Want National Parks Lodging? Book Far in Advance

Grand Canyon's South Rim is near the Yavapai Lodge

Grand Canyon’s South Rim is near the Yavapai Lodge

If you’re thinking about a trip to a National Park this summer and are planning for an overnight stay, don’t wait to book a room or you could be closed out. You really need to plan ahead. The menu of lodging options is diverse, from a grand lodge over 100 years old to historic cabins. They are all quite popular though, in any configuration.

Here is a run-down of some National Park lodging possibilities—I’ve stayed at each.

Glacier Park Lodge

Glacier Park Lodge

Glacier Park Lodge, Glacier National Park, Montana – Located in East Glacier on the outskirts of Glacier National Park near the Two Medicine entrance, Glacier Park Lodge celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013.

Horseback riding in Glacier National Park

Horseback riding in Glacier National Park

This grand hotel in Western Arts and Crafts design with a lobby of Mission/Monterrey style furnishings is a family-friendly place where shuffle board, pitch n’ putt golf (my favorite) and board games are a welcome change from electronic devices. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool and a 9-hole golf course.

Guest rooms range from the simple one double bed version to four queen-size beds in a family-room configuration.

To take in a horseback ride, head to the stables near the hotel’s grounds. The stables are owned and operated by the Blackfeet Indians. We took a 2 hour ride into the park that led us through woods and across meadows with views of Glacier’s snow-capped mountains and blue sky. Rates: $219 to $435

Mammoth Cave HotelMammoth Cave Hotel, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
This year marks the 200th year since people first started to formally tour the longest known cave system in the world. Mammoth Cave National Park’s draw is more than the 400 discovered miles of underground tunnels, passageways, and caverns.

Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave

Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave

Hiking trails offer birding and peace and quiet along the Green River. Unlike Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon National Park where lodging options are spread out among the acres, Mammoth Cave Hotel’s guest rooms and cabins are central to the main visitors’ center. We stayed in a two queen bed room in Sunset Terrace, a long one-story building with 20 rooms near the Heritage Hiking trail and the amphitheater where the night time ranger talks happen.

The Heritage Trail rooms in the main building where the restaurant, gift shop and snack bar are located are undergoing renovation until the middle of May, but Sunset Terrace, 10 historic cabins and woodland cottages are open for business. Rates: $66 to $128

Yavapai Lodge outside

Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Like Yellowstone, finding a room in the summer at the Grand Canyon is a bit like a game of go fish if you wait too long. When I went fishing a few years ago, clicking through the booking pages, a room with two queen beds in Yavapai Lodge came up for the taking.

Yavapai Lodge Grand CanyonLocated a mile walk from the South Rim, Yavapai Lodge is in the midst of all one needs for a family-friendly stay. A grocery store, restaurant, tavern, coffee shop, post office and bank are within a few steps. The lodge is in two parts: East and West. We stayed in Yavapai West  where rooms in single story buildings have ceiling fans, a mini fridge, coffee maker and a hair dryer. Some of these rooms are pet friendly.

Yavapai Lodge East is a newer two story building where rooms have air-conditioning.

If you go, make sure you walk at least part of the way down the Bright Angel Trail. Keep your eye out for the pictographs right below the canyon’s rim. We found out about them at a ranger talk. Rates: $148 to $208.

If you end up taking a spontaneous trip to the Grand Canyon region or another National Park area, you can also try campgrounds and RV parks near you that don’t have to be booked so far ahead.

Roosevelt Lodge Cabins, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Several few years ago we planned ahead and were able to book a two-nights in a Roughrider cabin of Roosevelt Lodge  Cabins in the Tower Falls area of Yellowstone National Park. For our family of four (our son was a 1 ½ years old and our daughter, 10), this was an adventure.

Roughrider Cabins in Yellowstone National Park

Roughrider Cabins in Yellowstone National Park

Built in the 1920s near where Teddy Roosevelt had his campsite, Roughrider cabins are part are a short walk from the log house style Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room in the park’s. The dining room serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner with a western flair –Huevos Rancheros, huckleberry pancakes, bison burgers and BBQ ribs for example, capture the flavors of the region. Plus, the lodge porch is a great place to hang out. Rocking chairs offer a spot for relaxation and a scenery fix.

Our two double-bed cabin was one room—basic and cozy. It did get cool enough that the wood burning stove came in handy at night. The rag rug on the wood floor, bedside tables with lamps and checked curtains were a lovely touch. Cabins are situated near each other and the communal bathhouse is a short walk from most.

If you want a private bath, stay in a Frontier Cabin instead. These cabins are also on the rustic side, but offer a bit more polish. If there aren’t Roughrider or Frontier cabins available because the season to stay in them is short– early June to early September– Yellowstone does have other cabins to snag, and you might have luck booking a room in one of Yellowstone’s lodges.  Roughrider cabins, $89. Frontier cabins, $142

Photos and post (except for Roughrider cabins) courtesy of Jamie Rhein.  Roughrider cabins photo courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts

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