Yellowstone National Park has hosted curious visitors (officially) since 1872, so there are lodging options galore: from extravagant guest ranches to campy motels to the simplest campsite.
How to decide: if you’re hell-bent on soaking up as much Yellowstone as possible, including the thrill of waking up in a timbered lodge or a tent close to geysers, stay in the Park. If you’re after a travel experience where you stay in unique lodging, pick from foodie options and can find a good latte, base your trip out of Cooke City, Gardiner or West Yellowstone.
For comparison, Gardiner is about 10 minutes to Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone is a half-hour to Old Faithful, and Cooke City is about 45 minutes to Roosevelt Lodge.
Lodging in the Gateway Towns
As the biggest entrance town, West Yellowstone wins most lodging options, with everything from quaint cabins and local inns circa 1960, to luxury safari tents and bed and breakfasts. Gardiner has one or two of everything, all injected with cowboy flair. The smallest and most remote, Cooke City hosts rustic lodgepole cabins, alongside a few small independent lodges.
Camping and RVing in the Gateway Towns
You can pitch a tent or pop an RV at several in-town campgrounds in West Yellowstone, or rumble into Rocky Mountain RV Park or Yellowstone RV Park in Gardiner. If you don’t mind trading a bit of a drive for a more woodsy experience, check your map for Forest Service campgrounds close to town.
Lodging in Yellowstone National Park
If you just want as much Yellowstone as possible, pick the Park’s lodges and campgrounds, open for warm season (with a few winter exceptions). Park lodges range from the atmospheric Old Faithful Inn, a national landmark and the largest log building in the world, finished in 1904, to the stately Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, to simple cabins, usually united with a central lodge with food options.
Camping and RVing in Yellowstone National Park
Even with 2,000 drive-up camp sites spread over 12 camps, camping in Yellowstone can get a little competitive in July and August. Reserve ahead at the five campgrounds that allow it, or take an early-morning cruise through the seven first-come, first served campgrounds.
Fishing Bridge RV Park creates a haven for RVs only, but both RVs and tents are welcome at almost all other Park campgrounds. Some Park campgrounds come with the works (showers, laundry, flush toilets) while others just include a vault toilet.
Backcountry Camping in Yellowstone National Park
For the intrepid, experienced and bear-aware, Yellowstone hosts over 300 primitive backcountry campsites. While backcountry permits themselves must be picked up in person at a ranger station within 48 hours of your stay (and not before), some campsites can be reserved several months in advance.
For summer stays, book early. We’ll say it again: book early—and sleep well.