Old Faithful Inn: national park lodge in Yellowstone National Park
Photo by NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The Most Iconic National Park Lodges in the U.S.

Staring up at the sheer granite face of Half Dome. Marveling at the sky-high waterworks of Old Faithful. Drinking in views of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. This is the stuff memories are made of. And days spent exploring national parks are perfectly paired with overnights at iconic national park lodges. 

These hotels around the U.S. promise grand, nature-inspired lobbies and dining rooms, comfortable rooms that blend rustic elegance with updated amenities, and local building materials so you never forget your surroundings. Here are our favorite national park lodges, plus some just-outside-the-park gems near national parks where in-park lodging isn’t available. 

Editor’s Note June 2020: As national parks around the U.S. slowly reopen after COVID-19 closures, it’s best to call the national park you intend to visit before deciding on a plan. You may well be able to book a trip this summer, but it’s good to know what national park hotels will be open, and which areas within the park will be welcoming visitors.

1. Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn lobby at night
Photo by NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The Old Faithful Inn embodies the iconic national park lodge style. Built at the turn of the 20th century in Yellowstone National Park, the log-style structure is considered a shining example of “Parkitecture.” The building’s massive fireplace is built from local rock, and many of the original fixtures and furnishings are still on display (check out the lobby’s mission-style furniture and the chandeliers in the dining room).

You can stay in one of the more than 300 rooms at this Yellowstone National Park lodge between early May and mid-October, and be sure to take a tour of the historic hotel while you’re there to get the full experience.

2. The Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park

With its prime position near the base of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park’s main valley, the Ahwahnee Hotel delivers style and grandeur inside and out. Completed in 1927, this rustic-elegant Yosemite national park lodge blends log-beamed ceilings, Native American artwork, and a granite facade and massive stone hearths that echo the surrounding landscape.

Welcoming public spaces mean that even non-guests can get a peek at what makes this Yosemite national park hotel special. And while it may have briefly lost its iconic name (the hotel’s name was changed to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel for a few years due to legal reasons), it’s safe to say Ahwahnee is back—in name and spirit—and better than ever. 

3. El Tovar at Grand Canyon National Park

THE FRONT ENTRANCE TO THE EL TOVAR HOTEL, CONSTRUCTED IN 1905 IN THE SOUTH RIM HISTORIC DISTRICT OF GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK..
(National Parks Service)

Perched on the edge of the magnificent South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the historical El Tovar delivers classic charm and iconic views to national park guests. Revered as one of the West’s most refined hotels when it opened in 1905, this classic Grand Canyon national park lodge has welcomed famous guests including Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Each of the hotel’s 78 rooms offers a unique layout and decor, and family-friendly suites are also available. 

Bonus tip: If you’re looking to avoid the biggest Grand Canyon crowds, look north. The North Rim has its own smaller Grand Canyon national park lodge, appropriately named The Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim. Generally, it’s easier to score a reservation here, and while you have to work a little harder for those spectacular views, it remains a sensational Grand Canyon experience. 

4. Crater Lake Lodge at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake Lodge

Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park first opened in 1915, but the piecemeal approach to construction meant that, in the 1990s, the lodge was deemed unsafe and had to be rebuilt. Many of the original touches of Crater Lake’s original lodge remain, though, and the lodge still feels like a quintessential national park lodge, complete with roaring lobby fireplaces, a rustic dining room, and outdoor seating that makes the most of those unbeatable Crater Lake views. 

5. Lake Quinault Lodge at Olympic National Park

exterior of Lake Quinault Lodge
(Photo: NPS/Aramark)

Though it’s flanked by dense Olympic National Park rainforest, Lake Quinault Lodge still feels warm and welcoming thanks to its grand-but-casual architecture, homey lakeside location, and inviting front lawn with plenty of room to bask. In the lobby, stretch out on a leather couch in front of the fire, or head to the hotel’s deck for a lakeside drink. You’re never far from the water—the indoor pool promises fun rain or shine, and there are boat and paddleboard rentals at the lake. This Olympic National park hotel is beautiful, well-located, and inviting, especially on summer days.

6. Lodge at Bryce Canyon at Bryce Canyon National Park

patio at Bryce Canyon Lodge
(Photo: NPS Photo/J. Cowley, 2008)

Not only is the Lodge at Bryce Canyon a charming historic lodge beloved by many, it’s also the only in-park lodging option in Bryce Canyon National Park. Crowning a mesa near the edge of the canyon, the lodge offers both an ideal location for exploring the national park and a grand-but-rustic retreat. Milled timbers, steeply pitched roofs, and extensive stonework recall the building’s early 20th century beginnings. Lodge rooms, cabin rentals, and studios round out the accommodations options at this Bryce Canyon resort.

7. Lake McDonald Lodge at Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald Lodge - Glacier National Park (Photo: Zack Gilbert/Shutterstock)
Photo: Zack Gilbert/Shutterstock

Enter the lobby at Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park and you’ll understand, in a second, what a national park lodge should look like. A massive fireplace, log-style construction, open balconies to give the room a lofty feeling, and arts-and-crafts style adornments meld to create a rustic elegance that feels like a hug after a long day exploring in nature.

Built in 1913 on the shore of Lake McDonald, rooms at this Glacier National Park hotel retain a simple, rustic elegance. In addition to rooms in the three-story main lodge, there are also cabin rooms and two annexes: Cobb House offers elegant suites and Snyder Hall has a hostel-style layout. 

Bonus Tip: For a true adventure, Glacier National Park also offers hut-to-hut hiking accommodations at Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet.

Lodges Near National Parks

Not every national park has a historic lodge within its boundaries. Here are two iconic lodges built just outside their famed parks.

8. Grand Lake Lodge Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Think you’re going to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park? Think again: The park is one of the few national parks with no in-park lodging. Happily, there are plenty of great options in the nearby communities of Grand Lake and Estes Park. Among the most national-park-lodge-inspired options is the Grand Lake Lodge. At this hundred-year-old hotel, you’ll find a comfortable main lodge building with a restaurant, plus 70 cabins spread around the property. 

9. Bar Harbor Inn Near Acadia National Park

Millions of visitors each year find some of the nation’s wildest—and most beautiful—coastline at Acadia National Park. And while Acadia has no in-park lodges, there are plenty of charming and historical accommodations in nearby communities Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, and Village Green.

One of the most beloved places to stay near Acadia , the Bar Harbor Inn, offers many of the trappings of a classic national park lodge. Exceptional views, historical charm, and a grand presence come standard with stays at this property that was originally built in 1887 but features plenty of modern amenities. 

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Christine Sarkis
Christine Sarkis is a traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor. The former executive editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, Sarkis has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir. Email Christine at familyvacationist@gmail.com