High-Low List: National Park Accommodations for All
Should you prefer a chocolate on your pillow, our national parks have you covered with serious luxury lodging. But if you’re willing to sleep on the ground, campsites average less than $20 bucks.
Historic Luxury in Grand CanyonWhen 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 YosemiteNature 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
Best Camping in YosemiteTo 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
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.
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.
High Life in Death ValleyThose 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
Or Desert Trailer ParkAttention 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 KingdomWe’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
Your Private ArchipelagoNow 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
Yosemite National ParkFour million tourists flock to Yosemite National Park every year. Tenaya Canyon is the park's spookiest spot. In 1851, American soldiers fought with Native Americans. Chief Tenaya cursed the canyon after his son will killed in combat. Check out California's Olmstead Point, a rock cliff with a beautiful vantage point over the dangerous Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome. 960 1280
Yellowstone National ParkSeveral tourists claim to hear eerie whispers from the Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Find out whether the lake really gives up its dead. Stay at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, the oldest building in the park, and the only hotel situated around the lake. 960 1280
Great Sand Dunes National ParkA UFO Watchtower, started by Judy Messoline, was built near The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Hooper, CO. Some psychics claim that the area has 2 large vortexes, portals to a parallel universe. There have been allegedly 54 UFO sightings since the watchtower was built in 2000. 960 1280
Great Sand Dunes National ParkColorado's Great Sand Dunes, 10-to-100-thousands of years old, are said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Government officials say military equipment testing may be the real explanation behind the unexplained UFO sightings seen near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National ParkGrand Canyon National Park is 1 of the 7 natural wonders of the world, drawing 5 million visitors a year. This photo, taken from Desert View Watchtower, is a great vantage point to watch the sun rise and set. Maverick Helicopter Tour Company provides tourists with a bird's-eye-view of the canyon for $125 to $250 per person. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National ParkSome tourists, visiting Grand Canyon National Park, think ghosts of the 128 passengers killed in a multiple commercial flight crash in June 1956, still haunt the park. The unfortunate crash did spark the start of flight safety measures, including the formation of the FAA, a national radar system and the invention of the cockpit voice recorder. 960 1280
Ultimate Travel: Legends of the Park 9 Photos
Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin IslandsTurquoise water and gleaming white beaches at a national park? That's what you'll find if you venture outside of the US. The Virgin Islands National Park is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Trunk Bay. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaIt's not easy to get to most Colorado River beaches, but consider a several-day rafting trip the highlight of your trip. Before you dive in you should know the water rarely gets above 60 degrees, but you probably won't mind in 100-degree heat. 960 1280
Best National Park Beaches in America 16 Photos