Something magical happens in U.S. national parks when day-trip visitors leave. It’s a moment that feels like you have one of the most majestic places on Earth all to yourself.
Our readers’ 10 favorite places to stay put you in the heart of some of the country’s most beloved national parks. They offer incomparable views, peaceful mornings and evenings, and delicious dining options.
1. YMCA Of The Rockies (Winner)
Rocky Mountain National Park
With no lodging available in Rocky Mountain National Park (other than camping), YMCA of the Rockies is one of the closest places you can stay when visiting. YMCA of the Rockies is actually bordered by the national park on three sides. It’s also one of the more affordable options on the list. Location and affordability are two of the key reasons it tops our list.
Guests can choose from two- to five-bedroom cabins, lodge-style hotel rooms, yurts, and camping sites. Activities include archery, a climbing wall, roller skating, horseback riding, arts and crafts, photography, and yoga. Some activities do come with an additional cost.
At the end of the day, relax around the fire pit, enjoy a few s’mores, and share stories of your adventures.
2. Grand Canyon Lodge
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim receives only 10 percent of the total visitors to Grand Canyon National Park with 100 percent of the same incredible views. Grand Canyon Lodge offers cabins and motel-style accommodations to guests. Enjoy a sit-down meal in the main dining room from breakfast through dinner, or grab a breakfast burrito in the morning or a cocktail and snacks in the afternoon at the Roughrider Saloon. Guests love relaxing in the Adirondack chairs on the patio with the pinch-yourself canyon views.
The North Rim sits 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim and is closed to visitors from December 1–May 15 every year.
Note: As of this writing, the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim is closed due to a damaged water pipeline. The lodge is scheduled to open in late July.
3. Volcano House
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Volcano House in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park places you on the rim of the Kilauea Volcano. The lodge has 33 guest rooms with 10 cabins, as well as spots to camp nearby. The rooms are cozy and comfortable with beautiful wooden furnishings. When you walk into the lobby, be sure to wander over to the fireplace. You’ll see the goddess Pele depicted in the lava rock. The breathtaking location is only topped by the amazing Hawaiian hospitality. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at The Rim after exploring the various hiking trails you can access near Volcano House.
Kilauea is Hawaii’s most active volcano, but don’t let that scare you away. However, if you believe in ghosts, some say Volcano House is haunted by an elderly woman. Some have also said they’ve seen the figure of a white dog on the road leading to the hotel.
4. Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park
A stay at Old Faithful Inn offers guests access to the geyser area in Yellowstone National Park, where few other park visitors are able to experience a geyser view minus the crowds. While guests book a stay to marvel at the world’s most famous geyser, they’re sure to be equally in awe of the inn itself.
The inn opened in 1904 and is one of the largest log-style buildings in the world. Walk through the signature red doors and simply look up. The lobby is 76 feet high with an immense stone fireplace and wrought-iron clock as its centerpiece. Take a seat in one of the rocking chairs and marvel at the unique wooden beams, ceilings, stairs, and railings. There’s also an Old Faithful clock in the lobby that predicts the geyser’s next eruption.
The inn is open from early May through early October with free tours offered each day. Select tours are also available from the inn at a cost or you can rent bikes at the nearby Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
5. El Tovar Hotel
Grand Canyon National Park
A historic hotel perfectly placed on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, El Tovar Hotel takes you to another time when you walk through its lobby door. It opened in 1905 with a design inspired by Scandinavian hunting lodges and Swiss chalets.
Today, the hotel offers 78 rooms,12 suites, a dining room with an amazing menu and wine list, and incomparable views. The hotel is just steps from the popular Bright Angel Trailhead, Hopi House, train depot, and a short walk from park headquarters via the Rim Trail.
It’s difficult to pick the best El Tovar amenity, but it may be the peaceful mornings and evenings and the darkest of nights. Guests are able to enjoy the sunrise, sunset, and stargazing opportunities that most daily visitors miss.
6. The Ahwahnee
Yosemite National Park
The Ahwahnee is likely the most luxurious hotel on the list. While the others have a wonderful rustic charm, The Ahwahnee’s upscale ambiance begins as you walk the red carpet into the hotel. The lobby’s floors are decorated with Native American designs on the floor and ceiling. In the grand lounge, beautiful stained-glass windows are showcased over the windows.
From the hotel, guests can view Yosemite National Park’s majestic Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point. The beautiful dining area offers high ceilings with wooden trusses and floor-to-ceiling windows so guests don’t miss a moment taking in the amazing views that surround the lodge.
7. Many Glacier Hotel
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is blessed with several lodging experiences within the park and two are National Historic Hotels — Lake McDonald Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel. Many Glacier is in the northeastern portion of the park, nestled on Swiftcurrent Lake and surrounded by the park’s dramatic peaks. Enjoy a boat tour, kayak, or canoe from the lake’s banks.
Many Glacier Hotel has 205 beautiful rustic guest rooms. You won’t find a television or air conditioning, neither of which you’re likely to miss. There are two dining options that will satisfy the most discerning of palates. The lodge is open from early June through early September.
8. Zion Lodge
Zion National Park
Zion Lodge is the only accommodation inside Zion National Park; a huge perk, especially from March through November when park visitors must use the shuttle to access the park. The lodge is located in beautiful Zion Canyon and offers hotel-style rooms and cabins. There are several trailheads nearby and a shuttle available to access others, or you can bring your bicycle and cycle the entire 7-mile scenic drive.
In the evenings, relax on your patio and marvel at the sandstone walls that surround you as wildlife strolls by. The rooms are rustic but well-appointed, setting the perfect tone for your stay in Zion. Dine at delicious Red Rock Grill throughout the day or grab breakfast on the go at Castle Dome Café.
9. Chisos Mountains Lodge
Big Bend National Park
The only lodging inside Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountains Lodge is simple but with the views you’d expect from in-park accommodations. The sunsets are especially spectacular. Staying here is all about location with the next closest lodging options — other than camping — about 30 miles away.
The lodge is made up of several buildings and when you stay here, it’s almost a necessity to unplug. You won’t find televisions or phones in the rooms and there’s limited cell service. There is Wi-Fi available on the grounds if needed.
The lodge is open year-round and rooms book very quickly, with spring and fall being the most popular times to visit.
10. Yellowstone Canyon Lodge
Yellowstone National Park
The property includes seven different lodges and cabins with more than 500 rooms. Five of the lodges just opened in 2016 and are LEED-certified, which means sustainable practices were used when building the facilities. Also, the bathroom countertops and the wooden fixtures and accents throughout the property are made from recycled materials.
Guests describe the rooms as comfortable with a rustic charm. There are several dining options in Canyon Village including an ice creamery that kids of all ages are sure to love!
Pro Tip: El Tovar, Old Faithful Inn, Zion Lodge, and Many Glacier are on the list of Historic Hotels of America. Reserving a room at any of the lodges can be a challenge requiring you to be online exactly when reservations open, especially if you’re traveling during peak season.
See all of our readers’ 2023 Best Of Travel Awards selections including 8 Best Glamping Experiences In The U.S., Our 15 Favorite U.S. National Parks To Visit, 15 Best Hikes In U.S. National Parks, 14 Best Hidden Gem National Parks In The U.S., 14 Best National Parks Outside Of The U.S., and 15 Best State Parks To Visit In The U.S.