Here’s where to belly up when you want to pass on another night of campfire eats at your favorite national park.
As we gear up for the spring camping season and the rush to the Great Outdoors, C&I rounds up a batch of national park restaurants worth a meal or two — even if you’re not staying at a park lodge.
Badlands National Park
The Cedar Pass Lodge’s restaurant offers a rotating daily selection of kuchen, the official dessert of South Dakota, which means you ought to ask what’s fresh that day and order all of it as appetizers. Wash it down with a cup of Cherry Bean coffee from the nearby town of Parker. But don’t forget dessert: More kuchen. nps.gov/badl
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend is vast and varied. During Christmas, the daytime temperature at the popular Chisos Basin Campground can hover near 70 degrees while the high at the Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande can spike to 100. Blooming wildflowers give way to petroglyph-etched desert rock. There are ghost towns and hot springs and rock walls perfect for fearless kids (see slideshow below). The views from the Chisos Mountains Lodge’s restaurant patio are beauts. Toast to a magical landscape with a local craft beer before digging into a steak. nps.gov/bibe
Bryce Canyon National Park
Between the oohs and ahhs elicited by the views of the Hoodoos, grab a bite at the restaurant at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood’s historic structure designed and built in 1924 in the rustic Western style popular across National Park Service properties. nps.gov/brca
Crater Lake National Park
If you can wait until mid-May, Crater Lake Lodge’s restaurant gets you casual fine dining (yes, that’s a thing). Make reservations for dinner. Otherwise, get grab-and-go munchies at the Rim Village Café. nps.gov/crla
Death Valley National Park
Fill up and kick back at one of five park restaurants after getting scorched or taking in Dark Sky time — be it the Old West-evoking Last Kind Words Saloon; the hamburger-specializing golf course restaurant 19th Hole; the Ranch 1849 Buffet (complete with the all-important carving station); the spring-fed poolside bites at the Inn Pool Café; or the regional cuisine-focused The Inn Dining Room. Tank tops and T-shirts are no-nos at the latter. oasisatdeathvalley.com
Glacier National Park
This hiker’s paradise is home to several historic lodges and eateries. The Two Dog Flats Grill at Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins is where you’ll want to begin or celebrate completing a Going-to-the-Sun Road trek. But the Many Glacier’s Ptarmigan Dining Room offers an ideal space with which to close an eventful day, Montana huckleberry pie and a cold one straight from Big Sky Country. Give in to the temptation to order the sweet and salty house-smoked rainbow trout. glaciernationalparklodges.com
Mount Rainier National Park
Whether you opt for the year-round Pacific Northwest eats at the National Park Inn at Longmire or the seasonal (May to October) fireside dining at Paradise Inn, the majestic views are free (minus park fees, of course). nps.gov/mora
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The Memorial Team Ice Cream Station is not a restaurant, fine. But it’s ice cream. There’s always room for ice cream, especially when the menu includes President Thomas Jefferson’s 1780 recipe for vanilla ice cream. mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com
Click on the image above to view the slideshow.
North Cascades National Park
There are more than 300 glaciers at North Cascades National Park but only one restaurant, the one at the Lodge at Stehekin on the banks of Lake Chelan. It’s open for full-service May 12 – October 15. Otherwise, the restaurant is open for lunch only when the Lady of the Lake boat is running. nps.gov/noca
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Café at Trail Ridge is your fueling station along the nation’s highest paved roadway. nps.gov/romo
Yellowstone National Park
You’d be crazy not to get the Grant Village Dining Room’s bison meatloaf at this crazy popular park. And because there is always room for ice cream (see above), get a couple of scoops at the Canyon Lodge Ice Creamery. yellowstonenationalparklodges.com
The décor at Red Rock Grill at Zion Lodge reflects the park’s geology — that of stone and wood. Start your day with eggs benedict and end it with 3-ounce beef tenderloin medallions and a mushroom demi-glace paired with a glass of zinfandel. zionlodge.com
Click on the slideshow above for more national park photographs.
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Photography: (from top) Xanterra Travel Collection, Badlands National Park/Facebook, Chisos Lodge Restaurant Patio/National Park Service, Library of Congress, Xanterra Travel Collection, (slideshow) Xanterra Travel Collection unless otherwise noted.