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 of the 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.
(NOTE: if you purchase your stay through one of our links, we may receive a small commission. This doesn’t cost you anything. We are busy parents of 4 kids working full-time, and we’re pursuing this website as a passion to help others enjoy these places we love. So if you decide to book one of these places, we would really appreciate it if you purchase through our link. We can assure you we would never refer you to something just for the money. We’re frugal travelers for the most part but we splurge when we think it’s a good value. )
If you’re interested in camping, see our Complete Guide to Camping 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
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.
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 in 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 half-way 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.
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 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. 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. 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. 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. This is glamping at it’s finest! You stay in the outdoors, covered with a canvas tent, but you get to sleep in a real bed. Costs $150-$300/night.
- We usually use Booking.com to find our accomodations (we always find better deals than on Airbnb).
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. This is an older building that has been recently renovated, and it sits right at the foot of the mountainside.
Absaroka Lodge. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. This was built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902, and he named it after his daughter. It has been restored to look as the original. It even has the original cherrywood backbar 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.
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. 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.