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 100 years ago this year.
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.
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 i
s 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. (Check with the hotel about renovation updates.)
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. John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette chose the inn for their 1996 wedding party.
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. (No 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.
Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Volcano House lets visitors get close to an active volcano. First opened in 1846 at what is now Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
, Volcano House
overlooks Halema'uma'u Crater at the summit of Kilauea. The state's oldest hotel and the only one inside the park, it reopened in 2013 after a $7 million renovation. Ask for a room that overlooks the Kilauea volcano or the Hawaiian rainforest. Want to get closer to the active volcano? Hike to the Napau Trail or take the 11-mile drive around the crater rim.
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 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.
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 April 2013. It received LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council shortly after its opening.
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 elegant 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.
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 in May and closes in early October.
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 are opening Rush Creek Lodge, less than a mile from the park, on June 15.
Exploring them all
Can't decide which national park site to visit or want to explore them all? A private trip exploring eight National Parks of the Western United States is being offered by
Privel, a new travel brand launched by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a large operator of resorts and lodges in the U.S. national parks system. "The Majestic American West: Park to Park Journey" trip takes place September 18-29 and will tour Death Valley, Yosemite, Crater Lake, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Zion and the Grand Canyon. The 12-day trip is limited to eight people and costs $48,898 per person (PDF)