Contrary to what you might think, “clean up” is optional in the America’s national parks. As air conditioning and Wi-Fi are essential to your existence, if you prefer a bed under a roof with a sleeping bag in a tent, and if you’d rather eat mountain trout with blueberry butter than burgers and beans, then you should consider a stay in a lodge in or just outside the park.
While some parks offer the rooms and the furniture are older than the 99-year-old National Park Service itself, others have, the accommodations are luxurious and chic as a luxury resort. Here are six that are worth the stay:
Cavallo Point Lodge, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The most four-star properties do not start out as the AMERICAN Army forts. This stylish composition from the redeveloped military base structures and eco-friendly outbuildings is situated in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and in the middle of the Golden Gate Recreational Area – home to more than 30 national park units. Accommodations range from the quaint and historic former officers’ quarters of the ultra-modern rooms with radiant heat floors, two-sided gas fireplace and solar energy. All rooms are equipped with organic bedding, a flat-screen LCD Tv and mini-refrigerators – rarities under national park properties. Other first class benefits include access to a fleet of Lexus sedans and Suvs, yoga classes in what used to be the chapel, treatments in the spa of the hotel (Number 4 in the U.S. in the Travel + Leisure 2014 World’s Best Awards) and culinary classes in the lodge’s state-of-the-art cooking school. $349 – $909
Tip: take advantage of the free daily guided nature hikes and history tours available exclusively for the guests.
Izaak Walton Inn, Glacier National Park
Izaack Walton Inn
How do you make a rusty, historic locomotive in a luxury retreat? Add cedar wall accents, and more than 400-year old oak floors, beautiful skylight windows and elements, such as a leather sofa, a 46-inch LCD flat-screen TV, a stone fireplace, antique wardrobe and a well equipped king-size bed. The Great Northern Locomotive, only one of the eight fully renovated luxurious wagons of visitors to Glacier National Park can be booked at this family-owned inn. Each railcar and caboose is unique, and some have a large kitchen and a comfortable domes, while others boast feather-top beds, and private decks. Deluxe motor coach tours depart from the hostel four times a week and go north to the park from the east entrance. Train lovers will enjoy the on-site railroad-themed gift shop, and the fact that the hotel is conveniently located on Amtrak’s Empire Builder Line. $189 – $380
Tip: If you arrive via Amtrak, reserve your car rental through the reception of at least two weeks in advance.
The Ahwahnee Hotel In Yosemite National Park
Kenny Karst , DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
Designed during the Roaring Twenties, to meet the needs of the “affluent and influential travellers, the Ahwahnee has managed to retain its old charm and still appeal to the 21st century park visitors. In contrast to other national park properties that are built in the same period and have yet to embrace the modern facilities, the Ahwahnee was worthy of its AAA Four-Diamond status by the treatment of its guests air conditioning, a pillow-top mattresses, a refrigerator, a flat-screen Tv and a year-round heated outdoor pool. One of the junior suites feature a four-poster bed four-poster bed and is affectionately known as the “Queen’s Room,” because Queen Elizabeth II stayed there in 1983. American royalty has stayed here, too. Guests can imagine Presidents John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover standing on the balcony, view of the Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. $300 – $458
Tip: don’t worry about parking. Perks include complimentary valet service and a charging station for electric vehicles with two chargers.
Crater Lake Lodge Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake Lodge
Very few hotel descriptions lead with “Is situated on the edge of an extinct volcano,” but that is the case with Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon, where luxury comes in the form of the rim-view rooms feature unforgettable views of North America’s deepest, and perhaps either more. The corner rooms and two-story lofts are very coveted, but most guests end up spending the majority of their indoor time curled up by the stone fireplace in the Great Room. Managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the 100 year old lodge is serious about sustainability: The on-site restaurant offers dishes that contain fresh herbs and produce grown in the greenhouse, and it looks to the local producers of ingredients that can’t be made within the national park. $169 – $295
Tip: To see the Wizard? Ask for a room on the lodge’s west end, which has a better view on the more mysterious Wizard Island.
Greyfield Inn Cumberland Island National Seashore
This elegant island escape off the southern coast of Georgia may be the only national park property that required men to wear jackets during dinner and recommends that ladies dress in formal dress. A part of the property of the high society vibe dates back to 1900, when the members of the Carnegie family unofficially ruled Cumberland Island, and gave orders for the construction of Greyfield. Today, the guests pay the rates for a stay at this peaceful, romantic setting, where the rooms are decorated with mahogany furniture and where every detail –from the luxury Matouk linens to the L’occitane bath and beauty products – is carefully in place. Herbs and produce grown in the inn’s garden and honey from the property of the bees appear in many of the dishes, including the famous Saturday night Oyster, Steak, prepared by a culinary team that consists of a Top Chef alum. $495 – $635
Tip: Borrow from Greyfield the bikes and ride south to the Dungeness ruins, where park rangers say visitors have the best chance to see the island wild horses.
Pisgah Inn Blue Ridge Parkway
Recently voted “Best National Park Lodge” by USA Today readers, this beloved North Carolina inn is on the Blue Ridge Parkway – the second most visited national park unit, with its historical places, monuments, recreation areas, and national military sites. All 51 rooms have a balcony and a couple of rocking Adirondack chairs, and they are designed to emphasize that the 50-mile views of the valley. Although the building dates from 1964, guests can take advantage of what most of the national park property managers would consider luxury upgrades: solar panel and LED lighting installations, satellite TV and free Wi-Fi. And then there is the dining room: The walnut-crusted fresh mountain trout with blueberry butter attracts out-of-staters who are waiting in the row to the score of one of the restaurant’s coveted window seats. This place has some of the best entries on the 469-mile long parkway, and at a height of 5000 ft., it serves them next to mile-high views. Prices from $138 – $250
Tip: Since Pisgah Inn does not accept reservations and seating is on a first-come, first-served, arrive early and be prepared to relax on the veranda and enjoy the scenery while you wait.