Looking for recommendations on a national park vacation

April 23, 2006, 10:01 PM · I apologize for the light posting recently. We're wrapping up the semester at the University of Southern California, where I write and teach, and school commitments have kept me from TPI.

That said, I have a question for you, the reader, today. We're planning a national park trip again this summer, and I'd love to hear from you about places to stay and things to do in the Grand Canyon/Four Corners/Mesa Verde areas.

In return, and to give you a little perspective on what the Niles family likes, let me recommend the Tenaya Lodge for anyone visiting Yosemite. We stayed there last year and found it a wonderful destination.

Think Disney's Wilderness Lodge, a touch scaled down but in a much more authentic setting. The resort is located in Fish Camp, just outside Yosemite's southern entrance, and marks the National Park Service's new vision to place lodging outside the over-crowded Yosemite Valley. You can still get shuttles to the Valley, as well as tours of the park, from the Tenaya. I'd highly recommend the summer hayride and jamboree cook-out, too, which Natalie (a little curmudgeon at times) utterly loved. It's not cheap -- $40 for adults and $20 for kids, if memory serves -- but it is certainly a bargain.

I know that we don't formally cover national parks here on TPI. But I do know that there's quite an overlap among theme park and national park fans for family vacations, so I thought this a nice time to bring up the subject and solicit recommendations, as so many of us start planning our summer vacations.

(And don't worry. I'll be hitting several theme parks, too. In fact, I'm planning an Orlando trip right now....)

Replies (3)

April 24, 2006 at 11:57 AM · Totally agree that the 2 destinations go hand in hand for family vacations as we have done same in the past and are doing Calf. this year (Disney & Knotts + 3 national parks on the way to SF). We didn't stay "in" the Grand Canyon Park on our last trip due to lodging costs and scheduling issues, but rather stayed in the "Red Feather Lodge" in Tusayan, 5 minutes outside the park entrance. It was quite adequate for a motel, clean, basic amentities, good price and great location with several restaurants, gift shops and food marts within walking distance. Would recommend it for a night or two to save several bucks. To see great sunrise views, take a right when you get to the main road in the park instead of a left which goes to the main visitor center (like everyone else does), they have several look out areas which are nearly empty that you can still drive right up to in your car and park. And just FYI, the McDonalds across the street from the hotel had the best tasting food I've had at any Mcdonalds in 20+ years (actually tasted like the "original" Mcdonalds food). Whether it was a fluke or if it's like that everyday I couldn't say.
April 24, 2006 at 6:35 PM · About a month ago, I decided to take a day trip. I didnt have a plan, I didnt have a destination, we just jumped in the truck and pointed south. We made it all the way down to Everglades National Park. Once you get past Aligator Alley, and get past the roads, there is really nothing out there. Its nothing but swamp and road. It was the most gorgeous thing I've seen since we hiked around Half-Dome at Yosemite. I was afraid that the kids would be board, but they had a great time pointing out all of the gators in the water, spotting all the bobcats in the brush and were tickled to death when we had to stop for a family, thats right, a family of Florida Panthers crossing right in front of us rather quickly. Now I dont know about what there is to do down there, I imagine the fishing is outrageous, and of course you can go out into the marshes for airboat rides. I dont even know which hotels are still open after the over active hurricane seasons we've had. But it is really worth checking it out. There is no McDonalds or really anything until you get out of the borders of the national parks, so you might want to pack a cooler. But if you live in the Southern Florida areas, such as Indian River County south, you can make it there and back in a day with plenty of time to spare.
April 25, 2006 at 5:56 AM · FYI:
hurricane damage was extensive at Everglades National Park. All lodge facilities and restaurants in the park are closed and may or may not be rebuilt (funding problems), the general store is open on a limited basis, but there is no fuel, no boat or equipment rentals, no tour boats and the fishing has dropped way off due to the changes in the shallow water areas surrounding the park. The visitor centers are open as usual though. The "immediate area" motels outside the park in the Homestead & Florida City areas are mainly overpriced, one star motels which are iffy at best. You would be better served staying elsewhere in the city and driving 2 hours to the park. Or maybe postponing your trip until things have improved in the park.

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