Nothing like an overnight in a historic lodge to get a taste of what the national parks have to offer. Here's a look at the top lodges in seven popular western parks, with alternatives in case there are no rooms at the inns.
-- Andrea Sachs
Wyoming, Idaho, Montana
Old Faithful Inn. Watch her blow -- Old Faithful geyser, that is -- from one of the world's largest log structures, which boasts 325 rooms and a 77-foot lobby ceiling. Plus, it turned 100 this year. From $78 to $371.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge. At the newest lodge in the park (est. 1998-99), bunk like a true outdoorsman in the timber and log property, surrounded by wildlife -- some framed, other untamed. From $156.
The seven other park properties include the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins, near Teddy Roosevelt's fave camping spot, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, flanked by steaming geologic wonders. Hotel rates from $73; cabins from $56. Grant Village, on Yellowstone Lake, features six two-story buildings; from $98.
Glacier Park Lodge. Built in 1912-14, the 160-room "Big Tree Lodge" is the perfect blend of past (Great Northern Railway, Blackfeet Indians) and present (heated pool, steak house), natural (hiking, fishing) and manmade (pitch-n-putt golf course). From $96 to $145.
Lake McDonald Lodge. The former 1914 hunting lodge is a trophy property, literally -- the hunted game of the former owner, a furrier, hangs in the lobby, amid western-themed pictographs. The 100 rooms come in many shapes (lodge, cottages, motel rooms) and prices ($96 to $145).
Four other properties and two chalets, accessible only by foot or hoof. The Sperry Chalet offers rugged accommodations (no electricity or running water) from $155, including meals, while the Many Glacier Hotel is the park's largest with 208 rooms (from $111).
Hotels: 406-892-2525, www.glac ierparkinc.com.
Chalets: 888-345-2649, www.sper rychalet.com
800-521-7238, www. glacierguides.com.
El Tovar. Modeled after a European hunting lodge, the 99-year-old property looks as good inside, with its native stone and Oregon pine decor, as it does outside, with views of the South Rim and Hopi House. The 78 rooms start at $123.
Grand Canyon Lodge. While 90 percent of visitors flock to the South Rim, those who prefer their views unobstructed by humans go to the 1937 limestone and timber structure perched on the North Rim (it's the only North Rim property). Rates from $91.
Lodging mainly rests along the South Rim, with one on the North Rim (see Plan B) and another in the Inner Canyon. The other six lodges on the South Rim include the 26-building Maswik Lodge complex (from $66). The Phantom Ranch, meanwhile, sits in the belly of the canyon, with dorm rooms from $27.
888-297-2757, www.grandcanyon lodges.com (South Rim).
www.grand canyonlodge.com (North Rim).
Ahwahnee. Built in 1927, the 123-room lodge is a slide show of styles, including art deco, Middle Eastern, Native American and Arts and Crafts, all wrapped up in nature (and those views! -- of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point). From $371.
Tucked between the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees and the Yosemite Valley, the 104-room Wawana is one of the state's oldest mountain resorts, complete with elegant European-style rooms and a killer veranda for lounge-chair viewing. From $113.
Six other lodgings, but many are quite basic. The exceptions: Yosemite Lodge ($110), near the falls, with spacious lodge rooms and simpler motel rooms, and the behemoth 628-room Curry Village, which offers motel rooms and cabins. From $64 to $110. Most of the other options are wood or canvas cabins.
Crater Lake Oregon
Crater Lake Lodge. The 171-room lodge opened in 1915 and underwent a $15 million renovation in 1995 that restored its northwest flavor -- all the better to frame those fab Lake Klamath views. From $126-$241.
Mazama Village Motor Inn ($107) is it. The no-frills 40-roomer is mostly about location (seven miles from the rim of Crater Lake), convenience (in the Mazama Village complex) and a solid night's rest.
No beds, but pitch your tent on the hard dirt floors at Lost Creek or Mazama campgrounds. About $14-$18.
541-830-8700, www.crater lakelodges.com.
Jenny Lake Lodge. The lodge's 37 historic cabins sit at the base of the Tetons and capture the region's colorful wrangler past. Bright handmade quilts, airy wooden interiors and easy access to hiking trails and lakes add to the cozy nature feel. From $459.
Jackson Lake Lodge. More resort than small-scale lodge, due to its 380-plus rooms, Native American and Western art collection, 60-foot picture windows with lake and mountain views, and varied eating spots, including a pool snack bar and a cocktail lounge with live music. From $167.
OTHER OPTIONS:Six other options, including the dorm-style cabins at the American Alpine Club Climber's Ranch ($10, plus $20 reservation fee), geared toward climbers. Dudes flock to Triangle X Ranch, a horse farm (cabins from $1,200 per week). Otherwise, there's Signal Mountain Lodge (motel units to apartments; from $98), Colter Bay Village, a log/tent cabin community (from $36), and others of its ilk.
Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake lodges: 800-628-9988, www.gtlc .com.
For others, see info under "Park" in first column.
Paradise Inn. The 1917 property, sitting at 5,400 feet, was built by a German carpenter whose handiwork, including a 14-foot grandfather clock, jockeys for attention with the wildflowers, mountain peaks and Nisqually Glacier. The 117 rooms go for $89 to $205.
For something a little more intimate, and less elevated (2,700 feet), try the National Park Inn. The 25-room property operates as a B&B from October to April. Grab a seat on the north porch and watch the sun dip on Mount Rainier. From $95 to $177.
The only other accommodations require tent poles, sleeping bags and an adventurous spirit. Fees at six campgrounds: free to $15.
360-569-2275 , www.guestser vices.com/rainier