People travel to national parks to experience the great outdoors, but after working up a sweat on the trail, the indoors can be pretty great, too. The US national park system is home to some of the most stunning historic lodges in the country. Often featuring nature-inspired architecture and views of the surrounding landscape, these hotels serve as base camps for experiencing America’s natural treasures. The indoor plumbing is an added perk. From a 175-year-old farmhouse by a waterfall to a luxury lodge on the Grand Canyon’s rim, these are the most historic places to stay in eight national park properties.
To enjoy the majestic views of the Grand Canyon in comfort, book a room at El Tovar. Chicago architect Charles Whittlesey aimed to bring the European style of Swiss chalets and Norwegian villas to the rim of the Arizona canyon when he designed the lodge in the early 20th century. El Tovar was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987—82 years after it opened. With 78 distinct rooms, every guest that checks into the luxury hotel gets a unique experience.
Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn wasn’t the first lodge constructed on the national park property. When the old hotel in the park’s Upper Geyser Basin burned down in 1894, the Yellowstone Park Association set out to build a more formidable replacement. Completed a decade later, the Old Faithful Inn consists of local stone and lumber. It’s still considered the largest log structure standing today. Notable features of the National Historic Landmark include the towering stone fire place, rustic wood staircases, and handmade clock.
The Alpine feel of the Many Glacier Hotel complements the surrounding mountain landscape. The Great Northern Railway constructed the building near Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park between 1914 and 1915. Much of the classic European charm from the original design is preserved today, from the Swiss Lounge dining area to the atrium lobby. The National Historic Landmark embodies the early 20th century in more ways than one. When guests check into one of the 214 rooms, they’ll have to rough it without television or air conditioning.
The Ahwahnee set the gold standard for on-site national park lodging when it opened in 1927. Situated in the stunning Yosemite Valley, it was designed to be a premier destination for wealthy adventurers. Today visitors travel from across the globe to appreciate the hotel’s Art Deco- and Native American-inspired architecture, which is meant to compliment the surrounding natural features like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point. Past guests to the Yosemite hotel include presidents, royalty and movie stars.
Crater Lake Lodge is one of the best spots to view the national park’s namesake feature. Originally opened in 1915, the structure sits 1000 feet above Crater Lake on the rim of the caldera. The lodge is a great place to learn about the park as well as soak in its natural beauty: the Exhibit Room explores the history of Crater Lake and the hotel.
After visiting Crater Lake, adventurers can drive three hours to the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve located in the Siskiyou Mountains. The Chateau at the Oregon Caves was built in 1934 to accommodate travelers exploring the “Marble Halls of Oregon.” Spread out across six floors, each of the 23 rooms is unique. Visitors just passing through can normally shop for locally made art at the gift gallery or grab a bite and a drink at the vintage coffee shop. As of summer 2023, the Chateau is closed for extensive renovations.
The Bryce Canyon Lodge is your only option for lodging within the Utah park. The original wood structure was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the same architect behind the Ahwahnee and the Old Faithful Lodge. The lodge is as rustic today as when it opened in 1925, which means guests have to make due without TV, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. The lighting is compliant with Dark Sky standards, and it’s recommended that guests travel with a flashlight or headlamp if they venture around the grounds at night.
The Brandywine waterfall is the crown jewel of Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. A private residence was built next to the falls in 1848, and today it operates as a historic inn. The landmark has a different aesthetic than the log lodges seen in parks out west, with guests staying in a Greek Revival farmhouse and carriage barn. But with 175 years of history etched into the walls, it’s still every bit as charming.