Yellowstone suggestions
February 16, 2014 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Yellowstone lodging and other Yellowstone-related suggestions

Thinking about an early Fall (October 2014) or if that isn't possible, a next summer (July 2015) five to seven day vacation in Yellowstone. I've been before and stayed in Jackson Hole but because we will have kids, I would prefer to stay in the park to avoid the drive to the park. I'd like to mix up the lodging options because 1) it will be fun and 2) probably can't afford to stay in a nice lodge the entire time. I imagine we will be flying into Denver (though Salt Lake is a possibility if I get a great deal), renting a car, and driving to the park which means I expect that taking camping equipment with us on the plane wouldn't be possible because of the cost and the hassle. Looking, then, at the other options but I'm unable to get a good read from the websites what the lodging is actually like. I think we'd like to skip around in the park and stay 2 or 3 different places and my preference would be staying someplace that has a mini-fridge or a kitchen as an option so we don't have to eat at a restaurant for every meal. Do any of the cabins in the park have this as a possibility? Would you suggest a particular lodge in the park over another because of the amenities, location, or price? Anything else you wish you would have known before hitting the park or a particular travel guide that you found helpful?
I am not interested in renting an RV and I have read this question and the responses already. Thanks very much for any help you can give.
posted by youdontmakefriendswithsalad to Travel & Transportation around Yellowstone National Park, WY (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
By the end of September, a lot of the concessions are closed up. Just FYI. Mid-September, however, is really a great time in the park.
posted by notsnot at 4:41 PM on February 16, 2014

Three generations of my family have stayed at the Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch, near Cody. I need to get our brood up there to make it four. It's not in the park, though. I have nothing but great memories of the place.
posted by jquinby at 5:24 PM on February 16, 2014

My family and I stayed at the Bill Cody Ranch, which is about 30 minutes from Yellowstone, one September. I loved it; it was the highlight of the trip for me. Beautiful scenery, lovely rustic cabins, and horseback riding through the nearby hills. There was definitely a mini fridge in our cabin, plus an inexpensive mess hall on site.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2014

I've been to Yellowstone in winter which is a completely different experience. I also have no children which makes things easier. We stayed in West Yellowstone which is right next to the west entrance. The hotel we stayed at was 65 a night (two beds no kitchen but did have a microwave and fridge) it was adequate the cost made up for the food we purchased. In the winter a bonus is Big Sky ski resort is around 60 miles away and worth the trip. West Yellowstone entrance is about 40 miles from old faithful. We did that by snowmobile in the winter which is amazing. I heard from others that traffic is terrible in the other months of the year.
Yellowstone is huge so picking the entrance you want to use does make a huge difference. To me it seems that the north entrance is more popular and the main entrance.

Good luck and enjoy your trip.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:44 PM on February 16, 2014

All the accommodations inside the park are run by a licensee, now called Xanterra, formerly Amfac parks and resorts.

The Yellowstone accommodations page lists all the options inside the park. The key for you would be the closing dates for the various places.

Yellowstone is high mountain country, and snows in, early. October will be iffy weather, and much of the park's concessions will be shut for the winter.
posted by blob at 7:49 PM on February 16, 2014

Oh I just wanted to add if your or a family member is prone to altitude sickness be prepared. I get altitude sick at lower elevations than most people though. It seems most people have no or minor issues.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:50 PM on February 16, 2014

Most, if not all, of the accommodations in the park have limited connectivity in terms of wifi and cell reception (and will be closed in October anyway). It might not matter to you but when my boyfriend and I went that definitely eliminated staying in the park itself from our list of options.

We stayed in the Gardiner Travelodge because it was early May--still off-season, it snowed in the park while we were there--and they were just about the only hotel in Gardiner open. I know nobody writes home about Travelodges but you know, it was a very nice Travelodge! Most restaurants in Gardiner were closed, which was a pity, but you know we weren't there to see Gardiner. If you go in October, you will want to check when the entrances open and close, as it would be very silly to end up staying near an entrance that's closed during your visit.
posted by phoenixy at 1:05 AM on February 17, 2014

The park is basically closed during most of October and Novemeber. They do maintenance, etc. Here's the estimated open/close dates for park lodging:

Inside the park, I wouldn't recommend Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. We stayed there last winter and the walls are incredibly thin - we could hear our neighbors talking, moving around, snoring, etc. The heating system is really old and clangs loudly all night long. The hot water situation was not good - the shower alternated between freezing and scalding and there was not hot water from the tap. Stay in Gardiner instead! It's not very far to the north entrance.

The Old Faithful Snow Lodge is very nice but kind of expensive. I'd imagine the inn is similar. The location is amazing; it's a five minute walk to the geyser and there's lots of hiking nearby that doesn't require a drive.

With 5-7 days, you should focus on 1 or maybe 2 areas of the park. Yellowstone is huge.
posted by tealcake at 8:23 AM on February 17, 2014

I've just realized that if you're driving from Salt Lake or Denver that you won't be entering the park from the north... regardless, I'd stay away from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel! I'm not really familiar with any other areas of the park. Tripadvisor is a great resource. Also, surprisingly, the Xanterra people can be really helpful on the phone.
posted by tealcake at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2014

The park has an entire staff whose job it is to answer questions like this. They were really helpful when we were there. Call them and ask them. And don't just check the website because they will be able to tell you about the likelihood of cancellations, when to call back to check for cancellations, how to decide whether to go this fall or next summer (or some other time that you might not have thought about), and a bunch of other questions you might not even think to ask.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:38 PM on February 17, 2014

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