Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
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We just returned from five amazing days in Yellowstone National Park. We were both completely unprepared for the natural beauty, abundance of wildlife, and the highly unusual features found when traveling inside one of the world’s largest super-volcanoes.
We’ll be sharing lots more about all of that, but first let’s talk about loding inside Yellowstone National Park.
A trip to Yellowstone National Park is on the bucket list of nearly every American baby boomer.
We all grew up watching Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in the 1960s on our black and white televisions. And, Marlin and Jim instilled a love of wildlife in the hearts of many of America’s baby boomers.
Then, in 2009, Ken Burns produced his six-part series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, forever cementing the baby boomers’ determination to visit as many of our national parks as possible.
In 2012, Yellowstone National Park was America’s 4th most visited park with over 3.4 million visitors from around the world.
With so many visitors, if you dream of staying inside the park, then a fair amount of pre-planning is necessary for you to have the best possible experience.
Lodging Tips for Yellowstone National Park
- Stay inside the park – Yellowstone National Park is huge. It’s nearly 3,500 square miles, and larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. After a long day of sightseeing, you’re not going to want to drive outside the park for lodging. Plus, when all the non-park lodgers leave, you’ll have the park all to yourself!
- Plan very, very early – with so many visitors wanting to stay in the Yellowstone National Park Lodges and Cabins, it is not uncommon for rooms to sell out more than a year in advance. Remember, 3.4 millon people are vying for a limited supply of lodging space. For heaven’s sake, plan early!
Strongly consider visiting in the shoulder seasons – even though Yellowstone National Park is a large place, when you jam millions of people in one place, life can be frustrating. Imagine trying to see a grizzly bear with a hundred cars jamming the only road. Not fun! In our opinion, late-May/early-June is the best time to visit the park. Even though the rooms will likely still sell out, there are far less visitors so early in the year. Plus, you’re very likely to be rewarded with viewings of baby animals all throughout the park.
- Consider staying at two of the park’s lodges – with the park being so large, and with so much to see, we recommend that you spend half your time in a northern loop lodge, and the other half in a southern loop lodge.
- No Televisions – you will not find a television anywhere in Yellowstone National Park. While we think this is a good thing, you might want to bring along a good book.
- Telephones – while most hotel and lodge rooms have a telephone, the cabins do not. Keep this in mind if you’ll be needing a telephone in your room.
- Cell Phone Service – we did find that we had 3G service in a few of the parks higher locations. However, you should generally plan that you will not have cell phone service available.
- Wi-Fi – wi-fi technology is slowly coming to the park, with a few of the lodges having it available in the lobby. If wi-fi is important to you, make certain that you inquire about this ahead of time.
- Dining – if you desire to dine in the park’s many fine dining rooms in the evenings, make certain that you get your dinner reservations when you book your rooms. We saw a large number of disappointed folks because they did not make dining reservations in advance. Don’t worry, if you can’t get into the dining room venues, there are still plenty of other eating establishments spread throughout the park. You’ll just be enjoying a nice sandwich instead of a bison filet.
9 Lodging Options in Yellowstone National Park
As I mentioned above, with Yellowstone National Park being so large, you may want to consider staying at two of the park’s lodges. We stayed at Mammoth Hot Springs on the north loop and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel on the south loop.
Old Faithful Inn
Opened in 1904, the Old Faithful Inn is the largest log hotel in the world, and is styled in what is known as National Park Service Rustic, or as some say, Parkitecture. Even if you don’t stay in the Old Faithful Inn, you will want to view the hotel’s lobby with its massive stone fireplace and grab a bison burger in the restaurant after viewing the Old Faithful Geyser.
Accommodations vary from suites with well-appointed sitting rooms to simple “Old House Rooms” with shared bathrooms. As of 2013, price ranges vary from $500/night to just over $100/night for the smaller rooms.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins
The Lake Yellowstone Hotel is our favorite lodging option in Yellowstone National Park.
This historic hotel, originally built in 1891, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991, and is currently undergoing a full interior multi-million dollar renovation. The interior features a massive Sun Room lobby overlooking Yellowstone Lake and a lake view dining room. 45 guest rooms will be involved in the first phase of renovations and, when completed, will include in-room wired internet availability. When we were there, the newly renovated rooms were nearly done and we were told that they are now accepting future reservations for the newly-completed rooms.
Accommodations vary from a three-room presidential suite to frontier cabins clustered near the hotel. As of 2013, prices ranged from $599/night for the presidential suite to $141/night for the frontier cabins.
We found this property to be the most luxurious of the park’s offerings and greatly enjoyed the lake views from the large lobby, the restaurant, and park benches on a small boardwalk on the waterfront.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins
Fort Yellowstone was established in 1891 at Mammoth Hot Springs, and was occupied by the 7th Calvary Regiment until 1918 when the army left Yellowstone and turned the property over to the National Park Service. Remnants of Fort Yellowstone are still clearly visible including a chapel built in 1913 that today is a very popular wedding location.
Accommodations range from one-bedroom suites to budget cabins with 2013 prices ranging from $459/night to $86/night for the budget cabins.
We spent three nights in a Frontier Cabin which we found to be comfortable, clean, and set around a wonderful grassy area where we were entertained by dozens of Uinta Ground Squirrels.
In addition to enjoying a casual walk to the hot springs, you are very likely to see elk lounging around the grassy areas each day.
The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is also one of the two available lodging choices in the winter months.
Canyon Lodge & Cabins
Here you will find the Dunraven Lodge and Cascade Lodge which offer hotel rooms with western-themed lodge furniture typically with two double beds. Cascade Lodge was built in 1992, with three floors and no elevators. Dunraven Lodge was completed in 1998 with four floors and elevator access to all floors.
Arranged in loops around the complex, you will find cabins built in the 50s and 60s to accomodate park guests. You should know that the “frontier cabins” are very spartan, though clean. We were told that these units are scheduled for demolition in the coming years to make way for newer modern units.
Prices range from $185/night for the lodge rooms, to $99/night in the frontier cabins, as of summer 2013.
The lodging complex includes 6 two-story buildings each containing 50 rooms. All rooms have private bathrooms. Also located in the area are two restaurants with lake views (one full menu and one specializing in a pub-style menu including a selection of burgers; beef, bison, chicken and black bean), a lounge and a small gift store.
The village is situated on the southwestern shore of Yellowstone Lake, approximately 20 miles from Old Faithful, and is the nearest location to Grand Teton National Park.
Room rates (summer 2013) are $155/night.
Lake Lodge Cabins
Lake Lodge is an inviting location where cozy cabins and cafeteria style dining provide a family-friendly atmosphere. The main lodge houses a delightful lobby where two fireplaces, a lounge and gift store warmly beckon guests to linger and chat. Cabins with private baths are grouped nearby.
The cabins come in three flavors: Western Cabins – modernly furnished with private bathrooms equipped with shower or tub/shower, toilet and sink. Typically includes two beds, Frontier Cabins – simple and plain units built in the 1920’s but recently renovated. Bathrooms include shower, toilet and sink, and Pioneer Cabins – simple and plain units built in the 1920’s. Bathrooms include shower, toilet and sink.
Room rates vary from $188/night to $75/night for the simple units (2013 prices).
Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
Tremendous views of the Old Faithful Geyser can be seen from the bakery and cafeteria-style food court. The large gift store is also located in the lodge. Basic cabins are equipped with or without bath and grouped nearby.
Here you will find two types of cabins: Frontier – simple yet comfortable units with a shower, toilet and sink, and Budget – units with sinks but without a private bath. Toilets and communal showers are located nearby the cabins.
As of the summer of 2013, rates ranged from $115/night for the Frontier Cabins, while the Budget Cabins are priced at $69/night.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins
The heavy timber construction, exterior log columns and cedar shingle roof were part of the design that is destined to make the Snow Lodge a significant example of classic “parkitecture.”
Accommodations include lodge rooms, Western Cabins and Frontier Cabins. The interior features include furnishings, fixtures and appointments that carry creative wildlife and park themes.
A full service dining room, quick service “Geyser Grill” and charming Bear Den Gift Store round out the impressive amenities at Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Accommodations vary from a lodge room with two queen beds ($229/night), to a Frontier Cabin at $99/night (2013 prices)
The Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins is also open during the winter season.
Roosevelt Lodge Cabins
Named for Yellowstone enthusiast Theodore Roosevelt who regularly visited the park, this rustic log lodge and cabin facility was built in an area of the park that was a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt.
Two types of cabins are available: Frontier Cabins – simple yet comfortable cabin units typically with two double beds and a bathroom with shower, toilet and sink, and Roughrider Cabins – units are sparsely furnished and heated with wood burning stoves and typically contain two beds and are all without bathrooms. Communal showers and bathrooms are located nearby. Two “Presto” logs are provided for use in the stove.
As of the summer of 2013, Frontier Cabins were $115/night, and the Roughrider Cabins were $69/night.
As you can see, there are accommodations in Yellowstone National Park to fit every budget, ranging from presidential suites topping out near $600/night, to very spartan cabins for only $69/night. With this wide range of accommodations, every traveler can enjoy the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
As we stressed above, we highly recommend that you stay in the park, and for heaven’s sake, get your reservations made at least a year in advance.
Disclosure: accommodations for our visit to Yellowstone National Park were provided by the kind folks at Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Inc. Thanks!
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