YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Travel Insider

Rooms at National Parks Vary Widely, Survey Finds

Lodging: A federal study gives top marks to Bryce Canyon and Zion, poorer marks to Death Valley.


Looking for a wilderness experience with tidy restrooms and firm mattresses? Consider Utah's Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. But brace yourself for heightened rusticity when bedding down at Death Valley's Stovepipe Wells Village.

So concludes a recent federal study of concessionaire lodgings in 10 popular national parks. It found a wide spectrum of conditions, giving highest marks to facilities in Bryce Canyon and Zion, and some of its lowest marks to Death Valley. The lodgings and concessionaire's personnel at Yosemite National Park took some hits too.

The report, compiled in August by the General Accounting Office, is unlikely to provoke rioting in the meadows. Most of the inspected lodgings fared well, and most park visitors are probably ready to endure hardships such as no television during their stays. But the report does show how some park facilities outshine others. It also serves as a reminder that park lodgings usually aren't run according to the same standards used by much of the lodging industry.

The report covers facilities at Bryce Canyon, Canyon de Chelly (Arizona), Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Mammoth Cave (Kentucky), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Shenandoah (Virginia), Yosemite and Zion national parks, as well as Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada. Among the findings:

* Hotel-industry standards generally require smoke detectors, deadbolt locks and a door window or peephole. And most park lodgings include such features--but they're not required by the park service. Of the 10 parks visited, inspectors found that four had at least one room with a nonfunctioning smoke detector. Five park sites had at least one room without a functioning deadbolt lock. Four had at least one room with a nonfunctioning window lock. And four had at least one room without a view port or window near the door lock. (Park service officials said that later this year, they plan to issue new lodging safety standards that include smoke detectors.)

* Many guest rooms have no phones, and a larger number have no TVs--absences that rangers say are counted as advantages by most wilderness-seeking visitors. Park service standards also don't require daily changes of towels and linens, but those practices may be tightened later this year.

* Among the 83 motel rooms in Death Valley's Stovepipe Wells area--managed by Denver-based AmFac Parks & Resorts and priced at $38 to $80 nightly--inspectors found a variety of problems. Some were maintenance: broken window, broken door handle, flaked paint, poor water pressure and so on. Inspectors said 26 of the 83 rooms needed renovation, but improvements were scheduled for only 10. Other troubles--including multiple housekeeping oversights--were found in more than half of the rooms inspected. Park and concessionaire representatives said the lodgings' remote location makes it difficult to keep quality maintenance workers. AmFac officials asserted that much of the report's criticism focused on rooms that had already been taken out of service. And the hotel's general manager said, "The housekeeping issues have been addressed." (Death Valley's other lodging area, Furnace Creek, is privately owned and was not covered by the study.)

* In Yosemite National Park, inspectors bypassed the upscale Ahwahnee Hotel and concentrated on the Wawona Hotel (a historic 104-room property built from 1876 to 1918 and now in need of costly repairs; rooms are $87 to $122 nightly; Yosemite Lodge, where 240 cabins, cottages and motel rooms rent for $92 to $118 nightly); and Curry Village (18 motel rooms and 185 cabins at $65 to $118 nightly, none less than 60 years old). Fewer than half of the rooms at these lodgings have private baths.

Inspectors found the Wawona has flaking paint, substandard soundproofing, an inadequate boiler, neither televisions nor telephones, and electrical systems that need replacing in some rooms. Park officials said there's no money available now to deal with these conditions. Inspectors also found inconsistent housekeeping at Yosemite Lodge. In about half of the rooms they looked at, they found unclean bathrooms, walls and ceilings. A concessionaire's representative lamented the quality of the work force--blamed in part on last year's flood damage, which has forced many employees to live in crowded, unheated tents and thus hurt recruitment.

* Massive crowds also have taken their toll on the cleanliness of public areas and lobby restrooms in the Grand Canyon, but the study turned in generally positive reports on the park's Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Maswik Lodge and Yavapai Lodge, which together supply 908 rooms near the canyon's south rim, at rates from $40 to $225 nightly.

Los Angeles Times Articles