Just Down the Hallway: Saving Money at a National Park Lodge by Choosing a Room without a Private Bathroom

Not all the rooms at Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park have bathrooms, but that's part of the ambience. Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau photo.

Editor's note: "Staying with the relatives." That's how my folks would refer to lodgings where there was a shared bathroom. Well, spend a night in a national park lodge and you just might encounter such a situation. But that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a miserable night, even if the call of nature requires a walk down the hall. David and Kay Scott, authors of Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges, explain.

Even experienced travelers often are surprised to learn that some national park lodges still offer rooms without a private bathroom. In fact, in making a reservation at one of the lodges you might discover there is no choice other than a room that requires use of a community bathroom. This might result from the lodge having no rooms with a private bath or, more likely, because all rooms with a private bath have already been reserved. While European visitors are not surprised and might even expect rooms without a private bathroom, many U.S. travelers don’t look kindly on the need to use a bathroom that is just down the hallway. Make a late reservation at a lodge that has rooms both with and without a private bathroom and you are likely to be stuck with the latter.

Several national park lodges have rooms without a private bath as the norm. For example, Rocky Knob Cabins on the Blue Ridge Parkway has only a single cabin (the unit designated handicap accessible) with a private bathroom. Guests in the other six cabins of this small facility are required to use a central bathhouse. Historic Kettle Falls Hotel, the only lodging facility in Voyageurs National Park, has only community bathrooms in the hotel, although newer villas with private bathrooms are not far away. All of Yosemite National Park’s tent cabins at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and all but a few cabins at White Wolf Lodge, both along the Tioga Road, have only community bathrooms. Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite Valley also offers only community bathrooms for guests. Likewise, occupants of cottages at Cinnamon Bay Campground in Virgin Islands National Park have access to three community bathrooms.

Several national park lodges offer guests a choice between rooms with or without a private bath. Rooms without a private bath are nearly always less expensive -- actually, often substantially less expensive -- compared to rooms with a private bath. This, of course, is the reason for selecting one of these rooms if the choice is available. It is also somewhat of a consolation when all rooms with a private bath are already spoken for. You need to look at the positive side of sharing a bathroom with someone you don’t know.

National park lodging facilities offering both rooms with and without a private bath are listed below. We have noted the considerable difference in cost between the two classes of rooms at most of these lodging facilities.

Cumberland Island National Seashore – Greyfield Inn, this park unit’s only lodging facility, is an early 1900s mansion with rooms in the main house and two nearby cottage buildings. Six of the seven bedrooms on the third floor of the main house share two bathrooms and result in a nightly savings of from $100 to $200 compared to rooms with a bath. Who needs a private bathroom at this cost difference?

Grand Canyon National Park – On the South Rim, Bright Angel Lodge has two dormitory-style buildings, Powell Lodge and Bucky Lodge, each with rooms that have only a partial bathroom or no bathroom. These rooms offer savings of up to $40 per night compared to nearby historic cabins in the same complex.

Grand Teton National Park – Colter Bay Village, the largest lodging complex in the park, has two log dormitory-type buildings in the cabin area plus 66 tent cabins without a private bath in a separate area of the village. The dorm buildings have a total of nine rooms. Oddly, one dorm building requires guests to go outside in order to access the bathroom, while the other dorm has a bathroom with inside access. The tent cabins and dorm rooms are priced approximately $50 and $40, respectively, less than the least expensive cabins with a bathroom.

Mount Rainier National Park – Both of the park’s lodging facilities, National Park Inn and historic Paradise Inn, offer rooms with and without a private bathroom. The former is a cozy lodge with 25 rooms, seven without a private bath that cost about $35 less per night. Paradise Inn is a much larger facility with 117 rooms, 32 of which do not have a private bathroom. Guests in these rooms share four showers, one men’s restroom, and one women’s restroom. Rooms without a bathroom cost approximately $50 less per night compared to rooms with a bath.

Olympic National Park – Lake Crescent Lodge has five rooms with a sink but no private bathroom on the second floor of the historic lodge. Guests in these rooms, each of which offers a great lake view, share two shower rooms and two small hallway bathrooms. Booking these rooms will save at least $45 per night compared to the next least-expensive rooms, and $80 per night over the popular Singer Tavern Cottages.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park – Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon National Park has 38 cabins whose occupants must use one of two community bathrooms. One of the bathrooms was newly constructed in 2008 and is quite nice. The cabins vary in quality from tent cabins with wooden walls and canvas roofs to more expensive rustic cabins with finished paneled interiors. Intermediate-quality cabins without a private bath are approximately $50 per night less expensive compared to cabins with a bath and nearly $100 per night less than lodge rooms.

Yellowstone National Park - Yellowstone has nine lodging facilities, three of which offer rooms without a private bath. At the north end of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins has both hotel rooms and cabins without a private bathroom. These rooms offer a savings of about $30 per night compared to similar rooms and cabins with a private bath. Park icon Old Faithful Inn also offers rooms without a private bath, all of which are in the original part of the building called the “Old House.” These rooms save $60 to $100 per night compared to rooms with a private bath located in one of the hotel’s two wings. Yellowstone’s smallest lodging facility, Roosevelt Lodge Cabins, offers 80 freestanding cabins, most of which do not have a private bath. These cabins offer savings of about $40 per night compared to cabins with a bath at the same location.

Yosemite National Park – Wawona Hotel near the park’s south entrance has 104 guest rooms, about half of which do not have a private bathroom. Rooms without a private bath cost approximately $70 less per night and are just as nice as rooms with a private bathroom. In Yosemite Valley, Curry Village offers tent cabins without a private bath plus regular cabins with and without private bath. A private bathroom adds about $30 per night to the cost of a cabin.

David and Kay Scott live in Valdosta, Georgia. For more information about national park lodges, visit their website: www.valdosta.edu/~dlscott/national_parks/lodge.html

Comments

The experience of using a shared bathroom is very much dependent on the quality of maintenance. Anyone who has lived in a college dorm probably understands.

I've had different experiences with shared bathrooms. Some of the cabins w/o bath weren't to bad when the bathrooms were well maintained and fairly new. In many cases it seemed like the bathrooms were remodeled often, while cabins with baths generally had old fixtures and looked to be there for a long time.

The worst part of any kind of shared bathroom (this goes for campgrounds too) is when they're wet and people have been walking through dirt paths. There's dirt tracked through and often the faucets and floor have signs of dirt.

I have stayed twice at the Old Faithful Inn in the "Old House" and I would not have traded our rooms to have any kind of a fancy smancy bathroom. It was not an issue at all for us to go down the hall to the public restrooms/showers. The restrooms had at least three toliets and two or three showers. They were very clean and private as well. You really don't see anyone either because only those staying in the "Old House" are the only visitors on that side of the lodging facility. The rooms in "Old House" are wonderful if you like that type of a setting. It was stepping back into "Gunsmoke" only without Marshal Dillon, Miss Kitty, and Doc. Both visits, our rooms opened out on the balcony and a view that was unreal. I highly recommend when making reservations at the Old Faithful Inn to request the "Old House." It's actually challenging to get reservations for those rooms due to the high demand. We had our reservations a year ahead of time! Remember to plan your trip accordingly based on the weather as there is no air conditioning in any of Yellowstone's many lodges.

Oh - almost forgot - we also stayed over at Roosevelt in the "rough rider cabins" and used the community bathrooms/showers. Again, immaculate bathroom facilities. The cabins are adorable and we highly recommend splurging for the "Old West Cookout" which leaves from The Roosevelt Lodge parking lot. If you cannot get reservations for the cookout, then at least plan to have dinner at The Roosevelt Lodge.

Happy Yellowstone Trip

Bluegrass, I'd have to agree with you completely, though I'm not sure my bride would;-)

Those Rough Rider cabins can be trying if you're not used to roughin' it, but they certainly lend to the experience! And I can't think of anything that beats following a dinner Roosevelt with sitting for a spell in the rocking chairs on the front porch and gazing down into the Lamar Valley.

As for clean restrooms, it's good to hear they're doing such a great job at Yellowstone. I can think of some other parks where the concessionaires don't always manage to keep up with the traffic flow.

I remember the Rough Rider cabins. We managed to snag a single night at a late available one rather than drive from Roosevelt to West Yellowstone at night after the cookout.

It was very much what I expected from a national park experience. We we able to park our car right next to the cabin, and the bathrooms were very clean. The only negative thing I could say about it was that staying warm meant using the stove and the smell of the smoke absolutely filled the room. The other things was that the two logs and single fire-starter chunk wasn't quite enough. Of course one can go to the front desk and request a couple more pressed-sawdust logs. When they extinguished and I ran out of the fire starter, alcohol hand gel actually worked to start the remaining logs.

I also remember sitting on the porch of the lodge building and chatting it up with the guy in charge of Roosevelt's warehouse. His wife worked in group visits to the area, and he relayed some of the complaints that visitors had about the accommodations. Apparently some people didn't quite realize what "rustic" meant. That doesn't mean a fancy hotel room or deluxe linens. It was a basic room with a cast iron stove.