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Reader Participation Day: Best and Worst Values in National Park Lodging


Are the rooms in The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone good values for their rates? NPT file photos.

The quality and rates of national park lodges span a wide range from rustic cabins in several parks renting in the $60 - $80 range to suites at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel that rent for approximately $1,000 per night.

The differences in service, amenities, comfort, and atmosphere are substantial, but is a night in an Ahwahnee suite worth ten nights in a cabin at Maswick Lodge on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim? Or 16 nights in a Woodland Cottage at Mammoth Cave?

Guessing that many of you have stayed in several park lodges, we were wondering about your opinions regarding the best and worst values in national park lodging.

Don’t forget to consider price when rendering your judgment. We are looking for the best value, not necessarily the best lodge. More expensive lodges should provide a superior experience. However, was your enhanced experience worth the higher cost?


Hmmm. I wonder if Ron's missive above will get noticed by NPS management and Xanterra? If Kurt were to publish a "report card on lodging in the parks" would it affect the quanlity of service? I believe it would.

The historic great lodges are pieces of our cultural history. Many are National Historic Landmarks, that's the highest historic designation a building can attain. So some are too fancy for your taste. Don't stay there. Many, notably The Ahwahnee, were built to attract wealthy Americans who could then support the entire concept of the national parks and the new (established in 1916) National Park Service. Director Stephen Mather knew these people needed to see the parks to support them. And they did.

For our family, it is the Old Faithful Inn! While we weren't as fortunate to get the rate that Meg got, for $100 a night in the Old House section, we stay for several days at a time. Not having a bathroom inside of our room has NEVER been an issue. As for showering down the hall, big deal! Since we are such early risers, morning showers have never been crowded! I take scrubbing bubble wipes and hit the claw foot tub down the hall for a good soak at the end of a day spent hiking! As for having more high dollar offerings, I see nothing wrong with that. If that were the only option, than I wous]d feel otherwise. In the early years of our family, it was camping at Bridge Bay that worked for us. Now that we can afford it, staying at the OFI is like our home away from home! My husband in particuliar likes the fact that he can be out in the Geyser Basin at 6AM photographing to his hearts content, with ease.

As for one of my least favorite lodging values, it would be the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton just across the border from Glacier NP. I admit, the ambiance was different-kilts, high tea, scones, etc. all with incredible views! We couldn't help but feel that we overpaid for our stay. Having said that though, I am glad that we did so that we could have the experience!

The Woodland Cottages at Mammoth Cave are perfect! I don't go to a national park for luxury. I go to a national park to see new things in God's creation and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life for a while. My husband and I visited Mammoth Cave in our first year of marriage and stayed in one of the Woodland Cottages. That trip inspired a love for national parks in general, in part because we loved the experience of staying in our own tiny and perfect cottage. It wasn't flawless, which is what made it perfect. As for the price? It was very affordable. Throughout that whole trip, we talked over and over about how much we loved our not-expensive, not-fancy and therefore perfect cottage.

It's my opinion that people looking for luxury would be best served outside of a national park.

Crater Lake Lodge for the past two seasons has been a major disappointment
with a Lodge manager from hell, filthy public rest rooms and a dining room
full of expensive, overpriced, disappointing selections. We truly need a
valid system to provide a Report Card on National Park Lodging Experiences.
Xanterra has been selecting the most incompetent lodge managers who
do not reward their best employees. The NPS does not provide effective
controls on Quality Control in Lodging and Dining since Big Money Congressional
Lobby Interests make the key decisions.

I was extremely lucky in 2000 when the lodging changed concessioners from Amfac to Xanterra at Yellowstone, and there were some spectacular deals at the end of Amfac's last season. That October I spent two nights at the Mammoth Hotel for $26 a night, and three nights in the Old House at the Old Faithful Inn for $25 a night.

Since then I've mostly stayed in lodge cabins (when I haven't slept in the hostel in West Yellowstone), which are a bit over twice what I paid per night in 2000, but are quite comfortable from my point of view (I don't mind shared bathrooms).

I do think it's unfair that you have to stay in lodging to stay at Old Faithful, while the nearest camping is at Madison, because the best times of day to be in the Upper Geyser Basin are dawn and dusk, which are harder to manage if you're not staying right there.

Maswik might be affordable but I don't recommend their lousy cafeteria food.

The Grand Lodge on North Rim has no accommodations just the cabins which look pretty cute.

I'd rather camp for free in the adjacent forests and save my money for travel.

The food at Maswik might not have been that great (we had a better meal at Bright Angel Lodge) but they do have a bar with TV. They had the NBA Finals showing, and the bar let us bring our food inside. I know we could have watched from our cabin, but we needed to eat.

Dispersed camping has its weaknesses. While some people may be upset that they don't have their own bathrooms, dispersed camping typically means you have to use the forest as your bathroom or store a portable toilet (yuck). At the very least, I like convenient access to showers.

Concerned Taxpayer:

Exclusive and expensive lodges should not be part of the park's services. They should be catering to the majority of the visitors not a handful of customers. Experiences at National Parks should be the natural beauty and serenity the Park offers and not spas, messages, exclusive pedicures, fine dining, etc.

A visitor' memories should be of the parks beauty not whether the service at the spa was exceptional!

What's wrong with fine dining? When I've visited Yosemite, my meals have been everything from instant oatmeal while backpacking/camping to a steak at the Mountain Room. The whole gamut is there. I know it offends some people that others spend money, but it's not as if there aren't choices at different price points. If you want a cheeseburger at the cafeteria, it's not as if the guy eating the meal at the Ahwahnee is preventing you from doing so.

As far as spas go - that's pretty rare these days at NPS settings. Even the high priced establishments typically don't have spas. The only one I recall was Sol Duc Hot Springs at Olympic National Park, and about the only spa treatment they offer is massage. They've got pools filled with natural hot spring waters with reasonable day use rates for non-guests.

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