National parks are some of our country's greatest treasures, so it's little wonder that—especially in the West—they also happen to host some of the finest hotels (think massive fireplaces, postcard views, and wildlife-filled backyards that literally stretch for miles). Lots of people pay hundreds to stay in such places like Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn or the Grand Canyon's Yavapai Lodge. But here's a little secret: You don't have to be a guest at the top hotels to enjoy their amenities—you just need to know where to look.
Yosemite National Park, California
The upscale Ahwahnee, often referred to as Yosemite’s Grand Dame, should be on every visitor’s list. While lodging here can be pricey, the property’s public spaces are open for everyone to enjoy. Savor the views from The Ahwahnee’s Great Lounge—with its towering windows overlooking Yosemite Valley—or hunker down in the aptly named Mural Room, a perfect spot for whiling away an afternoon with a book.
To learn more about this historic 1920s hotel and its legendary guests, which include both J.F.K. and Walt Disney, join one of the Ahwahnee’s free hour-long property tours. Stop by the hotel’s concierge desk for a current schedule.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Though rooms at Many Glacier Hotel in Montana's Glacier National Park are a hot commodity, some people choose to stay a mile away at the more affordable Swiftcurrent Motor Inn or Many Glacier Campground and simply use the hotel's lobby as a gathering place. You don't have to be a guest to dry your hiking boots by the central stone fireplace or even work on one of the jigsaw puzzles found throughout the hotel's public spaces.