Whether packed into the family station wagon and taking a cross-country road trip, or hopping on a plane and flying in from city dwellings, visiting the U.S. national parks has been a summer travel tradition for as long as one can remember. In fact, for almost 100 years, as Aug. 25, 2016 marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday. In celebration of this big centennial, many tour operators have added unique National Park itineraries to their portfolios, and lodges, too, are participating in the celebration.
First stop, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, home to the Grand Teton Lodge Company’s Jenny Lake Lodge. Offering a four-diamond cabin experience, the lodge hits the high marks with inclusive gourmet breakfasts, nightly 5-course dinners, horseback riding and use of cruiser bikes. Cabin categories come in freestanding single-room log cabins, duplex cabins, or cabin suites that include a sitting parlor and wood-burning stove. These Old West-style accommodations, surrounded by towering pine trees and abundant wildlife, are home base for an outdoor adventure that includes walking to nearby glacial lakes, hiking or biking, and looking out for elk or moose. Photo-ops, to be sure, and come June, the lodge will offer a photo workshop—starting at $429—for guests who want to focus on capturing the experience. Beyond snapping away, guests can enjoy rafting on Snake River, fishing, boat cruises, canoeing,
Another Grand Teton Lodge Company property, Jackson Lake Lodge, offers stunning views of Jackson Lake and the Teton Range—in fact, you’ll find plenty of gaping guests looking through the lobby’s massive windows at the panoramic surroundings. The 385-room property, a full-service eco-hotel with suites in the main lodge as well as cottage guestrooms, has several on-property restaurants, retail shops, a heated pool, a playground, and an exhibit featuring Native American artifacts and Western art. Guests can sign up for various activities, including rafting the Snake River, going on a Jackson Lake boat cruise, tagging along on a narrated national park tour, golfing, fishing, hiking, or going on a canoe or kayak ride.
Tell clients who care about sustainability that during the 2016 centennial both Mayflower Tours and Collette have partnered with the nonprofit organization Tourism Cares to support the organization’s work with the National Parks. For example, Mayflower Tours will donate money to Tourism Cares on behalf of every Mayflower Tours National Park traveler, and Collette has committed to giving money on a per passenger basis, as well.
During the centennial year, Mayflower Tours offers 15 itineraries that visit a National Park, including the 7-day Cherry Blossom Time itinerary featuring Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg. This itinerary departs on April 15, 2016 with rates starting at $1,789 pp twin, and includes an array of experiences, including touring three National Park areas. Guests take a guided tour of the Washington, D.C. National Mall Area with the FDR, Vietnam, and Lincoln memorials; go on a Skyline drive through Shenandoah National Park; and visit the Jamestown Settlement and Powhatan Indian Village.
Other National Park tours to keep on the radar are the 8-day Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Wine Country, starting at $2,599; and the 9-day Washington’s Waterways and National Parks, featuring Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. Rates for the latter start at $1,969 pp.
Collette, which “has been around nearly as long as the National Park Service,” as its brochure points out, has 16 itineraries that visit National Parks, including the new 13-day Alaska and the Yukon tour. It starts at $4,699 pp dbl and visits Prince William Sound to view the glaciers, the town of Tok—the original trade center for travelers coming from and returning to Canada—the “Crowne Jewel” of the Canadian Parks system, Kluane National Park, and the Denali National Park, where guests have a backcountry adventure on a Tundra Wilderness tour. There’s also a ride
on a sternwheeler for a cruise along the Chena River, and the opportunity to meet a family who has made the rivers of Alaska a way of life.
For 2016, the company also debuted the 7-day Winter in Yellowstone itinerary, which visits the park during off-season. All 2016 dates are sold out, but two January 2017 dates are still open—Jan. 15 and Jan. 22.
“It’s seeing the park through a new lens,” says Paula Twidale, Collette’s executive v.p. “It’s a different time of year, so it will be fun. We want to support [the park] during the off-season and give a new perspective. People should go to a destination at different times to see it differently.”
The itinerary, with rates starting at $3,049, has passengers joining a park ranger on a private walking tour to learn the history of Yellowstone’s colossal geyser, Old Faithful; traveling by snowcoach to observe the Fountain Painted Pots, Firehole Canyon and the Madison Warmer Hut; observing tranquil Lamar Valley; and viewing hundreds of elk in their natural habitat at the National Elk Refuge.