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National Parks Special
2007: Lodges
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The Best of the National Parks: Lodges
Fifty easy-to-execute plans that put you in the wild heart of America's national parks, whether you love hiking, paddling, climbing, wildlife viewing, or sublime lodges.   By Robert Earle Howells   Illustration by Jesse Lefkowitz

Illustration: Lodge

National Parks 2007:

Best Hikes  Best Paddling  |  Best Wildlife  |  Best Treks 

Best Drives  |  Best Climbs  |  Best Lodges  |  See All National Parks

Best Trip: Rafting the Grand Canyon

Yosemite National Park, California
The Ahwahnee
Queen Elizabeth, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy—they wouldn't have deigned to stay at just any park lodge. They all chose the one and only Ahwahnee, the epitome of wilderness elegance. Dating to 1927, the six-story hotel is a masterwork of granite and timber plunked among a scattering of sugar pines and rolling meadows at the base of the 2,000-foot (610-meter) Royal Arches cliffs. If ever a structure could mimic the grandeur of the surrounding Yosemite Valley, it's the Ahwahnee.

Inside, visitors are immediately overwhelmed by the massive scale of the Great Lounge, with its polished wooden floor and exposed girders and beams. A pair of enormous sandstone fireplaces anchor either end of the room, outdone only by the dozen 24-foot (7-meter) floor-to-ceiling windows. Throughout the hotel, dark ponderosa pine paneling adds a swarthy touch, while floor mosaics, stained glass windows, basketwork, and even the china pattern evoke the designs of the valley's native inhabitants, the Ahwahneechee. Though the Ahwahnee would seem an exclusive enclave, all park visitors are welcome to settle into an armchair and enjoy a cocktail or afternoon tea. Dinner is worth the splurge, but you'll have to honor the dress code (no jeans; collared shirts required for men). And while dining beneath the gabled ceiling is an occasion to remember, it's what you see through the windows that makes the deepest impression: Half Dome, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and the Royal Arches. Grand as it is, the Ahwahnee allows Yosemite to be king.

Inside Word:
Ask about a freestanding cottage room. For the same price as one of the small hotel rooms (typical of the era), you get more space and privacy near the Merced River.

The 123-room lodge is open year-round ($394; Dinner reservations are required for nonguests.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful Inn
In any other setting, the 386-room, 103-year-old inn, with its giant, hand-hewn timbers and locally quarried rhyolite, would dominate its surroundings. In
Yellowstone it's simply another wonder—particularly inside, where four levels of balconies overlook a 76-foot-tall (23-meter-tall) stone fireplace. Guests can slip out the door early for a crowd-free eruption of Old Faithful or take a quiet walk among bison and elk in nearby Upper Geyser Basin.

Old Faithful Inn ($111; is open May 11 to October 14. 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Big Meadows Lodge
No other lodge in the National Park System is more aptly named than Big Meadows. Imagine giant timbers of oak and chestnut, oversize stonework laid in 1939, and huge views through picture windows of fabled Shenandoah Valley. For a laid-back adventure, hike nine miles (14 kilometers) down the Appalachian Trail to the park's other lodge, Skyland Resort; luggage transport is included.

Vitals: Big Meadows Lodge ($87; will transport your
luggage to Skyland Resort ($66) for $60. 

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, Alaska
Kennicott Glacier Lodge
It's everything a lodge in the middle of the country's largest national park should be: remote (a two-hour flight from Anchorage to nearby McCarthy), quiet (no cars on property), and gloriously situated. Outside the windows, the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains rise in the distance while the Kennicott–Root Glacier confluence is so close you can hear the meltwater running.

Vitals: Kennicott Glacier Lodge ($159; is open mid-May through September 8. Ellis Air runs flights from Anchorage to McCarthy ($600;

Glacier National Park, Montana
Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet
Notable for what they lack—driveways, parking lots—these hike-in chalets are backcountry comfort exemplified. Both place visitors in the heart of the high country, amid jagged peaks and wildflower meadows. The 17-room Sperry Chalet rewards a 6.7-mile (11-kilometer) approach (via the Sperry Trail) with hot meals and a view of Lake McDonald. The 12-room Granite Park is simpler, with a DIY kitchen, and is reached by a 7.4-mile (12-kilometer) hike on the Highline Trail, one of the marquee routes in Glacier.

Vitals: The Sperry Chalet ($160, including meals; and Granite Park Chalet ($70) are open July 7 through September 8. Need help with that pack? For the hike to Sperry you can hire a mule

National Parks 2007:

Best Hikes  Best Paddling  |  Best Wildlife  |  Best Treks 

Best Drives  |  Best Climbs  |  Best Lodges  |  See All National Parks

Best Trip: Rafting the Grand Canyon

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