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Where Should You Stay When Visiting Yellowstone?

Side view of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone
Old Faithful Inn

Planning your trip to Yellowstone can be DAUNTING. It’s so big and there are many things to see and do. Your ability to see and do many things depends on where you stay.

In this article, we will cover where to stay IN and OUT of the park, as well as the pros and cons of staying in multiple places during your trip.

These tips and suggested hotels come from our own experience of visiting Yellowstone over 20 times and from our own research. Obviously, we haven’t stayed in every hotel, but we’ve combed through the reviews and the costs to determine the best values.

The 9 Best Areas & Places to Stay in Yellowstone

Where Can You Stay IN the Park?

There are nine lodges/hotels in the park. They are:

  • Canyon Lodge and Cabins
  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins (also open in winter)
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins (also open in winter)
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cottages
  • Old Faithful Inn
  • Lake Lodge Cabins
  • Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
  • Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins
  • Grant Village
front view of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone
Old Faithful Inn

All of these are owned by the National Park Service, but the NPS uses a contractor to manage them. They can be booked through yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.

Should You Stay IN the Park?

Obviously, this is a personal choice, but here are some things to consider.

Cost. Places in the park will generally cost more than an equivalent hotel outside of the park. They really range in price, depending on where you stay and how big your room is. I’ve seen some as inexpensive as $164 a night in the fall, and others over $1000 a night in the summer.

Notice that many places have a lodge AND cabins. The cabins are more rustic with fewer amenities. For example, you usually don’t have your own restroom; you share with others. Of course, they also cost less.

Availability. Yellowstone has about 2300 rooms in the park, and believe it or not, they often book up a YEAR in advance. So book early! They are generally open from mid-June to mid-October, except for the Mammoth Hotel and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which have winter availability as well.

May is usually when the website allows you to start booking for the NEXT summer season (over a year out). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find one for the current season. I’m writing this in the fall, and I just found some rooms in September and October of this year. There are fewer visitors in the fall, of course.

View of cabins at Roosevelt Lodge Yellowstone
Roosevelt Lodge cabins

Travel time. One of the main advantages of staying in the park is it can help reduce your travel time. It’s important to know that it takes a LONG time to drive around Yellowstone.

It takes about 2.5 hours to drive around one of the loops (technically, the outer loop is called the Grand Loop Road, but with a connecting road halfway through, I just refer to them as the upper and lower loops). And that’s just driving time. It could be even longer if you get stuck in a Buffalo Jam.

So this can be a huge advantage. Note, however, that it’s not an advantage in every case. For example, if you stay at Old Faithful Inn (at the bottom of the park), and you want to see Mammoth or Lamar Valley (at the top of the park), it will be a much longer drive than if you stayed in Gardiner, MT (just outside of the north entrance), for example.

Front of old faithful inn Yellowstone
Old Faithful Inn
front view of Yellowstone Lake Hotel
Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Cool factor. Staying in one of these old lodges, or in the cabins, can really lend a rustic feel to your trip. The Old Faithful Inn, for example, is perhaps the largest log building in the world and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the oldest hotel in the park, built in 1891!

Amenities. You will generally have fewer amenities IN the park, as opposed to OUT of the park. Most of the hotels in Yellowstone are fairly rustic. You might have to share bathrooms, and many don’t have TV or A/C.

More scenic? This one depends on where you stay. Lake Yellowstone Hotel has scenic views of the lake, of course. Canyon Lodge does not have particularly good views but it is only a short walk to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. And where can you stay with views of geysers and hot springs, but Old Faithful Inn?

However, you might find places outside of the park, especially in Gardiner, MT, or near Cody, WY, with great views as well. Yes, even places outside of the park are pretty!

Where Can You Stay in West Yellowstone, Montana?

West Yellowstone is where most visitors stay when visiting Yellowstone. It’s not a huge city or anything like that, but it has the most hotels and attractions outside the park. There are many places to stay, but here are our top three suggestions:

Kelly Inn (book here). This hotel has a pool, seems very family-friendly, and it’s right across the street from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and IMAX theater. It’s also pet-friendly.

Days Inn (book here). We have stayed here before, and we loved it. They gave us a HUGE suite for our big family. And they have a pool with a water slide, which is a HUGE hit with our kids. After a long day of driving and hiking, a water slide really makes it worth all the effort.

1872 Inn (book here). This one is not kid-friendly, which might appeal to many adults! It is a boutique hotel, which means each room is different. It’s more of a luxury hotel, with fewer than 100 rooms. Rooms are typically over $350 per night.

Under Canvas (book here). This is glamping at its finest! You stay outdoors, covered with a canvas tent, but you get to sleep in a real bed. Costs ~$219-$399/night.

Not sure which Yellowstone entrance is right for you?

Download our Free Quick and Easy Guide to Yellowstone’s entrances!

Where Can You Stay in Gardiner, Montana?

Gardiner, MT, used to be the main entry to Yellowstone when the railroad was the primary method of transportation. Nowadays it trails West Yellowstone in popularity, but they use that to their advantage in promoting a smaller-town feel.

Also, it’s actually closer to the Grand Loop Road than West Yellowstone is, AND you get to drive through the Roosevelt Arch on the way into the park. It’s a cool place.

Here are some of our suggestions:

Yellowstone Village Inn (book here). This is an older building that has been recently renovated, and it sits right at the foot of the mountainside.

Absaroka Lodge (book here). This lodge sits right by the river, and they have many photos on their website showing wildlife, such as elk and bighorn sheep, hanging out nearby.

side view of Absaroka lodge in Gardiner Montana
Absaroka Lodge

Gardiner Guest House Bed and Breakfast. This was built in 1903! As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have a website, but the customer reviews are fantastic. To book, call 406-848-9414.

Where Can You Stay in Cody, Wyoming?

Cody is much farther away from the park than West Yellowstone and Gardiner, but it’s a popular town in its own right, and it’s probably a little cheaper.

Set up by Buffalo Bill Cody, the guy who created his own Wild West show in the 1800s, shortly after Yellowstone was created as a national park. Ever the opportunist, Cody set up his own town near Yellowstone to take advantage of the expected increase in visitors.

Here are some suggestions for Cody:

Chamberlin Inn (book here). This was established in 1900, and many famous people stayed here in the 1920s and 1930s during their visits to Yellowstone. They offer deals for advanced bookings, government and military employees, and AAA members. This is another boutique hotel, and reviewers rave about the fresh flowers in their rooms and other niceties.

Best Western Sunset Inn (book here). We’ve always liked Best Westerns, so much that we signed up for their membership program (which we rarely do). This gets good reviews for being a family-friendly hotel and having a pool.

I can’t emphasize the pool enough if you have children. Yellowstone can be very tiring for kids because you’ll spend almost all day in the park driving, walking, or waiting (for geysers, wildlife, or traffic). Having a pool for them to play in at night is a massive release valve for their energy.

Best Western Premier Ivy Inn & Suites (book here). This is a step up from the other Best Western, and it has a gym and offers babysitting, just in case you need a break from the kids as much as they need a break from you!

The Irma Hotel (book here). This was built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902, and he named it after his daughter. It has been restored to look like the original. It even has the original cherrywood back bar in the restaurant, which was donated by the Queen of England to Buffalo Bill after he took his Wild West Show overseas and performed for her.

front view of the Buffalo Bill Irma Hotel
Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel
Cody, Wyoming: The Wild West Town
Watch our video about Cody, Wyoming

One Final Idea

These are just a few of the places to stay in and near Yellowstone. One final idea is to consider moving from one city to another during your trip. It will allow you to see more of the park without spending too much time backtracking.

For example, you could stay in West Yellowstone one night, then hit the sites on the way to Mammoth and stay there. The next day you could visit Lamar Valley and Canyon and drive out the east side of the park to Cody and stay there. The next day you could drive to Old Faithful and spend a lot of time seeing the geysers near Old Faithful (which we recommend), and stay at the Old Faithful Inn. On the last day you could see the other geyser basins (Upper, Middle, and Lower — including Grand Prismatic) as you work your way back to West Yellowstone.

That’s just an idea of how you could move around to maximize your time at Yellowstone.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yellowstone is confusing because it’s huge and there are so many things to do! 

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Yellowstone? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 3-hours of stories about the park!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
YELLOWSTONE

YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Yellowstone National Park, check out our Yellowstone Homepage

ENTRANCES: Yellowstone has 5 entrances: The West Entrance, the East Entrance, the Northeast Entrance, the North Entrance, and the South Entrance. Learn which entrance to Yellowstone is right for you with our Free Quick and Easy Guide

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Yellowstone has to offer including Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and West Thumb and Grant’s Village

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Yellowstone and things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and other areas surrounding Yellowstone

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat including the Old West Dinner Cookout and also where to get groceries and eat picnics in Yellowstone National Park

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation or bear spray and binoculars, as well as tips for driving in and flying to Yellowstone 

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Yellowstone National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Yellowstone YouTube Playlist

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