Where Are The Best Luxury Hotels in Yosemite National Park?
Reserving hotels in Yosemite, and in all national parks, for that matter, is tricky. The land in the park is protected, which means it is not a place a Four Seasons can pop up overnight.
The accommodations properties that are in the park are already grandfathered in, and it’s hard to convince a national park system to destroy land for more hotel rooms. So what high-end hotels do you choose when booking your luxury tour to Yosemite? How do you know what hotels are decent and which are not?
Begin with convenience and quality, namely the famous property which is closest to the action:
Ahwahnee Hotel (briefly called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel)
The Ahwahnee is one of the reasons we have national parks. It was constructed to convince the wealthy and those of influence and power to visit Yosemite and stay in luxury, so they could see the beauty of Mother Nature first-hand and support the concept of national parks.
Built in 1927 and set at the base of the Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley, there is no nicer hotel in Yosemite.
The Ahwahnee has hosted Dwight Eisenhower, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, the Shah of Iran, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and numerous other celebrities. For this hotel, you pay for location more than anything, and we say with the history and ease, there is no better spot to stay.
For high-end accommodations in Yosemite Valley, that’s it. Not a lot, we know, but with the 750,000 acres of Yosemite mostly designated as wilderness, it kind of makes sense. You won’t see many luxury hotels like the Fairmont available to high-end travelers.
Another option is to look outside of Yosemite’s gates for accommodations, which sounds worse than it is. If you have a car (or rental car), it is really no big deal.
Tenaya Lodge (two hours driving from Yosemite Valley)
Located outside of the southern Yosemite entry gate (about two hours south of the Valley), Tenaya Lodge is another hotel for those who desire luxury. Its location provides more peace and quiet than many other resorts, and although you are technically outside of the gates, the closest Yosemite landmark is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (the big trees), only about 15 minutes away.
Tenaya is a great resort; staying there, however, you won’t be walking out your backdoor to see the cliffs of Yosemite. You’ll most likely be driving to your hiking trailheads each day.
Rush Creek Lodge
The newest of the premium hotels near Yosemite, Rush Creek Lodge has the log cabin feel in accommodations. But like Tenaya, the hotel is 10 minutes outside of the gates, or about one hour driving from Yosemite Valley on the north end (and if it’s your first time in Yosemite, the Valley is where you want to be).
Rush Creek Lodge, because it’s new, recently has not been selling out. If you need a last-minute hotel, this is usually a good bet, although, technically, even though you are in a luxury setting, you are rather far away from the Valley.
Now you realize there are not many luxury hotels within close proximity of Yosemite, and even the ones which are nearby are a hefty driving distance away, about one or two hours.
What is our recommendation?
We will always recommend location over price. And when it comes to location, there is no better high-end hotel than the Ahwahnee. You can grab a coffee in the morning and walk privately out the backdoor and up to the cliffs of the Valley.
Yes, the hotel is more expensive, and many wonder about the price and why. But when you step outside of your back door you’ll understand why.
You are under the shadow of Half Dome, and all of your hikes and activities can begin from your hotel room door. With the other luxury hotels in Yosemite, even the AirBnBs (which, if you read closely, are quite a distance away, such as in Mariposa, which is a two-hour drive from the Valley), are not your best option.
We recommend you swallow the pillow, pay for the location, or call us to show you Yosemite in the authentic way, which is venturing into the wilderness on a private backcountry hiking tour. Then you can stay in the luxury Yosemite hotels to recharge. Contact us today to reserve your next trip!