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Affordable Ways to Enjoy National Park Hotels

You don't have to break the bank to enjoy the perks at top national park hotels.

hotel at Glacier National Park, picture
National parks are host to some of the finest hotels.
OLOS / Shutterstock

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 mucho bucks 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.

Here are some ideas to get your search started:

Glacier National Park

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.

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Yellowstone

Looking to feed a family of four on a fixed budget? Most national park lodges offer casual, low-price dining options like the Old Faithful Inn's Bear Paw Deli in Yellowstone. Afterward, score a prime seat on the inn's second floor sundeck to watch Old Faithful's on-time eruption, then retire to the more affordable frontier cabins (starting at $114/night with their own bathrooms)—part of neighboring Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Grand Canyon

Services such as the Yavapai Lodge's free ranger-led programs are open to anyone, regardless of whether you're a registered guest. But since the cost of a room at the Grand Canyon's premier lodge can be steep, try nearby Mather Campground—with access to laundry, shower and restroom facilities—instead.