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Where to Eat When Visiting These 5 National Parks

Skip the overpriced food from the concessioner and check out these local restaurants instead

The dining room of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel is not the place to wear your flip-flops. (John Buie/Creative Commons)
Ahwahnee

Skip the overpriced food from the concessioner and check out these local restaurants instead

Maybe you’ve just summited Mount Rainier, biked the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, or hiked for miles in Zion. Either way, you deserve a good, hot meal. Skip the overpriced burger in the restaurant near the park’s visitor center and dine at one of these eight must-visit eateries in or near some of the country’s best national parks.

Zion National Park

Utah

For bagel sandwiches that’ll power you up the Angels Landing Trail, stop at Deep Creek Coffee Company, a locals’ favorite that opened in 2012 in Springdale, Utah, near the Zion National Park entrance. Get the hearty breakfast Bro-rito; smoothies blended with spinach, blueberries, and avocado; or a picnic lunch to take into the park.

After your hike in Zion, head to the Bit and Spur, also in Springdale, for sweet potato tamales, grilled shrimp tacos, and salty fresh-fruit margaritas. A landmark establishment since the 1980s, the Bit and Spur has long been a popular pool hall and saloon for farmers and climbers alike. You’ll also find art exhibitions, live music, and great sunset views from the patio.

Yosemite National Park

California

Previously called the Ahwahnee Hotel, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel is the only four-star hotel within the park. The dining room feels grand and formal, with high ceilings, a live pianist, chandeliers, and a pricey wine list. (Shorts and flip-flops are discouraged.) But the food is worth dressing up for: hearty French onion soup, roasted rack of lamb, and a perfect filet of salmon.

For less-fancy fare, stop at the Whoa Nellie Deli on your way into the park, entering from the east side of the Sierra, over Tioga Pass. This quirky little café is hidden inside the Mobile gas station on Highway 395, in the sleepy gateway town of Lee Vining. Get a tank of gas and a breakfast burrito or a platter of fish tacos topped with ginger slaw.

Glacier National Park

Montana

Located on the east side of Glacier National Park, don’t miss Two Sisters Café, near Babb, Montana. Drop in for the most Montana of post-backpacking meals: giant bison steaks, fresh rainbow trout, and homemade huckleberry pie. Sisters Beth and Susan opened the place in 1993. Everyone’s a local here; the roof is even painted with the phrase “aliens welcome.”

Rainier National Park

Washington

Check out Wildberry Restaurant in Ashford, Washington, just outside the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. The place, which opens each spring, is owned and operated by Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa, a legendary climber and mountain guide who has summited Mount Rainier 94 times and Everest 15 times. The menu features Nepalese dishes like steamed dumplings and Himalayan stew, plus American staples like burgers and fries.

Or hit up BaseCamp Grill, six miles from the park’s entrance and next door to Whittaker Mountaineering, your go-to spot for climbing gear; RMI Expeditions, the area’s best guiding company; and Whittaker’s Bunkhouse, which offers climber-friendly lodging (from $64). Open only during the climbing season from spring to fall, the BaseCamp Grill is a haven for climbers after a summit attempt—pizza, local beer, picnic tables in an outdoor setting, and a climbing wall to scramble up while you wait for your food.

Badlands National Park

South Dakota

A South Dakota landmark and tourist attraction since 1931, Wall Drug is about eight miles from Badlands National Park’s vast grasslands and rugged pinnacles. Visitors pull over here for the maple doughnuts, five-cent coffee, and hearty South Dakota dishes like bison burgers and hot beef sandwiches served with mashed potatoes. When you’ve filled your belly at the Western art–clad restaurant, you can shop for belt buckles and cowboy boots.

Filed To: Climbing / Glacier National Park / Yosemite / Zion National Park / Utah / South Dakota / Montana
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

the-ring-race.jpg
(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.

Plaza2Peak

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(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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