For the more adventurous among us, ticking off another state park is a mark of honor. The sights, the hikes and the impressive views are an experience that goes beyond a holiday. But if you’re new to this style of travel, where you’re surrounded by miles of nature and wilderness, you might be wondering, “So… shall I just pitch a tent?”
You can. But you don’t have to. State and national parks in the south offer accommodations ranging from rustic cabins to hotels that you can find in any major metropolitan area.
From simple to sophisticated, these eight remarkable lodgings in states and national parks offer a respite from the bustle of the big city. You can find resort-style pools and on-site restaurants, or discover accommodations so remote you’ll have to hike to find them. It’s a real adventure holiday that you can choose for yourself.
Large meadow hut
2, Mile 51, Skyline Dr., Stanley, VA 22851 • (877) 847-1919
If you’re staying at Big Meadows Lodge, take an evening to lay out your picnic blanket at Mile 51 on Skyline Drive. This is the place to see a crystal clear version of the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and all of their friends who are normally obscured by city lights. Shenandoah National Park offers hiking trails for all skill levels and incredible scenic views where you can watch the sun, clouds and stars roll over the mountains. The rooms are wood paneled and simple, and their main attraction is the stunning view over the Shenandoah.
Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge
418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd, Dawsonville, GA 30534 • (706) 344-1500
With tall windows overlooking the Appalachian Mountains, Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge is iconic. It looks like a dream rising out of the forest, completely surrounded by the seasonal colors of the mountains. You can spend your days hiking endless trails, including one to Springer Mountain, then retire to hotel accommodations and a restaurant to fuel up for another day of adventure. Plus, this incredibly popular state park takes you to the highest waterfall in the Southeast.
Bald Rock Group Lodge
Delta, AL 36258 • (256) 488-5111
While Cheaha State Park offers accommodations for solo travelers and small groups, its focus on larger groups makes Bald Rock Group Lodge unique. The lodge hosts retreats, weddings and family reunions, and event facilities include a timber-framed banquet room that can accommodate up to 100 guests. The hand-hewn stone walls and distinctive fireplaces provide a stunning backdrop for a wedding amidst Alabama’s highest mountains.
Lodge at Paris Landing
400 Lodge Rd, Buchanan, TN 38222 • (731) 924-4300
For all the comforts of a State Park Lodge but with modern conveniences, the Lodge at Paris Landing is your place. This brand new 91 room lodge is located near Kentucky Lake and offers convenient access to year-round water sports including boating, swimming and fishing. The ambience of the lodge is more hotel than rustic cabin. It also features a restaurant, bar and lounge, in addition to the expected benefits of stunning views and expanses of natural beauty all around.
Lodge at Fall Creek Falls
2536 Lakeside Rd, Spencer, TN 38585 • (800) 250-8611
Covering nearly 30,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau, Fall Creek Falls State Park offers more than just its namesake waterfall, one of the tallest in the eastern United States. This popular park has canyons, streams, forests and, unsurprisingly, many more waterfalls, all perfect for exploring, hiking, photographing and finding a moment of solace in the peaceful nature. A brand new lodge in the park gives you access to all of the outdoor adventures that Fall Creek Falls State Park has to offer. There is also a pool and golf for those days when hiking and sea trips seem too strenuous. To book your reservation at the Lodge at Fall Creek Falls, visit tnstateparks.com.
Le Conte Lodge
250 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, TN 37862 • (865) 429-5704
LeConte Lodge’s simple cabins and family meals will take you back in time. This is for those seeking true adventure up Mt. LeConte. The lodge offers some of the most incredible views of the Smoky Mountains, but you’ll work for it. The only way to get to the lodge is to hike at least five miles on the shortest path. Yes, that means there are no cars and you hike in with everything you need on your back. But the payoff is worth it if you’re looking for solitude and tranquility.
Chisos mountain hut
Rural Station 1 Basin, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 • (432) 477-2291
From stargazers to bird watchers, Big Bend National Park is one of the most incredible parks in the country and the only one with an entire mountain range within its borders. The pristine wilderness of the Chihuahuan Desert offers visitors an endless array of nature hikes—so long as you’re prepared for the sweltering midday heat. The rustic Chisos Mountain Lodge in the Chisos Basin is an oasis of calm from the constant sun exposure. Temperatures at the lodge are significantly cooler, making it the perfect place to escape and recharge after a long day in the vast desert.
mountain lake hut
115 Hotel Cir, Pembroke, Virginia 24136 • (540) 626-7121
It’s not in a state or national park, it’s in a nature reserve, and that was reason enough for us to include this iconic lakeside lodge. Mountain Lake Lodge may look familiar to you, although you may think: I know this from a movie… but wasn’t that movie set in Catskills, NY? You are to something. Dirty dancing was filmed in Western Virginia at Mountain Lake Lodge and is still a destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and relaxation. The inn has been recently renovated but retains its original charm.
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