. For example, during a
trip to Yosemite National Park
we might spend a night at the Wawona near the south entrance, three nights at
Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, or the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley, and another
night at White Wolf or Tuolumne Meadows on
Tioga Road. These are very different areas and
a stay in each location allows a much better appreciation for Yosemite. Likewise,
you might want to spend two or three nights at a lodge on the South Rim of the
Grand Canyon and another two nights at Grand Canyon
Lodge on the North Rim. In Glacier National Park, it is beneficial
to stay in two or three lodges, depending on the amount of time you plan to
devote to the park. For example, a stay at Lake McDonald Lodge on the west
side of the Continental Divide can be combined with a stay at either Many
Glacier Hotel or Glacier Park Lodge on the east side of the park. You may
also want to add a night at the Prince of Wales just across the Canadian border. Yellowstone and Glacier are such large national parks that staying in more than one lodge will
almost certainly result in a much more enjoyable trip, especially if it is
likely to be your only visit.
Comprehensive information about all national park lodging facilities
is available in The Complete Guide to the National Park
Lodges by David L. and Kay W. Scott. The eighth edition of this book is published by the Globe Pequot Press and retails for $19.95. It includes room rates, reservation information including phone numbers and web sites, room recommendations, dining options and costs, activities, maps, how to reduce expenses, color photos of the lodges, and information about pets. The book is available from local bookstores or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. The main cover photo is Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park.
Order the eighth edition of The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges from Amazon.
David and Kay Scott have traveled America's national parks for forty years including six summers devoted to the park lodges. They have stayed in all nine of Yellowstone's lodges and all eight of the lodges in Glacier National Park. They have spent several nights in each of the three lodges on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the three lodges in neighboring
Shenandoah National Park. During each stay they explore the rooms,
sample the food, and talk with the employees and guests. These experiences have
allowed them to author the most thorough and personal book on America's national
park lodges. The photo at left shows the authors beside one of Yellowstone's historic yellow buses in front of iconic Old Faithful Inn. Visit our home page.