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California is a state with a vast amount of natural and diverse beauty and luckily for us, we also play host to many National Parks that highlight a wide array of landscapes within our borders. Along with the historical significance of the park system, there are also a handful of hotels located inside our state’s National Parks, some have been around longer than the National Park system itself! The Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite, the Drakesbad in Lassen and the Inn at the Presidio in the Presidio are all great examples how guests can not only enjoy the National Parks during the day, but actually have the opportunity to spend the night in a historic and beautiful setting.
Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite dates back to 1855 when a miner by the name of Galen Clark first settled in the area. Clark began hosting travelers in a crude 12 x 16 foot log cabin and was well-known for being extremely knowledgable about the area, John Muir even said he was best mountaineer he had ever met. He also kept plenty of provisions on-hand like venison and trout for those who needed to re-stock for the remainder of their journey. Finances were not Clarke’s strong-suit however and in 1875, his collections of buildings, a sawmill, blacksmith shop and water ditch passed into the hands of creditors. It was one of these creditors, Albert Henry Washburn who built the Big Trees Lodge into what it is today. Originally named Big Tree Station, a fire burned all the buildings in 1878 and in 1879 the two-story main hotel was built and it was declared “the grandest hotel in the mountains of California” by the Mariposa Gazette. Today, the Big Trees Lodge has managed to keep much of its historical integrity and mid-19th century character.
In 1916 Congress established Lassen Volcanic National Park as the fifteenth National Park in the United States. Many years before that however, Pioneer Edward Drake had settled in this valley and began welcoming campers and weary travelers refuge and the opportunity take in the “ hot waters” which were said to have healing powers. In 1900, Alexander Sifford and his family came to experience exactly that and ended up never leaving. The 70 year old Drake got along well with the Sifford family as they both shared a similar vision for this valley. By the end of the Sifford’s three day visit, they had bought the property for $6000.00 and renamed the hot springs Drakesbad (Drake’s Baths) in Edwards honor. Through two generations, the Siffords continued to welcome guests from around the world to their Drakesbad Guest Ranch. In 1958, the Ranch was sold to the US government and continues to be an ideal setting for travelers to take in the “hot waters” and enjoy all the natural beauty Lassen has to offer.
The Inn at the Presidio might be the newest hotel to be opened inside a National Park but the building itself is one of the oldest, dating back to 1903. As a former Bachelor Officer’s Quarters (BOQ), this building originally housed single gentlemen in their own studio apartments while their married counterparts resided in the cottages on Funston Ave. In 1994, the Army officially ceased control over the Presidio and the Trust took over the future planning of the Park. It was with the thought in mind that all should be able to experience an overnight stay in this historical space that in 2011, the Trust began the 11 million dollar, two year renovation and restoration project on the building. In April of 2012, the Inn at the Presidio opened its doors to the Presidio’s first non-military guests. Today, we are continuing to welcome guests to the Inn to enjoy all the beauty and history this area of California has to offer.
Inn at the Presidio, Presidio National Park