Cool Accommodations at National Parks

A hotel on a lake with mountains in the background

SNEHIT / Shutterstock

It comes down to this: Some of us just aren't into camping, but still love the great outdoors. America's national parks are some of the most beloved parts of the United States' history and culture, and the good news is that they all have hotel-style accommodations near — or sometimes in them.

If you want a room with an unspoiled view of Old Faithful, the Rockies, or even a volcano caldera, you can get them, usually for reasonable rates. So go check out one of America’s jewels this summer (or fall, when they will be a bit less busy), and get a room in one of these historic, unusual, dramatic, casual, or even kind of fancy lodgings.

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Volcano House

Photo: Studio Barcelona/Shutterstock

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i, is home to a park that is a study in contrasts, with verdant cloud forests running smack into steaming vents and black volcanic rock with nary a plant growing from it.

Since 1846 the Volcano House lodgings have been located within the park itself, with views of the Kilauea caldera. Famous visitor Mark Twain wrote in 1866, “[t]he surprise of finding a good hotel in such an outlandish spot startled me considerably more than the volcano did.” While the hotel is currently closed for renovations, it is set to open later this year, with dramatic views intact. (This photo of Volcano House was taken from the Steam Vents area in the park, on the rim of Kilauea caldera.)

In nearby Volcano Village (a World Heritage site), you can stay at Volcano Village Lodge, in gorgeous open plan suites (one even has a meditation room) or in octagonal pavilions. All are located deep within the cloud forest, including giant ferns, ohia trees, and native orchids that has grown up around the volcanoes, which still warm the ground below. The volcanoes and incredible park is about a mile away.

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Many Glacier Hotel

Photo: Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 2.0]

Glacier National Park in northern Montana actually stretches over the border to Canada and continues on up north as Waterton Lakes National Park. It’s an incredibly dramatic landscape with soaring dropoffs, mountain goats aplenty, great hiking and stunning views from most areas of the park. The Many Glacier Hotel near Babb, Montana, is an awesomely dramatic building, built by hand in the Swiss chalet style with views of the mountains, glaciers and Swiftcurrent Lake below. It opened in 1915 and has been in operation since; it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the lodge’s website, "In keeping with the era in which the hotel was built, the rooms offer guests modest amenities and old-world style accommodations resulting in a one-of-a kind, National Park lodging experience."

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El Tovar hotel

Photo: Michael Quinn/National Park Service/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

The Grand Canyon National Park not only hosts plenty of American guests — people come from around the world to see this geological marvel. While there are plenty of camping — and even "glamping" options, if you want to stay in style, you can’t beat the El Tovar hotel, which sits right on the South Rim of the canyon in northwest Arizona. (It's the dark-brown structure in this photo.) Run by the National Parks Service, the El Tovar, which opened in 1905, is the most dramatic and luxe of the lodgings in the Grand Canyon, and has hosted luminaries from Albert Einstein to Theodore Roosevelt and author Zane Grey. Three view-suites are available, but those book up often a year in advance; standard rooms are less than $200 per night and you still get the chance to revel in the views — and history — of this famous location.

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Crater Lake Lodge

Photo: Dee Browning/Shutterstock

The Crater Lake Lodge in southeast Oregon took a decade to complete after the park opened in 1905, but the incredible views of the lake that fills an extinct volcano high up in the Cascade Mountains made it instantly popular. A rustic mountain lodge with an original classic giant stone fireplace, the walls of the Great Hall are lined in Ponderosa Pine bark. About half the rooms have lake views, and while some have modern bathrooms, others are outfitted with clawfoot tubs so you can relax old-school style. It’s open May through October.

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Hotel Terra

Photo: Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 3.0]

Grand Teton Park’s Hotel Terra, unlike many of the lodgings in or near a national park, isn’t historic at all. In fact, it’s practically brand-new. Opened in 2008, this LEED silver-certified building is a piece of the future, complete with organic cotton sheets, flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations. Located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this hotel is frequented by both park visitors and skiiers.