Each year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, my family travels to Yosemite to stay at the Yosemite Falls Lodge, or whatever it’s called now. Well, actually, we used to stay there. But in recent years, especially it seems after Aramark took over park concessions from Delaware North, the price of the rooms have increased to the point that we stopped staying at the lodge and now stay in the heated tent cabins in Curry Village. Or Yosemite village. Can never remember the new names of everything there.
Anyway, it’s apparently not just Yosemite National Park that is seeing the cost of its lodging skyrocket.
A recent analysis from National Parks Traveler compiled by the authors over two decades showed that the cost of staying at a guest room or cabin in a national park has, since at least 1999, well outpaced the national index of lodging costs (which have also increased) and has soared past the consumer price index increase.
Their work shows that if you stayed at a lodge in a national park in 2019 you paid, on average, 129 percent more than you would have for the same room in 1999. That’s double the increase of the consumer price index over the same years. But that’s just on average.
In Yosemite, the tent cabins I stay at now cost about $141 per night. In 1999, the same cabin was $40. Nothing has been updated, they’re simple canvas tents above wooden platforms warmed by ancient heaters. That increase is way, way above the typical rises in consumer prices. Yet, the people still come. Although, we may start snow camping at Camp Four if prices continue to rise. They no longer serve complimentary coffee or hot apple cider like they used to at Curry Village. Prices went up while amenities went down. Come to think of it, the food services there, also run by Aramark, have been dismal since they took over too.
The NPS is actually responsible for approving any price increases initiated by concessionaires operating the lodging and making sure they’re “reasonable” relative to rates of comparable lodging in areas outside the park. In the case of Yosemite, some of those lodging options were as far away as Santa Barbara, 300 miles to the southwest, or Big Sur, 220 miles to the west. Both of which are in reasonable proximity to high-income urban areas and feature “rustic” lodging options that are much more refined than anything found in the Yosemite tent cabins.
The Traveler study doesn’t explain why national park prices have been increasing faster than lodging rates around the country.
More people than ever are pouring into the parks. Supply and demand? Greed? Increased costs of doing business? We’ll have to wait for another analysis. But, as the report says, the days of finding lodging options for less than $125 in most national parks are long over.
You can read the report here.