Julie United States 2 Comments

When planning a trip to Yellowstone, one of the biggest questions you might have is “where should I stay?” Yellowstone National Park is massive, with multiple park entrances and thousands of acres of land to explore. Choosing where to stay in Yellowstone might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

In this guide, we hope to simplify things for you. Learn about the top locations to stay in and around Yellowstone, with specific hotel and lodge recommendations depending on your itinerary and length of stay.

This guide works well with our Yellowstone itinerary post, which lists itinerary ideas from one to five days, with recommended hotel locations for each day. Click here to see our Yellowstone Itinerary post (it will open in a new browser tab so you can easily refer back to this post).

Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Our Top Tips

Before I start listing hotels and lodges in and around Yellowstone, there are a few important things to know.

Choosing where to stay in Yellowstone depends on several factors: how many days you plan to visit Yellowstone, how far in advance you are making your reservations, and where you plan to go, both before and after your visit.

If you plan to visit Yellowstone National Park for at least three days, consider staying in two different locations. It can be a hassle packing and unpacking, but Yellowstone is so large that switching accommodations can minimize travel time in the park.

The best location to stay within the park is Canyon Village. It is relatively centrally located. From here, it is a short drive Hayden Valley, Tower Falls, and Norris Geyser Basin. With a little more time, you can get to Lamar Valley, Old Faithful, and Grand Prismatic Spring. And Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will be right on your doorstep.

The lodges inside of Yellowstone National Park sell out ridiculously far in advance. We are talking 12 months in advance! If you plan to visit Yellowstone in the summer of 2021, you need to make your reservations in May of 2020.

So, what happens if you can’t reserve a lodge within the park? Not to worry. There are plenty of options just outside of Yellowstone. Both times we visited Yellowstone we stayed outside of the park and still had an amazing experience.

The best location to stay outside of the park is West Yellowstone. There are many hotel and restaurant options in this small town. Gardiner, Montana is also a great place to stay.

The recommendations in this post are for the summer season, May through October. From November through mid-April, many roads and close in the park. While it is still possible to visit the park in the winter, it is a much different experience. Many lodges will be closed during this time and you will get around by snowmobile or snow coach.

Yellowstone Entrance

Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance 

An Overview of Yellowstone National Park

With 2 million acres of land and five park entrances, Yellowstone National Park is enormous. In terms of area, this is the largest national park in the United States, outside of Alaska. Yellowstone sits in three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, with most of its land located in Wyoming.

If you look at Yellowstone on a map, there are two main loops in the park. Many of the best things to do in the park can be found along these two loops.

On the map below, I labeled the five park entrances, the lodge locations in Yellowstone National Park (in blue), and recommend places to stay outside of the park (in black).

Where to Stay in Yellowstone Map

Where to Stay Inside Yellowstone National Park

Lodges in Yellowstone National Park

There are nine lodges inside of Yellowstone National Park, all scattered throughout the park.

Canyon Village. Canyon Lodge and Cabins. This is the largest and one of the nicest accommodations within the park. Since it is relatively centrally located, this is the best place to stay in the park.

Yellowstone Lake. There are two properties here. Lake Lodge Cabins features a main lodge and 186 cabins, some with views of the lake. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and it underwent a full renovation in 2014. You can also stay in a Lake Cottage.

Grant Village. Grant Village is located near the West Thumb area of Yellowstone Lake and has two lodges with 50 rooms.

Old Faithful. There are three lodges at Old Faithful. The Old Faithful Inn is a National Historic Landmark and one of the last remaining log hotels in the United States. If you want to stay in a historic property and have the chance to watch an eruption of Old Faithful from your room, this is a great place to stay. The Old Faithful Lodge Cabins and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge are also located near Old Faithful.

Where to Stay in Yellowstone

Old Faithful Inn

 

Best Hotels in Yellowstone

Overlooking Old Faithful and the lodges in Old Faithful Village from Observation Point

Mammoth Hot Springs. In northern Yellowstone is the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. This hotel recently underwent renovations. Elk graze near the hotel and you can grab a drink at the bar in the Map Room.

Tower Falls. Stay in a rustic cabin at the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins. They serve an Old West Dinner Cookout and there is a nearby corral where you can go on horseback rides.

Each lodge or village also has at least one restaurant. Several of the bigger villages (for example, Old Faithful) have multiple restaurants, a convenience store, and/or a gift shop.

To learn more about each lodge and to make your reservations, visit the official website. 

Campgrounds and RV Parks in Yellowstone

There are several campgrounds in Yellowstone, with locations at Canyon Village, near Yellowstone Lake, near Old Faithful (Madison Campground), and at Grant Village. The Fishing Bridge Recreationa Vehicle Park is located near Yellowstone Lake. Learn more here. 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

How Far in Advance Should You Make Your Reservations for Yellowstone?

Reservations open May 1 the prior year for summer (Summer 2021 reservations open May 1, 2020) and March 15 the prior year for winter. Lodges get fully booked one year in advance but cancellations are common, so keep checking back if you can’t reserve the lodge you want.

So, if you are planning a trip for 2022, you should make your reservations in May 2021. If you can’t get a lodge inside the park, I recommend booking a hotel outside of the park. On Booking.com, you can book many properties as “refundable,” meaning you can cancel up to a certain date and get your full payment back. Keep checking the Yellowstone Lodging website for cancellations. If something opens up, make your reservation for the the Yellowstone lodge and cancel your reservation outside of the park. 

A word of advice from one of our readers

Terri from Traveling with Terri is a frequent traveler to Yellowstone. She recommends calling the park 6 to 8 weeks before your trip to get a reservation. As people cancel their plans, the rooms open up, and you can reserve them by directly calling the park. Terri recommends to avoid the online reservation system since it is difficult to use and often does not show the available rooms. You can read her full message in the comment section below. Thanks Terri!

Where to Stay Outside of Yellowstone

Just outside of the park entrances sit several towns that make a great home base for exploring Yellowstone.

Ideally, it is best to stay inside the park, to minimize driving time, but there are several advantages to staying outside of the park. Accommodations are typically cheaper, in some towns you will have a wide range of restaurant options and a grocery store, and it is generally easier to make a reservation, even if you are planning things at the last minute.

Here are lodging options outside of Yellowstone, located near each park entrance.

Pro Travel Tip: The entrances to Yellowstone National Park are open 24 hours a day. If you stay outside of the park, you can enter before sunrise or exit after sunset. 

West Yellowstone, Montana

Outside of Yellowstone National Park, West Yellowstone is the best place to stay, since the driving times to the main sights will be the shortest. The exception is Lamar Valley, which is located near the northeast corner of the park.

Pro Travel Tip: There are many restaurants to choose from in West Yellowstone. If you like the idea of tapas, we recommend dinner at Cafe Madriz.

Driving Distances and Times to the Top Sights:

Grand Prismatic Spring: 25 miles, 45 minutes
Old Faithful: 32 miles, 1 hour
Hayden Valley: 47 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 42 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes
Lamar Valley: 72 miles, 2 hours

West Yellowstone Bed and Breakfast. This is the highest rated property in West Yellowstone on Booking.com. Rooms can accommodate between two and four people and prior guests rave about the hospitality and the breakfast.

Kelly Inn. This is where we stayed and had a nice experience. Rooms are large, clean, and quiet and the Wi-Fi works well. You can walk or drive to many of the restaurants in Gardiner.

Hotel Kelly Inn West Yellowstone

Kelly Inn

 

1872 Inn – Adults Exclusive. This boutique hotel looks amazing. If you are traveling as a couple and looking for an upscale hotel, look no farther. The hotel also has a sauna and fitness center.

Hotel 1872 Inn - Adults Exclusive

1872 Inn

 

Faithful Street Inn. This is one of the top picks in West Yellowstone. If you are traveling as a large group, Faithful Street Inn might be perfect for you. These houses come with multiple bedrooms. If you are a very large group, check out the house with 8 bedrooms that can accommodate up to 18 people!

Gardiner, Montana

This is a cool town that is located near Mammoth Hot Springs and the north entrance into Yellowstone. This is a great place to stay to explore the northern area of Yellowstone. From Gardiner, it is a 20-minute drive on winding roads to get to Mammoth Hot Springs. Expect long drives to and from Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake.

Gardiner Montana

Gardiner, Montana

If you arriving from the north or planning to drive to Glacier National Park next, this is a great place to stay, for at least one night.

Driving Distances and Times to the Top Sights:

Grand Prismatic Spring: 50 miles, 1 hour 20 minutes
Old Faithful: 57 miles, 1 hour 45 minutes
Hayden Valley: 46 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 40 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes
Lamar Valley: 38 miles, 1 hour

Yellowstone Gateway Inn. We stayed here on our most recent visit to Yellowstone and we highly recommend it. On Booking.com, it is the highest rated property in Gardiner. We had a one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen. The rooms are clean and quiet. Kara and I frequently saw elk on the property and we could walk to the grocery store. I would stay here again on a repeat visit to Yellowstone.

Elk in Gardiner

Elk on the property at Yellowstone Gateway Inn

Yellowstone Park Riverfront Cabins. Located on bank of the Yellowstone River, stay in a secluded cabin. Prior guests report seeing elk, deer, and bison from the cabins. These cabins are located west of Gardiner, so you will have a slightly longer drive to get into the park, but if you like the idea of staying in a quiet, secluded place with views of the wildlife, this is a nice place to consider.

Yellowstone’s Treasure Cabins. These small houses come with a kitchen and one to two bedrooms. This property is located in central Gardiner.

Hotel Yellowstone's Treasure Cabins

Yellowstone’s Treasure Cabins

 

Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana

With just a few hotels to choose from and a somewhat inconvenient location near the northeast corner of Yellowstone, it is only worth staying here if you are struggling to find accommodation elsewhere or have plans to continue your road trip through central Montana.

Driving Distances and Times to the Top Sights:

Grand Prismatic Spring: 87 miles, 2 hours 20 minutes
Old Faithful: 93 miles, 2 hours, 30 minutes
Hayden Valley: 60 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 54 miles, 1 hour 30 minutes
Lamar Valley: 19 miles, 30 minutes

Trout Lake Yellowstone

Trout Lake, located near the northeast entrance

Silver Gate Lodging. This is the closest property to the park entrance. Just one mile from the northeast entrance, prior guests says it feels like you are still in the park. Take your pick from a wide range of cottages, bungalows, and houses that can accommodate from two to ten people. On Booking.com it gets decent reviews.

Hotel Silver Gate Lodging

Silver Gate Lodging

 

Elk Horn Lodge. Located in Cooke City, this lodge gets good reviews. Rooms are basic but clean and can accommodate up to four people.

High Country Motel and Cabins. Also located in Cooke City, stay in a double room that can accommodate four people. Or, take a look at the one-bedroom chalets that can accommodate up to five people.

Cody, Wyoming

Located east of Yellowstone, it is only worth it to spend one night here if you are entering the park from the east. From Cody, it takes one hour to drive to the east entrance and you will still have a fair distance to go before you arrive at any of Yellowstone’s top sights. However, there are two properties located between Cody and the east entrance that are worth considering (Blackwater Creek Ranch and Bill Cody Ranch), since they get good reviews and are located relatively near Yellowstone.

Driving Distances and Times to the Top Sights:

Grand Prismatic Spring: 122 miles, 3 hours
Old Faithful: 118 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes
Hayden Valley: 86 miles, 2 hours
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 93 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes
Lamar Valley: 94 miles, 2 hours

Blackwater Creek Ranch. This property gets decent reviews. However, it is located between Cody and the east entrance so driving times are shorter than if you stayed in Cody (this property is only located 20 minutes from the east entrance so travel times into the park are much shorter). There is no Wi-Fi and no TV but the dinner they serve is excellent.

Hotel Blackwater Creek Ranch

Blackwater Creek Ranch

 

Bill Cody Ranch. If you want to stay in a beautiful cabin on a ranch, look no further. These cabins are beautifully decorated and can accommodate between two and eight people. Onsite is a bar and restaurant. The Bill Cody Ranch is located 25 miles west of Cody and just 30 minutes from the east entrance, which helps cut down on travel times.

Hotel Bill Cody Ranch

Bill Cody Ranch

 

Wheels of Wonderment Campground. Located in Wapiti, this highly-rated property provides camping and RV sites as well as cabins, cottages, and tee-pees. All bathrooms are shared. There are goats and llamas on the property.

Cody Cowboy Village. Located in Cody, rooms are rustic and can accommodate from two to six people. There is an onsite pool and hot tub and this is one of the highest rated properties in Cody.

The Chamberlin Inn. If you are looking for a bit of luxury, this is a highly-rated historic hotel in Cody. Each room comes with a flat-screen TV, organic silk linens, and fresh flowers. There is a garden, library, and on-site bar.

South of Yellowstone

There are very limited options south of Yellowstone National Park. Grand Teton National Park is located south of Yellowstone, but because of its distance, it does not make a good option for exploring Yellowstone.

Driving Distances and Times to the Top Sights (from Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP):

Grand Prismatic Spring: 74 miles, 1 hour 50 minutes
Old Faithful: 47 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes
Hayden Valley: 56 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 64 miles, 1 hour 30 minutes
Lamar Valley: 98 miles, 2 hour 30 minutes

What We Did

We have visited Yellowstone twice and had a very similar itinerary both times.

Starting in Grand Teton National Park, we got an early start, visited the sights in southern Yellowstone, and then spent one night in West Yellowstone (at the Kelly Inn). We spent three more days in Yellowstone, staying in Gardiner, Montana for the last three nights (at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn). It worked well, but 2 nights in West Yellowstone and 2 nights in Gardiner would have been better. I really like Gardiner, but it is a long drive in and out of the park from here.

We stayed outside of the park since we made our travel plans almost at the last minute (we planned this trip in early June of 2019 and visited Yellowstone in early August 2019).

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Recommendations on Where to Stay in Yellowstone

So, now that you know the locations and the best hotels in Yellowstone, how do you choose where to stay?

The biggest factors are budget and your itinerary.

In general, in-park lodging will be more expensive than staying outside of the park. So, if price is a factor, consider camping or staying in West Yellowstone or Gardiner.

With just one to two days in the park, I recommend picking one central location, ideally Canyon Village. I do not think it is worth packing and unpacking if you are here for a short stay. But for three days or longer, staying in two different locations can save you some time (especially if you can’t get lodging inside the park).

You should also take into account your route through the park. Most people visit Yellowstone on a road trip, which means you will be entering through one park entrance and exiting through another. For example, your trip might start in Grand Teton and end in Glacier, with a visit to Yellowstone in the middle. In this case, stay in a lodge in south or west Yellowstone first (Old Faithful or West Yellowstone) and north Yellowstone second (Mammoth or Gardiner).

For itinerary ideas and recommendations on where to stay for each itinerary, click here to read our post.

Bison in Hayden Valley

Bison in Hayden Valley

Here are our recommended hotels, based on your itinerary.

With 1 to 2 days in Yellowstone, the Canyon Lodge and Cabins in Canyon Village is our top pick, because of its convenient location. Inside of Yellowstone, the Old Faithful Inn is another great option, since it is a unique and memorable place to stay (but you will have a long drive to north Yellowstone). Outside of Yellowstone, I recommend the West Yellowstone Bed and Breakfast or the 1872 Inn – Adults Exclusive in West Yellowstone.

Click here to visit the Yellowstone Lodging website. 

With 3 or more days, I recommend staying in two different locations (unless you are lucky enough to get a reservation at Canyon Village). For part of your stay, base yourself in West Yellowstone, in Old Faithful Village, or near Yellowstone Lake. For the second half of your trip, stay in Mammoth or Gardiner.

For 2020 and 2021, you should also be aware of the road closure between Canyon Village and Tower. If you plan to stay in Canyon Village for your entire visit, you will have a very long drive to and from Lamar Valley because of this road closure, so it might be worth spending one night in Mammoth or Gardiner to cut down on driving times. Lamar Valley is one of the best places in Yellowstone to spot wildlife and it is worth at least one visit while you are here. Click here to learn more about the road closure.

More Information for Your Trip to Yellowstone

If your trip to Yellowstone is part of a bigger road trip, we recommend these articles:

Lamar Valley Sunset

Lamar Valley Sunset


If you have any questions about where to stay in Yellowstone or how to plan your time, let us know in the comment section below.

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Where to Stay in Yellowstone

 

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Comments 2

  1. We have been to Yellowstone several times (and actually lived in the park for a time). I echo staying in the park ! We have been successful getting lodging in the park by calling the park for reservations. If you are willing to stay “anywhere” in the park and call 6-8 weeks ahead when people (who have been holding reservations made a year in advance) are cancelling–you can probably get a room. The strategy has never failed for us. Do not try to make these reservations online. Their online portal is difficult to work with and often doesn’t show these rooms.

    1. Post
      Author

      Wow, this is great!! Thank you so much for writing in to us. I’m going to add it to the post since it is such useful information. Thanks again! 😊 Cheers, Julie

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