Millions of visitors pour into our national parks every year looking for a slice of heaven, a close-up encounter with nature in its purest form. They come seeking the unspoiled beauty that generations upon generations before them have enjoyed.
But what if you could get even closer? What if you didn’t have to leave the splendor of the park at the end of the day? The truth is, you don’t. When you book lodging inside a national park, you get an exclusive, insider glimpse of natural beauty that most visitors miss.
Imagine: You pull yourself out of bed, bring your coffee to the front porch, and there, right in front of you, is a glistening lake, granite mountain range, or alpine meadow full of elk, wildflowers, and maybe a moose. That's the appeal of staying overnight at a national park lodge: nothing else puts you closer to the grandeur.
We asked an expert on the topic, Annette McGivney, an award-winning author who writes for outdoors magazines and specializes in covering national parks what the best reasons to book lodging inside a park are.
Here’s what she had to say:
1. Better access to what really matters. “The park lodges are INSIDE the park so you are getting to experience the landscape, wildlife and history of the park more readily -- perhaps even from the deck of where you are staying,” says McGivney. Also it can reduce driving time and ensure you get the maximum enjoyment from your vacation.
2. You get the best of both worlds – nature and convenience. Communing with nature doesn’t have to mean giving up the comforts of home. National park lodging puts you at nature’s doorstep and gives you everything you need to fully enjoy it.
3. National park lodging is more eco-friendly than traditional lodging. For example, Jackson Lake Lodge, a Grand Teton Lodge Company (GTLC) property, is an eco-friendly resort, offering high-efficiency lighting, water conservation features, recycled content carpets and mattresses, low or zero VOC content in its products, refinished historic furniture, and more.
4. A chance to unplug. National park lodges are comfortable and offer most of the amenities you’d expect from a fine hotel, including nice linens, a pool or fitness center, in-room coffee makers, and restaurants. But one thing you won’t find in most rooms is a television. You’ll have the chance to unplug, be active, and truly engage with your park experience. (There is complimentary Wi-Fi for those who need to connect).
5. Everything is at your fingertips. You don’t have to spend months planning activities for your national park vacation. Many resorts, like Colter Bay Village, Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge have onsite gear rentals, outfitters, group activities and guides for everything from park tours, to fishing, boating, bicycling, hiking and more.
6. Stay with the people who know the park best. You’ll get the ultimate insider experience. “Compared to chain hotels in a town outside the park, the historic park lodges and cabins attract people from all over the world who are truly interested in experiencing the wonders of that particular park,” says McGivney.
It is interesting to exchange stories with these park visitors and also find out about their travel experiences. “The same goes for people working at the national park lodge -- they are often from all over the world and there because they love the place and have a lot of stories to tell.”
7. Sample a piece of history. Many park lodges in the west were built by notable architects or are historic buildings that have been updated for modern use. Some are even on the National Register of Historic Places. “These building are historic in their own right and also part of the national park's history and sight-seeing attractions.”
8. Choose how rustic you want to be. The lodges offer a spectrum of comforts, from a four-star luxury hotel experience to historic rustic cabins, RV sites, and even tent platforms. You can savor the best of National Parks like Grand Teton or Yellowstone while still enjoying creature comforts that make a vacation, well, a vacation.