Back when I worked in Yellowstone, I enjoyed desk duty at the Old Faithful Visitor’s Center (now the Visitor Education Center). Even back when park visitation was 2.5 million (as opposed to today’s approximately 4 million), the crowd pushing against the counter and each other could be formidable. They came with questions about animals, where to eat, and what to do. One question made my heart sink every time I heard it. Every single time. Where can I get a room for tonight? My heart sank because I despised delivering disappointing news, which was what I always had to do. Yellowstone rooms book up months in advance.
Where you’ll be staying is a question best settled long before you set off.
3 Questions to Consider for Deciding Where to Stay in Yellowstone
- Will we be camping or staying in a hotel of some kind? Generally, people know this at the outset. Sometimes, though, it’s a discussion. There are campgrounds both in and out of the park that accept reservations and some that operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of these fill early in the day. Check for open/closing dates at campgrounds within the park here. Inside the park, only two campgrounds, Canyon and Grant Village, have shower facilities. Important to note: Camping of any kind is allowed only in designated campgrounds.
- Do we want to stay inside the park or outside? Lodging is a pricey proposition in the Yellowstone area. Because the cabins, hotels, and lodges inside the park are especially expensive, many people take advantage of cabins, hotels, and Airbnb/VRBO options outside the park. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Lodging outside the park is generally less costly in terms of dollars but will require more time—much more time—on the road. Lodging in the park costs more money but saves driving time. It boils down to what you have more available to spend—time or money. Learn more about in-park lodges here. My favorite in-park lodging is in the Old House at Old Faithful Inn.
- Do we want to move from place to place or stay in one place the whole time? Yellowstone is big—as in the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined big. Granted, those are small states, but they are states, which is not usually how we think of parks. If possible, I recommend staying in one or two places so you have a base camp of sorts to work from. Sometimes that’s not possible, in which case moving from place to place is much, much better than having no place at all.
Planning a Yellowstone adventure doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Check out the resources below to get started. Let me know know how I can help.
happy trails ~ Natalie 🥾
Your Yellowstone Guide shares posts at these linkups.
- Feeling overwhelmed by planning your Yellowstone vacation? Let me help!. For more information or to schedule, contact me here.
- This is where I start when I need reliable, useful information about planning a visit to Yellowstone. It’s the National Park Service Yellowstone site.
- Find information about Yellowstone’s picnic locations and regulations here.
Photo: Old Faithful Inn under a full moon on an uncharacteristically balmy October night.