Hotels, cabins, guest ranches and lodges exist inside the Park, but at a premium – expect to pay between $150-$400+ per night. And you need to be prepared, reservations must be booked months or even a year in advance.
Landmark and historic lodges like Old Faithful Inn, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins or Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins are perfect for people who want the ultimate convenience of being inside the Park, and close to geysers and wildlife, prefer a bit more comfort, but don’t have to be too concerned about cost.
Campgrounds for tenting and RV are perfect for those that prefer to connect with the outdoors.
There are 12 Yellowstone campgrounds for tents and RV sites with services ranging from showers, laundry facilities or basic pit toilets for those that don’t mind roughing it.
Again these need to be booked well in advance. Only five campgrounds in Yellowstone permit advanced reservations, including Bridge Bay, Canyon, Madison, Fishing Bridge and Grant Village.
The rest are on a first come, first served basis, and in the peak of summer you can see lines already forming at 7am!
Certainly staying outside the Park opens up a wider choice of accommodation styles and budget.
And you’ll most likely want to align where you base yourself (at least initially) with which entrance you first enter the Park.
The five entrances to the Park and their gateway towns are;
West Entrance – West Yellowstone
North Entrance – Gardiner & Bozeman
Northeast Entrance – Silver Gate-Cooke City
East Entrance – Cody
South Entrance – Jackson – Grand Teton National Park
The largest of the communities and closest to Midway Geyser Basin with Grand Prismatic Spring and Upper Geyser Basin with Old Faithful.
The town has a wide array of lodging, dining and other attractions, making it the most popular (and busiest) base for people visiting Yellowstone.
The entrance to Yellowstone Park from the town of Gardiner is quite stately. Passing under the Roosevelt Arch you feel like you are entering another world, and you are. You don’t have to travel far to see Mammoth Hot Springs and the elk herds that flock to this area.
And if you are wondering if there are any areas where you can soak in the hot springs, Boiling River is one of only two areas in the park where you are permitted to swim. The hot springs here feed warm water into the Yellowstone River.
If you enter or exit the Park using the Northeast Entrance Station via Silver Gate – Cooke City, then you will drive through the Lamar Valley between the entrance and Tower Junction.
And if you’re here to see wildlife, then Lamar Valley is your destination. Often referred to as the Serengeti of the United States, this wide broad valley is a mecca for serious wildlife watchers. Bison, elk, bears, wolves, antelopes and otters are just a few of the species you might spot in this rich wildlife habitat.
Pack binoculars and a spotting scope. (Scopes and camera lenses can be rented in outdoor adventures stores).
The town is tiny but offers a good, if limited, selection of accommodation and dining choices.
If you want to combine your trip to Yellowstone with getting your cowboy on, then historic Cody offers Old West charm. There are a number of summer rodeos, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and western music venues.
It’s the “wildwest way into Yellowstone”.
Jackson and the neighbouring town of Teton Village at the ski resort are arguably the most glamorous of the towns bordering the National Parks. Celebrities and the wealthy fly into the small airport in their private jets, hence you’ll find a good selection of fancy restaurants, art galleries and stores to browse.
But you’ll also find a community of hard core mountain addicts and descendants of the pioneering families in trendy local brew pubs.
The town square features two archways made of shed antlers from the nearby National Elk Refuge. The National Museum of Wildlife Art has an indoor collection including Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks and an outdoor sculpture trail.