9 Hip Towns That Are National Park Gateways

From the Seattle hipsters to Asheville’s Southern hospitality, folks living near national parks seem to have it all. Join 'em.

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Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

California or Tatooine? The desert landscape and stunning sand dunes of Death Valley National Monument ”— and its proximity to Los Angeles —have made it a popular location for movie shoots. In "Star Wars," Death Valley is the stand-in for many scenes on the fictional planet Tatooine. Parts of "Return of the Jedi," "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" and many other classic movies including "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "King Solomon'€™s Mines," "Spartacus" and "Tarzan" were also shot in Death Valley. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Ronoster  

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

In the opening sequence of the third "Indiana Jones" movie, a troop of Boy Scouts hikes under the Double Arch of Utah's Arches National Park. You'™ll see the same arch — and others -— in 2003'™s "The Incredible Hulk." Parts of "City Slickers" and "Thelma and Louise" were also shot in Arches. 960 1280

Kylie Pearse  

Redwoods National Park

Redwoods National Park

A spaceship lands in a forested area near a typical suburb, a set-up that brings us the adorable alien from "E.T." That forest is none other than Redwoods National Park. Also, further down California'™s coast, the redwoods of Muir Woods stand in as Endor, the home of the Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi." 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Michael Fitzsimmons  

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Kevin Costner rides across a stunning backdrop of prairies, badlands and buttes in the 1990 Oscar winner "Dances with Wolves." Parts of "Armageddon" and "How the West Was Won" were also shot in the Badlands. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/lightpix  

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

In "Into the Wild," a young man on a journey to find himself through nature winds up camping out in an abandoned bus in Alaska's Denali National Park. The wild landscape, flora and fauna are practically characters in this film, based on a true story. 960 1280

  

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Like "Into the Wild," the movie "Wild" is also based on the true story of a young person finding herself through a solo trek in the wilderness. Shot almost entirely on location on the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon, a scene near the end of the film takes the main character through a moment of reflection at Crater Lake. 960 1280

  

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Is there any more iconic natural formation in the movies than Devils Tower, the center of alien activity in 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"? The Wyoming location, America'™s first landmark designated a national monument, manages to evoke earthiness and otherworldliness at once. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/fstockfoto  

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Apparently, no landscape says rugged individualism more timelessly than Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. "Django Unchained," "Brokeback Mountain," "Shane" and "Rocky IV" all include scenes shot in the Tetons. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/dmathies  

Coconino National Forest

Coconino National Forest

"The Revenant," which is supposed to take place in South Dakota in the 1800s, was mostly shot in Canada, however, a need for a snowy mountain range brought the crew to the San Francisco Peaks, a volcanic mountain range that, while not a national park, is part of Cococino National Forest in Arizona, south of Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Jeff Goulden  

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

At the end of 2014's Oscar-nominated movie "Boyhood," famously shot over 12 years, the boy of the title, now a young man, is seen hiking a canyon at Big Bend. The Texas national park also represents in "Paris, Texas" and "No Country for Old Men." 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/David Hughes  

Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest

The dystopian world of "The Hunger Games" is divided into districts, with distinct physical and natural characteristics. District 12, home to Katniss Everdeen, is a mining region surrounded by woods and rivers, shot in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest just east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "The Last of the Mohicans" was also shot in Pisgah. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/bluehorizonphotos  

Badlands National Park 1971

Badlands National Park 1971

Our first campsite in a national park was at Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands, South Dakota.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1971

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1971

My brother and I met the presidents at Mount Rushmore. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Grand Teton National Park 1971

Grand Teton National Park 1971

My brother navigates the Snake River with the help of a friend. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Yellowstone National Park 1971

Yellowstone National Park 1971

My family joins the faithful at Old Faithful. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Grand Canyon National Park 1971

Grand Canyon National Park 1971

My brother and I experience the Grand Canyon with our dad. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Yosemite National Park 1971

Yosemite National Park 1971

We became Junior Rangers at Yosemite. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Sequoia National Park 1971

Sequoia National Park 1971

Tiny family or giant tree? 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Golden Gate Park 1971

Golden Gate Park 1971

We enjoy the playground at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects a portion of this area, including an expansive view of the bridge.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Big Sur 1971

Big Sur 1971

After traveling across the country and through many national parks, my mother makes it to the Pacific Ocean, a lifelong dream fulfilled. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Acadia National Park Circa 1980

Acadia National Park Circa 1980

Acadia National Park became our family's €œsummer home. Here's my baby sister and me at Sargent Mountain. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Wedding at Acadia 1996

Wedding at Acadia 1996

Acadia's €œWonderland€ Trail was the perfect setting for my wedding. See more inspiring national park weddings.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Junior Rangers 2005

Junior Rangers 2005

My own children became junior rangers, a family tradition. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Acadia 2015

Acadia 2015

My 17-year-old daughter pitches our tent at Seawall. 960 1280

  

Acadia August 2015

Acadia August 2015

My parents pose on Acadia’s Ship Harbor Nature Trail. 960 1280

  

Photos

Historic Luxury in Grand Canyon

Historic Luxury in Grand Canyon

When you first see El Tovar lodge on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, transcendentalism may occur. You could be metaphysically transported to 1905 when guests arrived by carriage or perhaps just back to your sofa and another rerun of National Lampoon’s “Vacation.” Both things happened here. Named for Spanish explorer and conquistador Pedro de Tovar, the Swiss/rustic chalet was constructed to accommodate tourists traveling on the Santa Fe Railway. The lodge’s steam heat, electricity, comfortable beds and freshly grown vegetables were unique luxuries for the time. El Tovar still strives to carry on finer traditions. Even if the rooms are all taken ($215 -$500), a visit to the lounge is a must. If you’d rather commune with nature, hikers swear by the pet-friendly Mather Campground ($18). 960 1280

  

Sleep Famously in Yosemite

Sleep Famously in Yosemite

Nature lovers, architectural purists and people obsessed with Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining” all have the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park on their bucket list – as it should be. Built to woo the wealthy and influential, the Grand Dame of the NPS is a structural wonder and once hosted Queen Elizabeth II, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Gertrude Stein, to name a few. At least take a seat in the lobby and enjoy the piano player, who is rumored to accommodate the most obscure requests. Depending on the season, rooms can cost upwards of $500 a night.  960 1280

Buyenlarge  

Best Camping in Yosemite

Best Camping in Yosemite

To the south of the Ahwahnee is Bridalveil Creek Campground, one of our favorite destinations for its proximity to the waterfalls and creek. The crowds are also a little lighter than other camping facilities and it has flushing toilets. Hey, it’s the little things. Sites start at $18 a night and the horse-riding set can hitch up Trigger for an additional $30. 960 1280

  

Pay for the View in Glacier

Pay for the View in Glacier

The Many Glacier Hotel is unique for myriad reasons, including its historic one-of-a-kind parkitecture, unparalleled convenience to the national park’s outdoor activities and jaw-dropping views of Swiftcurrent Lake. Additionally, unlike your favorite Hampton Inn, there are no in-room TVs or air conditioning. 

 

960 1280

Scott Temme  

Or Get Away in Glacier

Or Get Away in Glacier

The Cracker Campground is a six-mile hike from the Many Glacier Hotel with a 6,000-foot ascent into backcountry. The park requires that requests be submitted online prior to your arrival. Take nothing away and leave nothing behind and you’ll be handsomely rewarded with the experience of a lifetime.

 

960 1280

  

High Life in Death Valley

High Life in Death Valley

Those seeking a high thread count and resort-style amenities should look no further than the four-diamond 66-room Inn at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. It boasts an 18-hole golf course (the world’s lowest if you’re into that sort of thing), an airstrip, tennis courts and a sparkling pool. The cocktail lounge’s expansive windows provide (literally) epic views of the desert and we hear the G&Ts are especially refreshing after a day of 0% humidity. Rooms are from $309 to upwards of $600. 960 1280

Scott Temme  

Or Desert Trailer Park

Or Desert Trailer Park

Attention all glampers: Death Valley van camping is fast becoming the ALT Burning Man with large groups of caravans taking over the RV spots for weekends of desert frolic. Clocking in at roughly 3.4 million acres, that’s plenty of parking space. The bold and the hydrated are rewarded with mysterious sliding rocks, a wacky castle in the middle of nowhere and real ghost towns. Camping at Furnace Creek is $18 a night and four pets per site are permitted. Nearby park concessioner Stovepipe Wells has 14 RV sites with hookups for $33 a night and 190 campsites for $12 a night. There’s also a pool and showers. 960 1280

  

Keys to the Kingdom

Keys to the Kingdom

We’ve taken you to the far west, now let’s turn our attention to the southern extremes. As there are no federally run hotels or sanctioned concessioners at Dry Tortugas National Park, may we suggest Key West’s historic Casa Marina, which opened its storied doors on New Year’s Eve in 1920. Three days later, President Warren G. Harding came to visit and in 22 years the U.S. Navy acquired it and consequently used the facilities as officer's quarters for the duration of World War II. In the 50s, Casa Marina reestablished itself as a luxury hotspot hosting Gregory Peck, Ethel Merman and golden girl Rita Hayworth. The champagne corks have been popping ever since. When you’re ready to rough it, the concierge will gladly arrange everything you need to hop over to the nearby “people’s beach.” 960 1280

Thomas Hart Shelby  

Your Private Archipelago

Your Private Archipelago

Now that you’ve seen the splendor in the grass, may we suggest a splurge on the sand. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the often-overlooked treasures on the parks roster. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, camping on its sandy shores is a unique and memorable experience. You’ll enjoy world-class snorkeling, bird watching and turtle spotting, or just relaxing in a hammock. Camping fees are only $15 per night and the ferry is $10. Keep in mind that there’s no snack bar, no fresh water source and no bathrooms. In the laid-back spirit that defines Key West, pets are permitted on Garden Key and boaters are welcome to drop anchor and enjoy the island with proper permits, which are free and can be picked up at Garden Key. 960 1280

  

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

California or Tatooine? The desert landscape and stunning sand dunes of Death Valley National Monument ”— and its proximity to Los Angeles —have made it a popular location for movie shoots. In "Star Wars," Death Valley is the stand-in for many scenes on the fictional planet Tatooine. Parts of "Return of the Jedi," "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" and many other classic movies including "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "King Solomon'€™s Mines," "Spartacus" and "Tarzan" were also shot in Death Valley. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Ronoster  

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

In the opening sequence of the third "Indiana Jones" movie, a troop of Boy Scouts hikes under the Double Arch of Utah's Arches National Park. You'™ll see the same arch — and others -— in 2003'™s "The Incredible Hulk." Parts of "City Slickers" and "Thelma and Louise" were also shot in Arches. 960 1280

Kylie Pearse  

Redwoods National Park

Redwoods National Park

A spaceship lands in a forested area near a typical suburb, a set-up that brings us the adorable alien from "E.T." That forest is none other than Redwoods National Park. Also, further down California'™s coast, the redwoods of Muir Woods stand in as Endor, the home of the Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi." 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Michael Fitzsimmons  

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Kevin Costner rides across a stunning backdrop of prairies, badlands and buttes in the 1990 Oscar winner "Dances with Wolves." Parts of "Armageddon" and "How the West Was Won" were also shot in the Badlands. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/lightpix  

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

In "Into the Wild," a young man on a journey to find himself through nature winds up camping out in an abandoned bus in Alaska's Denali National Park. The wild landscape, flora and fauna are practically characters in this film, based on a true story. 960 1280

  

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Like "Into the Wild," the movie "Wild" is also based on the true story of a young person finding herself through a solo trek in the wilderness. Shot almost entirely on location on the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon, a scene near the end of the film takes the main character through a moment of reflection at Crater Lake. 960 1280

  

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Is there any more iconic natural formation in the movies than Devils Tower, the center of alien activity in 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"? The Wyoming location, America'™s first landmark designated a national monument, manages to evoke earthiness and otherworldliness at once. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/fstockfoto  

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Apparently, no landscape says rugged individualism more timelessly than Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. "Django Unchained," "Brokeback Mountain," "Shane" and "Rocky IV" all include scenes shot in the Tetons. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/dmathies  

Coconino National Forest

Coconino National Forest

"The Revenant," which is supposed to take place in South Dakota in the 1800s, was mostly shot in Canada, however, a need for a snowy mountain range brought the crew to the San Francisco Peaks, a volcanic mountain range that, while not a national park, is part of Cococino National Forest in Arizona, south of Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/Jeff Goulden  

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

At the end of 2014's Oscar-nominated movie "Boyhood," famously shot over 12 years, the boy of the title, now a young man, is seen hiking a canyon at Big Bend. The Texas national park also represents in "Paris, Texas" and "No Country for Old Men." 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/David Hughes  

Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest

The dystopian world of "The Hunger Games" is divided into districts, with distinct physical and natural characteristics. District 12, home to Katniss Everdeen, is a mining region surrounded by woods and rivers, shot in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest just east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "The Last of the Mohicans" was also shot in Pisgah. 960 1280

iStockPhoto.com/bluehorizonphotos  

Badlands National Park 1971

Badlands National Park 1971

Our first campsite in a national park was at Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands, South Dakota.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1971

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1971

My brother and I met the presidents at Mount Rushmore. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Grand Teton National Park 1971

Grand Teton National Park 1971

My brother navigates the Snake River with the help of a friend. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Yellowstone National Park 1971

Yellowstone National Park 1971

My family joins the faithful at Old Faithful. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Grand Canyon National Park 1971

Grand Canyon National Park 1971

My brother and I experience the Grand Canyon with our dad. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Yosemite National Park 1971

Yosemite National Park 1971

We became Junior Rangers at Yosemite. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Sequoia National Park 1971

Sequoia National Park 1971

Tiny family or giant tree? 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Golden Gate Park 1971

Golden Gate Park 1971

We enjoy the playground at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects a portion of this area, including an expansive view of the bridge.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Big Sur 1971

Big Sur 1971

After traveling across the country and through many national parks, my mother makes it to the Pacific Ocean, a lifelong dream fulfilled. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Acadia National Park Circa 1980

Acadia National Park Circa 1980

Acadia National Park became our family's €œsummer home. Here's my baby sister and me at Sargent Mountain. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Wedding at Acadia 1996

Wedding at Acadia 1996

Acadia's €œWonderland€ Trail was the perfect setting for my wedding. See more inspiring national park weddings.  960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Junior Rangers 2005

Junior Rangers 2005

My own children became junior rangers, a family tradition. 960 1280

Jennie Baird  

Acadia 2015

Acadia 2015

My 17-year-old daughter pitches our tent at Seawall. 960 1280

  

Acadia August 2015

Acadia August 2015

My parents pose on Acadia’s Ship Harbor Nature Trail. 960 1280

  

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