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10 Best Lodges in the National Parks

The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park; Jim Brekke photo.

The Ahwahnee in Yosemite, rated the best lodge in the National Parks by Jim Brekke photo via Flickr.

We've covered park lodges before, but it is hard to resist this top 10 list. Picking the 10 best lodges in the park system is really impossible; it is just way too subjective. Just today I spoke on the phone with someone who had stayed at the very same lodge near Olympic National Park as I had just a few short months ago. Our experiences could not have been more different ... I thought it was great, he thought it was less than so-so. With that sort of difference of opinion for one lodge, I'm sure you'll find some places you agree with below, and others you'll wonder how they made the top anything. This list is compiled by (found via Gadling):

Alaska to Hawaii to the Virgin Islands to Arizona and Montana, this list is all over the map. It would take A LOT of travel to see every place on this entire list. I imagine it would be pretty difficult to fairly rate every park hotel across the whole system, let alone rank them, especially considering the many inherent differences between them all. I'd think it would be a more accurate evaluation to compare just the top 10 lodges at the Grand Canyon, than it is to compare the historic structure in Shenandoah National Park against a lodge in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But, having said all that, who am I to say it can't be done? Maybe this list is dead accurate, do you think so? Is it close? Did they leave off one of your favorites?


I like your top ten list! I have not visited all of the National Parks, so I can't see that you left any off. We take our children to at least one of our nation's beautiful parks each year. We have actually stayed at the Ahwahnee, Big Meadows and Many Glacier and have reservations at Camp Denali for next summer. There is nothing like waking up and looking outside your window at God's creation. I encourage anyone planning a NP visit to make a reservation INSIDE the park that you plan to visit. Whether you spend the night in a tent camp or in a higher priced lodge, it will be worth it.

Got to be Charit Creek Lodge in the heart of the Big South Fork. It's an old homstead that is now a walk/bike/horseback-in hostel at the confluence of Charit Creek and Station Camp Creek abot 2miles from the nearest trailheads. Head a mile from the lodge over in one direciton and you come to the Station Camp Crossing in one of the most remote parts of the Big South Fork Gorge. Go the opposiite direction for a few miles and you have a smorgasboard of huge standstone arches and stunning overlooks of the gorge.

President, CHS SPEAK (CHS Students Promoting Environmental Action & Knowledge)
Founder and President, CHS Campus Greens


Great start of a thread. Here's my new favorite:

The Chalet at Oregon Caves...I stayed two nites in a third floor room and had a gorgeous sleep listening to the waterfall out my open window. The ghost that lives across the hall didn't bother me a bit. The breakfast in the coffee shop below was yummy. Wonderful, relaxing place. I can't wait to stay there again. As I recall, the rates were very reasonable.

BTW: Ref The Ahwahnee...The name comes from the Native American word for Yosemite Valley which means "place of a gaping mouth." How unintentionally appropriate is that! ;)

I have to admit, I'm a real sucker for Roosevelt Lodge at Yellowstone and for White Wolf tent cabins in Yosemite. They are to me reminiscent of the old-fashioned park experience with a touch of civilization attached. I love waking in the mornings to the cool morning air, lighting up a fire in the wood stove... cup of coffee... I love the camaraderie of the lodge experience which both places afford. I also love the locations of these since they are both away from the main hubbub of these busy parks.

To me, the Ahwahnee is a beautiful, architecturally-stunning, upscale experience that I would prefer were at the park's gates rather than smack dab in the middle of Yosemite Valley. It's too late to do anything about it now, but if everyone could evacuate the building and a rockslide could bury it, I wouldn't mourn too much.

Has anyone thought about posting the room rates for the 10 best lodges? I Googled the rates for the Ahwahnee Hotel, and here's what I found:

Ahwahnee $408
Ahwahnee Cottages $408
Jr. Suites $499
Suites $893
Tressider Suite w/Library Parlor $984
Additional Adult in same room $21/night
Add. rollaway bed in same room $11/night

These prices to not include tax, which is an addtional 10%. This means that a suite at the Ahwahnee will approach and exceed $1000.00 per night!

I wonder how the other 9 "best" lodges compare in price?

I'll be the first to admit that I have yet to visit, or will EVER visit the entire scope of facilities offered within the NPS. I also concede to the fact that all encompassing words and statements never live up to their billing. That said, and having no point of reference regarding LeConte, I will say that by the strict definition and personal experience the Yosemite sites don't quite qualify in the sense of the term "lodge". And to me the greatest difference is the fostering of community that evolved naturally at Phantom versus the somewhat uncomfortably "forced" nature that existed on my trek through Yosemite. To be sure, the location of certain regions within Glacier is quite demanding and remote enough to keep away the "casual tourists" to which I usually make it a point to avoid in my personal backcountry expeditions. And the chalet atmosphere does indeed lend itself to the kindred spirit. But to consider them a similar lodge is a bit of a stretch in my humble opinion. Maybe my issue is that after a week or so in the middle of nowhere, sometimes quite literally, almost ANY structure becomes highly appealing, even the Muav Cabin, so it's possible my perspective isn't the most objective on many of the NPS facilities. Phantom isn't opulent, by any stretch, but that's not high on my criteria or I obviously would have selected the El Tovar from the Grand Canyon facilities. I'm just saying that the effort expended to reap the "reward" of the lodge is the greatest draw for me personally. But this is just one of those debates that anyone can justify his/her opinion on with little dispute from the masses.

Oh, I wouldn't be so quick to say "no other lodge" in the park system can foster such camaraderie.

There are the backcountry chalets in Glacier that would come close, I think, and LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains, of course. Both require some relatively significant hoofing it to find a berth. And in Glacier, you can rub elbows with your fellow hikers while making your own dinners in true collective fashion at the Granite Park Chalet.

Others, no doubt, would point to the backcountry tent camps in Yosemite's high country. True, you don't cook your own meals, but you eat family style and so can regale your companions with park stories and foster community.

So much for focusing on content. But since the author raises a new question, my personal hands-down choice is Phantom Ranch. Location, location, LOCATION!!! There are no "casual tourists" to be had in the bottom of the abyss, which enhances the level of camaraderie amongst kindred spirits, akin to a true brotherhood of a "lodge". No other facility in the NPS network is remotely (no pun intended) close to fostering that type of closeness among guests. Even the canteen visitors from Bright Angel campground become part of the overall family, albeit somewhat like a second cousin. For that matter, in spite of what you're thinking, those river-running folk, to some degree "casual" due to the lack of physical effort expended upon reaching the lodge, have a unique perspective on the facility after days (and nights) on the river. Before you ridicule me for taking them seriously as more than casual invaders of the inner sanctum, if you've yet to experience the length of the Colorado via watercraft, you are indeed missing the most unique adventure the Canyon had to offer. But I would still prefer the trans-canyon hike with a night (or two, off season) at the Ranch to any stay in ANY lodge.

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