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Exploring national parks in 2022: Where to stay using points

April 19, 2022
16 min read
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Editor's Note

In celebration of National Park Week, which runs from April 16-24, The Points Guy is publishing a series of articles focusing on the beauty and diversity of America's national parks. We will share personal stories from the TPG team, as well as news and tips that will help you get the most out of your next national park visit.

National park visits have exploded in popularity in recent years, buoyed by the publicity around free admission days and programs such as Every Kid Outdoors, which provides free entry to fourth graders and their families.

More than 297 million visitors enjoyed U.S. national parks in 2021, up over 25% from 2020. While many parks were closed or partially closed at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the situation has normalized and now many wonderful spaces are open and welcoming visitors for a variety of activities.

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Angels Landing Zion National Park
Hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

If national parks are in your future travel plans, TPG wants to help you use your points and miles most effectively to make these trips more affordable.

The biggest cost involved with visiting a national park is typically lodging. Some national parks are in such remote locations that finding a major chain hotel where you can use points is pretty challenging. In that case, consider using fixed-value points currencies or booking with Chase points (or a similar rewards currency) on a site such as the Chase travel portal, where you can use points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Related: How to get into national parks for less

But you’ll often find that you can use your Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Choice and other points to stay near some of the most-visited national parks, especially those close to midsize or major cities. And don’t forget, the National Park Service is responsible for many more destinations than just the 63 national parks, including national monuments and national historic sites, among others.

Here are some ways to use hotel points in 2022 at destinations that will position you to visit some of the top national parks and other sites managed by the National Park Service.

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Related: The joy of booking new, attainable summer trips

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park. (Photo by Seth K. Hughes/Getty Images)

White Sands National Park joined the national park roster in late 2019, and covers 275 square miles of desert in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin. There, the winds of time have created wave-like dunes of gypsum sand that are a wonder to behold — and you can even sled like you would on a snowy hill!

If you’re more into viewing than sledding, there’s also a scenic 8-mile Dunes Drive — and horses are even allowed into the park.

Getting to White Sands is likely going to require a road trip because El Paso International Airport (ELP) is the closest major airport, and it’s 85 miles south. But luckily there are affordable hotels much closer to the park than El Paso.

Related: Top national parks to visit before your kids leave the house

Where to stay

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Alamogordo — from $173 or 15,000 to 20,000 Marriott points per night.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Las Cruces at NMSU — from $153 or 10,000 to 15,000 Marriott points per night.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Las Cruces — from $111 or 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Las Cruces I-10 — from $109 or 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Related: Credit cards that provide hotel award nights

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Few travelers realize Chicago is less than an hour’s drive from one of America’s newest national parks: Indiana Dunes National Park. Formerly the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the area got a promotion of sorts in early 2019 to national park status. The park stretches 15 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan and is a popular summer escape for beachgoing and hiking.

Related: Best road trips from Chicago

Travelers can easily make a daytrip from Chicago or find a home base closer to the park in cities like Chesterton or Portage, Indiana, where budget and moderate hotels are available. There are a few properties in both areas (also check out TPG’s recommendations for redeeming points at family-friendly Chicago hotels and advice on the best activities in Chicago).

Where to stay

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Valparaiso — from $98 or 15,000 to 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
  • Hyatt Regency McCormick Place — from $161 or 12,000 to 18,000 Hyatt points per night (Category 4). As a Category 4 hotel, you are able to use a Category 1 to 4 certificate that’s awarded on the cardholder anniversary of the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Chesterton — from $102 or 28,000 to 35,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Portage — from $117 or 17,000 to 22,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night.

Related: Enjoy free national park visits: Here's how to save

Gateway Arch National Park

The Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis. (Photo by traveler1116 / Getty Images)
The Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis. (Photo by traveler1116/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Gateway Arch in Missouri is also a relatively recent addition to the national park inventory. The area around the arch underwent a major renovation in 2018 — 11 acres of parkland and 5 miles of biking trails and walking paths were added — further enhancing its appeal as a destination for visitors.

Where to stay

  • Hotel Saint Louis, Autograph Collection — from $169 or 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night. It may be a smart place to redeem a 35,000-point free night certificate, which is given out on cardholder anniversaries with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
  • Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch — from $105 or 6,500 to 9,500 Hyatt points per night (World of Hyatt Category 2).
  • St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection — from $154 or 48,000 Hilton points per night.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park. (Photo by Artur Debat/Getty Images)

Yosemite National Park in Northern California needs no introduction. Seeing sights like Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls are on many travelers’ bucket lists.

Yosemite is a popular national park and it can be a 45-minute (or longer) drive to destinations within the park. Long lines can form at the park’s entrances on traditional peak summer dates. Consider redeeming flexible points currencies for a more accessible stay, if you have those available to you.

Related: Review of the Westin Monache Mammoth Resort

Where to stay

  • Quality Inn Yosemite Valley Gateway (Mariposa) — from $99 or 16,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
  • Sierra Sky Ranch, Ascend Hotel Collection (Oakhurst) — from $119 or 20,000 to 25,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
  • Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn (Oakhurst) — from $124 or 24,000 to 40,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.
  • The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth — from $211 or 50,000 to 70,000 Marriott points per night.

Everglades, Dry Tortugas and Biscayne national parks

Everglades National Park. (Photo by Martina Birnbaum/EyeEm/Getty Images)

South Florida is home to three magnificent national parks that are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the country: the Everglades, the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Park.

Everglades National Park is an easy drive southwest of Miami and where alligators and wildlife abound. Dry Tortugas and Biscayne national parks require some additional effort to reach, as both protect areas that are largely underwater.

If you want to hit all three in a single trip, Key Largo is your most central spot for lodging. Alternatively, spend a few days in the Miami area in order to visit the Everglades and Biscayne national parks, and then drive down to Key West, where you can see the Dry Tortugas on a daytrip.

Where to stay

  • The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami — from $489 or 40,000 to 60,000 Marriott points per night. On nights when the hotel sells for 50,000 points, you could use an annual 50,000-point free night certificate, which is given out around eight weeks after renewing the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
  • Hyatt Regency Miami — from $166 or 9,000 to 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night (Category 3).
  • Courtyard Key Largo — from $233 or 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night. It can be a good way to redeem a 35,000-point free night certificate on many nights.
  • Hyatt Centric Key West — from $486 or 25,000 to 35,000 World of Hyatt points per night (Category 7).
  • Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton — from $527 or 90,000 Hilton points per night.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park. (Photo by Leslie Harvey)

Interest in Zion National Park has exploded in recent years, making it one of the nation’s most-visited national parks.

According to park service statistics, over 5 million visitors entered Zion in 2021. The area has some epic hiking opportunities, from Angels Landing to the Narrows. There are also plenty of family-friendly hiking and biking opportunities for travelers with younger kids.

For points travelers, Zion is also one of the easier national parks to visit. The town of Springdale, Utah, is steps from the park’s main entrance and moderately priced chain hotels abound.

Where to stay

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale/Zion National Park — from $154 or 43,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
  • Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton — from $181 or 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park — from $265 or 40,000 to 70,000 Marriott points per night.
  • Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites — from $116 or 20,000 to 70,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham at Zion Park/Springdale — from $101 or 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night.

Related: This hotel near Zion National Park may be the best SpringHill Suites on Earth

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
(Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

For much of 2018, Hawaii’s Big Island was regularly in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the spring of that year, Kilauea, the volcano protected as part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, erupted.

The landscape was permanently altered and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has changed dramatically. There’s no longer visible lava in the park, but the crater is dramatically bigger as a result of the geological changes.

There are no major hotels near the park, so you can either book a very basic cabin in the park, or you can stay at Volcano House, which operates in partnership with the National Park Service. During the summer, rooms are often available for $200 to $300 per night (crater views cost a little extra). Or, you can rent your own little cabin for less than $100 per night. In either case, you’d want to use your fixed-value points to cover that cost.

Otherwise, Hilo is less than an hour away and can serve as a home base for more hotel options.

Island-hopping travelers could also potentially visit one more national park while in the state: Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui.

Where to stay

  • Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo – A Doubletree by Hilton — from $182 or 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection — from $949 or 50,000 to 120,000 Marriott points per night.

Related: Everything you need to know about interisland travel in Hawaii

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim. (Photo by Getty Images/benedek)

Perhaps the most iconic national park of all, the Grand Canyon is massive both in size and popularity. There are multiple rims to the canyon, so there are also different lodging recommendations based on where you plan to visit. And although you can camp in the Grand Canyon or reserve other types of lodging within the park, the competition for much of that is often pretty fierce.

Related: Best times to visit the Grand Canyon

Where to stay near the South Rim

  • Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn — from $219 per night or 32,000 to 56,000 Best Western Rewards points.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon — from $117 per night or 42,000 to 52,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

If you’re planning a multinight visit, keep in mind that the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card will give you a fourth-night reward.

Where to stay near the North Rim (OK, it’s about two hours away)

  • Courtyard Page at Lake Powell — from $139 per night or 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Page, Lake Powell — from $108 per night or 16,000 to 32,000 IHG points per night.
  • Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Page, Lake Powell — from $61 or 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night.
  • Best Western Plus at Lake Powell — from $55 per night or 12,000 to 20,000 points.

Related: Visiting the Grand Canyon with a family: Where to camp, stay and play

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Charlottesville, Virginia, is an ideal jumping-off point for a number of national park adventures, including Shenandoah National Park, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway, both of which are full of outdoor pursuits. Although the area is popular in summer, I also recommend visiting in the fall when the colors are some of the prettiest anywhere in the country.

For the traveler interested in the Civil War, you can also visit sites within an easy 90-minute drive of Charlottesville: Appomattox Courthouse, a national historic park commemorating the site where the Civil War ended, and Manassas, where two pivotal Civil War battles were fought.

Where to stay

  • Residence Inn Charlottesville Downtown — from $144 or 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night; a good place to use a 35,000-point certificate.
  • Hyatt Place Charlottesville — from $124 or 6,500 to 9,500 World of Hyatt points per night (Category 2).
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Front Royal Blue Ridge Shadows — from $120 or 32,000 to 40,000 Hilton points per night.

Bottom line

Our country is blessed with many fantastic national parks, monuments and outdoor spaces.

If one of the U.S. national parks is on your summer 2022 wish list, now is a good time to get serious about lodging and make a reservation in or near a park.

Considering a national park trip this year? Other articles of interest:

Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen and Summer Hull.

Featured image by Yosemite National Park. Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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