A cabin floating on a lake. A boutique hotel. A yurt. Around North America, national parks offer incredible scenery, dazzling wildlife, and some truly funky, cool, and surprising places to stay. So leave the tent at home and instead spend your days exploring and your nights cozied up by the fireplace of a grand lodge. Or a campfire next to a tipi. Or a dude-ranch bonfire. Whichever you choose, it’s sure to be unforgettable.
The Icon, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful. Buffalos. Subterranean supervolcanoes. Yellowstone doesn’t do anything by halves, so it’s no surprise that its iconic Old Faithful Inn is a massive monument to the early 20th-century conviction that rustic and grand can go hand in hand. As the largest log structure in the world and one of the very few remaining log hotels in the U.S., the inn counts among the park’s most beloved sights. Don’t miss the lobby, which dazzles with a 65-foot ceiling, railings made of pine, and a giant stone fireplace.
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The Floating Resort, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Get away from it all, then just keep going. That’s the spirit of Ross Lake Resort in North Cascades National Park, which is accessible only by boat or hiking. But its isolation is only part of its charm; the coolest thing about the resort is that it’s not just next to the water but on top of it. The 12 cabins and three bunkhouses are built atop log floats, which guarantees that every room has a water view.
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The Bed-and-Breakfast, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Marry your love of national parks and bed-and-breakfasts with a visit to The Inn at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Greek Revival-style house was built in 1848, and while its historical character remains proudly on display everywhere you look, guests will also find plenty of modern comforts such as private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and gourmet meals. Best of all, the inn overlooks Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall that is one of the national park’s most popular sights.
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The Boutique Hotel, Presidio of San Francisco, California
Even if you prefer your accommodations urbane and your surroundings urban, there’s a national park lodging option for you. The Inn at the Presidio sits in the heart of San Francisco’s Presidio, a former army base that is now a national park site and National Historic Landmark. The small, mostly-suite boutique hotel was originally a home for bachelor officers. Sleek spaces, plenty of fireplaces, and front-porch rocking chairs offer an appealing mix of sophistication and simple pleasure.
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The Dude Ranch, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Saddle up. Triangle X Ranch, the National Park System’s only dude ranch, sits in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. And what better way to embrace the spirit of the West than by exploring all this grand and protected scenery from the back of a horse? Ranch specialties include cookouts, scenic and wildlife tours, and a children’s program that includes games on horseback and swimming trips.
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The Fishing Lodge, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Drive as far as the road will take you, then hit the water for the final leg to Kettle Falls Hotel in Voyageurs National Park. Leave modern life—with both its burdens and its luxuries—in your wake as you boat to the remote hotel, 15 miles from the nearest road. Life here is simple: Eat your meals on the screened porch, sleep in antique-furnished rooms, share bathrooms (unless you rent a villa, in which case you’ll have the bathroom and a screened-in porch all to yourself), and spend most of your time exploring the lakes and forests like the Native Americans, French voyageurs, bootleggers, and miners that came before you.
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The Elegant Classic, Yosemite National Park, California
If photographer Ansel Adams taught us anything, it’s that nature is intrinsically elegant. That elegance is on full display at Yosemite’s historic The Ahwahnee Hotel, where Adams (as well as queens and presidents) was once a regular guest. Built for affluent nature lovers in the 1920s, the hotel’s incredible views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point continue to draw visitors willing to pay for the pleasure.
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The Yurt, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Yurts put the fun in Fundy. Canada’s Fundy National Park in New Brunswick offers an alternative for travelers who want something outdoorsy but don’t want to sleep in a tent. Yurts—circular structures long used by nomadic peoples of Central Asia—include beds (though you bring the blankets), insulated walls, and even stoves. Each yurt has its own deck, picnic table, and incredible views of the Bay of Fundy.
The Northwest Jewel, Olympic National Park and Forest, Washington
Hate that feeling of staying at a generic chain hotel where everything looks about the same no matter where in the world you are? That will not be a problem at Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park and Forest. Surrounded by forest and overlooking Lake Quinault, the rustic lodge is long on comfort and vintage charm. Built in 1926, the hotel and surrounding natural beauty reportedly impressed President Franklin D. Roosevelt so thoroughly that he created Olympic National Park soon after his visit.
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The Tipi, Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village
You’ve done the tent thing, now you’re ready for something a little more interesting. Head to the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village bordering Montana’s Glacier Mountain National Park for the chance to camp in a tipi. Located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, each tipi has its own indoor fireplace and is decorated in Blackfeet style. Guests have the opportunity to participate in art workshops, go horseback riding, and take a reservation site tour while on-property.
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More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Hidden Hot Springs You Can Have All to Yourself
- 10 Crowd-Free National Parks
- 10 Campgrounds for an Unforgettable Summer Vacation
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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