It’s no secret that visits to national parks within the United States are up significantly this year as a result of COVID-19. Many travelers are opting to spend their summer and fall vacation time taking off on cross-country road trips to see many of these bucket list parks instead of traveling internationally.

In fact, I’m guilty as charged on this one. This month, I’m kicking off my own national park road trip in a 1997 Chevy camper van. Before I head out, I’m researching the best hotels to book with points that will put me in a great position to explore the parks. You know, for the nights I don’t want to spend sleeping in a 24-year-old vehicle. I figured I might as well share my findings with the 10xT crew.

In this article, I’ll break down a budget, mid-range and luxury option for some of the country’s top national parks. Because many of the parks are in remote locations, some of my recommendations may be over an hour’s drive to your ultimate destination. I’ll also make some suggestions about how you can earn the points to help you with these redemptions. Let’s dive in.

Acadia National Park

acadia national park

An early morning Autumn view of Otter Point from the top of Gorham Mountain; Acadia National Park, Maine. Image Courtesy from iStock Getty Images by PictureLake

Acadia National Park is located on the coast of Maine and is one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. You’ll find rocky beaches to explore and peaks to climb during your visit here. This park is also one of the most dog-friendly of all the national parks in case you want to bring your furry friend. For hotel recommendations, I’ve included three options— one each from Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton and IHG.

Budget Option: Fairfield Inn Bangor

My budget pick is the Fairfield Inn Bangor, which is about an hour away from the park entrance. Cash rates for summer weekends are about $200 per night. This Category 3 hotel is part of the Marriott Bonvoy program and a weekend night during peak season will cost 20,000 points per night.

Fairfield Inn Bangor

Fairfield Inn Bangor (Image Courtesy from Marriott)

Mid-Range Option: Hampton Inn Ellsworth/Bar Harbor

The Hampton Inn Ellsworth/Bar Harbor is my mid-range selection. This hotel is about 30 minutes from the park, so it gets you a bit closer than the budget option. It’s roughly $250 per night during a weekend over the summer or 60,000 Hilton points per night if you book directly. However, in this case, booking through the Chase Travel Portal would be a much better option as it will run you about 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card redemption rate of 1.25 cents per point.

Hampton Inn Ellsworth_Bar Harbor

Hampton Inn Ellsworth/Bar Harbor (Image Courtesy from Hilton)

Luxury Choice: Holiday Inn Resort – Bar Harbor Acadia National Park

For a luxury stay, I’ve picked the Holiday Inn Resort – Bar Harbor Acadia National Park. This one falls into the luxury category not only because of the rates but also because of the location. A stay here will put you 10 minutes away from the park entrance.

A weekend night this summer is $415 per night for cash or 80,000 IHG points per night due to IHG’s dynamic award pricing. Instead, check out the Chase Travel Portal because you could grab this hotel for far fewer points per night — around 33,200 points based on the cash prices and using the Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption rate.

Holiday Inn Resort - Bar Harbor Acadia National Park

Holiday Inn Resort - Bar Harbor Acadia National Park (Image Courtesy from IHG)

Badlands National Park

You’ll find Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota. The rock formations and grass prairies make for a dramatic landscape that is sure to impress. This is one of the parks where it’s difficult to find hotel redemptions very close to the park and the budget option actually gets you the closest.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park (iStock Getty Images by RiverNorthPhotography)

Budget Choice: America’s Best Value Inn Wall

America’s Best Value Inn Wall is my choice for the budget option and is nine minutes away from the park. Weekend cash rates over the summer are $142 per night and the best way to book this is through the Chase Travel Portal with either the 1.25 cents per point redemption rate with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the 1.5 cents per point redemption with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Using this method you’ll be able to book a room here for 9,466 to 11,360 Ultimate Rewards points.

Mid-Tier Option: Courtyard Rapid City

For the mid-tier hotel option, I’ve chosen the Courtyard Rapid City, which is about 50 minutes from the park’s Pinnacles entrance station. You can book this hotel through Marriott Bonvoy for 40,000 points per night, but with cash rates for a summer weekend sittin around $200 per night you can find a better deal through the Chase Travel Portal.

I’d expect to see point rates within the portal to be about 16,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 13,333 per night if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® based on the cash prices.

Luxury Choice: Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City

Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City

Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City (Image Courtesy from Hilton)

You’ll have a more luxurious stay at Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City, which is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. This just means that it’s an independently operated hotel that benefits from being a part of the Hilton portfolio. It’s also just under an hour away from the park.

While you can find cheaper nights, many of the cash rates for weekends towards the end of the summer climb up to $630 per night. Instead of shelling out cash, you can use 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Yellowstone National Park

There is so much variety in Yellowstone’s landscape between its canyons, rivers, forests and geysers. This national park is spread across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and although most of the park is located in Wyoming, none of the hotels I picked are. But don’t worry, I’ve still got you covered with three great options.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park (iStock Getty Images by ferrantraite)

Budget Option: Sawtelle Mountain Resort

The Sawtelle Mountain Resort is the budget hotel option in Island Park, Idaho. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be located about 35 minutes from Yellowstone’s west entrance. This hotel is not affiliated with any of the chain hotel programs, so the best option is to use the Chase Travel Portal to book.

Weekend cash prices during the summer are around $210 per night, and you’ll be able to redeem between 14,000 and 16,800 Ultimate Rewards depending on the final cash price and whether you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Mid-Range Choice: Travelodge by Wyndham

A good mid-range option is the Travelodge by Wyndham in Gardiner, Montana, where you’ll be just 10 minutes from the north entrance of the park. This is another hotel that you’ll need to book through the Chase Travel Portal.

Cash prices for weekends are about $250 per night or 16,666 Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or 20,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Luxury Option: Kimpton Armory Hotel

In the luxury category, you’ll find yourself at the Kimpton Armory Hotel which is a new addition to the IHG program. It’s located in Bozeman, Montana, which is about one hour and 20 minutes from the north entrance of the park. Weekend rates this summer can reach $760 per night, but you could opt to use 75,000 IHG points per night instead. Make sure to check the rates within the Chase Travel Portal as well as you may be able to snag a better deal.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is in northern Montana with peaks leading up to the Canadian border. There’s no shortage of hiking trails in this park, so I’ll make sure you have a good place to rest at the end of the day with these hotel options.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park (iStock Getty Images HaizhanZheng)

Budget Option: Quality Inn Big Sky

The budget hotel for this park is the Quality Inn Big Sky, which is 45 minutes away from the park in Kalispell, Montana. This is another hotel that will need to be booked through the Chase Travel Portal if you’re looking to use points.

Cash rates for upcoming weekend nights this summer are $250 or between 16,666 (with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®) and 20,000 (with the Chase Sapphire Preferred) Ultimate Rewards per night.

Mid-Range Budget: Towneplace Suites Whitefish Kalispell

If you have more of a mid-range budget, you’ll want to check out the Towneplace Suites Whitefish Kalispell that is a part of the Marriott Bonvoy program. It’s about 35 minutes away from the park and cash rates for weekends in September are an average of $418 per night. This is a Category 4 Marriott hotel and can be booked for 30,000 points per night instead of paying in cash.

Luxury Choice: Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Availability for this luxury option may be tough to find, but if you can grab it, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake is true Montana bliss. With its lakefront location, full-service spa and many outdoorsy activities, you’ll be able to find a balance of relaxation and adventure.

It’s about 40 minutes from the park entrance and cash rates for weekends this summer range from $549 per night to well over $1,000 per night. You’d have to use the Chase Travel Portal for this hotel option and the points rate will, of course, depend on the cash rates and which Chase Sapphire card you hold.

Yosemite National Park

In Yosemite National Park, you’ll find yourself marveling at huge sequoia trees and massive granite cliffs, like El Capitan and Half Dome. It is located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and all three hotel options below will have you in the park within 30 minutes.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park (iStock Getty Images by Eloi Omella)

Budget Choice: Yosemite View Lodge

The Yosemite View Lodge is the budget choice for this park. It’s in El Portal, California, which is a six-minute drive from Yosemite’s Arch Rock entrance and 20 minutes from Half Dome view. Cash rates for weekends this summer are $269 per night, but by using the Chase Travel Portal you can opt to use 21,572 Ultimate Rewards per night with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 17,933 Ultimate Rewards per night with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Mid-Range Option: Fairfield Inn & Suites Oakhurst

The mid-range hotel, Fairfield Inn & Suites Oakhurst, falls within the Marriott Bonvoy program and is a Category 4 hotel. This means that during peak timing award nights will be 30,000 Marriott points per night and 25,000 Marriott points per night during standard timing.

August and September are a mix of peak and standard timing, so depending on when you visit you may be able to grab a lower-cost night. The cash rates for this hotel are typically around $313 per night. If you stay here, you’ll be a bit further away from the park, but you’ll get to the south entrance within 30 minutes.

Luxury Option: The Hounds Tooth Inn

The HoundsTooth Inn, the luxury hotel option, is available for booking through Hyatt, which is my favorite hotel loyalty program. This is a boutique hotel also located in Oakhurst, California, so you’ll still be about a 30-minute drive to the park’s south entrance. It’s a beautiful property overlooking the valley and will cost you 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night rather than the weekend cash rate of $462.

Joshua Tree National Park

When you visit Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll see a contrasting landscape of Joshua Tree forests, huge rock formations and stark desert. Make sure to check out Keys View if you’re looking for a picturesque view (although it is pretty crowded). This time for hotels we have an IHG, a Hyatt and a Marriott option.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park (iStock Getty Images by yongyuan)

Budget Option: Holiday Inn Express Twentynine Palms

For the budget option, I’ve picked the Holiday Inn Express Twentynine Palms which is part of the IHG program. This is the hotel option that gets you closest to the park at only a 10-minute drive away. Weekend cash rates aren’t bad for this September at $127 per night, but if you choose to book using points, the nightly rate is around 16,500 IHG points but could vary as they have a dynamic award system.

Mid-Rance Choice: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort

The mid-range choice is the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort located in Indian Wells, California, about 40 minutes from the park. This hotel usually charges $320 per night for a summer weekend and is a Category 5 hotel, meaning you’ll need 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night based on the Hyatt award chart.

It’s also important to note that in October 2021, Hyatt will be introducing off-peak and peak redemption pricing, so you might be able to book this hotel for fewer points depending on when you plan your visit.

Luxury Option: Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage

The luxury hotel option is the Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California, bookable through Marriott Bonvoy. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be located about 45 minutes from the park.
The Ritz Carlton has vast views of Palm Springs and Coachella Valley that won’t disappoint, and neither will its gorgeous spa.

Weekend cash rates for this August and September are between $490 and $590 per night and jump to $830 to $980 per night come October. This is a Category 7 hotel, so during peak timing, you’ll pay 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night and as low as 50,000 points per night during off-peak. August and September are a mix of peak and standard timing so expect rates of either 60,000 or 70,000 points per night.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is in southwest Utah where you can expect to find steep red cliffs across the landscape. For a particularly unique hike, check out Zion Narrows. You’ll be walking through a river with towering cliffs on either side of you. I’ve got a few hotel options that will make sure you’re rested before trekking through the park.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park (iStock Getty Images by Robert Ford)

Budget Selection: Hyatt Place St. George Convention Center

The budget hotel option is the absolute cheapest points rate I’ve seen for a hotel. The Hyatt Place St. George Convention Center is about an hour from the park, but at only 5,000 World of Hyatt points per night, I think you’ve got yourself a deal.

With weekend cash rates during the summer around $133 per night, your redemption rate for this hotel would be 2.6 cents per point, which is a great rate when considering that Hyatt points are typically valued at about 1.5 cents per point.

Mid-Range Option: Fairfield Inn & Suites Virgin Zion

The Fairfield Inn & Suites Virgin Zion, another Marriott Bonvoy hotel, is the mid-range option. You won’t be far from the park with only a 20-minute drive to get you there. This hotel is Category 5 and with August and September falling into standard and peak timing, you’ll see award nights for either 35,000 or 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night based on the award chart. Cash rates for the same time sit at $237 per night on average.

Luxury Lodging: Cliffrose Springdale

The luxury hotel choice, Cliffrose Springdale, is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. This hotel is about as close as you can get to the park without being inside of it. It’s just half a mile away from the park visitor center and offers a free shuttle to transport you there. Rates for weekends in September get steep reaching $987 per night. Instead of paying cash, you can opt to pay with Hilton Honors points for 80,000 points per night.

Arches National Park

There are more than 2,000 sandstone arches spread out across Arches National Park. An aptly named park if I may say so myself. Some of the most popular landmarks to check out within the park include Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch and Double Arch. All of the hotels I’ve researched will get you to the park in 10 minutes or less.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park (iStock Getty Images by Don White)

Budget Choice: Hyatt Place Moab

The Hyatt Place Moab is my budget hotel selection and while the cash rates for a weekend night of about $350 may not normally land it in the budget category, the points rates definitely do. This is a Category 2 Hyatt hotel, so you can book a weekend night for only 8,000 points per night. You’ll also be close to the park’s visitor center — just a seven minute drive away. If you’re looking for a budget hotel that has more affordable cash rates, check out the MainStay Suites Moab which is about $280 per night.

Mid-Range Option: Fairfield Inn & Suites Moab

I have another Fairfield Inn & Suites in Moab as the mid-range hotel choice. It’s a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy hotel, so rather than paying $300 to $500 per night, you can book an award night for 50,000 or 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night in August or September based on the award chart. This hotel is also only a five-minute drive to the visitor center.

Luxury Lodging: Hoodoo Moab

For a luxury hotel, we’re going back to Hilton with another Curio Collection hotel — the Hoodoo Moab. It’s about 10 minutes from the visitor center and has an outdoor pool and full-service spa. I found some weekends in August and October that are priced at $459 per night or 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Fair warning though, because of Hilton’s dynamic award pricing the points needed for a night can skyrocket. Case in point, staying at this hotel the night of Sept. 11 would cost you 258,000 Hilton Honors points. Yikes.

How to Earn Points For National Park Hotel Redemptions

You probably noticed that I included a lot of different hotel brands in my research, so you have a number of different ways of earning points to make your dream national park trip come true. Between Chase Sapphire cards, American Express cards and co-branded hotel cards, you’ll be able to earn the points you need.

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are great options for earning points for these hotels. Many of the hotels I included are best booked through the Chase Travel Portal, which you get better redemption rates through when you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

On top of this, Marriott Bonvoy, Hyatt and IHG are all Chase transfer partners, which gives you the option to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to book these hotels.

The remaining hotel program I included, Hilton, is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards points. The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees) and the American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees) would help you earn plenty of Membership Rewards, respectively. Either choice will help you make a dent in booking the Hilton mid-range and luxury hotel options I provided but consider the annual fees and minimum spend requirements for each card before you decide which one is right for you.

The other option, outside of earning transferable points with Chase or American Express, is to choose a co-branded hotel card based on where you decide to stay.

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is offering 150,000 bonus points after $3,000 spent in the first three months of account opening and that would put you in a position to book a weekend stay at either of these hotels I recommended:

  • Holiday Inn Express Twentynine Palms (Joshua Tree National Park)
  • Kimpton Armory Hotel (Yellowstone National Park).

You’d probably be able to pull off a weekend at the Holiday Inn Resort – Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park) as well, assuming you could earn the 7,000 points you’d be shy of after the welcome bonus and $3,000 minimum spend.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card has a tiered welcome bonus right now, offering 30,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening and an additional 30,000 points after $15,000 spent in non-bonus categories in the first six months.

Even if you just earn the first 30,000 points, you’d be able to cover a full weekend at both of these hotel options:

  • Hyatt Place Moab (Arches National Park)
  • Hyatt Place St. George Convention Center (Zion National Park).

If you’re able to earn the full 60,000 points, you can book two weekend nights at either of these hotels:

  • Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort (Joshua Tree National Park)
  • Hounds Tooth Inn (Yosemite National Park)

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card has a welcome bonus of 125,000 points plus one free night award up to 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend of $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. This bonus will enable you to book a full weekend at almost every Marriott Bonvoy property I mentioned with the exception of the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage since that property requires more than 50,000 points per night.

Another Marriott Bonvoy option is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees) that will earn you 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and a bonus free night award after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening (limited time offer ends 11/3/2021). With this welcome bonus, you could book weekend trips at:

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Virgin Zion (Zion National Park)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Oakhurst (Yosemite National Park)
  • Towneplace Suites Whitefish Kalispell (Glacier National Park)
  • Fairfield Inn Bangor (Acadia National Park).

Of these two Marriott Bonvoy cards, I’d say your better bet is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card as it gives you greater booking opportunities for the hotels mentioned in this article.

The final co-branded hotel card that will serve you in booking your national park trip is the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees). You can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 50,000 bonus points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases in the first six months.

With 130,000 or more Hilton Honors points, you’ll have enough points to stay the weekend at:

  • Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City (Badlands National Park)
  • Hampton Inn Ellsworth/Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park)

Final Thoughts

If my research has taught me anything, it’s that there are a ton of hotel options surrounding the national parks across the United States, and during the high season they can get expensive.

Booking a hotel instead of camping in the parks may become a necessary option, especially as reservations for park campgrounds become more difficult to find with increased interest and decreased capacity. Using points can be a great way to save on hotels while visiting these parks.

See you on the road!