A visit to one of these lodges can change your vacation from good to unforgettable
1 of 10Photo by Kirk Hoessle; written by Peter Fish
Best new wilderness escape: Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge
Why we love it: Think of Kenai Fjords as the best of Alaska compressed into 1,046 square miles (roughly a quarter of the size of L.A. County). Icy blue fjords? Check. Glaciers? Check. Whales, bears, sea otters? Check, check, and check.
Three years ago, Alaska Wildland Adventures added the only thing Kenai was missing: a nice place to stay. The lodge’s woodsy main building and 16 boardwalk-linked cabins sit on the shore of Pedersen Lagoon, off Aialik Bay. Getting there requires a four-hour boat trip from Seward, which doubles as a whale-watching trip. Once there, options include guided hikes, canoeing, or simply relaxing on the porch, waiting for dinner—menu standouts include olive oil–poached halibut and caribou medallions—and admiring how Alaska has made itself so comfortable for you.
Don’t miss: Spotting otters, seals, and calving glaciers on guided kayak trips. A 2-day/1-night stay is $650, including Seward boat, meals, and activities;kenaifjordsglacierlodge.com
2 of 10Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Peter Fish
Best place for a drink: Farley Bar at Cavallo Point Lodge
Why we love it: Cozy, convivial Farley Bar, in one of Cavallo Point Lodge’s old army buildings, knows its way around a negroni. Food runs from ceviche to house-baked breads, and the Golden Gate Bridge view from some window tables will lift your heart.
Don’t miss: On the walls, the framed comic strips by San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Phil Frank, whose reporter hero Farley gives the Sausalito bar its name. $;cavallopoint.com
3 of 10Written by Peter Fish
Best place for comfort food: Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia
Wuksachi Lodge serves meat loaf and pork tenderloin in the modern/rustic dining room. $$$;visitsequoia.com
4 of 10Written by Peter Fish
Most romantic: Kalaloch Lodge, Olympic
Why we love it: Long beach strolls, skies that veer from sun-splashed to stormy, and tempestuous waves—that’s right, Washington’s Kalaloch is like a college romance. Except here you can take a break from it all with a (legal) drink at the sweet main lodge. The rustic 1920s Bluff Cabins, where weathered fir abounds, hold heart-stopping views of the Pacific.
Don’t miss: If, for you, romance equals vampires, the Twilight package includes a map to nearby vampire-capital Forks and a special Twilight dessert. From $182;olympicnationalparks.com
5 of 10Photo by Scott Johnson; written by Peter Fish
Best for families: Roosevelt Lodge, Yellowstone
Why we love it: Tucked away near the park’s northern boundary, Roosevelt is what summer camp should be, with Lincoln Log cabins and Wild West activities like horseback and stagecoach rides.
6 of 10Photo by Andrea M. Gómez; written by Peter Fish
Best lawn party: Wawona Hotel, Yosemite
Have a Saturday afternoon barbecue on the lawn of Yosemite's Wawona Hotel. $24;yosemitepark.com
7 of 10Photo by Audrey Hall; written by Peter Fish
Best use of mules: Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon
Why we love it: The only way to get to the ranch, an oasis at the bottom of the canyon, is by river raft, a steep 9.6-mile trek, or a mule ride. Mules can also haul your duffel if you hike. Mail? Delivered by mule.
8 of 10Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Peter Fish
Best place to have a meal: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite
Why we love it: Yes, the Ahwahnee typically books up a year in advance. Too hard to get a room? Fine. But you can still visit the dining room, which, with its lofty beamed ceiling and views of the valley, is one of the most beautiful public spaces in the world.
Don’t miss: The regular breakfast, which is less of a production than Sunday Brunch. Get here early, say 7 a.m., and enjoy the room in blissful calm. Breakfast $$, brunch/dinner $$$$;yosemitepark.com
9 of 10Photo by Audrey Hall; written by Peter Fish
Biggest pain and gain: Granite Park Chalet, Glacier
Why we love it: You hike six hours along the top of the Rockies to get to this 1914 Montana chalet, but they’re awe-inducing hours. Life is simple here: You cook your own food in the kitchen, but you get a private bedroom and can rent linen and blankets if you don’t want to lug your sleeping bag.