Yosemite’s Historic Hotel is the Ahwahnee Once Again

A major dispute involving the names of some historic sites inside Yosemite National Park has ended at long last and now those sites –– including the legendary Ahwahnee Hotel –– will have their names restored. A legal settlement was reached yesterday that ends more than four years of courtroom drama –– not to mention untold battles in the court of public opinion –– over who ultimately owns the names of some of the more famous locations inside America’s national parks. The results of that decision restores the original monikers for some famous locations in Yosemite and likely sets legal precedent for any similar battles in years to come.

The dispute began way back in 2015, when the National Park Service elected to switch the vendors that operated inside Yosemite from a company called Delaware North to Aramark. The shift in direction came at the end of a contract cycle with Delaware North, but did terminate a long-standing relationship between the company and the Park Service. When that change occurred, Delaware North officials claimed that they retained ownership of the names of important Yosemite landmarks, including the Ahwahnee, the famous hotel in Yosemite Valley that had been on the premises for decades. As it turned out, the company did trademark the names of those places and was demanding a $50 million fee for the Park Service to continue using them.

When the NPS and Aramark refused to pay the $50 million sum that Delaware North demanded for the naming rights, the Ahwahnee changed its name to the Majestic Hotel instead. Other locations around the Yosemite Valley took a similar tact while the government and DN went to court to sort the matter out. It soon became clear that the company had indeed received a trademark on the names, but the question was whether or not it had the right to do. After all, those names were in place long before Delaware North took over operations in the park and he argument was they shouldn’t belong to anyone other than perhaps the U.S. government.

The settlement that was reached yesterday ensure that the trademark for the names of Yosemite locations will revert to the Park Service, although not right away. For now, they’ll actually be transferred from Delaware North to Aramark, who will retain them for the length of their contract with the NPS. Once that contract expires, they’ll then fall under the ownership of the National Park Service at no cost to the government organization. It has also been revealed that Aramark paid Delaware North $8.16 million for the trademarks, while the NPS paid an additional $3.84 million, bringing the total cost to $12 million. That’s far below the original $50 million asking price, but still a large sum.

Inside Yosemite, the names have already started to change. Camp Curry has been restored from its temporary name of Half Dome Village for instance. Meanwhile, the Ahwahnee is still scheduled to have its signage updated. Even the hotel’s website still refers to it as The Majestic. Expect those changes to be made quickly however, much to the joy of Yosemite fans everywhere.

Kraig Becker