This post is part of Just Ahead’s Yellowstone Trip Planner—our guide to what you need to know to plan your trip to Yellowstone National Park. Click here to see the complete guide. And be sure to download our Just Ahead smartphone audio tour of Yellowstone before you head to the park.
In a park rife with natural wonders, it’s pretty hard for anything man-made to compare. But the best lodges in Yellowstone nearly justify a visit unto themselves. And if you can’t get in, or you prefer less expensive digs, the park’s many 1950’s-style motor lodges and tiny cabins—and the tourist towns orbiting Yellowstone—all have standard hotel and motel options. All lodging inside the park is operated by Xanterra and can be reserved at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or by calling 866-439-7375. Here are the best options in the park and an overview of the surrounding communities.
Best Park Options
Old Faithful Inn
With its namesake geyser erupting just outside, this is the original great park lodge of the West. Built seven stories high in 1903 from lodgepole pines felled in the park, it’s the largest log building in the world. It’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying the night just to see the towering lobby and its fireplace built with 500 tons of volcanic stone.
The most elegant lodging in the park, the 196-room Lake Hotel originally served wealthy 19th-century travelers, including US presidents and European royalty. Its massive Southern colonial architecture feels a bit out of place in Yellowstone, but all will be forgiven as you sit in the sunroom looking across the lake to the sounds of live orchestral music. Feel free to walk through whether you’re a guest or not.
For a more rustic and remote Yellowstone experience, visit humble Roosevelt Lodge in the park’s less-traveled northern reach. Not much has changed here in the past century, and that’s just how lodge guests like it. Some rooms have wood stoves for heat, and you can hire evening wagon rides to outdoor steak cookouts for dinner. It makes a relaxed, quiet base for exploring the Lamar Valley and surrounding wildlands.
Lodging Near Yellowstone
West Yellowstone, Montana
The most bustling of the surrounding communities, West Yellowstone is also the least like a real town. This is a traveler’s burg, with an array of hotels, motels, and restaurants. It sits just outside Yellowstone’s most popular entrance and is well positioned for visits to Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake. Don’t miss the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, with its live wolves and enormous grizzlies.
Gardiner is also a traveler’s town, but with a charmingly rakish character. Less polished than West Yellowstone but still containing many quality lodging options, it sits along the Gardner River on the park’s norther border at its second-most popular entrance. It makes a good base for exploring Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s northern region.
Cooke City, Montana
The most remote of the communities surrounding the park, Cooke City is a tiny historic mining village wedged among the high peaks of the Absaroka Range just outside the park’s northeast corner. Lodging and dining are available, though options are fewer than the other satellite towns. The even smaller community of Silver Gate sits a mile away and hosts appealing cabins and small lodges. Cooke City makes a perfect base for exploring the Lamar Valley inside the park, and the magnificent Beartooth Highway, which begins just outside town.
The cowboy town of Cody, Wyoming, may be the most appealing community to stay in near the park. With real rodeos, staged gunfights, and outstanding museums, the town is worth a visit unto itself. Situated at the foot of the Absaroka Mountains, its biggest downside its distance from the park—52 highly scenic miles from the East Entrance. But if you’ve got some time, Cody is worth the trip.