|Type||Great Base Lodging|
|Duration||As Long as You Can Afford to Stay|
|Highlights||Did we mention the Grand Canyon?|
At the top of my gratitude list is El Tovar in Grand Canyon National Park. I don't know of any other lodging establishment in the world with a more spectacular physical setting. Located just a few feet from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, El Tovar overlooks a panoramic expanse of deep canyons and sharply eroded cliffs. From dawn's first light to the last glow of evening, each passing minute highlights another facet of the canyon's beauty.
That dramatic physical setting is hard to match, but El Tovar lives up to its setting. A National Historic Landmark, it was built in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railway, who hoped to increase its business by drawing visitors to the remote canyon. El Tovar's eclectic style mixes Swiss chalet elements with Indian motifs, which sounds odd but somehow works. I especially love its expansive front and side porches perfect for watching both the canyon and fellow visitors.
El Tovar is particularly attractive at Thanksgiving, as winter's cold deepens and the hordes of tourists at the park thin. This is a wonderful time to explore the park's trails, which can be fiercely hot in summer, and winter also makes it easier to get reservations at El Tovar, which is typically fully booked at the height of the season.
El Tovar makes a great base camp for car-free explorations of the Grand Canyon. In fact, you can still take a train there. The Grand Canyon Railway departs from Williams, a fun Western town to the south, for a scenic three-hour ride to the South Rim. Once at the park, you can take a mule ride through the park's forests or down into the canyon, hop on a bike for a spectacular ride along the rim, or set off on a short walk or long hike. The truly adventurous can hike down into the bottom of the canyon and stay overnight at Phantom Ranch, then return the next day.
After two-days of intense hiking, I guarantee that you will appreciate a hot bath and clean sheets as you never have before. And after you clean up, you can savor a sumptuous meal and several glasses of fine wine in El Tovar's dining room overlooking the canyon. When you do, raise a glass in appreciation for those who built this cozy retreat in one of the world's greatest parks.
What I'd pack for a weekend at El Tovar:
-A field guide to western birdlife
-Warm wool sweaters
-A good book for reading n front of a roaring fire in El Tovar's lounge
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