Built in 1905 as a railroad hotel, El Tovar was designed by Charles Whittlesey as a blend of Swiss chalet and the more rustic style that would come to define national-park lodges in the 1920s. With its unusual spires and dark-wood beams rising behind the Rim Trail, elegant El Tovar remains a grande dame of national park lodges, and the public spaces look much as they did when the lodge opened.
Wide, inviting porches offer travelers a comfortable and elegant place to relax after a day on the trails, and in the winter the fireplace in the lobby is cozy and inviting. Moose and elk trophy heads (some reportedly hunted by Teddy Roosevelt himself), reproduction Remington bronzes, and Craftsman-style furniture lend the interior a classic Western feel. The lodge sits about 100 yards from the rim, and though it’s thronged with tourists by day, the scene mellows considerably in the evening. The bench swing on the side porch is the best spot on the South Rim to relax with a cocktail and watch the comings and goings along the canyon rim.