The 6 Best California Park Lodges for a Cozy Fall Weekender
The $100M-renovated Oasis at Death Valley, a guest ranch under a volcano and more
Today in Death Valley, the expected high is 85. Skies? Clear. Humidity? Low. Vibes? Excellent.
After seeing some of the world’s highest-ever temperatures this summer, Death Valley has entered its most perfect season — and with it, the reopening of the Oasis at Death Valley, following a $100 million top-to-bottom renovation. Now’s the time to make the drive to Death Valley — and not just because of the weather. At nearly 3.4 million acres, Death Valley is the largest national park outside of Alaska (where they have space to spare) and home to a permanent population of 300 people. That means that it’s nearly the same size as Connecticut, with .01% of the people. If that doesn’t sound like an ideal mid- to late-pandemic getaway, nothing will.
One complex, two hotels: if you don’t mind being around other people, there’s the 224-room Ranch at Death Valley; here you’ll find spring-feds and not just any golf course, but the lowest-elevation golf course in the world. If you prefer your privacy, there’s the historic Inn at Death Valley, six years shy of its centennial and the one-time haunt of Old Hollywood icons like Marlon Brando, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. The 22 private casitas stay open year-round, but the 44 rooms at the Inn only opened for the season on October 1. Get there now to make the most of the pre-holiday crowds, that singular light, and the still hot-in-the-afternoon temperatures, if you’re the sort of desert person looking for a not-too-hold, not-too-cold situation.
And if you’re not feeling the desert, these five lodges provide the best National Park digs in the state of California.
This lodge, which once housed the workers building the nearby Hetch Hetchy Dam, celebrates its centennial this year, which slightly expanded digs on its 20-acre property and a calendar full of anniversary tie-ins, like the return of 1920s classics (see: Waldorf salad and chicken à la king) to the menu. The next big event: a Roaring ’20s-themed Halloween party.
If you want to overnight in Lassen but not in a tent, take a look at your summer calendar and book Drakesbad Guest Ranch now. Originally a homestead by one Edward Drake in the 1880s, this is now a low-key, quasi-rustic site of pure relaxation; choose between massages, horseback riding, hiking, fishing and swimming in the hydrothermal spring-fed pool.
Consider this lodge — currently closed for fire season — for your holiday and winter plans. This 102-room, stone-and-cedar lodge is the standout destination in Sequoia National Park and around the metaphorical corner from some of the largest trees in the world, plus easy-access cross-country ski trails for your cold-weather adventures.
Once an “elegant home for bachelor officers” the Georgian Revival-style Pershing Hall now offers 22 boutique hotel-style rooms — 17 have a fireplace, and we say make that a condition of your stay. Why stay in SoMa when you world-class contemporary art all around in the Presidio, which is home to several Andy Goldsworthy pieces, including (our pick) the eucalyptus-centric Wood Line?
Like a little bit of 19th-century luxury just across the bay, Cavallo Point Lodge has a singular perch above Sausalito. The Frank House offers enough bedrooms for an extended family, with a wraparound porch and best-in-class views of the water.
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