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Prices Chill Out at National Parks as Cold Sends Crowds Home

September 17, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

For just the added inconvenience of a coat, you can see some of America's most majestic expanses in that unmistakable clear autumn light, free of crowds and unburdened by inflated summer prices.

* Grand Canyon: Rent a wintertime room in the historic Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim--the most popular rim, and the one that remains accessible in winter--and prices bottom out at $50 per night, $20 off the summer rate. You'll pay just $10 more for a room with a private bath.

Good winter rates also apply at Maswik Lodge from Nov. 5 to March 8 (with holiday blackouts). The lodge is offering a rate of $63 per night, $73 less than the peak summer rate. Yavapai Lodge offers rooms at $63 (summer's top rate: $120).

You can reserve online through, which is handled by WorldRes, an online booking agency, or call (303) 297-2757.

* Zion: It's the same story at Utah's Zion National Park. Stays at the Zion Lodge between Dec. 1 and March 14 are $30 off the regular price, or $60 per night if you stay two midweek nights.

Unless you plan on long-distance hiking, the well-maintained paths, paved trails and exhibits are perfect for short and pleasant walks, and compared with summer, the visual rewards offer a new alphabet of beauty. Go to, or call (303) 297-2757 for the Zion deal.

* Yellowstone: This one's a bit more difficult in off-season, but it's doable. Because of snow, driving can be treacherous in wintertime Yellowstone.

At Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins in the north of the park, rooms will be up to 55% off Oct. 1 to 9, the last week of the hotel's "summer" season. During that time, you can get a room (all the hotel rooms in Yellowstone are nonsmoking) for just $25. If you want a private bathroom, the price pops up to $59.

You can also enjoy a late-fall stay at Yellowstone's centrally located Old Faithful Inn, the park's spectacular lodge built in 1904 and just yards from the geyser. From Oct. 8 to 14, $25 will buy you a single or double occupancy.

You can book a room with the Old Faithful or Mammoth Hot Springs lodgings through Yellowstone National Park reservations, tel. (307) 344-7311.

If you want to see Yellowstone on a budget in the dead of winter, you're mostly out of luck; the roads become largely impassable.

For those with money and an adventurous spirit, there's Chicago-based Caravan Tours' "snow coach" tour of the park. It takes a full week (starting Feb. 9 next year) to drive guests around the frozen wonders of Yellowstone. The price tag of $1,795 makes the bargains of autumn all the more obvious. Caravan Tours: tel. (800) 227-2826.

* Yosemite: You can book into the park's Wawona Hotel, a national historic landmark built in 1856. Go for a room without a private bathroom (as many budget travelers have learned to do), and from Oct. 29 to Nov. 21 you'll pay $55 per night, double occupancy. (With a bath, the rate is $75.)

To book, call Yosemite Reservations at (559) 252-4848, or go online to

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