Hotels, Lodges & Cabins
Yellowstone accommodations vary from extremely basic cabins with four thin walls starting at $65 up to luxury suites that will set you back $545. Following a fine old Park Service tradition, the rooms do not have TVs, and most lack phones. Web access is limited to slow phone connections (where available).
What they do offer is the chance to relax in comfortable accommodations and explore the magical world outside. Most are open early June-late September, with additional winter lodging at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Several hundred more motels and other places to stay operate outside park boundaries in the towns of Jackson, Cody, West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and Cooke City.
Xanterra Parks and Resorts (307/344-7311 or 866/439-7375, www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) is Yellowstone’s lodging concessioner. Make Yellowstone lodging reservations six months ahead for the park’s prime hotels, or you may find that the only rooms available are in Grant Village, the laughingstock of park lodges.
Those traveling with small children should request cribs when making reservations. Wheelchair-accessible (ADA-compliant) rooms are available at most of the park’s cabins and hotels. (As an aside, several Web-based companies purport to make reservations for hotels and lodges inside Yellowstone, but all of these charge a service fee. Save yourself money and hassles by going directly to Xanterra.)
At the turn of the 20th century, most visitors to Yellowstone stayed in park hotels rather than roughing it on the ground. Three of these wonderful old lodging places remain: Old Faithful Inn, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Standard motel rooms can be found at Grant Village. In addition, three nicer places opened in the 1990s: the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and two small lodges at Canyon Village. All told, more than 2,200 rooms and cabins provide overnight accommodations in Yellowstone.
Not all lodging options inside the park are nearly as pleasant, however. Hundreds of simple boxes are clustered in the Lake, Mammoth, Old Faithful, and Roosevelt areas. Most of these cabins offer a roof over your head, simple furnishings, and communal showers, but the more expensive cabins are considerably nicer, and four of them even include private hot tubs. Fortunately, prices are fairly reasonable for all of the cabins, and the park concessioner is gradually renovating the oldest units.
Lodging rates are listed for two people; children under age 12 stay free. Add $11 per person for additional older kids or adults in the hotel rooms or cabins. Prices at some park lodgings are lower in May when snow still covers much of the park, but you need to book before April 1. Also available are a variety of winter and summer package deals that include lodging, tours, hikes, and more. Especially noteworthy are the multi-day Lodging and Learning packages that combine tours, educational activities, and hikes led by naturalist-guides from the Yellowstone Association Institute (406/848-2400, www.yellowstoneassociation.org) with accommodations in park hotels, plus breakfasts and lunches.
Rates listed are without tax, which is 6 percent on the south half of the park (inside Teton County—including Old Faithful, Grant Village, and Lake Village) and 8 percent on the north half (inside Park County—including Roosevelt, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Canyon Village).
Mammoth Hot Springs
The rambling Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel sits in the northwest corner of Yellowstone near park headquarters in the settlement of Mammoth. Built in 1937 (one wing was constructed in 1911 and the original hotel was built even earlier), the hotel has 211 rooms in a variety of configurations. Elk are a common sight on the grounds, and in the fall the bulls’ bugling may wake you in the morning. There’s live piano music downstairs in the Map Room most summer evenings as a counterpoint to the elk songs. (The room is named for a distinctive map of the United States crafted from 16 types of wood; it’s on the northern wall.) Also just off the lobby is a gift shop. Just steps away are Park Service headquarters, the fine Albright Visitor Center, and other historical buildings, along with places to eat and buy groceries, gas, and trinkets.
The hotel rooms are comfortable but modest. Walls are not entirely soundproof, furnishings show some wear, and the hallway floors squeak, but baths are large and the hotel exudes a graceful aura that befits the setting. Several rooms on each floor provide low-cost accommodations ($87 d) with communal baths down the hall, but most have two queen beds and private baths ($117 d); ask for a corner room if available. The hotel also houses two luxury suites ($439 d). It is open mid-May-mid-October and mid-December-early March.
Early-season discounts are available, and winter rates are below those in summer. In the winter, “Frosty Fun” packages are a good bet, including one that provides two nights’ lodging, two breakfasts, hot tub access, and ice skates, at $268 for two people. Winter-only hot tub rentals are available, offering a great way to relax after a day of cross-country skiing. Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge are the only wintertime hotels inside the park.
Behind the hotel are 116 Mammoth Cabins, including Budget Cabins ($79 d) with a shared bathhouse, and delightful Frontier Cottages ($107 d) with small porches and private baths. Most of these accommodations were built in 1938, and all contain two double beds. Some are duplex units that can be joined for families or friends traveling together. Dozens of ground squirrels populate the grounds, providing endless entertainment for the kids. Four units also have private outdoor hot tubs and are the finest cabins in Yellowstone ($213 d). The Mammoth cabins are open mid-May-mid-October.
At the junction of the roads to Canyon, Mammoth, and Lamar Valley,
Roosevelt Lodge is the place to escape the crowds and return to a quieter and simpler era. The lodge is decidedly off the beaten path to the major Yellowstone sights, and that suits folks who stay here just fine. Named for President Theodore Roosevelt—perhaps the most conservation-minded president ever—the lodge has the well-worn feeling of an old dude ranch, and many families treat it as such. More than a few folks book cabins for several weeks at a stretch, enjoying the wolf-watching, fly-fishing, horseback and wagon rides, and barbecue cookout dinners. (Cookouts book up six months ahead, so reserve your space when you make a Roosevelt Lodge reservation.)
The main lodge features two large stone fireplaces, a family-style restaurant with notable meals, a lounge, a gift shop, a little general store, and a big front porch with old-fashioned rocking chairs. Surrounding it are 82 utilitarian cabins, most of which were built in the 1920s. Most basic—and just a step up from camping—are the sparsely furnished Roughrider Cabins with one, two, or three beds, a writing table, and a woodstove (the only ones in any Yellowstone lodging). These cabins share a communal bathhouse, cost $65 d, and fill quickly. Call far ahead to reserve one of these classics! Nicer Frontier Cabins with hardwood floors, one or two double beds, and private baths go for $108 d. All of these cabins can get stuffy in midsummer, and some windows lack screens. Two of the Roosevelt cabins are wheelchair-accessible. The Roosevelt Lodge and cabins are open mid-June-early September.
Centrally situated Canyon Lodge is just 0.5 mile from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of the park’s premier attractions. The main lodge is part of a late-1950s complex of ugly structures built around a large parking lot. The area has all the charm of an aging shopping mall from an era when bigger meant better. The lodge itself covers the space of a football field and houses a dining room, cafeteria, lounge, and snack shop, but no guest rooms. Cabins at Canyon Village are open early June-late September.
Behind the lodge in the trees (at least the setting is peaceful), the road circles past three sprawling clusters of cabins, all with private baths and double or queen beds. You’ll find 480 cabins here. The simplest Pioneer Cabins cost just $70 d and aren’t much to look at outside but have been renovated and are actually fairly roomy and comfortable. Two newer types of cabins are available at Canyon: the Frontier Cabins for $96 d and the attractive Western Cabins with two queen beds for $166 d.
Providing far better accommodations are two 1990s additions: Dunraven Lodge and Cascade Lodge. Rooms at both of these attractive log- and rock-trimmed structures are furnished with rustic lodgepole pieces and have two double beds and private baths. Rooms in the lodges cost $166 d. The cabins and lodges at Canyon are open June-mid-September.
The Lake Village area has a full range of lodging options for travelers, with a central location and good services.
The fascinating Southern colonial-style Lake Yellowstone Hotel delivers a magnificent view across Yellowstone Lake. Begun in 1889, the building expanded and changed through the decades to yield its current configuration of 158 guest rooms. The hotel has been lovingly restored and exudes a grandeur and charm rarely found today. It’s the sort of place where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would have felt comfortable dancing.
The Lake Yellowstone’s inviting hotel rooms all contain updated furnishings, private baths, and in-room phones. Standard units cost $204 d on the back side or $219 d facing the lake, and a delightfully spacious two-bedroom presidential suite is the most elaborate (and expensive) accommodation in the park at $545 for up to six people. For the best vistas, ask for a third-floor room on the lake side when making your reservations.
Downstairs is a good restaurant (reservations required for dinner), along with a fast-food eatery; the cafeteria at Lake Lodge is only a short walk away. The real treat at Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the Sun Room, where rows of windows front the lake. The room’s ambience is further enhanced by period wicker furnishings and evening piano or chamber music. It’s a great place to sip a martini or write a postcard. The hotel is open late May-September.
Out back is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Annex, where rooms cost $145 d. There’s no view, but each modern room has two double beds, phones, a bath, and pleasant furnishings. Some of these rooms are wheelchair-accessible.
Also behind Lake Yellowstone Hotel are more than 100 units originally built in the 1950s, jammed together in row after identical row to create the Frontier Cabins. Fortunately, they were nicely restored several years back and are surprisingly comfortable, clean, and cheap: $130 for up to four. Units are small, with just enough space for two double beds and a private bath. Cabin guests can pretend they’re traveling on a more ample budget by spending time in the adjacent Lake Yellowstone Hotel dining room and the Sun Room. Lake Yellowstone Hotel Cabins are open mid-May-September.
A short distance east of Lake Yellowstone Hotel is Lake Lodge. Built in the 1920s, this archetypal log building has a gracious lobby containing two stone fireplaces, comfortably rustic furnishings, an open ceiling where the supporting log trusses and beams are visible, and a delightful front porch. One end of the building houses a large and reasonably priced cafeteria with picture windows framing Lake Yellowstone, and the other end contains a recreation hall for employees. Lodging options at Lake Lodge are not nearly as gracious, consisting of plain-vanilla Pioneer Cabins from the 1920s and 1930s, each with a double bed and private bath for $68 d; renovated Frontier Cabins for $96 d; and comfortable motel-style Western Cabins, built in the 1950s and 1960s (but renovated in 2011), that include two double beds and private baths with showers for $166 d. The 186 cabins at Lake Lodge are open early June-September. Guests here often walk over to the nearby Lake Yellowstone Hotel for fine dining and the chance to relax in the Sun Room.
The southernmost lodging in Yellowstone, Grant Village has condo-type units from the 1980s, each with a parking-lot vista. These buildings would be completely out of place in any national park, especially Yellowstone. Six hideously ugly lodge buildings contain motel-type units for $149 d; make sure to request a remodeled room. All of these have two double beds and private baths, and several wheelchair-accessible rooms are available. A park visitor center and campground are in the area, along with a variety of concession facilities, including a restaurant, waterside café, general store, lounge, snack shop, and gift shop. Grant Village is open late May-September and has 300 units.
The Old Faithful area contains a plethora of lodging options, including two large hotels and several dozen cabins.
Built in 1903-1904, timeless Old Faithful Inn is easily the most delightful place to stay inside Yellowstone—if not in all of America. I wouldn’t trade it for a thousand Hiltons. If you’re able to get a room at OFI during your visit to the park, do so; you certainly won’t regret it! The inn’s 329 rooms are located in three parts of the building: Old House rooms are in the original structure, and the East and West Wings were added in the 1910s and 1920s. Each section has its own character, but even those staying in the simplest budget rooms here will enjoy the five-star lobby with its towering stone fireplace, the old-fashioned writing tables, cushy overstuffed chairs, a classy bar and restaurant, and evening piano music. Old Faithful Inn is open early May-mid-October.
Most rooms in the Old House section of the hotel are cramped spaces with a brass queen bed, dresser, log walls, robes, an in-room sink, and communal baths down the hall; these go for $96 d, with two-room units without bath for $179. Of the cheap rooms, the best ones (these are often reserved a year ahead) are the dormer rooms on the second floor—particularly room 229—but those who stay there must walk past folks in the lobby to take a shower! Mid-range rooms in the Old House contain private baths and one or two queen beds: $122 d; request numbers 46, 148, 154, or 240.
Many other types of rooms are available throughout this sprawling hotel. The West Wing‘s standard rooms (also called “high-range rooms”) are comfortable, with one or two queen beds and private baths for $145 d. Note, however that some of these lack even a parking-lot view. Attractively appointed rooms in the East Wing (also called “premium rooms”) are very comfortable, containing two queen beds, phones, and tub baths with colorful tiles. Premium rooms vary in price from $205 to $239 d, with higher rates for those facing the geyser. Good choices include numbers 1002, 2002, 3002, 1004, 2004, 3004, 1024, 2024, and 3024; all have notable Old Faithful vistas, but 2024 and 3024 have the best dead-on views. If you have the cash, rent a six-person suite for $400-502; ask for suite numbers 1002, 2002, or 3002.
Although it is an attractively rustic building that would be a major focal point almost anywhere else, Old Faithful Lodge is overshadowed by its grand neighbor, Old Faithful Inn. The lodge does not contain guest rooms but houses a large cafeteria (open for lunch and dinner only), recreation hall, gift shop, bake shop, ice-cream stand, espresso cart, and showers. Unlike the inn, the lodge has enormous windows that face the geyser, providing those eating in the cafeteria with dramatic views of the eruptions. The lodge’s massive fir logs and stone pillars add to a feeling of permanence. Behind and beside Old Faithful Lodge are approximately 130 moderately priced but cramped cabins. These contain older (but functional) furnishings, and most have two beds. The simplest Budget Cabins share communal bathhouses and cost just $66 d; they’re some of the cheapest rooms in Yellowstone and just a few steps from Old Faithful. Slightly nicer (but still small) Frontier Cabins have one or two beds and private baths and cost $108 d. There is even a pair of handicapped-accessible cabins here. The cabins at Old Faithful Lodge are open mid-May-September.
Built in 1999, the 100-room Old Faithful Snow Lodge provides accommodations in both summer and winter (Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is Yellowstone’s only other wintertime hotel). Both inside and out, Snow Lodge evokes the spirit of “parkitecture” from the early 1900s. The building blends the past and present, with timbers (recycled from old buildings), hardwood floors, a central stone fireplace, custom-designed overstuffed couches, and wrought-iron accents, along with all the modern conveniences you expect from a fine hotel—unless you’re expecting TVs, which no park hotels contain. Rooms are beautifully appointed and comfortable, and all have private baths. The hotel also houses a restaurant, snack shop, lounge, and gift shop, along with a ski shop and snowmobile rentals in winter. Rates are $197 d.
In addition to the hotel, 34 four-plex Snow Lodge Cabins are available behind the building, costing $143 d. Built in 1989, these Western Cabins have standard motel furnishings, with two double beds and a full bath. Duplex Frontier Cabins provide simple accommodations with bath for $96 d. The Snow Lodge and Cabins are open early May-late October and mid-December-early March. Rates are the same in summer and winter. “Frosty Fun” packages are a better deal, including one that provides two nights’ lodging, two breakfasts, ice skates, and a round-trip snowcoach transport to Old Faithful at $578 for two people.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition