Transport yourself to a bygone era at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (from $240), the original headquarters of the U.S. Cavalry, the park’s first protectors. The lodge will mark its 100th anniversary in 2015, but a recent $10 million renovation gave the 245 guest rooms a long-overdue face-lift by blending modern austerity with nature-inspired elements, including Yosemite artwork from local photographers and sustainable hickory headboards. Cool off from a day of hiking in the sparkling outdoor pool, set in the shadow of Sierra Nevada peaks and the 2,424-foot Yosemite Falls. Dine on hearty mountain fare like cider-marinated pork chops ($24) and five-spice roast duck ($28) in the Mountain Room Restaurant, whose expansive windows look out on silhouetted pines. History buffs should be sure to check out the Yosemite Museum and cemetery, about a 15-minute walk from the lodge; the latter is the final resting place for many of the national park’s original developers.
Relive the feel of summer camp (with grown-up extras) at Tenaya Lodge, located just two miles from Yosemite’s south entrance. The majestic lobby, with a two-story granite fireplace, leather sofas, and Native American–inspired décor, immediately evokes the feel of a grand mountain lodge. Cozily rustic rooms feature plush beds, dark wood headboards, and pine furniture (from $285; rates drop after August), and look for updates soon—in October, the property will undergo a $5.5 million renovation. Set aside a day to enjoy on-property pursuits, including mountain biking, archery, three outdoor pools (including an adults-only wading pool), and flashlight tours of the nearby Sierra National Forest. Rejuvenate with outdoorsy-oriented treatments like the Hikers’ Delight Foot Treatment ($50) at Ascent, the onsite 10,000-square-foot spa, then unwind under the stars at the outdoor fire pit with a Pack Mule, a cocktail made with ginger beer, vodka, Triple Sec, and lime juice ($12).
Experience Yosemite like a local with home rentals in the park, a lodging option few visitors know about. At Yosemite West (about a 35-minute drive from Yosemite Valley), choose from dozens of privately owned log-cabin homes perfect for piling in, like the secluded Red Fox Retreat (from $395), an A-frame chalet with one bedroom plus a loft that opens up to a cathedral ceiling, all with mountain-inspired décor like pine-wood ceilings and walls and an elk-horn chandelier. Or bring your travel companions to Little Sport (from $365), a roomy two-bedroom, two-bath enclave nestled in the pines, with a wood-burning granite fireplace and spacious deck. Couples can choose from Yosemite West’s studios and lofts (from $210), all with kitchens, propane fireplaces, and decks to take in the view from 6,000 feet.