Our national parks have never been more popular. Last year alone, they welcomed some 331 million floppy-hatted visitors to their rivers, mountains, trails and campsites. All that outdoor recreating can sure make a person thirsty. These are the five taverns, hotels and taprooms worth exploring in America’s playground.
Those brave enough to face the Arizona heat in the middle of summer can find respite at the magical El Tovar, a historic hotel built on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in 1905. More than a century later, the elegant digs haven’t changed much.
Whether you’ve hiked the popular Bright Angel trail or simply admired the mile-deep canyon vistas from above, the hotel lounge’s veranda offers magical views of the desert sunset, with cocktails and light bites to match. The award-winning wine list is also worth a look, for its 100-plus sustainable pours and selection of local Arizona varietals.
Touted as the only craft brewery in southern Utah, Zion Brewery is located just outside of Zion national park’s main entrance. Despite Utah’s lower-ABV beer laws (under 4 percent by volume), the brewpub’s delicious roundup of 10 draft beers draws a crowd every night.
Grab a seat on the riverside patio and watch the sun set over the giant Watchman formation guarding the park’s south entrance with a cold one in hand. Try a flight of house brews, like the citrusy Zion pale ale or the rich Conviction stout, plus elevated bar bites. Come on a weekend to catch live music in the beer garden.
Visitors to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain national park can’t miss The Rock Inn in Estes Park. Built as a dance hall during the big-band era, the cozy log-cabin-like tavern hasn’t slowed down in the 81 years since it opened. The outdoor patio boasts views of the Continental Divide and welcomes bluegrass jam sessions on Thursdays, Colorado bands most Fridays and acoustic musicians almost every night of the summer.
The parkside drinking hole opens at 4 p.m. each evening with happy hour, where visitors can sip on two-for-one house drafts and Colorado craft beers from Avery, Black Bottle, New Belgium and Oskar Blues, plus cocktails made with spirits from local distillers like Stranahan’s single-malt whiskey, Montanya craft rum and Spring 44 gin, made with water from an artesian mineral spring.
Ever had Alaskan-raised yak? 49th State Brewing Company, perched just outside of Alaska’s Denali national park, is among the few places in the state to try it, served in burger or quesadilla form.
It also carries a hefty list of small-batch beers, all brewed in-state. Try the signature Prospector’s Gold, its take on a pilsner, or the refreshingly sweet White Peach wheat, made with fresh peach purée. A visit to the brewpub can entail a game of bocce ball or horseshoes, and depending on your timing, you may even be treated to a live concert in the beer garden.
The Majestic is just as beloved as some of the Yosemite national park’s natural wonders, having hosted presidents, Hollywood stars and generations of Americans, going back to the 1920s. Cap off the day’s hike with a drink from the lodge’s stunning dining room and bar. The 34-foot ceilings, bolstered by pine and granite and lined with chandeliers, offer an impressive backdrop for glimpsing the 17-page wine list and drinks menu.
If you can’t make it for the legendary Sunday brunch, cozy in for the signature cocktail, El Capitini, a nod to the first ascent of El Capitan. Made with vodka, Cointreau, and pomegranate and pineapple juices, it’s topped off with a Champagne floater and orange garnish and served with a souvenir carabiner to celebrate the brave mountaineers who first reached the summit in 1958.