People go to national parks to experience the great outdoors, but after sweating it out on the trail, the interior can be quite enjoyable too. The United States National Park System is home to some of the most amazing historic lodges in the country. Often featuring nature-inspired architecture and views of the surrounding landscape, these hotels serve as base camps for discovering America’s natural treasures. Indoor plumbing is an added bonus. From a 175-year-old farmhouse by a waterfall to a luxury lodge at the rim of the Grand Canyon, these are the most historic places to stay at eight national park properties.
To comfortably enjoy a majestic view of the Grand Canyon, book a room at El Tovar. Chicago architect Charles Whittlesey aimed to bring the European style of Swiss chalets and Norwegian villas to the edge 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 who checks into the luxury hotel has a unique experience.
Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn was not the first lodge built on national park property. When the park’s former Upper Geyser Basin hotel burned down in 1894, the Yellowstone Park Association set out to build a more formidable replacement. Completed a decade later, the Old Faithful Inn is made of local stone and wood. It is still considered the largest log structure standing today. Notable features of the National Historic Landmark include the towering stone fireplace, rustic wooden stairs, and handcrafted clock.
The alpine atmosphere of Many Glacier Hotel complements the surrounding mountain scenery. The Great Northern Railway constructed the building near Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park between 1914 and 1915. Much of the classic European charm of the original design is preserved today, from the Swiss Lounge dining room to the lobby of the atria. The National Historic Landmark embodies the early 20th century in more ways than one. When guests check into one of the 214 rooms, they will have to make do without a TV or air conditioning.
The Ahwahnee set the benchmark for on-site National Park lodging when it opened in 1927. Located in beautiful Yosemite Valley, it was designed to be a premier destination for wealthy adventurers. Today, visitors travel from around the world to appreciate the hotel’s Art Deco and Native American-inspired architecture, which is meant to complement surrounding natural features such as Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point. Former Yosemite Hotel guests include presidents, royalty, and movie stars.
Crater Lake Lodge is one of the best places to see the national park’s namesake feature. Originally opened in 1915, the structure sits 1,000 feet above Crater Lake on the edge of the caldera. The lodge is a great place to experience the park and soak up its natural beauty: the exhibit hall explores the history of Crater Lake and the hotel.
After visiting Crater Lake, adventurers can drive three hours to Oregon’s Cave National Monument and Preserve located in the Siskiyou Mountains. The Oregon Caverns Castle was built in 1934 to accommodate travelers exploring the “Marble Halls of Oregon”. Spread over six floors, each of the 23 rooms is unique. Passing visitors can normally shop for local artwork at the gift gallery or grab a bite and drink at the vintage cafe. From summer 2023, the castle is closed for major renovations.
Bryce Canyon Lodge is your only lodging option in the Utah park. The original wooden structure was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the same architect behind Ahwahnee and Old Faithful Lodge. The lodge is as rustic today as it was when it opened in 1925, meaning guests have to do without TVs, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning. Lighting is to Dark Sky standards, and guests are recommended to travel with a flashlight or headlamp if venturing into the park at night.
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 functions as a historic inn. The landmark has a different aesthetic than the log lodges seen in the parks to the west, with guests staying in a Greek Revival-style farmhouse and barn. But with 175 years of history etched into the walls, it’s still as charming as ever.