National park lodges offer travelers the opportunity to sleep and dine in America’s national parks. The most famous national park lodge is Old Faithful Inn, the iconic lodge near Old Faithful Geyser. However, Yellowstone has eight other lodging facilities including two additional lodges nearby Old Faithful Inn.
Other national parks including Glacier National Park in Montana, Olympic National Park in Washington, Yosemite National Park and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park in California, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona each have multiple lodges available to house park visitors. Some popular parks including Acadia National Park in Maine, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, and Everglades National Park in Florida do not have lodging facilities within the park boundaries.
Who Owns the National Park Lodges?
Most national park lodges are owned by the government but operated by private firms called concessionaires. The companies bid for the right to operate the lodges, generally for a period of ten years. At the termination of a contract, a new proposal is issued by the National Park Service and a new round of bidding will take place.
Concessionaires agree to pay the park a percentage of the revenues they take in from their operations the park. For example, a concessionaire might pay a park 5% of total revenues in return for being allowed to operate a lodge, restaurant, or gift shop. The bidders also often agree to invest money in improvements to the structures. The greater the percentage a bidder is willing to pay, the more likely it is to be chosen as the concessionaire. Room rates and meals prices charged by a concessionaire must be approved by each park’s superintendent. In other words, the room rate you are charged for a stay in Old Faithful Inn has been approved by the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park.
Several park lodges are privately owned. These are generally situated on private landholdings inside the park boundaries. The Inn at Furnace Creek and The Ranch at Furnace Creek are both privately owned lodges within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park. Likewise, iconic Glacier Park Lodge is a privately owned facility just outside the boundary of Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Where are the Lodges Located?
Most national park lodges are located in the western United States. Yellowstone has nine separate lodging facilities while California’s Yosemite National Park has seven separate facilities, four in Yosemite Valley, another near the south end of the park, and two on Tioga Road that crosses the Sierra Nevada. Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park has six lodging facilities including the only dude ranch in a national park. Washington’s Olympic National Park has four lodges and Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park has five lodges on the South Rim and one lodge on the North Rim.
In the eastern United States, the Blue Ridge Parkway has four lodges and Shenandoah National Park has three lodges. Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park has a lodging facility with a hotel, cabins, and motel-type lodging. Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio has an old farmhouse that serves as a bed and breakfast. There is a lodge in Minnesota’s Voyageur’s National Park and in Michigan’sIsle Royale National Park. Florida’s Everglades National Park once had a lodge, but it was destroyed by hurricanes and has yet to be rebuilt.
Additional Information about National Park Lodges
All lodge concessionaires have web sites for gathering information and making reservations. These sites typically describe different types of rooms that are available and the dates on which there are openings. Keep in mind that the demand for national park lodging is heavy, especially during the summer months when most families travel. Thus, try to make reservations as early as possible. Alternatively, consider traveling in the spring and fall when demand for rooms is likely to be lighter.
A variety of excellent books about the national parks are available. Some provide general information about all the parks, while others address only the major parks or individual parks. There is also a book dedicated to national park lodges. Videos of the national park lodges can also be helpful in deciding which lodges to choose.