Ahwahnee Hotel - Pierdest / Shutterstock
“America the Beautiful.” The classic patriotic song was written by Katharine Lee Bates and composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward is synonymous with the majestic landscape of the United States. The song references amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties and the fruited plains to lyricize the country’s picturesque landmarks. But America’s national parks are perhaps the most breath-taking places that show the diverse wildlife that thrives here. From Zion National Park’s red-hued sandstone canyon to the granite monolith of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park, there is so much to discover in the best national parks across the country.
For iconic places to stay on your visit to these parks, we sourced a selection of both charming—and chill—accommodations for a range of travelers including low-key campers and well-heeled glampers. And when planning your next outdoorsy vacay, remember that national parks across the country have had many accounts of wildlife wandering closer than normal due to COVID-19, so drive slowly on the roads, tread carefully on trailheads and help protect these natural environments by leaving nothing behind.
Now, walk with us through these six national parks to visit, from Washington to Wyoming, that are sure to inspire awe.
Sarah Fields Photography
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK | California
A visit to Northern California is a visit incomplete without stopping through Yosemite National Park. Just three hours from San Francisco, the majestic park welcomes guests with a dramatic change in scenery as deep valleys, gushing waterfalls and steep sequoias unfold before you. Days can be spent hiking the hundreds of trailheads and summitting the many lookout points, like Half Dome and Tunnel View.
The sweeping views of Yosemite Valley reveal a landscape that begs for pause. Among birdwatching, fishing and stargazing, the region is also idyllic for those looking to find stillness beneath the stone peaks, at the base of Bridalveil Fall or along the edge of the Merced river.
When visiting one of the best national parks in the US, we recommend staying at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel built in 1927 and deemed a National Historic Landmark, making it one of the premier destinations to ‘camp out’ at. Situated at the base of the iconic Half Dome, the property sits beneath this granite monolith that has been photographed by the best (Ansel Adams) and free solo climbed by the greatest (Alex Honnold).
The location of this prestigious property is enough inspo to book a weekend stay, but the features inside also impress, with Native American and Middle Eastern artwork, regal stone fireplaces, rich tapestries, distinct dining spaces and luxe rooms with direct views to the landmark beyond.
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bjul / Shutterstock
ZION NATIONAL PARK | Utah
Zion National Park, although smaller than other parks in the country, is home to Zion Canyon, a 2,000-foot gash in the earth where you can witness the red-rock walls, lush grasses and ravines winding through this legendary lookout. Travelers coming to visit one of the best national parks can expect colors to abound, tempting photographers to capture every sight with their cameras as the changing light transforms the landscape.
Hiking to Angels Landing brings unsurpassable views at dizzying heights while canyoneering will arouse your inner dare-devil. Other pursuits include biking, backpacking and sunset-gazing across from Zion’s cliffs that glow an otherworldly orange when the sun dips low at the end of a long day.
The Nomadic People
Because we are proponents of the good life, we recommend setting up camp at the bohemian-inspired glamping outpost at Under Canvas. Just 20 miles from the park entrance, the property is set on 196 acres of a remote desert oasis. The hideaway provides seclusion with unpolluted views of Utah and absolutely Instagrammable accommodations of one of the best national parks.
Peep the detailed touches on-site including potted cacti, organic bath products, the lobby’s indoor firepit, and a chic all-white aesthetic that compliments the deep reds in the surrounding sandstone cliffs.
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For those looking to hit the trails, look no further than the Hidden Lake Overlook, named of one of ICONIC LIFE’s best hiking spots in the world.
Dan Breckwoldt / Shutterstock
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK | Montana
Welcome to Big Sky Country and where one of the best national parks resides. Montana is where the skies above seem to stretch on forever and summer weather means long days and endless outdoor activities. It’s also considered cowboy country for its plethora of dude ranches, iconic Old West hideouts and chuckwagon dinners. You must stop through the Glacier National Park while visiting this all-American state and take in the diverse and rich landmarks within the park.
Glacier offers alpine meadows, dense forests, wetlands and plenty of wildlife like eagles, bears, and the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Of course, there are also icy glaciers that can be seen from the main grounds that tell the story of a changing landscape—make sure to ask for the ranger’s knowledge about the impressive, yet fragile, ecosystem. For those looking to hit the trails, look no further than the Hidden Lake Overlook, named of one of ICONIC LIFE’s best hiking spots in the world.
Staying at one of the best national parks means staying at one of the finer tented accommodations. Under Canvas luxury sleepaway camp is just outside of the park and is home to lofted treehouse tents and Safari-inspired suites.
The canvas accommodations are chicly appointed with plush beds, fur rugs, lounging areas, wood-burning stoves and remarkable views to the woodlands beyond. Expect locally sourced meals featuring seasonal ingredients, or you can choose to opt to grill your own dinner alongside your neighbors for a family-style meal in the great outdoors.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK | Wyoming
Geysers, hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles are some of the distinct features that Yellowstone National Park is known for as one of the best national parks. The hot, hot, hot landscape here means constant geothermal activity, and entertainment for the entire family. You can’t stop through this beautiful park in northwest Wyoming without stopping to watch Old Faithful erupt at Upper Geyser Basin, lounge by Yellowstone Lake with a picnic, or stop to marvel at the rainbow of colors created by the Grand Prismatic Spring, which happens to be the largest hot spring in the US.
Elk, antelope, wolves, and roaming bison are a sight to behold during your trek through the park, so bring your walking shoes, binoculars and willingness to be dazzled by this very active landscape bubbling with life. And do remember to keep your distance from the wildlife.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottage
For a place to rest your head at one of the best national parks to visit, we are loving this quintessential east coast lakeside property situated in the west. Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottages is a classic-looking outpost known for its casual elegance and lovely community spaces propped against the beauty of the sparkling lake just out front.
Their remodeled cottages offer campers a serious upgrade with privacy and plush beds but are still stripped down enough where you can appreciate the natural simplicity of being on the edge of one of the country’s most iconic national parks.
Soisuda / Shutterstock
NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK | Washington State
This lush alpine region of Washington is home to North Cascades National Park, where visitors will be treated to impressive hikes, including the Stehekin Valley leading to the rugged Cascade Mountains—all just a few hours outside of the bustling city of Seattle. The glaciated and snow-capped mountains are ideal for hikers and climbers of different levels.
It’s worth it to set your sights high so you can get the best views of the alpine meadows and glittering turquoise Ross Lake below. While traversing the landscape at one of the best national parks to visit, keep your eyes peeled for the white mountain goats, adorable pika’s and blooming wildflowers in the spring.
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For a relaxed and peaceful lakeside hideaway, stay at the Floating Cabins on Ross Lake. The charming and Colonial-style wooden cabins are set on the famous waterfront and offer guests furnished rooms featuring woodstoves, complete kitchens and direct access to the lake’s activities. Fishers will love the plethora of native rainbow trout below the waters, and whether you take to the lake by canoe, kayak or by boat, there is exceptional beauty to discover here beneath the majestic mountain peaks.
National Park Service
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK | Wyoming
Wyoming is where you will find world-renowned mountains that can be enjoyed all-season long; there is incredible downhill skiing in the winter and breathtaking hiking trails come summertime. While visiting one of the best national parks, consider staying at the luxurious Amangani resort, perhaps the most luxurious outpost in the Tetons, or check out the equally exceptional Four Seasons in Jackson Hole as another close by option to overnight at when visiting the Grand Teton National Park.
The property offers pristine suites and private residences featuring master bedrooms and luxe living rooms with gas stoves and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, as well as uncompromised views of the Tetons. The hotel is just a short drive from the park, so you can rough-it all day, drinking in the tonic of the wild, then head home at night for a sleepover fit for royals.
Four Seasons Resort
When visiting the national park, make the best of it and be sure to come with an adventurous state-of-mind as activities abound beneath the jagged ridgeline of the famous Tetons. There is everything from white-water rafting on Snake River to downhill biking, fishing for trout, horseback riding, and rock-climbing the beautiful, but technical, Garnet Canyon.
Wildlife roams freely here, so expect to spot moose, black bears, ospreys and more 300 other bird species. We recommend taking your time on the trailhead during this outdoor experience abundant with dense wildlife.