Yellowstone National Park is a destination, not something to see as you pass through the area, and it covers a lot of ground; so if you plan on spending several days in the park, we suggest staying overnight in the park itself. If you don’t mind the driving, however, or want to spend time outside the park, there are several upscale resorts in nearby towns (as well as thousands of possible campsites). We’ve got the basics on the best places to stay outside of a tent, whether you are inside or around the park, plus full hotel reviews to help you decide.
Inside the Park: Top Sights and Reservation Realities
Yellowstone-National-Park-Old-Faithful-Inn.jpgThe world’s first national park, Yellowstone is a 2.2 million acre showcase of natural wonders and wild animals. A figure eight of loop roads connect the top sights, with Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, and Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop; Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop; and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two. The park has five major entrances: East, South, West, North, and Northwest.
Book park lodging through Yellowstone National Park Lodges as far in advance as possible, especially for the peak summer season. Reservations are taken up to one year in advance.
Grand Teton: Another National Park Option
Grand-Teton-Jackson-Lake-Lodge-lobby.jpgAt the southern edge of Yellowstone, lies another massive national park with a variety of lodging from camping to cabins to luxurious lodges. These options also require advance booking for the summer; reserve through the Grand Teton Lodge Company.
Though lacking the geothermal wonders of it’s neighbor, the jagged peaks of the Teton Range rising up dramatically from the valley floor are a sight you will never forget. In addition to the park’s myriad opportunities for hiking and wildlife-watching, the Snake River is great for fishing and rafting, and the iconic homesteader buildings are an added bonus to compose your perfect mountain photo.
Outside Yellowstone: Nearby Towns and Attractions
Wyoming-Jackson-Shootout.jpgBecause of its airport and its proximity to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, Jackson (pictured), the closest town to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, is the region’s busiest community in the summer and has the widest selection of dining and lodging options. Meanwhile, the least well-known gateway, the little town of Dubois, southeast of the park, is far from the madding crowds and a good place to stop on the way in or out of the park if you want to visit the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center.
The most popular gateway from Montana, particularly in winter, is West Yellowstone, near the park’s West Entrance and home to the Yellowstone Gateway Museum.
As the only entrance to Yellowstone that’s open the entire year, Gardiner, in Montana, is always bustling. The Yellowstone River slices through town, beckoning fishermen and rafters. The town of 800 has quaint shops and good restaurants. North of Gardiner, along Interstate 90, is Livingston, a town of 7,500 known for its charming historic district.
With both Yellowstone and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness at its back door, the Montana village of Cooke City, at the park’s Northeast Entrance, is a good place for hiking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, and other outdoor activities. Some 50 mi to the east of Cooke City and 60 mi southeast of Billings via U.S. 212 is the small resort town of Red Lodge with more options for dining and lodging.
Named for Pony Express rider, army scout, and entertainer William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the town of Cody, in Wyoming, sits near the park’s East Entrance. It is a good base for hiking trips, horseback riding excursions, and white-water.