top of page

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT YELLOWSTONE’S HOTELS AND GATEWAY CITIES


Canyon Lodge and Cabins

There are hotels and campgrounds located all around the park, with the main areas being Mammoth, Canyon, Lake, Grant, Roosevelt, and Old Faithful. An important note, especially if you plan to stay in one of the hotels, is that you’re in a National Park. Amenities that you commonly find in average hotels are not common due to the remote location. Costs per night are higher due to National Park taxes, fees with getting supplies, and a workforce that has to move there and live in supplied dorms within the park. Knowing this, here’s information about the different hotels:


1. Hotels within Yellowstone National Park



Canyon Lodge and Cabins:
This is the largest and newest lodging in the park. There are a total of 5 new buildings that have elevators, 2 older buildings with limited elevator access, and about 100 cabins.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • Due to fire restrictions, the rooms won’t have microwaves, and mini fridges are limited (for medicinal use only). Only Deluxe rooms will have mini fridges.

  • The Wi-Fi was recently updated to reach the lodge rooms, but it’s still very slow.

  • Pets are allowed in certain cabins.

  • Food can be found up the walking path to the Village in either the General Store or the Eatery.

  • This area is walking distance from the Lower Falls, and guests can easily take a short, flat hiking trail that begins among the cabins to some of the different lookouts.

  • There is also a nice campground across from the Village entrance.

  • Both the hotel and the campground are very popular, so make reservations at least 8 months in advance.

  • This area has a general store, restaurant, post office, visitor center, gift shops, and a gas station.


Lake Hotel:
This is a beautiful, Victorian hotel known for its shade of yellow. This area has Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins and Lake Lodge Cabins. Since Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the oldest standing hotel (from 1891) in Yellowstone, there are some limitations regarding accessibility and amenities.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • Some rooms will not have elevator access, particularly if you are in the Standard rooms in the Sandpiper Building. Other rooms will have to be accessed by specific elevators, so get directions when you check in.

  • Some rooms offer lake views, though some are obstructed by columns.

  • The cabins behind the hotel are cute and painted the same shade of yellow. They also have hard keys, so be sure to return them when you check out.

  • Pets are allowed in certain cabins.

  • There is a restaurant, bar, and gift shop located in the hotel lobby.

  • Dinner reservations can be made 60 days in advance for hotel guests, and 30 days in advance for people staying elsewhere within the park.

  • If you're not staying in a Xanterra property (hotel or one of their campgrounds), you'll have to wait for walk-in spots.

  • Be sure to arrive early for the restaurant. For walk-ins, you will have to put your name on a list and then be given a buzzer for when your table is ready.

  • Wi-Fi is extremely limited, with the best Wi-Fi being in the lobby of Lake Lodge.

  • Be sure to book rooms at least 6 months in advance.

  • This location has a restaurant, post office, medical clinic, general store, bar, and gift shops.


Old Faithful:
There are a couple of different properties in this area: the iconic Old Faithful Inn, the Lodge Cabins, and the Snow Lodge. The style of these buildings is a lot more rustic than elsewhere in the park, with the use of log columns and cedar shingle roofs.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • The Snow Lodge is the newest and offers the strongest Wi-Fi in their lobby.

  • The Old Faithful Inn is by far the most popular place to stay in the park, with the lobby being absolutely stunning.

  • Some rooms offer geyser views, but most will not.

  • BE CAREFUL in selecting your room type. Since some of the buildings are older, some rooms will not have private bathrooms. This is important when booking for the Inn and the Lodge Cabins.

  • There is also no Wi-Fi access in the Inn unless you happen to have phone signal (Verizon).

  • I would recommend booking a year in advance for this location.

  • There is a restaurant, deli, gift shop, general stores, visitor center, medical clinic, and a small gas station in this area.


Mammoth:
This is a popular area, with the road to the North Entrance into Gardiner, MT being open all year. Mammoth Hotel and Cabins is also historic since it has been there since 1936. Be aware that this area was affected by the flooding in June 2022, so the road to Gardiner has changed.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • There is no Wi-Fi, though you can usually use the nearby visitor center.

  • There are several room types that don’t have private bathrooms, so be careful what you book.

  • There are also a few cabins that have hot tubs in a fenced in enclosure.

  • There is a map room with a huge 17’ 2” x 10’ 4” United States map. Try to find the state capital that’s wrong!

  • The campground nearby is also open for most of the year, but be prepared for no hookups and pumping water. This campground is run by the National Park Service, so be sure to check for updates.

  • There is a general store, visitor center, post office, medical clinic, and small gas station in this area.

  • I would be sure to book at least 7 months in advance for this location.


Grant Village:
This is one of the newer properties, built in 1984, that is located on the south side of the park. If you plan on spending time in Grand Teton National Park, this could be a good option.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • This area is on Lake Yellowstone and offers beautiful sunrises over the lake.

  • There is very limited Wi-Fi and only one basic room type, with some handicap accessible rooms on the ground floors.

  • There is a general store, gift shop, restaurant, and small gas station.

  • This is one of the smallest properties and has a short season, so be sure to book at least 6 months in advance.


Roosevelt Lodge Cabins:
If you're looking for a more rustic option, Roosevelt might be a good fit. This area embraces the western side of Yellowstone.

What to Know Before Booking:

  • This is the closest lodging for Lamar Valley.

  • Several activities like horseback rides, stagecoach rides, and the popular Old West Dinner Cookout are based here.

  • There are fewer amenities here compared to other lodges.

  • The regular Frontier Cabins have bathrooms and a fairly normal cabin layout.

  • If you want to "rough it", the Roughrider Cabins don't have bathrooms and rely on wood burning stoves for heat.

  • I would book at least 9 months in advance since this area of the park has a very short summer season.




 

2. What to Expect When Staying in These Hotels


· Cell Service is VERY Limited:

The park has limited coverage, with Verizon being the best:

· The best cell provider for the park is Verizon, by far. I started the summer season with AT&T, and I just couldn’t find service. For those without Verizon, the Old Faithful tower is the strongest, so you might get a couple of bars. There is also a chance you might get signal for a minute on Dunraven Pass (near the top). The most reliable spot for whatever reason was actually a hiking trail pull-off in the Canyon area. There is a hiking trail called Cascade Lake (which I highly recommend as well) that has a small pull-off near the 4-way stop at Canyon. Depending on the weather, I was able to get signal here fairly consistently. Otherwise, I would recommend driving to a gateway city for signal.

· Wi-Fi is a Luxury:

Without cell service, finding wi-fi is tricky:

· During 2021, certain parts of the park (mostly the Canyon area) were getting updates regarding their ancient Wi-Fi. Most places will still not have any access however, mostly due to the historic nature of the locations. You can find limited Wi-Fi access in the lobbies of Lake Lodge, Mammoth Hotel, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and in the lobby and rooms of Canyon Lodge. You can also usually get limited Wi-Fi in the Visitor Centers as well.

· Microwaves are Fire Hazards:

None of the hotels have microwaves:

· Most hotels tend to have microwaves in the rooms. However, this is not true for any hotel room in the park. Fire restrictions are taken extremely seriously, so microwaves are not allowed in the rooms for any reason. There are a couple that can be found in different restaurants and coffee stations, but check with an employee at that location as to whether you can use it or not.

· Pay Phones are in the Past:

Without cell service, figuring out communication is difficult:

· With cell service being extremely limited, pay phones are often referenced as a necessity. Unfortunately, all pay phones have been removed from the park at this point. If you need to make a call, and you’re staying in a hotel room, you can often make a call (that will be included on your bill at checkout) from the landline phone. If you are trying to reach a 1-800 number, you can also make a call from your hotel business center (check at the hotel front desk for specifics). If neither of these are an option, you may need to drive into a gateway city since front desk employees are not allowed to place outside calls for guests.

· Daily Housekeeping is Not Common:

There are too many rooms and often too few staff:

· Staff sizes are very limited within the park, with the housekeeping department being no exception. Often, there is not enough staff to clean every lodge room each day, so only turnover rooms are cleaned. If you’re staying for over a week, they may offer a linen change for bedding and towels. Each location is different, so be sure to check at the front desk. You can request extra towels at any time, though be prepared for a delay if you need them delivered. I usually recommend just asking for extra supplies directly at the front desk since they usually have a small stock of items. Deliveries are often done by the front desk or bell staff when certain departments are short, so please be patient with any wait times.

· Maintenance Issues Happen:

Some of the hotels are very old, and nearly all are closed and not maintained during the winter:

· Most properties in the park are very old, so there will be quirks with each one. Even in newer locations, like Canyon, there are older cabins and buildings. If you are visiting in the spring when buildings first open, be prepared for maintenance issues since these buildings have just opened for the first time in months after being covered in ice and snow. Older properties often have issues with hot water since certain rooms or cabins share resources. That means that sometimes when someone in the room next door takes a shower right before you, there might not be any hot water for a few minutes. Heaters also vary in that some are radiant heat while others are electric. Radiant heaters can take up to an hour to start working properly. Most issues are easy to fix, so just call the front desk so they can send someone. Please be patient with wait times, especially in the evenings, as there are usually multiple requests and only 1-2 maintenance workers.

· Air Conditioning Isn't Used:

None of the hotels have air conditioning:

· Park temperatures can vary during the summer, with overall temperatures being on the cool side. During the day, the rooms can get very warm, but the nights are much cooler. Because of this, none of the hotels have air conditioning. The rooms will usually come with a small fan that you can position next to a slightly opened window. You can sometimes ask for an additional fan, but there are limited supplies.


Old Faithful Inn

 

2. Gateway Cities Around Yellowstone


There are 4 main cities located around Yellowstone: Gardiner, MT to the north, West Yellowstone, MT to the west, Cody, WY to the east, and Jackson, WY to the south. There is also a more secluded entrance to the northeast located near Silver Gate, MT. This area is also used for the scenic Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways.

· Gardiner, Montana:

The north entrance of the park is located a couple of minutes south of this small, mountain town.

  • Gardiner is the closest town to any park attraction, with the others requiring a longer drive into any of the main sites. Just be aware that this is a popular entrance, so try to head into the park early!

  • There are a variety of hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and tour companies based here.

  • There is also a small gas station and grocery store along the main road. If you are getting low on gas, get it here before getting into the park. The prices, while still high, are much cheaper!

  • It’s crowded during peak summer months, so be sure to plan ahead for any hotel or restaurant reservations.

  • If you want to focus your trip around the northern part of the park like: Lamar Valley, Mammoth, and Dunraven Pass, this would be a good option for you.

  • Elk and mountain goats frequent this area.

  • Overall, Gardiner is a nice place to stay. People are welcoming, there are great food options (in particular the Elk Chili Mac at the Wonderland Café), and it’s a short ride into the park.

· West Yellowstone, Montana:

The west entrance is possibly the most popular gateway city into the park.

  • West Yellowstone has some of the more popular gift shops for Yellowstone merchandise. You’ll find anything from T-shirts to fishing gear.

  • There are plenty of hotel and restaurant options, but the peak summer months book up quickly.

  • While there are many food options, dinner times are usually packed. My favorite places to eat here are Pete’s Rocky Mountain Pizza and The City Creamery (for fresh ice cream).

  • There are a couple of small grocery stores within this small town, and both tend to be well stocked. However, if one doesn’t have what you need, the other probably will.

  • There is the West Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center for those who want to see bears and wolves up close outside of the park.

  • While the park entrance is seconds from the town, the actual drive into the park from the west entrance can take a while.

  • You might see some elk, bison, or even a rare moose as you approach the Madison junction in the park.

  • If you do end up staying in West Yellowstone, DO NOT head into the park too late in the morning or back out around 6pm. The massive traffic jams can easily take hours! Leave earlier or later in the morning, or wait until just before sunset to go back out. You can also avoid the main traffic leaving the park if you come back to the Madison junction from the north side rather than from Old Faithful.

· Cody, Wyoming:

This western town is much larger than Gardiner or West Yellowstone, and it’s famous for its rodeo and Buffalo Bill Museum.

  • This city has its own history, and many of the stores and museum focus on its western past.

  • You can see wild horses in this more rural area.

  • There are many hotel and food options, including more popular chains.

  • There is also a hospital, many gas stations, and a Walmart for anything you need.

  • There are some really good food options like Bubba’s Bar-B-Que and The Station (for a more unique option of coffee and crêpes).

  • The main downside about staying in this gateway city is how long it takes to get into the park. It takes about an hour and a half just to get to the east entrance. From there, you take Sylvan Pass down to Yellowstone Lake.

  • While the long drive into the park can be annoying, it’s perhaps one of the most beautiful roads in the area. If you go in June (wildflowers) or late September (golden trees) in particular, you are in for a treat!

  • Cody is my personal favorite of the gateway cities.

· Jackson, Wyoming:

This is by far the most urban feeling city on this list with museums, expensive hotels, and its own airport.

  • If you want to explore Grand Teton National Park, then this could be the option for you.

  • Jackson has numerous hotels (though more expensive than the other gateway cities), upscale restaurants, and art museums.

  • The overall feel of this city is much more upscale and high end compared to the other more rustic cities.

  • The drive into Yellowstone is very long, usually about an hour and 20 minutes just to the south entrance. From there, it takes about another hour to get to Old Faithful.

  • This drive is very long, but it easily combines the beauty of Grand Teton National Park along the way.

  • If you are there in the fall, take a side trip up the Moose-Wilson road for stunning fall foliage!

· Silver Gate or Cooke City, Montana:

Often overlooked due to their more remote location and much smaller size, these two mountain towns are located near the northeast entrance into the park and Lamar Valley. Just be aware that this area was also affected by the flooding in June 2022.

  • These two towns are a couple of minutes from each other.

  • They are very small, so lodging is extremely limited.

  • There are very few food or gas options, so plan accordingly.

  • If you happen to get breakfast in Cooke City during peak season, try the very small Bearclaw Bakery. The menu changes daily since it’s run by a handful of people based on what ingredients they have. They’re extremely friendly, and the food and coffee is amazing! Just go early because when they’re out of food, they close!

  • This is the closest entrance for seeing Lamar Valley, so wildlife viewing in this area is amazing. Foxes are commonly seen near the roads.

  • If you want to drive the scenic Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways, you can head east from Cooke City for their starts.



 

There is no wrong answer as to where to stay within or around the park. It will mostly depend on what you’d like to see, the time of year, where you’re coming from, and general availability. To help decide, make out a list of things you’d like to see or do. For example:
  • If you want to focus on viewing wildlife, I’d recommend the northern side of the park.

  • If you want beautiful scenery and fewer people, the eastern side is a better fit.

  • Geysers and Grand Teton National Park are closer for the southern side.

  • The western side offers more and closer amenities.

  • For something in the middle, the Canyon area would be more ideal.

Just bear in mind that no place is perfect since you will have to choose whether you’d prefer more amenities or a closer location. Overall, each location is fantastic, so you’re sure to enjoy your trip no matter where you stay.

Yellowstone is always worth it!

 




Related Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page