With the weather starting to warm up, summer travel is on the mind. And that means spending as much time in the great outdoors as possible. There's no better way to do that than to explore the country's national parks. The National Park Service celebrated its centennial last year, after all, so if you haven't yet explored these American treasures, put them at the top of your list.
Road-tripping through stunning scenery is undoubtedly one of the most quintessential ways to explore the country. Even better? Venturing out on foot. But before you stock up on gas station coffee, beef jerky and Sour Patch Kids (not that there's anything wrong with that), check out these restaurants, lodges and food trucks that are about to make your adventuring taste a lot better. Consider this your cheat sheet for five of the country's top parks.
Fuel up for a hike in Montana's Glacier National Park with a wallet-friendly burrito and a cold one from Wandering Gringo Café, a food truck just outside of West Glacier. Props to you if you’re able to finish a whole burrito, which could easily sustain a family of three.
About 10 miles inside the west entrance, you’ll stumble upon Russell’s Fireside Dining Room inside Lake McDonald Lodge. The huckleberry elk burger is a real taste of Montana, or you could taste your way through the Rocky Mountains with the charcuterie board featuring local wild game meats and cheeses.
Gringo Café | Photo: Gringo Café via Facebook
At Many Glacier Hotel in the northeastern part of the park, bunker up at the Swiss Lounge for bison chili and a Flathead Manhattan crafted with local Glacier Distilling Fireweed Cherry Bourbon.
Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem that's far less crowded than southern Utah’s sister parks. While there are no concessions inside, neighboring towns Bicknell and Torrey are well stocked. The Sunglow Motel & Restaurant in Bicknell, a staple since the mid-1950s, features fresh diner fare, but the real draws are the house-made pinto bean pies and pickle pies. It sounds odd, but you won't regret it.
Robbers Roost Bookstore (named after Butch Cassidy’s famous hideout) in Torrey is another must. Grab a latte or drip coffee made with Salt Lake Roasting Company beans, a freshly baked pastry or, you know, a guitar, because it sells those, too.
Torrey is also home to Cafe Diablo, a place to score an authentic desert meal. The restaurant highlights local specialities, including rattlesnake cakes crafted with free-range rattlesnake patties, pistachios and ancho-rosemary aioli. If snake isn’t on your list, the Mexican pumpkin ravioli and hellfire shrimp are two favorites.
Make Punalu'u Bake Shop in Naalehu on Mamalahoa Highway a priority pit stop on your way to this majestic Hawaiian park. The sweetbreads (no, not those kinds of sweetbreads) are dangerously addictive. Brightly hued guava and taro rolls are a quintessential road trip snack, and since calories don’t count on vacation, pick up a box of lilikoi glaze and sugar-dusted malasadas.
Punalu'u Bake Shop | Photo: Alan Low
At Volcano House, a hotel situated on Crater Rim Drive inside the park, reservations are strongly suggested for The Rim. Ask for a coveted window seat and an ahi poke stack, because Hawaii.
For a no-frills option, Tuk-Tuk Thai Food, a truck parked at the Cooper Center in Volcano Village, is off the charts. Green papaya salad and pineapple curry will fill you up after a day of exploring.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is an ideal stomping ground for outdoor enthusiasts and food lovers alike. Dornans in Moose is the spot for a post-hike, ice-cold Snake River Brewing beer and amazing pizza, paired with an unforgettable view of the Tetons.
At Jenny Lake Lodge, you'll find a five-course dinner at The Dining Room, where the chef changes the menu daily. Last summer, a tasting menu included fresh crudo, parsnip soup with granola and pork loin with a bourbon glaze. (Fellas, sport coats are suggested attire, FYI). Expect huckleberry pancakes for breakfast.
In Moran, north of Moose, Jackson Lake Lodge takes the morning meal to a whole new level with a Jackson Lake Breakfast Cruise. A boat drops you off at Elk Island, where you’ll embark on a filling cowboy breakfast spread of eggs, trout, home fries, pancakes, bacon, coffee and more, all while taking in panoramic Teton views.
Zion Brewery | Photo: Nick Adams
Springdale is the gateway to Utah's Zion National Park and a quirky town you’ll most likely stay in when visiting the area. Before hitting the park, stop at Café Soleil for a breakfast burrito or steel-cut oatmeal and a sinful caramel latte.
Pack your passport—and an appetite—as we hit the world's hottest culinary destinations on and off the grid all month long. Now Boarding: your next trip to paradise.
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