The good news is, you won’t need to rough it out to see these natural wonders
America’s national parks, with their breathtaking sunrises, majestic rock formations and herds of wild animals running freely, are sights everyone should see. But just because you are spending your vacation surrounded by nature (and potentially alongside thousands of your best friends) it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on luxury or exclusivity. We’ve searched the country and found some of the most intimate ways to explore these breathtaking parks. Read on for the top ways to see and stay at some of America’s favourite national parks.
Grand Canyon National Park
At this national park there is only one phenomenon to explore: A 446-km-long, 29-km-wide, 1.6-km-deep canyon. The sheer size of it — let alone the soft desert colours, undulating designs on the rocks left from millennia of wind and rain and the herds of bighorn sheep or bison that call it home — will overwhelm your senses.
And while this beauty has drawn millions of visitors to northern Arizona, Revealed America, a tour company that specialises in luxury national park experiences, can give you exclusive access to places no other member of the public can go. Visit the rim-side home and studio of the Kolb Brothers, who were the first to establish a photo studio at the the canyon in the late 19th century. Then enjoy a sunset picnic with cheese and champagne on a private canyon overlook.
When it comes time to turn in for the night, head to L’Auberge de Sedona. The tranquil, wellness-minded resort may be a little further away from the Grand Canyon, but it won’t feel like it when you travel back and forth by helicopter or luxury jeep. Once on the property, check in to the five-bedroom Creekhouse, where you can make yourself a drink at the bar–which is made of 1,200-year-old alligator juniper. Don’t miss the Feet in the Creek spa treatment, where your therapist rinses your feet in healing waters of nearby Oak Creek.
Zion National Park
With its towering sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons and lush hanging gardens, it’s easy to understand why Zion got its name.
To guide you through the national park’s heavenly landscapes, tap Austin Adventures, a tour operator that specialises in luxury travel for families.
Their expert team can lead you on a series of different routes through the park tailored to your interests and abilities, but their trek to the top of Angels Landing is not to be missed. A guide will help you scale the 453-metre-tall rock formation, and once you reach the top, you can indulge in some well-deserved homemade ice cream as you take in the valley floor far below you.
The five-star Amangiri resort, tucked away in an otherworldly, isolated valley, is the ultimate place to unwind after long hikes and climbs in Zion. Relax in the Amangiri Suite where you can go for a dip in your private 71-square-metre pool or drink wine around a fire pit on your sprawling terrace. Once you are rejuvenated, the concierge will arrange a helicopter, luxury SUV, or hot air balloon to take you back into the national park.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park — so big it spans three states — sits on top of an active volcano. The park boasts impressively varied terrain and is home to hundreds of animal species. Once you’ve gotten your requisite look at Old Faithful, Revealed America will lead intrepid explorers through the park’s many wonders — cruising around Lake Yellowstone and horseback riding through the steaming geyser basins.
For a more relaxed way to experience Yellowstone’s natural beauty, head to the nearby Chico Hot Springs Resort. A favourite of past celebrities like Teddy Roosevelt and Charlie Russell, it still attracts the rich and famous who want to soak in the magical mineral waters.
The Sage Lodge is the closest luxury retreat to the park, located just 35 minutes away. All rooms and cabins will have private views of the mountains, and the most deluxe ones, like the Paradise King Room, will come complete with free-standing soaking tubs, wet bars, and outdoor fireplaces. You can also check into the nearby Amangani in Jackson Hole. Though an hour and a half from Yellowstone, you’ll also have access to neighbouring Grand Teton National Park — where you can kayak and fly fish in the iconic Snake River. Stay in the 63-square-metre Grand Teton Suite which boasts vast views of the mountains — where sunset champagne toasts are required.
Death Valley is famous for being the hottest, driest place in North America. Such extreme conditions create remarkable sights — like the salt flats of Badwater Basin, where you can stand 86 metres below sea level, or the Racetrack, a dry lakebed in which massive boulders appear as if they move mysteriously on their own.
While there are plenty of hikes and horseback rides to take through the park, for a change of pace head to the 18-hole, Perry Dye-designed, Furnace Creek Golf Course. Located 65 metres below sea level in the middle of the barren desert is, the course irrigated by natural spring water and is surrounded by majestic mountains, groves of date trees, and flocks of rare birds. When you’re hungry take your golf cart through a drive-through restaurant located at the 19th hole.
The Oasis at Death Valley is one of the few luxury hotels actually located inside a national park. The Historic Four-Diamond Inn re-opened in February 2018 after a full-scale renovation and has everything you need to savour your surroundings: a flow-pool with natural spring water, spa casitas surrounded by luscious gardens, stargazing decks, and a bar flanked by a historic mural painted by the same artist who sculpted the Presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. Once you’re done relaxing, hop in an all-wheel-drive jeep to explore the park with a hotel guide.
Denali National Park
It’s hard to even envision Denali National Park with it is six million acres of wild land — tundras, forests, glaciers and snowy mountains — and only one narrow road winding through it.
You don’t have to climb North America’s tallest peak to feel like a real explorer (although you can – it’s located in the park), Revealed America can take you into the middle of the park where you can watch an avalanche tumble down, come close to grizzly bears or witness a dizzying meteor shower.
For those wanting to stay closer to civilisation can settle into Sheldon Chalet. The newly opened property is in the heart of the national park, mixing isolation (it is only accessible via air) with top-of-the-line amenities. A helicopter will be on hand to whisk you from the chalet, on the top of a 1,828-metre-tall glacier, to heli-fish on secret lakes, visit Mastodon bone yards, or soak in secluded hot springs. Back on the property, guests can end their days with stargazing sessions in hammocks, where they can drink wine, sway back, and forth, and let their minds get lost in the constellations.