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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 find it ironic that a site so against "privatization" of park management implicitly endorses monopolistic pilfering of park profits by private concessionaires. I've said it again and again, but the feds spent $17 million (in 1995 dollars) re-building Crater Lake Lodge for a private company, which charges $200 a night and gives almost nothing back to the park.

Reform the National Park Service!

Frank, what exactly do you mean by "gives almost nothing back to the park"? What is the fee that these lodges pay to NPS? Is it the same across the system or does it vary from park to park? I'm not familiar with how NPS manages their concession system but it sounds like you are. I'm interested in seeing how much the NPS earns off a place like the Ahwahnee.


I find it ironic that you've got something critical to say about nearly every article posted on this site, and yet you implicitly endorse us by your repeated visits. You are correct, you have said it again and again and again, enough so that anyone who reads this site regularly knows your what your views are. I have a feeling you'll be back again soon, just in case we didn't get your point the first 100 times you left it.

You mention a lodge you liked by Olympic. Can you name it? I am looking for a great place to stay there. Thanks!


There are four main lodges inside, or very close, to Olympic NP. Which lodge you choose sort-of depends on the experience you are looking for. Kalaloch Lodge is on the coast, and some cabins and rooms look right out on the Pacific Ocean. Lake Quinault Lodge was designed by the same fellow who built the Old Faithful Inn. The lodge and restaurant at Quinault are terrific; it isn't uncommon for weddings to be conducted on the main lawn which leads to the lake. The lodging at Sol Duc Hot Springs is a little more rustic, but the main attraction there are the naturally heated pools. I covered Sol Duc in a movie presentation earlier this year on the website. Lake Crescent Lodge may be my favorite, but I haven't been there in many years. It's an old lodge right on the lake with a lot of little cabins.

The park's gateway communities also have a lot of lodging possibilities. The towns of Port Angeles, Squim, Forks, and (to a lesser degree) Aberdeen have plenty of hotels to choose from. Of these, my favorite is the Port Angeles Inn. It's got a nice view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca, and it has easy walking access (via stairs) to the downtown restaurants, and shops. It's also right next to a big Safeway, which makes picnic prep easy.

I'm not overly enthusiastic with privately run corporations charged with the lodging concessions in nationally held lands either. But do you really have any clue as to the reasoning behind these lease agreements? Strictly from an economic standpoint, what is your breakdown on operating costs (e.g., building construction costs, maintenance and upkeep of buildings AND grounds, salaries, benefits and general staffing issues like the associated training costs of hiring and managing a part-time staff, restaurant management, laundry services, HVAC systems, and trying to tie this all together with enough insight to competently respond to the multitude of questions pertinent to the specific locale in which you operate? The NPS was intelligent and foresighted enough to realize that it simply cannot fiscally compete in the professional hotel management aspect of operating a lodge facility on their properties, so they did the next best thing. For the benefit of ALL park visitors, they allow "privatization" of certain aspects of lodging, agreed to in consultation and with, and operated strictly within NPS guidelines, that allow for certain corporations to serve as middle-man between the NPS and those of us who visit. FYI- It is the NPS, NOT Xanterra, or their likeness, who determine annual lodging rates, where facilities are allowed to be erected, size of accomodations, etc. If you had any inclination to do your homework, you would find that the privateers are that in name only, and that the NPS pulls the majority the strings, and certainly holds all the aces in this deal. As well they should. If you are that bend out of shape about privately owned lodges on national lands, don't support them. Stay in a tent. Does that pose an issue?

How did you guys manage to drift so far off on a tangent? Franks's comments competely ignore the contents of the article. But I'll put in my two-cents worth on this bellyaching anyway. See editorial above. Then PLEASE try and maintain your focus!

A few quick notes -

The NPS has lots of concessions operating in the parks. Things like the park phone system and garbage service may be operated by a concessions. It is cost-effective to let others operate some services within the parks. It makes sense to me that lodge operations should be handled by a concessionaire. We don't need park rangers checking you into your room or changing your sheets. This does not mean there aren't problems in the system, but why should that diminish the stature of the hotel?

Let's not confuse the people who operate the lodges with the lodges themselves. This list states simply that the Ahwahnee is the best lodge in the parks, it doesn't say that Delaware North (the concession that operates the lodge) are the best. In a few years, some other outfit may be managing the hotel, but the hotel remains in the park, and the hotel may continue to be rated "the best". We can debate the best/worst concession contracts on another day, but for this article, as Lone Hiker says, lets see if we can maintain some focus.

Are there lodges in the parks that should have been included on this list? I've already suggested that maybe one of the Olympic lodges should be here, anyone second that opinion?

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