The Basics Drinking Out

A Drinker’s Guide to Making the Most of the National Parks

After a long day on the trails, you deserve a cold local beer or well-made cocktail.

The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park
The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Image:

The Ahwahnee Hotel 

Our national parks have never been more popular. In 2019, they welcomed nearly 330 million floppy-hatted visitors to their rivers, mountains, trails and campsites. All that outdoor recreation can sure make a person thirsty, so fortunately, the national parks are also a surprisingly good place to drink. These are five of the taverns, hotels and taprooms worth exploring in America’s playground.

  • 49th State Brewing Company (Denali)

    Inside the 49th State Brewing Company in Denali

    49th State Brewing Company

    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 this lean red meat, 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, disc golf, horseshoes or bean bags, and depending on your timing, you may even be treated to a live concert in the beer garden.

  • The Ahwahnee Hotel (Yosemite)

    Inside the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite

    The Ahwahnee Hotel

    The Ahwahnee (formerly the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) is just as beloved as some of the 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 perusing the extensive wine list and drinks menu.

    If you can’t make it for the legendary Sunday brunch, find a comfortable chair and request the signature cocktail, El Capitini, a nod to the first ascent of El Capitan, Yosemite’s famed vertical rock formation. 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.

  • El Tovar Hotel (Grand Canyon)

    El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon

    El Tovar Hotel 

    If you’re trekking to Arizona on a mission to see the Grand Canyon, you can find respite at El Tovar, a historic hotel built on the park’s South Rim in 1905. More than a century later, the elegant digs haven’t changed much since the days when Teddy Roosevelt came to visit.

    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. It features more than 100 bottles, many from the emerging Arizona wine industry, as well as organic and sustainable varietals from California, Oregon and Washington.

  • The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern (Rocky Mountains)

    The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern in Estes Park

    The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern

    Visitors to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain national park can’t miss The Rock Inn in Estes Park. Built first as a sandwich shop and then expanded into a dance hall during the big-band era, the cozy log-cabin-like tavern hasn’t slowed down since opening in 1937. 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 watering 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 popular breweries, like Avery, Black Bottle, New Belgium and Oskar Blues. Cocktail aficionados won’t feel left out, as the bar mixes up drinks with local spirits, including Stranahan’s single-malt whiskey, Montanya craft rum and Spring 44 gin.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • Zion Canyon Brew Pub (Zion)

    Zion Canyon Brew Pub exterior

    Zion Canyon Brew Pub

    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% 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.