Make your national park plans now

Heavy bookings reported at many lodges for summer, so don't delay

March 30, 2010|By Alfred Borcover | Special to Tribune Newspapers

If your heart is set on a national park vacation this summer, now -- not June -- is the time to nail down plans.

Majestic Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, for example, reports that its lodging is more than half booked for this summer. California's iconic Yosemite National Park reports heavy bookings as well. It's not uncommon for people to make reservations a year in advance at the most popular parks.

Though the National Park Service projects that visits will be down slightly from 2009, these national treasures will still attract a whopping 282 million American and foreign visitors, in part spurred by Ken Burns' 2009 documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."

To start your search for general information and park fees, and to find lodging and make reservations, go to nps.gov or the park's Web site. Lodging facilities are run by concessionaires contracted by the park service.

A caveat: If you Google "national park lodging," you'll find an official-looking site called "national park reservations," but it's a Montana-based reservation service that wisely states it is "not an authorized concessionaire of any national park nor affiliated with the National Park Service." It charges a 10 percent nonrefundable reservations fee based on the total dollar amount of reservations made.

That's reason enough to work through nps.gov, which links you to lodging at every national park. Click on "Find a Park." You can search by name, location, activity or topic and then click your way to lodging options.

Here's a sampling of accommodations in or near some of the most-visited parks. Rates are based on double occupancy and don't include taxes.

Acadia (nps.gov/acad), Maine. The park has only two campgrounds on Mount Desert Island and a primitive campground on Isle au Haut. Your best bet for accommodations is Bar Harbor on Maine's rugged coast. barharborinfo.com; 800-288-5103

Cuyahoga Valley (nps.gov/cuva), Ohio. Meandering for 22 miles along the Cuyahoga River, the 33,000-acre park is a blend of deep forest, rolling hills and farmland between Akron and Cleveland. The nearest accommodation is the Inn at Brandywine Falls at Sagamore Hills (innatbrandywinefalls.com; 330-467-1812 or 888-306-3381) for $139 to $325 a night. Ample lodging is available in Akron (www.visitakron-summit.org) or Cleveland (positivelycleveland.com).

Grand Canyon (nps.gov/grca), Ariz. Xanterra manages six lodges at the South Rim, ranging from the high-end, historic El Tovar to the off-rim Maswick and Yavapai. Rates set in 2009 (2010 rates are awaiting NPS approval) range from about $90 to $268 a night, depending on the lodge and the view. grandcanyonlodges.com/reservations; 888-297-2757

Grand Teton (nps.gov/grte), Wyo. The Grand Teton Lodge Co. maintains three properties: Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge and Colter Bay Village, which features log cabins. Rates run from $109 at Colter Bay to $775 a night in Jackson Lake Lodge. Jenny Lake operates on a modified American plan -- a gourmet breakfast and a five-course dinner -- and charges from $599 for a single room and duplex cabins to $750 to $850 for suites. gtlc.com/lodging; 800-628-9988

Great Smoky Mountains (nps.gov/grsm), N.C. and Tenn. Aside from camping, the only lodging within the park is Le Conte Lodge, seven rough-hewn cabins atop 6,593-foot-high Mount Le Conte, accessible by foot -- a two- to four-hour hike. Per person cost is $116 a night, including dinner and breakfast. The park's Web site provides links to gateway communities such as Gatlinburg in Tennessee and Cherokee in North Carolina for accommodations.

Olympic (nps.gov/olym), Wash. The park's lodges include Sol Duc Hot Springs, 40 miles west of Port Angeles; Lake Crescent Lodge, 25 miles west of Port Angeles; and Kalaloch Lodge, on the Pacific, all represented by Aramark. visitwashingtonparks.com; 866-773-5057. Rates for Log Cabin Resort on the north shore of Lake Crescent, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, are available at logcabinresort.net; 360-928-3325. Rates in Olympic run from $108 to $324.

Rocky Mountain (nps.gov/romo), Colo. The park has five drive-in campgrounds but no in-park lodging. Estes Park, the park's gateway, offers a wide range of cabins, cottages, condos, hotels, motels and B&Bs. estesparkcvb.com ; 800-443-7837

Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell), Wyo. There are nine lodges in the park, often heavily booked. Rates run from $70 for a cabin at Canyon Lodge and Cabins to $502 for a suite in Old Faithful Inn. Rooms with bath cost $117 to $231. yellowstonenationalparklodges.com; 866-439-7375

Yosemite (nps.gov/yose). In-park accommodations, managed by DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, range from $79 a night in Housekeeping Camp to $1,094 for a luxe suite in the Ahwahnee Hotel, where a standard room is $443. Rates range from $96 to $217 for accommodations with bath. yosemitepark.com; 801-559-4949.

Zion (nps.gov/zion), Utah. Rustic Zion Lodge, with 75 motel rooms, six suites and 40 cabins, offers the only in-park lodging. Rates run from about $159 to $183. zionlodge.com; 888-297-2757

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