If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach

A room at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite will set you back a bit. Delaware North Photo.

Earlier this summer we ran a list of the "Top 10 Lodges" in the park system. Admittedly it's a "soft" list, one that definitely is not objective. But what some might find objectionable are the nightly costs for staying in some of these places.

Regular reader and occasional contributor Owen Hoffman took a little time the other day to come up with the most recent rates for staying in these places, and this is what he found. The list correlates to the rankings of the Top 10 Lodges, not to respective pricing.

No. 1: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Ahwahnee Rooms...........................................................................$426
Ahwahnee Cottages........................................................................$426
Jr. Suite.........................................................................................$499
Suites............................................................................................$893
Tresider Suite with Library Parlor.....................................................$984
Additional Adult in same room-per night.............................................$21
Additional Rollaway in same room-per night........................................$11

No. 2: Big Meadows Lodge, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Big Meadows Lodge Sun - Thurs* Fri & Sat 9/28 - 11/03
Main Lodge.....................................................................................$72-$116 $78-$129 $81-$135
Lodge Units.....................................................................................$87 $99 $108-$121
Deluxe Units....................................................................................$115 $127 $135-$143
Suites..............................................................................................$130 $144 $150-$165
Mini-Suites........................................................................................$129 $139 $143-$153
Cabin Rooms.....................................................................................$92-$96 $99-$103 $100-$103

No. 3: Camp Denali and North Face Lodge, Denali National Park, Alaska
Prices $425 per person per night, double occupancy. Rates include all meals and guided activities. Minimum stay 3 nights

No. 4: Crater Lake Lodge, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Ground Floor.....................................................................................$138
Southside Rooms...............................................................................$171
Standard Lakeside.............................................................................$179
Deluxe Lakeside.................................................................................$191
Loft...................................................................................................$260
Extra Person $25
Child (under 12 years old) No Charge
Rollaway Bed or Crib No Charge

No. 5: Jenny Lake Lodge, Grand Tetons National Park, WY
One room cabin (duplex style).............................................................$525 (two persons)
Each additional person is $150 nightly
Suites...............................................................................................$695 - $750 (one or two persons)
Each additional person is $150 nightly

No. 6: Maho Bay Camps, Virgin Islands National Park
Rates For Maho Bay Camps
May 1 - December 14, 2007:
$80 / night, double occupancy.
Additional guests $12 / night.

Families enjoy the "Kids Stay Free" program for children under 16, when accompanied by an adult.
Single travelers will receive a 25% discount on tent-cottage rates - singles pay only $60.00 per night.

No. 7: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, MT
Value Room......................................................................................$129
Standard Room.................................................................................$145
Lakeside Room..................................................................................$154
Family Room.....................................................................................$208
Suite.................................................................................................$255
Additional person $15.00. Children 11 and under free with adult. Roll-a-way bed $15.00 per night by request only.

No. 8: Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.
Dorm..............................................................................................$34.16 per person

No. 9: Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
"New” Wing, Crater View Deluxe.........................................................$225

Main Building:
Crater View..............................................................$200
Non-Crater View......................................................$170

Ohia Wing:
Garden View.............................................................$125
Standard...................................................................$95

Namakani Paio Cabins...........................................................................$50

No 10: Zion Lodge, Zion National Park, Utah
Hotel....................................................................................................$150.85
Western Cabin.......................................................................................$160.85
Suite.....................................................................................................$170.85
Extra person $10.00
Rollaways $12.00
Cribs $5.00

Comments

All the prices for lodging in Yosemite are very high compared to comparable lodgings elsewhere. Tent cabins in White Wolf are $93. per night for four cots and a Franklin stove. No electricity. The motel rooms at Curry Village are approx. $170. with tiny bathrooms. Yet, these accommodations are almost always full during the summer so using basic Economics 101, they are not overpriced. If people thought they were overpriced, there would be plenty of vacancies. But instead, lots of people are willing to pay the rates for the location.

Kath, if your a well heeled silicon valley boy, the Ahawahee Hotel is no subject of high prices. Why can't we All have a taste of the good life at the Ahawahee. The hotel systems in the National Parks should bear in mind that the super rich shouldn't alway's get that carte blanche treatment. There's plenty of hard working Americans that deserve just as much equal treatment...if not better (since they carry the bulk of the taxes and the blood shed of the sicking (wasteful) Iraq war). When it comes to the use of the National Parks, I believe all Americans should be on equal footing (price wise) for hotel acommodations and treatment as the rich. Something looks awfully awkward when the jaded Hollywood rich type roll into Ahawahee Hotel, slick to the gills, just to have a few gin tonics. Of couse, life is never fair, but I love my little pup tent just the same and besides I see the REAL World better.

Concessions are government-sponsored monopolies, and these prices reflect that.

It's a abhorrent that Xanterra was awarded a 5-year contract worth $250 million to operate a monopoly in Yellowstone and returns a minuscule 2% franchise fee to the NPS.

Imagine if a public trust managed Yellowstone and a large portion of the $250 million collected in Yellowstone went toward park operation and management. There would be no need to fund the park with ill-gotten, politically tainted, hard-earned taxpayer money.

----------------------------------------
Reform the National Park Service!
http://NPS-reform.blogspot.com

Gotcha Frank! Excellent points made!!

If Xanterra was taken out of the picture, with its many very low paid employees that often turn out to be thieves, sex offenders and petty drug dealers, the park service would never be able to justify their huge law enforcement budgets in these mostly remote and generally crime free areas. In many parks Xanterra employees make up the bulk of felony arrests for the mostly bored and underutilized law enforcement wing of the green and gray. The concessionaires provide an essential ingredient to justify guns, door kicking glory and gobs of Homeland Security gravy.

At one park that I worked in the Xanterra housing area was staked out every evening (in season) with night vision goggles and full complement of rangers. I went on a ride along one night with an LE friend to the Lodge area and it was just like being in an episode of COPS. We just can't take that away from them, market economics be damned!

I'm pretty much not interested in these sorts of accomodations so long as I can still carry my tent and sleeping bag. I did, however, get the steak dinner at Phantom Ranch once when hiking through the canyon and boy oh boy was that a good investment regardless of the price, which I no longer recall. After eating astronaut food for a day or two or three, that was one awesome meal.

Places like the Ahwahnee were built specifically to cater to the super-rich. Stephen Mather, first NPS superintendent, thought that in order for the National Parks to get the funding and approvals needed in Washington, they had to be places where the wealthy movers and shakers in the East Coast elite wanted to vacation. So the parks needed hotels that would attract that sort. Like it or not, that's just the way it was and it may have been a good politically savvy move.

Truth be known the prices quoted are not really all that out of line and are relative bargains compared to the price of lodgings in much less attractive locales.

I'm with Merryland and much prefer the backcountry over lodges but do enjoy having breakfast and then hoisting a few cold ones later in the afternoon at the North Rim Lodge of the Grand Canyon. The Yellowstone lodges and hotels are fun to hang out in and people watch after coming back from a few days out in the wilds.

The questions Frank raises about the mere pittance that is generated for the parks by all of this lodging business is germane to the issue because the money isn't going back into the parks but into corporate coffers after the consummation of sweetheart concession contracts.

No one likes the idea of privatization but then don't seem to mind the current pillaging that goes on by private multi-nationals operating with impunity while giving back next to nothing.

I see the free market side of the argument: supply (lodging in parks) is limited, and demand is high, so prices are high.

What I find to be unfair is the non-competitive advantage companies are granted by the government. Why should one company in Yellowstone operate every room, every campground, every store? With a little competition, some prices might fall, benefiting the consumer.

But leaving price and monopolies aside, I wonder how anyone opposed to non-governmental management of national parks can patronize any concession or stay in any lodge and maintain a clear conscience?

Thank you, Beamis, for expanding on my point and making the connection. If some don't think almost $1000 a night at the Ahwahnee is a "fair" price, then how can it be fair that the concession gives maybe $20 of that $1000 to the NPS? Why should taxpayers foot the bill while wealthy corporations reap the reward?

I agree with competition. If one company operated the Yosemite Lodge and another operated Curry Village, the competition would likely spark improvements to both properties as each vied to be the better facility with the better rates. As for whether the concessionaires are reaping a windfall, I'd need more information on how profitable the properties are, who pays for maintenance, who pays insurance, etc. etc.

The idea that fair market competition would lower prices in Yosemite or any other park is absolutely absurd. Where in the rest of the world does that happen? Resort industries have a monopoly by their very presence in the valued place so prices only go up up up. Competition would increase prices, increase pressure on the resource and also increase the pressures on an already over-pressured NPS to submit to the "will of the market."

Stephen Mather set up the (yes, very imperfect) concession system so that the NPS could regulate the costs and quality of the visitor ammenities in the park. It is certainly a system that needs repaired. But the repair is not to allow more competition to start crying out for more ammenities, more recreational use, more conferences, more day-use buses. The repair is for the NPS to get some friggin' teeth and clamp down on the concessions.

The prices in the parks are obscene. Middle class families can't afford $100/night rooms. And lower class families are shut out entirely. What are we saying about the park experience when we shut the greater portion of our populace out of that experience? If the parks become only for the wealthy, they become private, elite parks and not parks for the people.

Owen has done us a great service to send us this shameful review of the "best" places to stay. The Park Service should be embarrased.

$25 entrance fees aren't exactly egalitarian.

I agree, Beamis. They are not.

But the repair is not to allow more competition to start crying out for more ammenities, more recreational use, more conferences, more day-use buses.

My argument was not for competition to ask for more. My argument was that competition should be allowed. For instance, why should Xanterra be granted an exclusive contract at Crater Lake to operate the lodge, the lodge restaurant, the gift shop, the gift shop snack bar, Mazama campground, the campground store, the campground restaurant/giftshop, and the chalet-style cabins at the campground?

The idea that fair market competition would lower prices in Yosemite or any other park is absolutely absurd.

Maybe for lodging, maybe not. But if the campground store sells beer for over $10 a six-pack (which they did in '99 in the summer) and the Rim Village store (operated by another company) had to compete with a different company for customers, they might sell beer for $9 a six pack.


The repair is for the NPS to get some friggin' teeth and clamp down on the concessions.

This will never happen in a politicized system in which interest groups pressure government to keep the slop coming to the trough. There are too many parasites in the system, each clamoring for their share of the pie, that keep the NPS's teeth dull and brittle.

I do remember this kind of fiasco with the MCA Corporation. They actively and shewedly screwed the NPS with there Yosemite Concessions and made millions, while kicking in a measly 2% to the Parks coffers! MCA is gone, but talk about a sweetheart deal with back room corruption. This trend still continues till this day! I'm deeply set against any privatization in the National Parks..."give them an inch, they will take a foot"!

I have deep concerns about privatizing the amminites of the NPS. The next maybe a company from Spain gains the bid for these concessions. Then the 80% of the profits are not even invested in the US. Also once this profit making system is estiblished what next? Will they start to place private security forces in place of forest rangers. We're doing that to fight our wars. To me the land of the free and the home of the brave is forgetting it's first priority- the land! Perhaps it's beneith us, it's more important to deal with lease agrements.

Let's be a little clear hear. In the parks where companies like Xanterra and Delaware North are running concessions, they are already to that extent privatized - regulated, in many cases monopolized (in Yellowstone, there is some competition for some services between those two concessions, for instance), but raked in by a corporation. When Mather and Albright ran the parks, their policy was to monopolize concessions to the greatest extent possible for a lot of reasons, too many to go into right now. What's interesting, though, is that this arrangement actually comes much closer to the true meaning of fascism than most of the popular uses. Mussolini himself defined fascism as corporatism, which by that he meant the melding together of government and corporate interests. While we see this to a much greater degree in the military industrial complex (coined by a conservative - Eisenhower), it's just as prevalent in the National Park System. Perhaps, that's why those ranger uniforms actually tend to give me the creeps (but maybe I just don't have that fetish).

However, is the answer to open up competition, like say the competition that exists in the gateway communities outside of parks? On the one hand, I'm sure people don't want Jenny Lake to look anything at all like West Yellowstone or Jackson or Gatlinburg. (And guess what! Jenny Lake used to look like that! - which is in large part why Rockefeller and Albright worked in collusion to scam people out of their land in Jackson Hole and then give it eventually over to the Park Service). Competition for gas does make it cheaper outside of Yellowstone than inside (see http://www.yellowstone-notebook.com/news.html). I no doubt can find cheaper rooms and a wider variety outside of the park than inside of it. I may or may not be able to find a cheaper campground. Certainly, I can find cheaper food, better food, and a whole host of other amenities outside the park than inside. People I used to work with thought nothing of driving 70 miles to the K-Mart in Jackson because it was sometimes worth it to them to get things they needed.

And, yet, I don't know that many people that wanted Grant Village to look anything like Jackson. If anything, people felt that these areas were already over-developed. No one expected life to be easier as a worker outside of the parks than inside of them.

All of this would seem to argue not really toward opening up competition in the parks - there's an assumption that would lead to more construction (more buildings for more competing services, leading to more workers, leading to more infrastructure needed to support those workers). It would seem to argue for socializing the parks and having the government take over services with mandated price controls that are taxpayer subsidized. But, from fascism, we slip into a kind of socialism. Yet, if equitable, fair, affordable, while maintaining the other values that this conversation is so far missing (environmental integrity, unimpaired landscapes, something different from the gateway towns) is what you want, then how do you get it with the current concessions system? With this systme, profit will still be the main motive driving services, no matter the amount of regulation (since presumably, you need a reason to attract contractors and those who will take leases on concessions).

Yet, in a country that's becoming increasingly centralized around the power of the federal government, where branches of government are threatening to use things like the Real ID, to control access to public lands, where the government is strapped for money in large part because of the rising costs of maintaining its global economic empire, the use of the government to control public lands is also quite dangerous and comes with peril. We see that repeatedly in the discussions around the parks, around public lands, around anything that the government has a stake in (roads and bridges come to mind).

Thus, I think at most, a government takeover of amenities at parks where concessionaires control those things could never be an ideal or a permanent solution, only a better one than turning the parks into the gateway towns no one wants them to be. Or, worse, private fiefdoms that arise as the competition system fails - private communities, or exclusive towns. However, all of this again calls for seeing nothing but doom if we continue to view issues through the continuum of government control of property versus private control of property (and its various hybrids). If we don't escape that way of viewing things and challenge the fundamental premises, we won't have a way of dealing with the fouled up and lousy choices that are before us, choices that are only getting worse as we crumble under the weight of our economic and political system. Again, we are dealing at a grain size that is too fine for us to make a difference dependent on too many other considerations. Isn't that what ecosystem science has taught people? That, you can't simply tinker atomistically with complex systems? Yet, we think if we adjust the private v. public continuum like we adjust pH balances, that we can somehow find a happy equilibrium. Ummm...come on! Can't we see that neither the emperor nor the billionaire is actually wearing any clothes (and neither are we thanks to them!)

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I had the privelege (not the right) to spend about 30 days camping in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone when I was about 12 years old. My dad and mom took me there (from Cheyenne, FE Warren AFB) and it was what I talk about over 50 years later to my grandchildren. I am also lucky enough to have some old black and white browney pictures to show them. I plan on returning to take them there.
Please - Please - take care of "GODS COUNTRY"

You get what you pay for. If I want to stay in a clean, beautiful, classy place with excellent amenities, I will fork over the money for it--even if it means saving up for months in advance.

In order for a place to be truly clean, good maid service is needed, and good maid service costs money. In order for a place to be classy, people who can and will deliver good service will need to be employed, and they will cost money. Nice linens cost money. Good food means high quality chefs. Beautiful grounds mean expensive gardeners and landscapers. Well-maintained buildings mean paying for their upkeep.

It's nice that there are choices.

djhouston: I get it that you have many grand memories of camping as a kid with your folks in these grand places. Most of us do and I for one repeated these experiences by camping at and visiting the NP with my kids and my grandkids. I know from their comments they experienced the same joy as I did as a kid and still do as an adult.

What I am trying to understand is why you stated: "I had the privelege (not the right) to spend about 30 days camping..."? I think we are privileged to have these places available but I also feel that as citizens of this great nation we have every right to visit and use them. We have the obligation that goes with those rights to use them and take care of them in a responsible and sustaining way.

Part of the problem I have with the pricing with many of the facilities in the NP is that I can't afford them. I know,...duh. But I can't help but feel that it isn't only corporate greed or whatever catchphrase you want to use here...It is also a way to keep the rift-raft out for the people that can afford it. But then that by definition is what makes it "exclusive". Not being a hob nobber and with my own definition of the "good life", I will stick to my older motorhome and tents and enjoy the great outdoors the way my ancestors ancestors did. Of course they didn't have Sirius radio or DVDs or etc,etc....Ah the good life!