Historic lodges at national parks: 10 of our favorites
Waking up near the rim of the Grand Canyon, at the edge of a Yellowstone geyser or within view of a Hawaiian volcano are some of the highlights of these hotels in the USA.
Situated in or near National Park Service sites, they are among the most exclusive resorts in the world, despite the fact that some don’t offer air conditioning, an Internet connection or in one case, road access to the inn.
Several of these historic park lodges predate the existence of the National Park Service, which was created in 1916.
Here are some of our favorites to enjoy the next time you travel to a national park:
1. El Tovar
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Traveling to Grand Canyon National Park, there’s no more exclusive room than one on the rim. The hotel of presidents and other luminaries, El Tovar was built on the rim of the Grand Canyon at a cost of $250,000 and opened in 1905.
A cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian villa to appeal to the elite at the time, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
2. Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Yosemite National Park, California
Never mind that the historic Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park in California has been renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, the result of a former concessionaire’s trademark dispute with the National Park Service.
Built in the 1920s to serve the well-to-do, the Majestic/Ahwahnee is a dream spot for those wanting to stay in a high-end location in the park. Not in your budget? Stop by for a drink or meal to enjoy the views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. (The main building’s guest rooms were recently renovated, and work to update the suites will start later in 2018.)
3. Greyfield Inn
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island National Seashore is home to pristine beaches, forests and wild horses. For those not interested in island camping, Thomas and Lucy Carnegie built what is now the 16-room Greyfield Inn for their daughter Margaret Ricketson.
Her daughter, Lucy R. Ferguson, converted the home to an inn in 1962, and the family still runs the property. The guest rooms in the main house underwent a renovation in late 2017, still keeping in mind the historical integrity of the house.
The house may be best known as the choice of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette for their 1996 wedding party.
4. Crater Lake Lodge
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
An eruption triggered the collapse of a towering volcano and created the deepest lake in the United States at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Crater Lake Lodge was built at the end of a crater formed by the collapse of the volcano and opened in 1915.
Despite the location’s violent history, the lodge exudes calm. (There aren’t any televisions or phones in the rooms.)
Take a picture by the Great Hall’s fireplace and ask for a lakeside room for the best views. The lodge is open seasonally from late-May to mid-October, and boat tours of the lake are available for most of the season.
5. LeConte Lodge
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee
Located near the summit of Mount LeConte at an elevation of 6,400 feet in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, LeConte Lodge had humble beginnings. It started as a tent camp when discussions to make the land into a national park were underway. Lodge founder Jack Huff began constructing the retreat in 1926, eight years before the land was designated a national park.
The 2018 operating season runs from mid-March through November 20, and lodge general manager John Northrup says the lodge hosts about 12,000 overnight guests during the eight-month season and 15,000 day hikers annually. (Day hikers can purchase food at the lodge.)
The lodge, where guests sleep in log cabins with propane heat and kerosene lanterns (no electricity), can only be reached by hiking one of five trails. Wake up early to get to Myrtle Point to see the sunrise at daybreak.
6. Inn at the Presidio
Presidio of San Francisco, California
Once the bachelors’ quarters for unmarried U.S. Army officers based at the Presidio of San Francisco, the Georgian Revival-style building was built in 1903 and named Pershing Hall after Gen. John J. Pershing. Located on the Main Post, once the post’s social center, it has been restored as the Inn at the Presidio.
The U.S. Army departed the Presidio in 1994, and the inn opened in 2012. It received LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council shortly after its opening. Waterford Hotels & Inns, which manages the inn for the Presidio Trust, will open The Lodge at the Presidio in a historic building on the Main Post of the Presidio in late June 2018.
7. The Inn at Brandywine Falls
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Built in 1848 overlooking Brandywine Falls as the home of James and Adeline Wallace, the Inn at Brandywine Falls in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park keeps its 19th century character but offers farm-to-table dining and a Jacuzzi for two in a former barn that’s now a suite.
Located between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, the six-room inn’s location is a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a convenient spot for nearby bird-watching, hiking, biking and cross country skiing in winter, or simply enjoying the views of the 65-foot falls.
8. Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Located near Old Faithful Geyser in the southwest part of Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Inn was designed by architect Robert Reamer and built in 1904 with local logs and stone.
A National Historic Landmark and host to many presidents, the inn does not have any Internet, television, radio or air conditioning. All the more reason to meet your friends at the lobby’s massive stone fireplace or to get outside to hike and explore the nation’s first national park. The inn opens each year in May and closes in early October.
9. Evergreen Lodge
Yosemite National Park, California
Built in 1921, the Evergreen Lodge was originally constructed to support the building of the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley. A mile from Yosemite National Park, it also served as a post office, general store and restaurant.
The lodge was purchased in the late 1920s by innkeepers who built the main lodge that exists today, although it has been renovated several times. It features guided recreation activities and tours of nearby Yosemite. For travelers who want all new things, the owners opened Rush Creek Lodge less than a mile from the park in 2016.
10. Volcano House
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Eruptions at Kilauea have closed most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the only lodge inside the park.
Volcano House, which was still intact as of May 24, 2018, lets visitors get close to an active volcano. First opened in 1846 at what is now called Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano House overlooks Halema’uma’u Crater at the summit of Kilauea.
The state’s oldest hotel, it reopened in 2013 after a $7 million renovation. There are rooms that overlook the Kilauea volcano and the Hawaiian rainforest, and a hike that takes visitors to the Napau Trail. Assuming the roads survive the latest eruption, an 11-mile drive takes drivers around the crater rim.