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Under the stars or 4 stars?

At Yosemite National Park, amenities can be as basic as a babbling brook, as fancy as a luxurious dining room or somewhere in between. The choices are many.

June 24, 2007|Christopher Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

Yosemite National Park — BY day, you gape at falling water and soaring granite. But when night comes, do you stoke a campfire or repair to a formal dining room? Sleep on the ground or in an upstairs suite? These were questions for John Muir in the 19th century -- you didn't think he slept every night under the stars, did you? -- and they're questions now.

Given the dwindling of park lodgings in the last century, you could say these choices are simpler today. (Black's Hotel, leveled in the 1880s; Stoneman House, burned in 1896; Del Portal Hotel, burned in 1917; Sentinel Hotel, leveled in the 1920s; Glacier Point Hotel, burned in 1969; and scores of campsites were lost in the floods of 1997.)

But still, this summer Yosemite National Park offers nine kinds of lodgings and 13 campgrounds. You can pay $5 per night (for one camper in the rock-climbers' haven of Camp 4) or $984 (for the best suite in the Ahwahnee Hotel). Aside from wilderness permits for those bedding down in the back country, the park has overnight room for 12,489 people and 54 horses on most summer nights (assuming two people per hotel room and full stables at the park's three horse camps).

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 28, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Yosemite trees: A June 24 Travel article on Yosemite misidentified trees in a photo caption. The trees were incense-cedars, not redwoods.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 01, 2007 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Yosemite: A June 24 article on Yosemite National Park misidentified trees in a photo caption. The trees were incense cedars, not redwoods. Another caption in the story misidentified the Ahwahnee Hotel's dining room; the photo showed the hotel's lounge.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 01, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Yosemite trees: A June 24 Travel article on Yosemite misidentified trees in a photo caption. The trees were incense-cedars, not redwoods.

Yet most of the best places, especially those in Yosemite Valley, are grabbed within hours of becoming available, from five to 12 months ahead. Yes, there are scores of further options outside park boundaries along California 41, 120 and 140. But the most convenient of those book quickly too.

And no place, inside the park or out, can match the menu that won over Muir in 1884. At the time, Leidig and Black's hotels were rivals, but Leidig's won Muir's allegiance by offering catfish, milk, mutton, venison, ham and eggs, and ice cream for breakfast. (Alas, Leidig's was leveled about the same time as Black's, about 90 years ago. So bring your own breakfast mutton.)

Here's the story on sleeping in Yosemite in 2007.

Lodging in the park

Curry Village is dominated by 427 canvas tent cabins without phones, TVs or plumbing (they share five restroom hubs and two shower facilities) -- but about 70 of them do have propane heaters, and 11 are outfitted for disabled visitors.

The village also includes 100 heated wood cabins with private baths (no phones or TVs); 80 wood cabins sharing central bathhouses (no phones, TVs or plumbing), 18 motel rooms (in the building known as Stoneman Cottage); and three one-bedroom wooden "specialty cabins" with private baths and DVD players and monitors. Summer rates run from $74 for an unheated canvas tent cabin to $249 for the largest specialty cabin, known as the Foster Curry Cabin. (No cooking is allowed anywhere in Curry Village.)

* Housekeeping Camp includes 266 units near the Merced River, with cinder-block walls and canvas roofs. Units have no phones or TVs, and showers and bathrooms are shared, but the units do have fire rings, and cooking is allowed on camp stoves. Rates are $72 nightly.

* Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, which has 245 rooms in about a dozen separate buildings, is a classic trade-off: not much character but plenty of convenience. The rooms are spread out around a 1956 campus of restaurants and shops, all a short stroll from the valley Visitor Center. The swimming pool is open from Memorial Day to mid-September, weather permitting. And many units have impressive views of Yosemite Falls. Rates from $98 to $176 per night.

* The Ahwahnee Hotel has 99 rooms and 24 cottages, and if you're going in high style, this is the choice (and for that reason, it's 95% occupied year-round). Along with its fancy restaurant and clubby Great Lounge, the hotel has a pool that's heated summer and winter. Rates are $426 for standard rooms, up to $984 for a suite with balcony deck.

* The Wawona Hotel is the oldest hotel in the park and nearly as stately and scenic as the Ahwahnee. But it comes with two substantial drawbacks: First, unlike those listed above, it's about 45 minutes (27 miles) from the attractions of Yosemite Valley. Second, because it dates back to 1879, about half of its 104 rooms share bathrooms. (There are also no phones or televisions in rooms.) But it has character, and a nine-hole golf course as its front yard, stables and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias six miles away. If you're headed into the park from the south, you'll pass it about four miles after the entrance. Rates from $119 to $183 nightly.

* The Redwoods in Yosemite. ([209] 375-6666; gets left off some lists but deserves attention. This is a collection of cabins in Wawona, about 22 miles from Yosemite Valley, that are private property, left over from the days when park boundaries were different. But about 125 of the cabins are rentable through one management company (whose office is a wireless hot spot). The furnished cabins, which include equipped kitchens and linens, vary widely in size and in price, depending on the season. From June through August, rates range from $183 (one bedroom) to $655 (up to 12 people in six bedrooms).

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