While the rustic wonders of the natural world are the big vacation draw, there’s no need to rough it. Numerous hotels and resorts in and around the parks offer plenty of creature comforts and out-of-the-box amenities. We’ve rounded up 14, each offering cool perks that should please the whole family.
1. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite – Yosemite National Park, CA
The beauty of Yosemite captivates young and old alike. Tenaya Lodge’s rambling acreage gives kids room to run after they’ve soaked in the regal panorama. The adventure course, for youngsters who weigh between 30 to 100 pounds and are least 4 years old, challenges motor skills and problem solving. Archery, a climbing wall, a game room and a swimming pool fill a robust plate of cool-kid offerings.
2. Zion Lodge – Zion National Park, UT
Zion’s canyons, mesas and rock formations are a feast of color and shape. Zion Lodge, the only lodging facility inside the park, enjoys a picturesque setting along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, an excellent base for active adventures.
Zion is one of the most bike-friendly national parks. Families who enjoy cycling can rent bikes right at Zion Lodge. They’re equipped with front and back safety lights, a bell and a helmet. When you’re ready to pedal, Pa’rus Trail is a car-free path even novices can handle with ease.
3. Jackson Lake Lodge – Grand Teton National Park, WY
The Grand Teton mountains and lakes are pristine, the wildlife plentiful. For those who enjoy manmade beauty, Jackson Lake Lodge displays a collection of Native American artwork, artifacts and bold textiles with patterns inspired by the scenery. Tours of the lodge’s art collection with the hotel’s historian, Mary McKinney, are given each Sunday.
Lodge guests are presented with multiple fringe benefits including wildlife presentations, live piano and harp music and a heated pool with an adjacent playground. The nightly Western BBQ is a hit with families. It’s held mid-June to mid-August with music, lawn games and a campfire with S’mores.
4. The Ranch at Death Valley – Death Valley National Park, CA
This former working ranch has been transformed into a family-friendly base for exploring Death Valley’s rugged landscape. Guestrooms at The Ranch at Death Valley offer easy access to the refreshing spring-fed pool, playground and sprawling lawn. Families can saddle-up for a guided horseback ride or sit back and enjoy an old-fashioned carriage ride. Dinner at the Western-themed saloon is a treat.
5. The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon but don’t want to leave your beloved pet at home, there’s a purr-fect solution. Check your four-legged friend into the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel’s Pet Resort while you explore the canyon. Dogs may luxuriate in a climate-controlled kennel with a private indoor/outdoor space. For felines, cat condos have windows that stream in sunlight. Soft background music puts all pets at ease.
The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is a fine choice for humans, too. It’s located next door to the historic train depot, so you can board the restored locomotive in the morning for a scenery-packed, nostalgic two-hour journey right to the canyon’s South Rim.
6. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort – Olympic National Park, WA
Surrounded by dense forest and tall mountains in Olympic National Park, Sol Duc means “sparkling water” in Quileute dialect, a name that fits this resort to a tee. Scores of mineral springs feed three circular pools, including a shallow pool that’s excellent for a family soak. The soothing properties of the warm water will help young and old unwind in a jiffy. For those who desire a cool splash, there’s also a traditional swimming pool. Once you’ve dried off, hike a rambling rain forest trail before you return to your homey cabin.
7. Rush Creek Lodge – Yosemite National Park, CA
Rush Creek Lodge sits in the wooded hillside at the entrance to Yosemite, blending contemporary touches with a rustic sensibility. Young guests have hit the jackpot thanks to a family-friendly zipline, giant rope swing and 60-foot slide. An enormous swimming pool, poolside game terrace, indoor game room and a nature-inspired playground are icing on the cake.
8. Bright Angel Lodge – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Located in the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village, the views from Bright Angel Lodge are priceless. When a hankering for something sweet hits, it’s the lodge’s homespun soda fountain that’s worth a million bucks. A kid-perfect menu of frosty desserts is bliss after a long day of sightseeing. After a creamy treat, families may enjoy spending time in the lodge’s history room, filled with tidbits of memorabilia including a colorful postcard collection.
9. Volcano House – Volcanoes National Park, HI
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a wonderland of flora. Its nutrient-rich volcanic soil is a springboard for the farm-fresh feast served at Volcano House’s restaurants. Chefs at The Rim present a locally inspired menu that dives into the bounty of Hawaiian cuisine, served alongside a spectacular backdrop. Dine on a windfall of just-caught fish, grass-fed beef from local ranchers and Big Island-grown vegetables. For more casual dining, Uncle George’s Lounge serves poi and poke, Hawaiian comfort food classics.
10. Parry Lodge – Zion National Park, UT
Parry Lodge is located 30 minutes from Zion National Park and just a bit farther from Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Known as Little Hollywood, Kanab’s spectacular scenery of canyons, cliffs, arches and red rocks have lured filmmakers for generations. If it looks familiar, you may have seen it in a movie. The hotel’s 90 rooms are clean and comfy. But it’s the Old Barn Playhouse’s movie nights that recall the hotel’s cinematic past. Movies that filmed here are frequently screened in the converted barn, with popcorn and candy sweetening the deal.
11. Big Meadows Lodge – Shenandoah National Park, VA
At Shenandoah National Park, families spend their days hiking in the hollows and frolicking in fields filled with wildflowers. In the evening, kids staying at Big Meadows Lodge are treated to old-school fun. Guests may participate in craft night every Tuesday and Wednesday, with all supplies provided for $5. Each Thursday, the lodge hosts a game night with dozens of board games to choose from. A self-guided scavenger hunt is on tap every Sunday with prizes for kids who complete the hunt.
12. Ridgeline Hotel – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Nestled in the heart of Estes Park, the Ridgeline Hotel is convenient to Rocky Mountain National Park’s all-season outdoor adventures. Hiking, biking and winter sports are some of the park’s popular options.
Whatever time of year you visit, Ridgeline’s enormous heated indoor pool promises weatherproof fun. With a 180-inch projector in the pool area, families may watch dive-in movies while they splash. Dry off and head to the game room with a pool table, air hockey, pinball and five flat-screen televisions.
13. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel – Yosemite National Park, CA
The stone fireplaces, stained-glass windows and breathtaking views at the Majestic impress the most discerning visitors, but when a candy craving takes hold, it’s the Sweet Shop’s selection of confections that would turn Willy Wonka green with envy. Creamy chocolate truffles, bonbons, lollipops, freshly baked cookies and more delectable nibbles will satisfy every appetite.
14. Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone – Yellowstone National Park, WY
Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, a pristine patchwork of lakes, mountains, waterfalls and geysers. There are numerous lodging choices scattered throughout the park, but staying outside its boundaries in West Yellowstone is a pleasant option, particularly when in-park lodges are sold out.
The Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone is just a few blocks from both the park entrance and downtown West Yellowstone. They employ a camp concierge, who doles out insider tips on what to do in town, pointing visitors in the direction of the IMAX Theatre and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
Upscale cabins are grouped in clusters. Each has a communal fire pit where guests are encouraged to mingle. For snacking made easy, a complimentary S’mores kit is included in each cabin.
Allison Tibaldi is a travel writer based in New York City. With her husband and two kids, she has lived in Rome; Tuscany; Melbourne, Australia; Toronto; and Los Angeles. She studied early childhood development in graduate school and believes that travel is an important part of education. She writes for CNN, TravelChannel.com, HGTV, USA TODAY, Time Out New York, am New York, Family Traveller, Family Travel Forum, Travel Weekly, off Metro and numerous other publications. Follow her @gourmetrav.