Summer is almost upon us and with the brutal winter many had to endure, the thoughts of vacations can't be too far away.
Do you know the most visited National Park? … Great Smoky National Park. Why is this true? 50% of the U.S. population lives within a 500 mile radius of that park so it is easy to get to and there are no entrance fees. But the granddaddy of them all and America’s first National Park (1872), Yellowstone has to be on many bucket lists.
If you have read my previous articles you know how much I love Glacier National Park. I have written articles about that Park including about the lodges there. Realistically, since it is so remote, most travelers will go to Yellowstone before Glacier. Therefore an article about the accommodations you will encounter there should be useful.
There are several towns around Yellowstone and if you don't want to overnight in the Park, you may want to read my previous articles about the area for other ideas.
Remember, however, when you are in Yellowstone you do not realize how remote you are. There are five areas for hotel and camping accommodations and the road makes a big loop to get to these regions.
Even though that is where all the action is, the areas surrounding the road and villages only comprises 10% of the park. So if you are not into hiking the back country, you will miss 90% of this vast wilderness. It is a huge area that stays untouched by humans for the most part, which adds to its mystique.
Before we begin–a tip: always make an advanced reservation. However for your information all the big tour companies reserve a certain amount of rooms every year in advance so if you are told they are sold out and you can wait, you might still get a room. Tour companies have to release their unsold rooms at least two weeks in advance or pay for them. And some even give them up earlier than that. So it doesn’t hurt to call once or twice a week ahead of time and see if any vacancies have come up.
Yellowstone is divided into five regions for hotel accommodations. Most people want to stay in the Geyser Country by Old Faithful and that is a great area with several choices but those rooms fill up the fastest. There is, of course, the Old Faithful Inn, a national historic landmark built in the early 1900’s. If something happens to this place (fire almost took it out in the 1980’s), it could never be replaced with the environmental laws we have today. They would not be able to cut down the trees to rebuild. It would have to be constructed with other materials.
Even if you don’t stay at the Inn, go and see the structure and if you have time take the tour that runs twice daily and is free. Dinner is reservation only but you can always eat lunch there. There are also cabins available. Next is Snow Lodge and cabins. Snow Lodge is a favorite place of mine to stay and one of the few places where dinner is first come, first serve with no reservation required.
They also have the log cabin style of rooms (like the Inn) that have that wonderful rustic look. Finally, there is the Old Faithful Lodge and cafeteria where you can eat sandwiches, salads and regular entrees. Don’t confuse the Old Faithful Lodge with the Old Faithful Inn. These are two separate places and Snow Lodge makes three. All are situated around the Old Faithful geyser.
If you are traveling and come into Yellowstone on the Northern route, you enter the Mammoth area. The elevation is not as high here so the weather is warmer. This is the park headquarters because the weather is not as severe in the winter. The Hot Springs Hotel and cabins can be found here and the hotel is opened year round. There is both a dining room and a grill and no reservations needed. And most of the time, the elk are lounging about the grassy areas during the warm summer months.
Continuing south from Mammoth along the east side of the park are two more areas with lodging. The Roosevelt area has cabins some with baths and some without. In the summer this area has cookouts that you travel to either by horse or by wagon. Or you can continue south to the Canyon area. When here, you are close to the lower falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There are both lodge rooms and cabins with a dining room, cafeteria and deli.
Finally you come to the Lake area. The easiest way to get to this areas is from Cody to the East or Jackson Hole from the South. You will come to Grant Village first coming from Jackson Hole. There are 6 two story buildings with fifty rooms in each building.
Grant Village is situated on the Southwestern shore of Yellowstone Lake about twenty miles from Old Faithful. There is a gift shop, general store, and a lounge located in the dining room. The dining room overlooks the lake, and the Lake House with pub style dining, can be found down on the shore of the lake. If you want dinner in the dining room you definitely need reservations.
Lastly, a place I hope to stay at some day is Lake Yellowstone Hotel and cabins. This classic hotel is painted a bright yellow and sits right next to the lake on its northern side. It has been restored to its 1920’s grandeur. I could sit in the lobby half the day watching the world go by with the awesome views. There is a dining room where reservations are definitely recommended. The whole place has the feel of The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island or the Greenbriar in West Virginia but on a smaller scale. Maybe, just maybe someday I will get a chance to stay there.
As for winter only Snow Lodge at Old Faithful and the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs are opened. Since the roads are closed you can only get in by the big Snow Coaches– reservation only– or snowmobile.
Hopefully, you are now well informed and realize you have several choices where to stay in the Park. As long as you make reservations in advance, you should be able to find accommodations.
And don’t think you can get in without reservations in the fall. That is when the tour buses roll in with all the seniors traveling since the kids are back in school. And, weather wise, early to mid September can be very nice in the Park.
Editor's note: To read in depth about the Seattle, WA area, check out Kileen's book, “Journey Beckons.” You can order it through her website (as well as preview the first few chapters) at www.kileenprather.com or you can order it through Amazon either in book form or the kindle edition.
Happy to say that Kileen has been very busy. Her latest book, “Journey To Port” is now also available through Amazon/kindle, and it's also in book form through Amazon. Also, on her website (www.kileenprather.com), you can both preview a few chapters as well as order the book.
Have questions? Kileen would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.