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MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism


That’s the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the far shore of Lac Beauvert in Jasper National Park. The (very expensive) hotel is nice, but the park’s not one of ours. Photo by appaloosa via Flickr.

MSNBC recently published a list that caught my attention. It bears this title: Top 10 National Park Lodges and this subtitle: Sleep in style on a summer escape to our nation's national parks.

As you can imagine, I perused the list with eager anticipation.

Here are the ten parks on MSNBC’s list:

Ahwahnee Hotel (Yosemite National Park, California)
Many Glacier Hotel (Glacier National Park, Montana)
Banff Springs Hotel (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada)
Big Meadows Lodge (Shenandoah National Park, Virginia)
Jasper Park Lodge (Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada)
Crater Lake Lodge (Crater Lake National Park, Oregon)
Jenny Lake Lodge (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
El Tovar (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona])
Cavallo Point ("Golden Gate National Parks", California)
Paradise Inn (Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington)

I couldn’t help but notice that two of the first five lodges listed are not in the United States. This stretches the concept of “our” national parks a tad too far. No wonder the Canadians say we don’t give them enough respect!

I’ve got a bit of a problem with that ninth pick, too -- or rather, the specified location. Perhaps I’m being a tad curmudgeonly, but I feel the need to point out that there is no such place as “Golden Gate National Parks.” That’s the name that San Francisco Bay Area boosters expect the park to have some day, assuming that the “let’s upgrade it” campaign spearheaded by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds sway in Congress. Meanwhile, it’s still Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just like it has been since October 27, 1972.

These things said, I have to agree that there are some mighty fine park lodges listed here. I’d be interested to know what our Traveler readers think of these choices. Also the prices. Peak season rates at Jenny Lake Lodge, for example, start at $550 a night for two people.

Disheartened, but not dissuaded, I will continue my quest for the perfect national parks lodge list.


To be fair to the writer, it's in the "US and Canada" travel section. Looks to me like whoever wrote the headline didn't read the whole thing.

I'm from the USA and oddly enough, the only two lodges on the list that I've stayed in are the Canadian ones. Although both were great experiences, Banff Springs Hotel is in town and doesn't really feel like it's in a national park. Jasper Lake Lodge is one of my favorites. High on my "to do next" list are Many Glacier Hotel, Crater Lake Lodge and Paradise Inn. I agree with you, though, the rates are a bit intimidating. So, what makes the perfect national parks lodge list? What parameters would you include?

I agree that including Canadian parks is cheating. And no lodges from Yellowstone? As for Cavallo Point: I know this is an adapted use of Fort Baker buildings, but why was it allowed? The concessions laws say that the NPS should not have concession operations where the service or merchandise can reasonably be secured outside the park. There is no shortage of hotel rooms in San Francisco. For years, people have approached Cabrillo National Monument with proposals to build a hotel or restaurant there. There can be little doubt that with its spectacular view of San Diego, such a place would be a financial hit. But, there is no way to justify such a concession at the park. Sure, Golden Gate NRA wanted to find a way to preserve the historic buildings at Fort Baker, but why a commerical lodging business? I think this website has previously noted the many odd workings of GGNRA - is it a national park or a government/private sector land management enterprise? Good question.

Such lists, of course, are entirely subjective. That said, there are some glaring omissions, such as Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn, if you like rustic atmosphere, or Lake Hotel, if you prefer elegance. Either, in my book, surpass Many Glacier, which, though in a spectacular setting, needs some serious restoration work and renovations. The rooms are small and cramped, the furnishings shabby. Or at least they were when I visited in 2005.

Also missing is the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley, another top lodging in my opinion. And what of the Stanley Hotel, which, although outside the park boundaries, long has been tied to Rocky Mountain National Park?

What goes into the perfect national park lodging list can not easily be defined. Do you want rich, rustic flavor, such as that which originally went into the Old Faithful Inn, the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge, and other creations of the original "parkitecture" movement? Do you want more modern amenities and, dare I say, class, such as can be found in The Ahwahnee and Lake Hotel? Should the setting be remote and presumably pristine? Should a decent restaurant be part of the package? What of cost? While Jenny Lake Lodge certainly exudes rustic charm with service to boot, and meals included, $550 a night seems a tad much, no?

Kurt: You established a new word in your blog that has been a important contribution to the National Parks: Parkitecture! When I review some the architecture or "parkitecture" of the past that was established back in the 1920's, and post war 1930's with the civilian conservation core (CCC), I take a moment to reflect with respect (and great awe) the men and women that put these enormous projects together and gave us some of the most beautiful architecture, bridges, trails and infrastructure of the world. The enormous undertaking of these projects still today brings us much pleasure to see and visit. The past architects had a very special talent blending in the natural surroundings of the landscape with it's design concepts that fitted well with it's environment. More less to say, "form follows function" which was coined by the famed architect Frank L. Wright. I deeply regret today, we don't have that same passion and movement to re-establish our National Parks on the same level or plateau of inspiration, dedication and commitment, which definitely reflects from the lack of true leadership in this country. The National Parks today are nothing but a parasitic breeding ground for corporate interests and to the corporate pimps that pander for it's greed.

Thank goodness my favorite, the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, a group of tent cabins in Yosemite, isn't on the list. It's hard enough now to get a reservation there. Staying at the TML is a much more authentic national park experience than at all those fancy places far removed from nature.

I almost mentioned TML, Kath;-)

Of course, not all tent cabin accommodations were created equal. While Curry Village utilizes the same tent cabins as those at TML, I'd never put Curry Village on a "best lodging" list.

Kurt, you're absolutely right about Curry Village. That is more accurately called a tent slum; crowded, noisy, filthy bathrooms, penned in between the roads and parking lot, large unappealing dining hall with food that provides calories but nothing else. TML and to a lesser extent White Wolf Lodge have a different ambience entirely. Small, quiet, better dining, least until I posted here about how wonderful TML is.

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