Popular National Park Hotel Getting A Facelift — What You Can Expect

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The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National ParkPhoto credit: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

Yosemite’s famed Ahwahnee Hotel will close for 2 months in early 2023 to undergo a major seismic upgrade.

Perhaps the most well-known hotel in the National Park System, the Ahwahnee will be secured in the event of an earthquake, an upgrade park officials have known for years was necessary.

The project is being undertaken now after park officials secured $31.6 million in funding as part of the Great American Outdoors Act.

“The Ahwahnee is a crown jewel of national park lodges,” Yosemite National Park superintendent Cicely Muldoon said in a release. “This much-needed work will ensure the Ahwahnee is seismically safe for present and future generations of Yosemite visitors.”

In addition to the seismic upgrades, the hotel will get a kitchen renovation, an upgraded HVAC system, and safety improvements to fireplaces in the lounge. That work has already begun. The seismic upgrade and 8-week closure will begin shortly after the new year.

The work will involve the bracing of chimneys and support walls, replacing window frames and dining room glass, and other infrastructure upgrades in visitor areas.

The changes come as the historic hotel approaches its 100th anniversary. Opened in 1927, the hotel has hosted a number of dignitaries and celebrities through the years ranging from Barack and Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and John F. Kennedy to Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Robert Redford.

It features a rustic look but luxurious interior with 97 guest rooms and 24 adjacent cottages. The restaurant is top-level.

About 100,000 visitors stay at the hotel annually, and another 300,000 use the restaurant and bar. Yosemite National Park had more than 3 million visitors in 2021.

Park officials have known a seismic upgrade was necessary for many years. A 250-page report compiled in 2002 concluded that the structural integrity could not withstand a major earthquake.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the report noted that plaster ceilings in the hotel would collapse, walls would buckle and the ground under the hotel could liquefy. It estimated an earthquake that could cause that damage has a 10 percent chance of happening every 50 years.

The report said such an event could also lead to loss of lives.

Park officials have tried for years to secure funding for the project but had been unsuccessful until now. Even with the $31.6 million, more work will be needed in the future.

“This is not everything we will be doing, but it is the most pressing things,” spokesman Scott Gediman told the Mercury News.

The Great American Outdoors Act is part of an effort by Congress to address a lengthy backlog of maintenance and repairs needed within the national park system. It provides up to $1.3 billion annually for the next 5 years to address the enhancements.

Park officials are contacting those with reservations about the impending closure of the Ahwahnee to make adjustments or cancellations of those reservations.

Updates on the scope of the project, updates on progress, dates of closure, and impacts on hotel operations are available at the Travel Yosemite website.

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