Top Ten National Park Historic Lodges

Where the accommodation is part of the park experience
Gorp.com
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Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National PArk
Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National PArk  (Xanterra Parks and Resorts)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Volcano House
Volcano House, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, has long ranked with the most distinctive lodges in the National Park System. Perched on the rim of Kilauea Crater, the hotel has been in operation in one form or another since the mid-19th century and famously offers a splendid vista into the sometimes-active crater. The present 1941 establishment replaced an 1877 building whose guests included Mark Twain and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unfortunately, Volcano House was closed in 2010 by park officials, who were concerned about conditions and maintenance. Its reopening has tentatively been set for 2012, but as of this writing the hotel's future is uncertain.
Many national parks feature inns or lodges that immerse visitors in history: the days when railroads were opening new areas to travel, when architects using native materials created designs now called "parkitecture." Some lodges lack many modern amenities, but as in all real estate, the attraction is location, location, location.

Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Inn (1904): Largest Log Hotel in the World
The entire area around Yellowstone's iconic Old Faithful geyser in northwestern Wyoming is a national historic district, with a major highlight being the 1904 Old Faithful Inn, itself a national historic landmark. One of the few remaining log hotels in the United States, and the largest log hotel in the world, the inn was designed by Robert C. Reamer with asymmetry meant to reflect the disorder of the natural world; its steeply pitched roof mimics mountain peaks. Seven hundred feet long and seven stories tall, Old Faithful Inn boasts a lobby with a 65-foot-high ceiling and a huge fireplace built of volcanic rhyolite stone. No matter how many photos of the lobby visitors may have seen, they are always awestruck seeing it in person for the first time. The inn's rustic design had a major influence on subsequent architecture in other parks. Enlarged in 1915 and 1927 (under Reamer's supervision), the inn now has 327 rooms. It goes without saying that, for a legendary inn such as Old Faithful, it's mandatory to make reservations as far in advance as possible. Lodge: 307-344-7901, www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.

Grand Canyon National Park
El Tovar Hotel (1905): South Rim
Just after the turn of the 20th century, the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway built a spur line north from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon to haul copper from a proposed mine. As it turned out, there wasn't enough copper to be profitable. So the railroad hired architect Charles Whittlesey to build a hotel on the South Rim to draw tourists (i.e., train passengers). Opened in 1905, El Tovar Hotel has elements of a Swiss hunting lodge—a popular design theme of the time. Since then, the hotel, a national historic landmark, has hosted Theodore Roosevelt (twice), William Howard Taft, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, Bill Clinton, and thousands of other guests who have marveled at the canyonside views. Though the lobby and other public areas look much as they did in 1905, the rest of the hotel was extensively refurbished in 2005; all 78 rooms have a range of modern amenities. No matter how appealing El Tovar's interior is, however, nothing can compete with the grand spectacle just 20 feet from its front door. Free park shuttle buses take guests to shops, visitor centers, and scenic overlooks along the South Rim. Lodge: 888-297-2757, www.grandcanyonlodges.com.

Yosemite National Park
Ahwahnee Hotel (1927): Yosemite Valley Views
The Ahwahnee Hotel's major attraction is one that dates from even before its opening in 1927: The hotel was specifically sited to provide views of California's Yosemite Valley, one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. With Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point, and other iconic natural landmarks out its windows, the Ahwahnee offers guests a chance to get out and explore the valley before day-trippers arrive. The hotel's impressive rockand-wood facade holds a secret: The "redwood" is actually concrete, shaped and stained to look like wood. Designers wanted to lessen the possibility of fire, a constant danger in allwood buildings before the days of sprinkler systems. More than 5,000 tons of stone and 1,000 tons of steel were brought to the park during construction. The Ahwahnee's design blends elements of art deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and arts and crafts styles. The Great Lounge features a massive stone fireplace and ten floor-to-ceiling windows with stained-glass panels, and the unique Mural Room boasts wood paneling and a large mural of Yosemite flora and fauna.
Lodge: 801-559-4884, www.yosemitepark.com.

Voyageurs National Park
Kettle Falls Hotel (1913): Boundary Waters
The expansive lakes of northern Minnesota were attracting tourists in the late 19th century, with steamboats providing access to remote areas. In 1913, a hotel was opened at Kettle Falls, a passage between Namakan and Rainy Lakes where Ojibwe Indians and voyageurs (French–Canadian fur trappers) once portaged their birchbark canoes. All sorts of semiscandalous legends grew up about the early days of this inn, located on the border between the United States and Canada, especially concerning bootlegging in the Prohibition era. One family owned and operated Kettle Falls Hotel for 70 years, welcoming guests that included Charles Lindbergh and John D. Rockefeller, among others, and serving hearty meals to travelers. In 1976, the hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now located within Voyageurs National Park, the hotel was extensively renovated in 1987. Kettle Falls can be reached only by boat or floatplane, with water shuttles available from Ash River. With its red roof, striped awnings, and long veranda with rocking chairs, the hotel looks as homey and inviting as it truly is. Lodge: 218-240-1724, www.kettlefallshotel.com.

Published: 23 May 2011 | Last Updated: 26 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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