NATIONAL PARK ROAD TRIP

In Chapter 6 of my book EVERY DAY IS A FIELD TRIP I wrote about taking a road trip as a young man and the experiences I received. Fast forward so many years, and 2021 was finally time to cross the country in an automobile again. The goal for this National Park road trip was to cross off as many Parks https://www.nps.gov/index.htm as we could, and climb to the Highpoint of several states still on my list. https://highpointers.org/. Chapter 36 in the book ‘Bucket List’ is a great place to get motivated to start planning your trip. https://everydayisafieldtrip.com/shop/

A trip of this magnitude required a lot of planning. The first obstacle was when we would all be fully vaccinated, so when booking our trip in early 2021 we chose August as our target date. Our crew scheduled Zoom meetings to talk about everyone’s must-do’s, and began to carefully craft an itinerary.

I will break National Park Road Trip into multiple posts. today we will focus on getting a good night’s rest.

View from Zion Lodge

National Park Trip – Lodging Goals

  1. Stay at National Park lodges whenever possible (makes sense for a National Park road trip).
  2. Attempt to stay at Marriott properties https://www.marriott.com/default.mi (for rewards purposes) when not at National Park Lodges.

Planning a road trip is easy especially if you do your research. The questions are simply how far are you willing to drive in a given day, and how much time do you want to spend in said location.

Good lodging can make or break your day, week or even your trip. The hospitality industry had their best foot forward, even in a period of time where it has been so difficult to find staff to adequately cover the needs of their business.

Our lodging varied between a tent, budget motels, park lodges, and hotels of every level you might imagine. Like most people, I wanted to make the trip as affordable as possible.

If you are going to these locations, I hope these comments help you in planning your lodging.

State Park Lodges

Custer State Park, South Dakota: State Game Lodge. https://custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/state-game-lodge/ #custerstatepark #stategamelodge

Let me start by saying any park lodge will be a different experience than a stay at a Marriott brand property. So our goal in staying at the lodges is to be in the middle of the action. We will give up some amenities to gain other experiences. We loved the Game Lodge, the restaurant was great, the room was what we expected, and we loved the great big front lawn. Kevin and I had a baseball catch both days (we had to work around the Elk or Bison droppings but it made it that much better). The location was perfect! Thumbs up.

State Game Lodge at Custer State Park

Our Custer, South Dakota highlights: Wind Cave National Park, Mt. Rushmore, Black Elk peak and Black Hills National Forest.

#mtrushmore #blackhillsnationalforest #windcavenationalpark #southdakota

Near National Parks

Medora, North Dakota

Rough Riders Hotel. https://medora.com/stay/hotel/rough-riders-hotel/ #roughriderhotel #medora

Not all National Park road trips can result in a lodge inside of the park, but for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it has Medora.. With the name, Rough Riders Hotel we really did not know what to expect, in fact I warned Helen before we got there. However, we loved this place! The room was great, the restaurant, Theodores was exactly what we needed and the location in the wonderful town of Medora was special. Thumbs up for this hotel.

Rough Riders Hotel Medora

Our Medora, North Dakota highlights: The Medora Musical, North Dakota Highpoint White Butte, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

#theodorerooseveltnationalpark #whitebutte #medoramusical #northdakota

Moab, Utah

Private Home rental by Homes & Villas by Marriott International. https://homes-and-villas.marriott.com/

Every National Park road trip that includes the Mighty Five in Utah, will bring you through Moab. And while traveling with seven people can get expensive in a hurry, getting a home that fits everyone is the perfect fit. And this option is available in Moab. A three bedroom, with a pullout couch would do the trick. I liked the consistency that we found using Homes & Villas by Marriott. It felt like some of the expectations we have with hotels were delivered to a private home, something that you do not get with other house rental services. As a result, our three nights delivered a thumbs up.

Living area from kitchen, Moab.

Our Moab highlights: Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park.

#archesnationalpark #canyonlandsnationalpark #utah

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Courtyard by Marriott. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hotcy-courtyard-hot-springs/ #marriott #courtyardmarriott #Hotsprings #hotspringsarkansas

An easy few miles to the National Park and downtown Hot Springs. A nice room, a good nights sleep, and a convenient location gave this spot a Thumbs up.

My Hot Springs, Arkansas highlights: Hot Springs National Park, Ouachita National Forest’s Scenic 7 Byway, Mt. Magazine Highpoint of Arkansas.

#hotspringsnationalpark #ouachitanationalforest #mtmagazine

National Park Lodges:

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Snow Lodge. https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lodgings/cabin/old-faithful-snow-lodge-cabins-summer/ #Oldfaithful #nationalparks

We stayed in one of the cabins, which are certainly rustic and placed in a very un-managed area. By that I mean expect dirt and dust, not groomed like you would find with hospitality groups. But the location right next to the snow lodge, Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful lodge is very appealing. Waking up and walking to see Old Faithful or any of the geysers erupt is pretty cool. So a thumbs up.

Our Yellowstone highlights: Geysers Galore, Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

#yellowstone #yellowstonenationalpark #wyoming

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Lake Hotel https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lodgings/cabin/lake-yellowstone-hotel-cabins/

After two days in the Old Faithful area we moved to another part of the park, staying at a cabin at Yellowstone Lake Hotel. Pulling up to your cabin and walking your bags straight into the room is a great convenience when you are on the road for a long time, and being able to walk across the street to Yellowstone Lake in such proximity to other parts of the park was priceless. Most of the National Parks closed in house dining due to staff shortages, and made take out the only option. This hotel had a buffet available for guests and we were allowed to eat in the great dining room with views of the lake. The restaurant staff was terrific. Thumbs up.

Our Yellowstone Highlights: The Lake, and Hayden Valley wildlife viewing.

#yellowstonenationalpark #yellowstonelake #haydenvalley

Bryce Canyon National Park

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. https://www.brycecanyonforever.com/ #brycecanyon #brycecanyonnationalpark

The lodge is only about one hundred yards away from the canyon rim. So you can walk to Sunrise point every morning, then walk to sunset point in the afternoon, and enjoy a cute little patio to breathe in the outside air. All deliver a winning hand. Thumbs up.

Our Bryce Canyon highlights: Trail ride, Dark Ranger night programs

Balconies at Bryce Canyon Lodge

Zion National Park

Zion Lodge. https://www.zionlodge.com/ #zion #zionnationalpark

Start at the top. A huge benefit of staying in the park is waking up ahead of the notoriously long Zion shuttle lines, since Lodge guests are the only vehicles allowed on the road through the park. We joked about having “the code” when you put in the code at the gate and get to drive into the park and the views from the room balconies are amazing. And the stars, oh my. The food was not very good, and the service was also poor. The lodge still gets a big thumbs up, being there is enough. Just go to Springdale to eat.

Our Zion highlights: The Narrows, biking.

#thenarrows

National Forest Camping

#rei

My tent is up, Kings Peak

Our Kings Peak highlights: thirty miles of hiking in the remote Wasatch National Forest, and summiting at 13,500 feet.

#highpointers #highpointersclub

Resort Areas

Park City, Utah: Sheraton Park City https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/slcsc-sheraton-park-city/ #sheraton #sheratonhotel

We loved this property, the room was nice, the location was convenient, and the staff was probably the best we experienced on the entire trip. A terrific front desk crew and a very supportive breakfast crew at the restaurant. The breakfast buffet was great, which included omelets made to order. Thumbs Up.

Lobby at the Sheraton Park City

Our Park City highlights: Utah Olympic Park, Main Street shops.

#parkcity

CITY HOTELS:

Cleveland, Ohio: Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/clebr-renaissance-cleveland-hotel/ #marriott

We really liked this hotel and we spent the first two nights of our National Parks road trip here. It is a grand old building, we had a great room and loved the central location. Right outside our door was the Soldiers and Sailors monument and we lucked out with a car rally as well. In addition Progressive Field home of the Cleveland Indians was only a few blocks away. We loved our breakfast at the hotel both mornings, parking was easy in the garage, and we used the gym both days of our stay. We gave this property a thumbs up.  

Our Cleveland, Ohio highlights: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, MetroParks Zoo, Top Golf and Cuyahoga National Park.

#cleveland #rockandrollhalloffame #metroparkszoo #topgolf #cuyahoganationalpark #ohio

Indianapolis, Indiana:  Indianapolis Marriott North. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/indno-marriott-indianapolis-north/ #marriott #indianapolis

This property is within a beautiful mixed use area called Keystone at the Crossing, so there are plenty of shopping and restaurant choices. We liked our modern appointed room, but did not love the breakfast buffet and felt the price wasn’t a good value for what we had. This property still gets a thumbs up. We achieved two Highpoints on the way to the hotel: Campbell Hill in Bellefontaine, Ohio and Hoosier Hill in Franklin Township, Indiana.

Our Indiana Highlights: Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana Dunes State Park. #indianadunes #indiana

Chicago: Sheraton Grand. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chigs-sheraton-grand-chicago/ #chicago #sheraton #Illinois

The challenge for this hotel and many others in America’s cities was simply getting the car parked. The entrance to the hotel was packed, and there were no valet options available. The bellman directed us to a parking garage. The garage was pretty easy to find and very convenient to get into the hotel lobby. So much so that we just brought our bags to the car (in the garage) by ourselves when we checked out of the hotel. While we were only in Chicago for one night, the location was great. And we were able to get out of town quickly Sunday morning. We would go back to this hotel again, but we would be sure to drive straight to the parking garage. Thumbs up.

Our Chicago, Illinois Highlights: Being in the city Saturday night and Charles Mound, the highpoint of Illinois.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Sheraton: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/fsdsi-sheraton-sioux-falls-and-convention-center/ #sheraton

We felt great driving into the nice parking lot at the Sheraton after hitting two highpoints ( Charles Mound, Illinois and Hawkeye Point, Iowas and stopping at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. This property was on the smaller side for Sheraton, but our room was nice and it was so convenient. It was the perfect stopover. Nice room and a shower and we were back on the road heading to

Our Sioux Falls, South Dakota highlights: Badlands National Park and Hawkeye Point Iowa highpoint.

#badlands #siouxfalls #fieldofdreams

Las Vegas, Nevada: Marriott Grand Chateau. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/lasvg-marriotts-grand-chateau/ #marriottvacationclub #lasvegas #vegas #nevada

This was the first time we stayed in this Marriott Vacation property in Vegas. I wish we stayed there before. It is only about 100 yards off of the strip. Again with seven people getting a two bedroom unit with a pull out sofa, plus a kitchen was huge. Another bonus, no casino in the building! Thumbs Up.

Marriott Grand Chateau Las Vegas

Our Las Vegas highlights: The Bellagio Fountains, Red Rocks National Conservation area.

St. Louis, Missouri: Marriott St. Louis Grand. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/stlmg-marriott-st-louis-grand/ #stlouis

It seems like the city hotels cannot handle the amount of people flocking to them this summer. The line to get into this hotel was blocks long. Since I could not get to the valet option, I followed signs to the self parking option. The signs and directions to self parking was great, even though it meant a long walk with bags. The hotel was busy, the staff was nice, a great gym and the convenient location gave this hotel a thumbs up.

St. Louis, Missouri highlights: Gateway Arch National Park (yes a National Park road trip in a city)! walk across the Mississippi river on the Eads Bridge, Busch Stadium. #missouri

Salt Lake City, Utah: SpringHill Suites. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/slcsa-springhill-suites-salt-lake-city-airport/ #springhillsuites #saltlakecity

This property was near the airport. Since our family was flying in late on two different nights we decided to stay near the airport to make it easier for the weary travelers flying in. It was still easy to get downtown (about 7 minutes), the rates were great, and the rooms were modern with lots of space. The free breakfast was spot on. Thumbs Up.

Our Salt Lake City highlights: Utah’s Hogle Zoo, State Capital. #hoglezoo

NEAR NATIONAL FOREST:

Bishop, California: Holiday Inn Express: https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/bishop/bshop/hoteldetail #holidayinnexpress #bishopcalifornia #california

My friend Matt and I left Vegas for the 5 hour drive to Bishop to get us close to Boundary Peak, our big hike the next day. The room was great, the location was convenient, and it was across the street from Erick Schat’s Bakkery. Thumbs up.

Our Bishop, California highlights: Walking Main Street, hiking in the remote Inyo National Forest and summiting 13,147 foot Boundary Peak highpoint of Nevada. #boundarypeak

HIGHWAY CONVENIENCE:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Sheraton: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/fsdsi-sheraton-sioux-falls-and-convention-center/ #sheraton

We felt great driving into the nice parking lot at the Sheraton after hitting two highpoints ( Charles Mound, Illinois and Hawkeye Point, Iowas and stopping at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. This property was on the smaller side for Sheraton, but our room was nice and it was so convenient. It was the perfect stopover. Nice room and a shower and we were back on the road heading to

Our Sioux Falls, South Dakota highlights: Badlands National Park and Hawkeye Point Iowa highpoint.#badlands #siouxfalls #fieldofdreams

Kingman, Arizona: SpringHill Suites. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/igmsh-springhill-suites-kingman-route-66/ #kingman #marriotthotels #arizona

After our big hike and five hour drive back to Vegas, I wanted to get a couple hour head start on my drive east. So I grabbed a pizza in Henderson, Nevada and drove a couple hours to Kingman. This property was right off the highway and gave great convenience and a good night’s sleep in a nice room. Arizona is on everyones National Park road trip list with the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro National Parks. Thumbs up.

Amarillo, Texas: SpringHill Suites. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/amash-springhill-suites-amarillo/ #amarillo #springhillsuites #texas.

Convenience, right on I-40, with restaurants nearby, a nice room and space to spread out. The staff was very welcoming, they also provided a bottle of water and a snack upon check in. Thumbs up. If your National Park road trip brings you to Texas be sure to visit Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks.

Convenience, right on I-40, with restaurants nearby, a nice room and space to spread out. The staff was very welcoming, they also provided a bottle of water and a snack upon check in. Thumbs up.

Poplar Bluff, Missouri: Fairfield Inn. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/cgifi-fairfield-inn-and-suites-poplar-bluff/ #fairfieldinn #poplarbluff

This was perhaps the nicest Fairfield Inn I have stayed at. A beautiful room, a gas station right there to gas up before heading out of town and a St. Louis pizza institution next door (Imos). The Fairfield Inn free breakfast was welcomed prior to departure. Thumbs up. 

Poplar Bluff, Missouri highlights: Poplar Bluff Mules high school football game, Taum Sauk State Park, the site of Missouri’s highpoint.

West Chester, Ohio:  Marriott Cincinnati North. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/cvgno-marriott-cincinnati-north/ #Westchesterohio

Convenient to everything. Top Golf is across the street, Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati institution is around the corner, there are restaurants aplenty nearby. The room was great, the parking was easy and the staff was accommodating. Thumbs up.

West Chester, Ohio highlights: Touring Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Henrietta, New York: Fairfield Inn. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/rocfi-fairfield-inn-rochester-henrietta-university-area/#henrietttany

This was a small property, but convenient from I-90 on my final night away. I arrived after 10:30 PM and was out the next morning at 5:30 AM, so I did not see much of the property, but the room served its purpose: a good night’s sleep. Thumbs up.

I hope you find a good night’s rest wherever you are traveling to, but I also hope you fill your day with a fun field trip For field trip challenges go to, https://everydayisafieldtrip.com/shop/

Activities, National Park reviews, and Food blog posts from National Park road trip will be posted soon.

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