Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

The 11 Most Beautiful National-Park Hotels in the U.S.

These design-forward accommodations can be part of a foray to the woods, desert, seaside, or mountains.

Architectural Digest

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel, near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. (Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin)

Sometimes humans crave the reset button that only nature provides. Long before technology ruled our every minute, John Muir, one of the world’s peerless naturalists, took note of the restorative powers of the wild. “Thousands of tired, nerve shaken, over civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home, that wilderness is a necessity,” he wrote. Though he died in 1914, before the establishment of the National Park Service two years later, he advocated for the first organized movement to celebrate the outdoors, and paved the path that led to the stellar collection of national parks in the United States that welcome visitors today. While many outdoorsy folk choose camping in tents or stays in rustic cabins, the parks historically have offered its pilgrims more opulent alternatives, both within established boundaries and in their verges. Whether it's Death Valley’s four diamond–rated Inn at Death Valley (once the honeymoon haven of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard), La Quinta Resort and Spa (where Frank Capra wrote It's a Wonderful Life), or the Great Smoky Mountains' farm-to-fork, design-centric Blackberry Farm, to quote Muir, “Nature’s peace will flow into you.”

The Lodge at the Presidio

The Presidio National Park, San Francisco

Lodge at Presidio Exterior_Ben Davidson.jpg

Photo: Ben Davidson

To most people, a national park conjures visions of far-flung places. But a visit to the historic Presidio in San Francisco, wedged between the bay and the Fog City’s famous hilly landscape, will quickly challenge that presumption. Once home to a Spanish fortress, then a 19th-century military outpost, the 1,500-acre territory, which holds 24 miles of hiking trails, includes the show-stopping Golden Gate Bridge. Packed with restaurants, museums, residences, biking trails, outdoor art, beaches, scenic overlooks, and yoga studios, the urban retreat offers the PresidioGo shuttle, a bus to help visitors get around. Relax between activities at the Lodge at The Presidio (sister to acclaimed Inn at the Presidio), the closet lodging to the Golden Gate Bridge. A fine example of adaptive reuse, the 42-room hotel, once a 19th-century military barracks, shows how the preserved and the contemporary can combine. Structurally conceived by Architectural Resources (ARG), built by Plant Construction, and designed with chic references to its past by LC Interiors, the hotel wows with Golden Gate Bridge, bay, city, and forest views. Room to book: Choose Room 218 for the best window to gaze at the bridge. presidiolodging.com

The Oasis at Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, California


Photo: Courtesy of The Oasis at Death Valley

Who knew the lowest, driest, hottest place on earth could lure luxury travelers for R&R? Philip Anschutz, the consummate eco-conscious hotelier, did. He’s just reopened his refurbished version of a nearly century-old Mission Revival classic amid a dramatic desert landscape in historic Death Valley—a place of sand dunes, date palms, ghost towns, pink skies and otherworldly rock formations. Adorned with Anschutz’s own prized collection of Western art, the Oasis enclave comprises two hotels: the Inn at Death Valley, redone to evoke its 1920s heyday, and the more family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Anchored by the world’s lowest-altitude golf course (a par-70 at 214 feet below sea level), The Oasis has a spa, two spring-fed pools, four dining venues, and horses for desert rides. Home to the Borax Museum, full of history and unforgettable vistas, Death Valley takes Western Vibe to new heights. Room to book: One of the stand-alone, 600-square-foot Inn Casitas, opened late last year. oasisatdeathvalley.com

El Tovar

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

GrandCanyonLodges.com - Xanterra Travel Collection 1.jpg

Photo: Courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, a billion-year-old spectacle, brings many first-time viewers to tears. Colorful, stunning, haunting, it can be descended by foot or atop a mule, but most visitors will just stand on the rim of the 10-mile canyon, jaws dropped in awe of the vista. Book a room at El Tovar, listed on the National Register, to sleep just 20 feet from the canyon’s plummeting South Rim. Experienced by luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Oprah Winfrey, this Swiss chalet–meets–Mission Revival villa opened in 1905 as the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi. Its architect, Charles Whittlesey, was hired by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to fulfill their vision to build destination hotels in areas made newly accessible by train. Whittlesey ensured sense of place by incorporating Native American motifs, hand-built Arts and Crafts furniture, and local elements such as limestone and pine. Room to book: Choose the Charles Whittlesey Suite, which boasts walls with original drawings by the architect. grandcanyonlodges.com

La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Joshua Tree National Park, California

032-La Quinta-Adirondacks with Casita.jpg

Photo: Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Hotels

Joshua Tree National Park, abundantly populated with its candelabra-shaped namesake trees, colossal boulders, cacti galore, and countless species of wildlife feels like nature’s own art gallery. Home to two ecosystems (Colorado and Mojave), the park has countless otherworldly, untrammeled nooks to be hiked, biked and camped. But for travelers who’d rather forgo sleeping in the wild, La Quinta Resort & Club provides a luxurious home base less than an hour from the park. A favorite of bygone silver screen idols for its proximity to Hollywood, the 45-acre, Eden-like property attracted the likes of Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Frank Capra. Today’s guests enjoy the property, a manicured swath of both historic and new Spanish Colonial bungalows, just as much. With 41 swimming pools, 23 tennis courts, seven restaurants, and a state-of-the-art fitness center, La Quinta provides plenty of post–Joshua Tree diversion. Room to book: The romantic Hacienda Grande Suite has two fireplaces, a private pool, and a hot tub with mountain views. laquintaresort.com

Blackberry Farm

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee


Through an invisible borderline made of trees so tall they seem to reach the sky, you can walk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Blackberry Farm, a Relais & Chateaux resort. Down a dirt road edged by a white picket fence in Walland, Tennessee, this 4,200-acre, family-owned homage to the landscape could well be the true definition of farm-to-fork living. With graceful rough-hewn touches that marry Italian linens with hand-carved beds, the getaway wins worldwide accolades for its restaurant, The Barn, a garden-supplied culinary phenomenon. But it also gets points for the way it connects guests to the land. Meaningful activities, such as yoga classes held deep in the woods, gardening seminars, cooking classes, and truffle hunting with the retreat’s irresistible Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, ensure that guests delve deeply into the region to trigger personal harmony. Room to book: Choose a Carriage House Suite—each one has a sweeping view of the park. These rooms reflect the resort’s signature sophisticated, casual style. blackberryfarm.com

West Street Hotel

Acadia National Park, Maine

West Street_top-pool1.jpg

Photo: Courtesy of West Street Hotel

Bar Harbor’s West Street Hotel has Maine’s only rooftop pool. From it, you can preview Acadia National Park, Frenchman’s Bay, and the outer islands, a coastal panorama of postcard perfection. A snazzy property with contemporary nautical motifs, West Street reflects Atlantic chic with Tommy Bahama mahogany furnishings, leather upholstery, white-painted wood elements, and windows positioned to draw in the region’s ethereal light. Private balconies frame ocean and harbor views. Tarry here to partake of Bar Harbor’s array of mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, galleries, and marine activities such as whale watching. In Acadia National Park, the U.S.'s second-most-visited park, just a short drive from the hotel, historic carriage roads and flowered meadows incorporate more than 120 miles of wildlife-abundant trails (take note, bird watchers). Gear up for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and canoeing. Those who’d rather ride can enjoy the hotel’s trolley service, which ferries travelers to the park. Room to book: Bring the kids and take over the Two Bedroom Suite, which overlooks the Gulf of Maine. theweststreethotel.com

Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa

Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Wyoming

Rusty Parrot.jpg

Photo: David J. Swift

Not lions or tigers—but bears, plenty of bears. That’s what you’ll see (along with elk, lynx, moose, bison, and bucket-list natural features such as Old Faithful, possibly the world’s most predictably erupting geyser) when you set off on a wildlife tour of neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks. Connected by the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton (best known for its peaks and wilderness) and Yellowstone (the world’s first national park) provide outdoor enthusiasts with year-round options. While camping space and rustic lodging opportunities abound within park boundaries, travelers seeking more sumptuous digs will want to settle into Jackson, Wyoming’s hippest town, located a short drive from both destinations. Choose the Rusty Parrot, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, which welcomes guests to its cozy, Western-style digs. With just 31 rooms spread across three floors, the hotel features deep soaking tubs, hand-carved wooden furniture, a spa, and fireplaces in most rooms. Room to book: The Owner’s Suite encompasses two guest rooms, making it ideal for families. slh.com

Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa

Big Bend National Park, Texas


Photo: Dennis Murphy-D Squared Productions, Inc.

“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” Every Texan child can croon this tune, but you’ll be singing it too, the moment you arrive at rugged Big Bend in southwestern Texas. Encompassing a huge portion of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains, this landscape of steep cliffs, orchid-colored buttes, salmon-hued mesas, and the rushing waters of the Rio Grande exudes raw soulfulness. At its perimeter, Lajitas, a town so small it has a goat who serves as mayor, stands out as an old-time trading post and port of entry from Mexico. At the threshold of Big Bend National Park, Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa offers rough-hewn luxury amid the hinterlands. With sections bearing names such as Officer’s Quarters, Cavalry Post, and Badlands Hotel, the resort, adorned with Western art and handmade furniture, plays to its historical setting. Activities on site include clay pigeon shooting, horseback riding, and golf. Room to book: Bring some friends and rent the 2,485-square-foot Lajitas Villa, known for its sunset vistas. lajitasgolfresort.com

The Stanley Hotel

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado


Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin

“Wendy, I’m home,” taunted lunatic character Jack Torrance in The Shining, a film set at Colorado’s historic Stanley Hotel. Though Jack’s nefarious fictional motives aren’t the norm at the retreat, most guests walking the white Georgian Colonial Revival mansion’s storied halls will, nevertheless, find themselves humorously quoting a line or two from the popular movie. Renovated, the hotel offers tony guest rooms, which run the gamut from contemporary apartment-style quarters to period-preserved classic suites. Its restaurants and Whiskey Bar (which serves 1,500 varieties) draw locals and tourists alike. Base here to experience the nearby park, a high-altitude haven of hiking and driving trails, abundant with Big Horn Sheep, bear, eagles, and elk. Spectacular views of 14,259-foot Longs Peak can be viewed from most of the Stanley’s front-facing hotel windows for those who’d rather a visual summit. Room to book: Choose Room 217, which inspired Stephen King to write his best-selling novel, The Shining. stanleyhotel.com

Triple Creek Ranch

Glacier National Park, Montana


Photo: Courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Established in 1910, Glacier National Park, which runs along the Canadian border, garnered the nickname “America’s Switzerland.” A breathtaking combination of snow-capped peaks, emerald valleys, and woods, the park lures fitness buffs and nature lovers with 700 miles of hiking trails (many also come to spy a grizzly). Because of the Swiss comparison, the lodges built for tourists in the park in the early days were chalet-style—many, such as historic Many Glacier Lodge, remain open for business today. But for a less rustic stay, consider following the lead of luxury travelers who hole up at upscale dude ranches on the outskirts of the park. (Note: "Outskirts" in Montana translates to hours away.) Try adults-only Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais & Chateaux hideaway located in Darby, Montana. Bedecked with the owner's collection of Western art, home to fine cuisine and an exquisite wine library, the all-inclusive ranch has classic cabins complete with the best amenities. Horseback riding, fly fishing, and panning for sapphires keep guests busy between visits to Glacier and other off-property outings. Room to book: Each unique cabin has its virtues. Choose between one- and two-bedroom units depending on your crew. triplecreekranch.com


Bryce and Zion National Parks, Utah


Photo: Courtesy of Aman

You can get lost in the boundless infinity of southern Utah, a place where the earth continues to yield ancient dinosaur bones, fossils, and artifacts, where there’s nothing but open space between you and the horizon, where the stars absolutely glitter like the heavens’ sparkly chandeliers at night. That’s why it’s best to make your temporary home at Amangiri, an oasis close to Lake Powell and the Arizona state line. A miraculous dreamscape of spires and mystical promontories and pinnacles, this unusual terrain, located just four hours from Las Vegas, specifically inspired the resort’s architecture and design. Observed from afar, the cube-like resort blends into the landscape—like a mirage. A favorite of a new breed of celebrity (guests have included Mark Zuckerberg and the Kardashians), Amangiri keeps things earthy with minimalist decor, huge windows to frame the views, and activities meant to entice guests outdoors. About two hours from both Bryce Canyon (known for its rocky outcroppings) and Zion (well regarded for its red cliffs), Amangiri is the closest luxury stay to either park. Room to book: Go for the Amangiri Suite, kitted out with a sky (rooftop) terrace for sleeping and personal lap pool. aman.com

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for Architectural Digest

This post originally appeared on Architectural Digest and was published August 13, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

Design your life with Architectural Digest. Sign up and receive an AD tote bag.