Park Places

National parks often get the drive-by treatment: Vacationing families cruise in for the day, climb out of the minivan at a few major vistas, and then high-tail it out for the night. These lodges, in five of America's most revered parks, will guarentee you linger.

Jun 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

Yosemite National Park

LeConte Lodge
Rugged folks once farmed much of the rocky ground that Great Smoky Mountains National Park occupies, and their abandoned homesteads remain the park's most popular attractions. But only at LeConte Lodge can you live as the pioneers did. Getting to the lodge requires a 5.5-mile hike to the top of 6,593-foot Mount LeConte, on the Tennessee side of the park. Once you;re there, you'll find rough log cabins, lantern light, and family-style Southern cooking. The lodge sits at a crossroads of trails, making it an ideal launchpad for day hikes. ($82 per adult, $66 per child, including breakfast and dinner; 865-429-5704;; open late March to mid-November)
Montecito-Sequoia Lodge
At Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, near California's Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, children head off for supervised riding, boating, swimming, hiking, or tennis, while parents are free to enjoy the park on their own—perhaps hiking among the giant sequoias or granite domes. Families rejoin for meals and to sleep in basic rooms in a 24-room pine lodge or one of four cabins, with sweeping mountain views, arrayed between a small lake and a swimming pool. ($760-$855 per week per adult, $690-$800 per child; 800-227-9900;; open year-round; reserve a year in advance)

Bear Track Inn
At the doorstep of Glacier Bay National Park is the Bear Track Inn. With its huge-log facade and vast fireplace warming the common room, it's got Alaskan ambiance down pat. It's also the area's most luxurious accommodations, offering elaborate meals and 14 high-ceilinged guest rooms with down comforters. Bear Track Inn looks out on a field of wildflowers; beyond lies the ocean and the community of Gustavus—a springboard for sea kayaking among whales, fishing for salmon and halibut, and taking a boat ride into the park to see the glaciers. ($432 per person per night, including ferry from Juneau and all meals; 888-697-2284;; open May through September)
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
Pure bliss is found in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort's marquee attraction after a day of exploring Washington's Olympic National Park. The three geo-thermal pools are a mineral-water delight following a hike along the Sol Duc River—where salmon jump the crashing falls—and up through mossy forest to tree line and the tiny alpine lakes above. Kids may prefer the freshwater swimming pool to the hot springs. When everyone has reached prune state, retreat to your cabin in the rainforest. ($130 for two people in a deluxe cabin with kitchen, $110 for two without kitchen, $15 per night for each additional person; 360-327-3583;; open March-October)
Tenaya Lodge
At the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, Tenaya Lodge offers a national-park experience that's more like a California resort vacation. The lodge sits like a mansion on land surrounded by forest and park, and its rooms have niceties like plush chairs and Gold RushÐ heirlooms. TenayaÕs kid-only activities include a twilight flashlight hike&3151;or take the whole family to ride horses into Mariposa Grove, swim in two pools with underwater sound systems, and cruise on a nearby steam railway. ($209-$299 per night, double occupancy; 800-635-5807;; open year-round)