Joshua Tree National Park in Palm Springs, California just before sunset.

Whether you want to escape to a historic adobe in the desert or a serene farmhouse, these accommodations offer compelling lodging choices. (Getty Images)

This summer's centennial celebration of the National Park Service is a great reason to embrace the great outdoors. However, if you're not a fan of pitching a tent or you don't want to splurge for traditional park lodging, we have you covered. After all, campgrounds and expensive resorts aren't the only places to lay your head in and around America's national treasures. Here are enticing alternative accommodations options in and around America's beautiful national parks.

[See: 15 Must-Visit National Park Attractions.]

Wake up Next to an Oasis Near Joshua Tree National Park

One of the newest national parks added to the system in the 1990s, Joshua Tree National Park is known for its rock climbing opportunities, desert temperatures and its artistic community. At the 29 Palms Inn, guests choose between over a dozen bungalows and rustic cottages nestled around the historic Oasis of Mara, a deep pool of turquoise green water shaded by tall palm trees. Ease into one of the property's many hammocks or take a stroll through the organic on-site garden. And make sure to leave time for a dip in the outdoor pool or an art class at the art studio. Bringing the whole family? Reserve Irene's historic adobe, featuring multiple bedrooms, a cozy living room with a fireplace and full courtyard with outdoor eating space.

Find Solitude Away From the Crowds at Yellowstone

Just a 25-minute drive from the busy and touristy west entrance of Yellowstone, you'll find the quiet and serene Harriman State Park. Located across the Idaho border, Harriman's two Mongolian yurts are the only overnight rentals available for individual guests, though group rentals are available in historical buildings nearby. The yurts feature wood-burning stoves, tables and bunk beds, along with space for a campfire out front. Each yurt is bordered by national forest service land and overlooks a scenic lake, where migrating birds are in plentiful supply for the avid bird watcher.

[See: 10 Cheap Summer Vacation Destinations.]

Stay on a Farm Near Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park stretches nearly the length of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with plenty of tucked-away places to explore. Belle Meade Farm is located in the tiny town of Sperryville, Virginia, just a few minutes' drive from Old Rag Mountain. Guests stay in rooms of the original farmhouse, and can help with evening and morning chores ranging from feeding pigs to bringing in the cattle. After hiking Old Rag Mountain or exploring Skyline Drive in the park, come back to a refreshing outdoor swimming pool and Belle Meades' very own swimming pond, complete with dock and rope swing.

Enjoy the High Life at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is notorious for summer crowds, with its lodging options on the valley floor filling to capacity. Retreat to higher ground instead, opting for a stay at one of the park's High Sierra Camps. Overnight stays at one of the five camps, which are awarded by a lottery system due to popularity, include shared canvas tent lodging and communal meals. The camps' locations are ideal for serious hikers and backpackers, and ranger-guided excursions are offered as well. Regardless of where you stay, you can explore a less-traveled side of Yosemite hidden from the masses.

Stay on a Beach … on a Native American Reservation

The cozy, windblown cabins of Quileute Oceanside Resort sit directly on First Beach, just outside Olympic National Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Guests can stroll among the driftwood, hike through lush rainforests just five miles away in the park and relive their pre-teen days: First Beach and adjacent La Push are best-known backdrops from the "Twilight" franchise. Accommodations range from luxury condos with kitchens to no-frills cabins and RV sites, but the main draw of staying in the resort is its stunning ocean views.

[See: 10 Memorable Camping Trips.]

The Bottom Line

Whether you're visiting a national park for the first time or revisiting a favorite spot this summer, staying in unique lodging can give you a new perspective, offer enriching educational opportunities with ranger-led programs and introduce you to new surroundings and traditions.

Tags: travel, national parks, National Park Service, vacations


Amy Whitley is a family travel writer, editor, and columnist based in Southern Oregon. An avid traveler, backpacker, skier and hiker, Amy has written about family and outdoor experiences for local and national publications since 2009. Amy authors the NWKids column in OutdoorsNW Magazine, is the Southern Oregon ambassador for Travel Oregon, works as a gear reviewer for multiple outdoor brands, and is founder of family travel site Pit Stops for Kids. Amy has been a U.S. News Travel contributor since 2015. Follow her on Twitter @pitsopsforkids.

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