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Could a wave of new luxury hotels price people out of national park vacations?

April 18, 2022
7 min read
Could a wave of new luxury hotels price people out of national park vacations?
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Editor's note: In celebration of National Park Week, which runs from April 16-24, The Points Guy is publishing a series of articles focusing on the beauty and diversity of America's national parks. We will share personal stories from the TPG team, as well as news and tips that will help you get the most out of your next national park visit. The following story is part of this series.


When the sprawling 1,100-acre Spirit resort opens within a mile of Zion National Park sometime next year, it’ll be a haven for travelers seeking out Zion’s famous terracotta-colored sandstone cliffs.

Guests will check into spacious one- or two-bedroom suites that range anywhere from 800 to 1,100 square feet and come complete with their own wellness studios and bicycle base stations with complimentary electric bicycles. They’ll have access to a central lodge housing an aquaponic greenhouse, a library and a natural swimming pool, among other amenities.

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But what does a stay at a high-end property close to one of America's most popular national parks cost? A cool $3,000 per night.

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Spirit isn’t the only ultra-luxury resort you will find in proximity to a U.S. national park these days. A bit farther away, there’s the 600-acre Amangiri resort, where a stay in one of several sleek, modernist suites ranges from $2,300 to $6,500 a night.

And at Amangiri’s sister resort, Amangani (near Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming), room rates sit between $925 and $2,700 per night.

If you want to stay in a national park now, you can check out Amangani. (Photo courtesy of Aman/Facebook)

Luxury glamping accommodations near national parks are now an option, too. Under Canvas, one of the top glamping providers in the U.S., offers swanky tents on elevated decks by several national parks, including Grand Canyon National Park and Glacier National Park, for a sizable fee. For example, tents at its location by Maine's Acadia National Park cost anywhere from $309 to $549 a night this summer.

Related: A non-camper tried 'glamping' with Under Canvas — here's what it's really like

Demand for these luxurious stays is certainly there, and it’s only expected to grow now that national park visitor numbers are climbing back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, 44 national parks set records for recreation visits, and six parks broke the visitation records that they had previously set in 2020. Altogether, U.S. national parks received a total of 297,115,406 visitors, according to the National Park Service.

Even before the pandemic, more travelers were seeking out the great outdoors and looking for accommodations that didn’t skimp on creature comforts when they did, says Collective Retreats founder and CEO Peter Mack. It’s one of the main reasons why he decided to launch Collective Retreats, a popular glamping company with locations close to several national parks, back in 2014.

One of the glamping tents offered by Collective Retreats. (Photo courtesy of Collective Retreats/Facebook)

But with so much interest in America's national parks (and upscale accommodations near them), one can't help but wonder what future national park visits will look like.

Will travelers have to pay a premium to sleep near a national park if they don’t want to pitch their own tent and stay at a campsite? In short: It all depends on if the supply can keep up with the demand.

“I don’t see that gap [between ultra-luxury hotels and camping] growing right now,” Mack says. “Is there more demand for those really cool places? Yes, between COVID and, frankly, geotagging on social media, the demand for those places has gone up significantly, but I’ve also seen more cool camping spaces created.”

Specifically, Mack notes the “massive growth in the RV space” and the creation of campsites that are a step above the typical camping experience. “You will see some of the motels, hotels and luxury retreats and resorts going up in price and getting nicer," he adds, "but that doesn’t mean those other options are going away — I think they are growing, too.”

Related: 9 tips for finding available RV campsites this summer

There’s one hotel brand, in particular, that’s carved out a niche for itself as a base camp for national park visitors over the past 80 years: Travelodge by Wyndham. More than 75% of Travelodge’s 100-plus domestic properties are located within an hour of a U.S. national park.

Recognizing its appeal to national park visitors, Travelodge offered a discounted room rate to members of the National Parks Conservation Association in 2021.

Still, don't expect prices to be cheap during the peak summer season.

Related: Enjoy free national park visits — here's how to save

Nightly rates for various Travelodge properties near national parks fluctuate with demand. So, a stay at the Travelodge by Wyndham Gardiner Yellowstone Park North, which is located right outside the gates of Yellowstone, could cost as much as $400 per night, Travelodge brand leader Haley Maglio says. “It really depends on supply and demand, but certainly, those hotels that are really close to national parks have a very competitive average daily rate,” Maglio adds.

(Photo courtesy of Travel Lodge Yellowstone/Wyndham Hotels)

Spotting the need for lodging that suits a range of budgets, travel operator Xanterra Travel Collection (which operates and manages the accommodations and concessions inside Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon's South Rim and Death Valley National Park) offers a mix of options on the price scale.

The company makes an effort to “provide affordable access for all,” says Betsy O'Rourke, Xanterra's chief marketing officer. “[We] worked with the National Park Service to offer lodging at multiple price points, from camping, RV sites and cabins to multiple hotels.”

But even with more accommodations springing up near the parks, the ongoing popularity of U.S. national parks means demand (and therefore prices) will likely remain high, though there’s a possibility that it could flatten or drop slightly now that more Americans are able to travel abroad.

“I do not see any change coming with regard to people’s appetites to be in the outdoors,” Mack says, despite expecting an uptick in international travel.

With interest in the parks not waning, one thing is certain: You'll want to plan ahead when visiting America's national parks. Lock in reservations for lodging and entry (if needed) as soon as possible to secure lower rates and ensure availability. Or, consider an offseason visit when prices will likely be lower.

Although you may have to shell out more for the time being, the ability to see some of the world’s most incredible natural attractions is a priceless experience every American should have the chance to enjoy.

Related: The national parks every traveler needs to see at least once

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
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  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases