There’s no one way to enjoy a National Park.
Sometimes you want to backpack deep into the wilderness, roll out a mat and sleep under the stars. And sometimes … you want to check into a hotel with views of the Golden Gate and a spa offering a lavender salt scrub. There’s room for both.
Today, though, we focus on the latter, with six gorgeous lodges at our favorite California National Parks, from elk-adjacent cabins at Redwoods to a desert inn down south.
Our pick, though, is the brand-new one, and it’s right within our city limits (pillow-top mattresses required). That would be the Lodge at the Presidio, which opened it doors just a few weeks ago.
the Lodge at the Presidio (2 images)
The Lodge is the latest use for the Montgomery Street Barracks, built between 1894 and 1897 to house 160 Army soldiers. (Check out these 150-year-old photos from the Presidio’s earliest days — they are wild.)
You’ll be steps away from the visitor’s center, and each room comes with its own front porch and fire pit. As they’re keen to remind us, no hotel is closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s easy to get there on foot, via the National Park trails criss-crossing the Presidio.
Start here, and then we should have just enough summer left for you to check out the rest of these National Park lodges ...
The Argonaut (2 images)
The Argonaut at the S.F. Maritime National Historical Park
There’s no better HQ for exploring San Francisco’s Maritime National Historical Park. The hotel’s lobby adjoins the park’s visitor’s center, and it’s literally across the street from the 19th- and early 20th-century boats docked at Hyde Pier, including the 1895 schooner C. A. Thayer and the 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka. If you’re interested in old-school, Barbary Coast-style San Francisco, there’s no better place to start.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (3 images)
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel at Yosemite National Park
You might know it better as the Ahwahnee Hotel, though that name is now a hostage in a $50 million lawsuit over trademark rights between the park and a former concessionaire. As for the hotel, it recently upgraded its guest rooms, with reproductions of botanical sketches by parks champion John Muir on the walls. It’s pricey, though: those views, and the Yosemite Valley location, don’t come cheap.
Cavallo Point Lodge (2 images)
Cavallo Point Lodge at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Guests here have the option of “historic lodging” or “contemporary lodging” — obviously we’re going to go for the former, in the one-time officers' residences at Fort Baker. This fort, which dates from 1866, was established by the military in an effort to fortify the north end of the entrance to the bay — even before the bridge existed. Modern-day bonus: there’s a spa, with not just massages, body treatments and facials but acupuncture and therapeutic massage as well.
Elk Meadow Cabins (2 images)
Elk Meadow Cabins at Redwoods National Park
These aren’t a lodge, but rather 200-square-foot cabins on meadows where the chances of running into the titular elk are so high that there’s a disclaimer on the website detailing the dangers of elk-mating season. Walk out your door and pick up a trail to Lady Bird Johnson Grove or Fern Canyon. After a day of exploration, come back for your own firepit and jacuzzi.
Furnace Creek Inn (3 images)
Furnace Creek Inn at Death Valley National Park
This 91-year-old inn was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company as a treat for tourists at the end of the Death Valley Railroad. The railway failed, but the 66-room hotel remains. It’s as much a boon to the surroundings as it was when it opened in 1927, designed by architect Albert C. Martin and landscape architect Daniel Hull to fit in seamlessly with the landscape of the Furnace Creek Wash. Killer views, and killer temps (high today: 122). Save this one for fall.