With school out and summer in full swing, many Americans will be packing up and heading to one of our great national parks. Though plenty of travelers opt to camp when touring the parks (it's the most affordable option, after all), visitors don't have to resign themselves to roughing it.
Trade in your canned beans and hot dogs for a gourmet meal and fine wine, and ditch the flimsy tent for a fashionably rustic lodge. Here are seven deluxe accommodations to welcome you home after a day in the wild.
If it's your goal to see the Grand Canyon this summer, consider making your temporary home at The Grand Hotel, a three-story chalet-style property located within a mile of the park's South Rim entrance. Kids will enjoy taking a dip in the indoor swimming pool after a long day of walking around the canyon while mom and dad might enjoy a stop at the spa to relax. Arrange for helicopter, jeep or horseback riding tours right from the hotel.
Yellowstone National Park
A vacation rental home can be a great option for travelers looking for more upscale lodging and a private escape. The 7,500-square-foot, five-bedroom Renegade Chalet from Big Sky Luxury Rentals is less than an hour from Yellowstone and offers panoramic mountain views, an outdoor hot tub and impeccable decor. Two bedrooms boast their own gas fireplaces, and the game room is equipped with a Wii, a TV and a shuffleboard table. Plus, there's an outdoor hot tub perfect for soaking weary muscles, and the laundry room is handy for cleaning clothes to re-wear.
Rocky Mountain National Park
With its beautiful scenery and mountain perch, Rocky Mountain National Park is a favorite for many families. But since there are no accommodations within the park itself, you'll need to head to nearby Estes Park or Grand Lake to hang your hat.
If it's just you and your better half, consider Della Terra Mountain Chateau, a romantic getaway in Estes Park that boasts unbeatable Rocky Mountain views. It offers 14 luxury suites outfitted with fireplaces, balconies with hot tubs, and walk-through jetted showers. There's also a library, an espresso bar, a spa and sauna, and a theater room located on-site.
Another option is Fall River Lodge, just a mile west of the Estes Park entrance to the park. Set amid two huge rock formations, as well as evergreens and aspens, the 10,000-square-foot vacation rental gives visitors the feeling of complete seclusion. Inside the rustic escape, you'll find eight bedrooms, a baby grand piano, a gourmet kitchen, a large enclosed sunroom and a hot tub. The home is full of antiques and architectural details true to the lodge's mountainside location (think: carved wood furnishings and rustic decorative accents), providing guests their own private mountain estate.
The Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park is a sprawling property that still manages to feel like an intimate mountain getaway. Close to the park's southern entrance, the lodge has five pools -- two indoor and three outdoor -- five hot tubs, an on-site spa, five restaurants and even electric car charging stations. Kids will love all the amenities the game room has to offer, including air hockey, pool, pinball machines and video games. Take advantage of the park's stunning location with on-site activities like archery, guided hikes and ice skating.
Glacier National Park
If you're not willing to completely abandon the camping concept, you can compromise with a stay a dude ranch. As Colleen Hodson, executive director of the Dude Ranchers' Association, put it, "Staying at a luxury dude ranch while visiting a national park is the best of both worlds." You still get to experience the rugged beauty of the park, while knowing comforts like a hot bath and a cozy bed are waiting for you back at the ranch.
Within a day's driving distance of Glacier National Park is Averill's Flathead Lake Ranch, located in Bigfork, Montana. Sitting on the shores of Flathead Lake, the ranch offers elegantly decorated Western-style log cabins, plus a host of activities, from sailing and kayaking to guided horseback rides. There's also a pool, tennis facilities, bike rentals and basketball courts.
Great Smoky Mountains
Thanks to its diverse animal and plant life, the Smokies are a popular summertime destination for families looking for an American adventure. In fact, it's the country's most visited park, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Since there are no lodging facilities located within the park (aside from campgrounds), you'll have to venture to nearby communities in Tennessee and North Carolina if you're looking for more upscale options. If you're in need of a spacious luxury villa, look no further than Forge Lake Lodge. About an hour outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the 10,000-square-foot villa sits on the edge of the Nantahala National Forest, boasting seven bedrooms, not to mention breathtaking mountain views and a lakeside seat. Vacationers will also enjoy a professional kitchen with a wine cooler, a stone fireplace, a full bar, a game table, a library and even a jukebox.
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