Yellowstone National Park is noted for its camping. This is foremost a National Park built with families in mind and camping is always the inexpensive alternative for families trying to make that summer buck last. It is also an immense park at over 200,000 acres with a good road network making a fair bit of it accessible but unless you want to spend all of your day driving, it is a park best suited for moving from one area to the next and calling a new place home every few days or quite possibly every night. Not the easiest life for the tenter but that is what we decided to do.
We entered the park from the north and enjoyed the Mammoth Hot Springs area before pitching our tent at Tower Fall Campground. We figured we could go back to the Springs area again but it was 25 miles each way so never did. It was however very easy and quick to get into the Lamar Valley early in the morning for observing its considerable wildlife. We were there in September and it was quite quiet the one evening we spent there.
Tower Fall Campground is one of the park's smallest with only 32 spots so much more intimate than Yellowstone's typical ones which tend to be massive as the park's popularity necessitates. The little loop is well spread out and most of the spots were well-treed. Restrooms are rustic with pit toilets and no running water in them though drinking water is available in the campground at designated spots. It is very convenient to the Lamar Valley and yet still in the mainstream of the park loop road. Elevation: 6,600 feet.
It's a bargain at $12 per night and well worth putting up with a pit toilet for a day or two.
On calling for reservations only a month before our trip, and none being unavailable inside Yellowstone NP, I reverted to Plan B and decided to see what the little community of Gardiner, Montana could do for me – after all, the town is located within walking distance of the North Entrance to Yellowstone. As it turned out, there was no problem in getting a reservation for the night before our two already booked ones in Grand Teton NP. The motel did not look like anything inspiring when we arrived at about 5:30 PM to check-in, but the owner seemed friendly enough. Although they have a fairly new-looking section out front, we were booked into one of their older wings of three rooms hidden around the backside. However, this proved to be a real bonus as all we had to do was look right from our door and this is the view we had from our perch above the Yellowstone River as it flowed out of the distant peaks of Yellowstone NP!
As we chilled-out from the day’s driving with a cold beer (and a glass of wine for Sue) I noticed that a couple of motorcycle biker guests had also drifted to the backside, but appeared to be a bit reluctant to join us. I motioned them to come over and relax and it was not long before we were all enjoying ourselves with the great view over the fast-flowing Yellowstone River below as a group of white water rafters passed below our perch. It turned out that these guys were from the New York/Boston area and it was interesting to listen to their ‘take’ on the world. The strange thing was that we ran into them again the next day in Yellowstone Park when we turned off the main highway onto Firehole Lake Drive!
Our room was nothing to write home about, but it did have internet, the bed did the trick and the location was quiet. Overall, it was sitting there on their rear patio in the sunshine and above the Yellowstone River that made this a very enjoyable stop, at a total cost of US$91 including taxes.
When I called for reservations about one month before our planned trip, the only accommodations still available in either Yellowstone or the adjoining Grand Teton National Park was at Jackson Lake Lodge, located beside Jackson Lake in Grand Teton NP. Knowing that we had to have accommodations somewhere inside the parks in order to keep our driving down to a minimum, I booked two nights in one of their 348 rooms located in cottages that are adjacent to the main lodge building (which has another 37 rooms of its own). Even though the whole complex was built in the 1950s, the cottages are really done up in first-class style, as they should be for US$250/night with taxes!
As shown here with our car parked in front, our cottage #340 was one of two adjoining cottages (this seems to be standard practise at JLL) and was located only a short walk from the Lodge, where the restaurants, gift shop, wine/beer section and best viewpoints of the Teton Range mountains can be found. The other photos show our two very comfortable beds, a large dresser area and the excellent bathroom (the main room also had a second sink in the short hallway outside the bathroom). There was no internet access in the cottage, but that didn’t seem to be a problem as there is an internet room available in the Lodge and also wireless access in their lobby area. Tall trees cover the property and all was very quiet, providing an excellent stay at Jackson Lake Lodge. We really enjoyed our time in the main lodge, where we had our breakfasts and two evening meals (one a snack on their outside rear viewing deck and the other in their first-class dining room). I’d say it was money well-spent!
Our final stay was in Cody, Wyoming about 50-miles (80 km) east of Yellowstone NP. I’d planned it this way because we had entered the park via the Northeast Entrance, then out/in the North Entrance on our first night, followed by out/in the South Entrance as we did our Grand Teton NP tour the second/third days. Our final day in Yellowstone was spent exploring along the park’s eastern edge and we only had one day after that to make it back to Regina, Canada – which turned out to be 1200-km and 12 hours of driving from Cody!
Cody is the first major community situated east of Yellowstone and is quite a popular destination with plenty of motels available. I just picked one at random and settled on the Moose Creek Lodge & Suites in the stretched-out downtown area along Highway 16. It was quite a modern looking place with a 2-story U-shaped accommodations section surrounding the rather cramped parking area. It had been a busy last day exploring and hiking in Yellowstone, so we opted for a quick and easy take-out meal from a fast food joint located near the motel.
Their internet service was good but the fawcett arrangement on the shower was a strange contraption that did not work well and their continental breakfast was very basic. On the plus side, we had a comfortable sleep and there was no real street noise. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we were up and away early in the morning, heading straight east through interesting western plains before crossing over the majestic Bighorn Mountains until we hit Interstate 90 highway and then headed northeast for Regina.
With taxes, our total bill came to US$162, even with their senior’s discount.
Once again I did not hit the mark with a great place to stay. At least not for our honeymoon. It looked like more than a Travelodge on the outside with it's log cabin exterior, but inside same old motel room. Now , if it had not been our Honeymoon it would have been just fine. I think the cabin at Signal mountain in Grand Teton spoiled me a little bit! But it was more than affordable, and had a nice location. Sometimes you just need to get out of the park for a little bit!
One thing I was not a fan of was actually the fan! The bathroom fan is connected to the light, and that baby is super loud.
A hairdryer is provided.
Continental breakfast in the morning.
Our accomodations for our 2nd trip to Yellowstone, Sept 2006
Our little one room cabin was a great home base for our Yellowstone adventures. It was nestled with a few others down a little road in the woods. We had a little kitchenette to make coffee for the morning, prepare our lunches for the next day, and heat up a meal for dinner. A little table and benches served as our "desk" area, though most people would use it as a place to eat. The bed was incredibly comfortable, perfect after along day of hiking around the park.
If you are visiting with more than just 2 people, larger cabins are available.
One fantastic bonus of staying in these little out of the way cabins is the wildlife! We heard wolves howling throughout the night and a couple of bison could be seen daily wandering around right by the general store that is also the main office for the cabins. (I've heard they see a lot of moose as well, sadly we didn't have any walking though town a'la Northern Exposure)
There are very nice Hotels in the park but they are also very expensive. Gardiner, MT is on the North entrance to the park and just 5 miles North of the Mammoth Springs Area. This Hotel is nothing to write home about but is adequate and one of the better values around.
Mammoth Campground is located in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, we have only stayed in this campground in the winter, since it is the only one open that time of year. There are no hook ups, showers, nor is there a dump station. There are flush toilets, and you may use your generator from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. This is the best campground to explore Mammoth and Larmar Valley from.
You may hear wolf howling from here, and in the fall when the elk are in rutting season, you will hear them bugling.
From our 2nd Yellowstone trip, Sept. 2006
The Cody Cowboy Village is a fantastic place to stay if you are visiting Yellowstone National Park, or the town of Cody itself. The beautiful new log cabin style accomodations attracted me immediately, but the big draw to the CCV are the "Heavenly Beds". They seriously are the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in! And the rooms are gorgeous. Light wood log cabins, with open beam ceilings and a great rustic/western decor. It is very warm and welcoming. Each room or suite has a nice porch area with table and chairs as well. After a wonderful nights stay, we were treated to a complimentary continental breakfast in the main Lodge. We had cereal, danishes, coffee and fruit ...which I think were most of the options given. Breakfast starts at 6am, and goes til 9, I believe.
Super comfy beds, fat, fluffy towels, flat screen TV's, and outdoor spa with waterfall and only 50 miles from Yellowstone's east entrance.
This is a great, out of the way place to stay. No huge crowds, and it's one of the cheapest places to sleep in the park (outside of camping). You can rent a cabin, with a wood fireplace (wood is supplied for free) for about $40/couple. You will need the fireplace, even in summer, because nights often get chilly. The front desk will give you extra blankets if you ask.
The downside: shared bathrooms. The upside: incredible views in a more mellow atmosphere than the southern, more well-known parts of the park.
There is a western-style restaurant nearby, or you can ride horses or take a covered wagon to an open-air cookout. Very fun, especially for kids. Like everywhere in the park, make reservations well in advance. The cabins are only open during the warmer months.
You aren't near the most famous highlights of the park, like the grand canyon of the yellowstone river or old faithful, so the cabins are much less crowded than other lodges in the park. But you are near Lamar Valley, which is the place to see wolves, usually at sunrise and/or sunset. Take a lawn chairs and some beers. Even if you don't see wolves, it's a beautiful place to watch sunset and see other wildlife. I saw a grizzly bear and lots (50 or more) bison there.
Besides the campgrounds I have discussed, you may also reserve sites in Grant, which is located on the south side of the park's loop road. This campground has flush toilets and a dump station. Although there is no electricity available, generators are permitted. There is also a laundry and showers available near by for a fee.
Some first come, first serve campgrounds for which you cannot reserve a site are Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, and Tower Fall. These each have vault toilets. Again there is no electricity, and generators are not allowed in these campgrounds. These would be great for people camping with tents. We have looked at Indian Creek, and found it quite nice, located in a wooded area. We have also driven through Pebble Creek campground, and found that it is one of the best places to stay if you are looking for wolves in Lamar Valley. Slough Creek is also in Lamar valley and would be another good location to look for wolves and other wild animals from
Norris campground is also a first come first serve campground. Located in the Norris Basin area, and near meadows and a river, you may be treated to seeing bison and elk on a regular basis. This campground has flush toilets and generators are permitted. My photo was taken in the nearby Norris Geyser Basin.
I would recommend making reservations in advance for all accommodations where reservations are accepted. Arrive early for those that are first come, first serve.
We had a wonderful stay at Three Bears Lodge. They were fantastic setting up guided tours of Yellowstone. The restaurant was also pretty good, especially for breakfast. We had a room with two large beds, a small fridge, and a TV and paid $69 a night. That was pretty cheap compared to other hotels we checked out. West Yellowstone lies just outside the west entrance to the park. The west and the north entrances are the only ones opened this time of year.
Everything from the Creaking floors and old fashioned door handle to the mounted animal heads and all wood construction give it a truly olden experience. The price is right too about half what any other hotel we checked at. We only paid 42.90 per night.
The hotel was built in 1912 with a style of log construction with saddle notched corner timbering. It is the oldest existing hotel in west Yellowstone. Electricity and running water were added later and the main rooms come without a toilet or shower. There are two showers and restrooms for either sex at the end of the main hall. The electrical outlets and conduit runs in visible site as it was not part of the original construction. the hotel also has the unique distinction of being on the National Historic Register.
Nice location on outskirts of town,matched with its surrounding,up keep of rooms and fresh linen daily
good size cabins, jacuzzi bath big enough for two,nice game mounts on walls also artist prints for what you will pay at the chain inns and hotels this place has character and that home feeling
Awesome cottages; a bit on the expy side but well worth the money.
Excellent service, located a block away from the park. We had a 3 queen bed place, with a full kitchenette. Costed us about $250 per day for a full bedroom and additionally 2 queen beds in the living place, a full kitchenette and a dining table.
clean, private and great location.
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