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Great Lodges of the Great Parks
From backcountry decadence to rustic simplicity, here are the Ten Best Places to bed down in the U.S. national parks. By Jesse Alderman

ROSS LAKE RESORT
NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK, WA

Barbecue is the name of the game at the Ross Lake Resort, a string of floating cabins on the edge of fjordlike Ross Lake. All cabins at the foot- and boat-access only lodge come equipped with a grill, and the cool waters are home to much more than a dinner's worth of rainbow trout—provided you can reel one in (pack in the rest of your provisions). In addition to fishing or eating, guests are supremely positioned; hikers can launch into the Cascades backcountry with ease, while paddlers can play on Ross Lake's calm waters.

Vitals: $100; www.rosslakeresort.com

LECONTE LODGE
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, TN

There's no straining for views at LeConte Lodge, the only mountaintop accommodations in the National Park System. From the cluster of southern Appalachian-style cabins (think log and mortar), 360 degrees of blue ridges roll out one after another. Access is hike-in only and you'll probably smell LeConte's homemade biscuits before you reach camp. One must-do: the short hike to Myrtle Point, possibly the best sunrise vista in the park.

Vitals: $86 per person; www.lecontelodge.com

BIG MEADOWS LODGE
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VA

Constructed with stone cut from nearby Massanutten Mountain, the rustic Big Meadows Lodge sits at the very heart of Shenandoah National Park. The part lodge, part interpretive center bustles like a highway rest stop from spring to fall—at least in the daytime when you're out cruising Shenandoah's woody hollows and mossy creeks. But at dusk, the crowds disperse, and the lodge, along with its namesake Big Meadows, falls quiet. Deer wander in from the forest fringe and fog settles in the valley below.

Vitals: $96 for a room; $85 for a cabin; www.visitshenandoah.com

THE AHWAHNEE
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA

Playing host to royals and to the Kennedys, The Ahwahnee is wilderness opulence at its pinnacle. So much so, the hefty price tag might dissuade a few folks. Rooms are, admittedly, fantastic, with marbled baths and ponderosa pine paneling, set under the 2,000-foot (610-meter) Royal Arches cliff. But you can get a taste of the decadence in the chandeliered dining room; The Ahwahnee's smoked duck carbonara alongside a rich Napa Cabernet make for an indulgent post-hike treat.

Vitals: $379; www.webportal.com/ahwahnee

OLD FAITHFUL INN
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY
To get a seat for Yellowstone's main attraction, you can either jockey for space on the tourist boardwalk or book a room at the Old Faithful Inn. The enormous log cabin—three stories of unfinished lodgepole pine—is less than a hundred yards (91 meters) from the inn's namesake geyser; even if you're not watching the blast from the second-floor overlook, you'll probably hear the hiss. Rooms are no-frills, but touches in the common areas, namely a massive lava-rock fireplace and a huge, open balcony, make for a grand experience.

Vitals: $81; www.travelyellowstone.com

CRATER LAKE LODGE
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OR

Perched on the crest of a defunct caldera, above a cobalt blue lake, Crater Lake Lodge has, quite arguably, the best deck in the entire National Park System. Whether you stay in the luxury hotel or not, no trip to Crater Lake is complete without an evening spent in one of the comfy wicker rockers set out on the lodge's deck. To add to the experience, order up one of the famous (or infamous) Marionberry Martinis, made with handpicked Oregon berries blended into the vodka.

Vitals: $129; www.craterlakelodges.com

SPERRY CHALET
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MT

As one of only two hike-in lodges in Glacier National Park, the alpen-style Sperry Chalet is a hot commodity. The reason? Tent-free access to some of the most striking backcountry in the Rockies. Have the staff pack you a roast turkey sandwich for the four-mile (six-and-a-half-kilometer) walk to the massive (but shrinking) Sperry Glacier. Then, when you get back, indulge in lantern-lit games of Monopoly or just hang out on the creaky wooden deck and wait for the play of the Northern Lights.

Vitals: $155 ($100 per additional person); www.sperrychalet.com

MAHO BAY CAMPS
VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, USVI

Designed by the ecotourism pioneer, Stanley Selengut, Maho Bay Camps falls somewhere between a luxury resort and the Swiss Family Robinson's digs. The warren of tent-cottages overlooks the Caribbean, blending into the surrounding jungle. Each one boasts comfortable beds and a canopy-shaded deck, a perfect place to plan the day's activities. Visitors can swim at Maho's white-sand beach, snorkle nearby coral reefs, hike national park trails, or even better, do nothing at all.

Vitals: $75 ($12 per additional person); www.maho.org

PARADISE INN
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WA

Set against the looming backdrop of America's best known volcano, Mount Rainier, the green-shingled Paradise Inn looks like another hump in the foothills. It's only when you get closer—the lobby, say—that the inn's details stand out. The superstructure is a maze of lodgepole pine and most furnishings, down to the piano and grandfather clock, are crafted from native Alaska cedar. Rooms are spare, but meals are exceptional. One must-try is the bourbon buffalo meatloaf, an enticing and tasty union.

Vitals: $137; www.guestservices.com/rainier

GRAND CANYON LODGE
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ

On the North Rim, accommodations boil down to this: a tent or the Grand Canyon Lodge. Why not leave the tent in the trunk for a change? All Western Cabins have their own fireplace and deck (many overlooking Bright Angel Canyon), and the dining room sits off an expansive wraparound porch with stunning views. Nearby, trails run down into the Big Ditch or up into the cool ponderosa pines of Kaibab National Forest. If you can leave the porch you'll have lots of options.

Vitals: $115; www.grandcanyonnorthrim.com


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Map by Rodica Prato


Additional Excerpts
From the print edition, June/July 2005

• Great Parks 2005: Super Tours, Spectacular Lodges
10 Spectacular Lodges of the Great Parks
**Win a Safari: Find out how you could win a safari for two by participating in the Muddy Buddy race or attending the screenings of Emmanuel's Gift.
Steroids on Everest: Some climbers are using them to cope with altitude sickness, but at what price?
Guns 'n' Butter: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo talks about his new novel, Acts of Faith.
Pelton's World: Our man on the scene tells when to fight or take flight.
Croatia By Sea: Contributing Editor Jon Bowermaster's dispatches from sea kayaking along the Dalmatian Coast.
"Life's an Adventure" Reader Photo Album: See readers' photos and submit your own.


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June/July 2005



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