The rustic-chic accommodations display a 21st-century sustainable aesthetic
Yellowstone National Park
on August 3, 2017
The goal was to minimize the environmental impact by reducing the footprint.
The tour group streaming into one of Yellowstone National Park’s spanking new Canyon Lodges appears wowed by the rustic-chic surroundings. There’s a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the lobby, a handsome log-rail staircase, and airy, jewel-toned Mission-style guest rooms.
Less apparent is the array of eco-friendly innovations.
Some, like the six-compartment waste-sorting stations, are clearly visible. Others are less obvious, like bathroom countertops, windowsills, picnic tables, and benches made from recycled glass and fly ash (a byproduct of incinerated coal). As for the blue-gray wainscoting and other trim? It’s hewn from lodgepole pines that were killed by mountain pine beetles, giving new life to diseased wood. (Fun fact: The wood’s distinctive hue is from a fungus carried by the insect.)
Though the final two of the five new Canyon Lodges opened just this summer, they lack that new-building smell, thanks to limited use of volatile organic compounds that cause off-gassing. The lighting is LED. Water-saving devices are in use. Appliances are energy efficient. And “smart switches” in the guest rooms require inserting a key card to turn on the power. These and other eco-friendly features have earned four of Canyon’s new lodges LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification and Silver-level certification for a fifth lodge, from the U.S. Green Building Council.
With 409 rooms in the new buildings, plus accommodations in two smaller, ‘90s-era lodges, and 100 remaining Western Cabins built in the ‘60s, Canyon Lodge & Cabins is the largest single property in Yellowstone. Located on the east side of the park near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the site’s earlier incarnation was a product of Mission 66, a parks-wide program in the 1950s and ‘60s to modernize and expand visitor facilities in time for the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary in 1966.
But that was then and this is now. Fifty years after Mission 66, some of Yellowstone’s most historic structures, like the 1900s-era Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, remain treasured icons. But others, most notably hundreds of Mission 66 cabins in the park’s Canyon Village, had not stood the test of time.
“The goal was to minimize the environmental impact by reducing the footprint,” explains Dylan Hoffman, director of sustainability for Yellowstone National Park Lodges, which is managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. “We took it from a village of multi-unit cabins with cars parked outside, to five three-story lodges. It densifies the (living) area, opening space for wildlife to return.”
Rooms range from two-bedroom suites with private deck and wet bar, to smaller, third floor rooms. These smaller rooms lack bathtubs (they have showers) and mini-refrigerators, but are a great option for value-minded travelers.
Outside, pathways encourage strolling and cycling. A massive fire pit surrounded by recycled-glass benches encourages socializing.
Mission 66 brought mid-century modern design to the national parks, a departure from the traditional rustic architecture of the past. And though 300-plus of the ‘60s-era cabins were demolished to make way for the new 21st-century aesthetic, Canyon Village’s Mission 66 restaurant and gift shop survive. In the eatery, the original two-sided fireplace with its distinctive copper hood remains. So do the fun and funky starburst light fixtures, newly painted tangerine, blue, and green.
The sprawling, reconfigured dining space embraces ‘60s style with burnt orange, turquoise, and earth-tones decor. Grab-and-go flatbreads and other quick fare can be had at the Falls Café on one side of the building. The Canyon Lodge Eatery, consisting of Fresh Woks and Slow Food Fast, offers made-to-order bowls, plates, and stews.
The full-service M66 Bar & Grill (reservations required) completes the dining options with house-made soups, entrée salads, and local specialties like wild game meatloaf and sautéed trout. Such locally sourced food is all part of the sustainable and renewable approach that is the hallmark of the new lodges.
How to Explore
Canyon Lodge & Cabins joins eight other unique lodging options as part of Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Staying at one allows you to have the ultimate park experience. Once the day-visitors leave, Yellowstone remains for the in-park overnight guests alone. Yellowstone National Park Lodges also offers tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides that help create memorable experiences. For more information on lodging, tours, and vacation packages, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
For a multi-day visit of Yellowstone, consider a tour with Austin Adventures, a leader in national park and active vacations for both families and adults. It has been recognized as one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators multiple times. For more information, visit austinadventures.com or call 800-575-1540.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.