Yellowstone National Park is home to many great things. As the first national park in the world, Yellowstone has a distinction that’s well deserved. The park is full of golden valleys, roaring rivers, steaming geothermal features, and so much wildlife that it’s easy to mistake your life for a Nat Geo documentary. A Yellowstone vacation is unlike any other.
The wild world of Yellowstone makes it one of the most popular national parks in the entire world. Every year, the park welcomes over 4.2 million guests into the 2,221,766 acres that make up Yellowstone’s boundaries. The volume of visitors can make planning a Yellowstone vacation tricky. So, too, can the weather. Yellowstone starts getting heavy snowfall around early November, and park roads close to vehicle traffic until spring.
Fortunately, you’ve got Skyscanner’s guide to seven of the best places to stay in Yellowstone. Read along as we walk you through finding the coolest accommodations in the park. From campgrounds to cabins, lodges, and RV lots, there are plenty of places to lay your head down after a long day of exploring all that Yellowstone has to offer.
Vacation in Yellowstone: Know the park
The first step to having the best Yellowstone vacation possible is to understand the layout of this massive area. Yellowstone National Park spans three different states. Experienced visitors generally break the park into regions that correspond with the several entrances. For example, there is West Yellowstone and Northeast Yellowstone.
As the park covers so much territory, it’s good to start with some info about the differences between each region. This way, you can get the best match between where want to stay and the type of Yellowstone vacation you’re dreaming of.
West Yellowstone is arguably the more popular side of the park, and for several reasons. For one, the entrance to West Yellowstone is surrounded by a small town of the same name. The village of West Yellowstone provides amenities and lodging to campers who are prepping for a Yellowstone vacation. There are grocery stores, equipment and supply outfitters, and so many espresso signs you might think you’ve landed in Italy.
The westerly region of Yellowstone is home to a high concentration of geothermal features, including the famous Norris and Old Faithful Geysers. While the Northeast area of the park has its fair share of volcanic activity, the various steaming spouts of sulfuric gas around West Yellowstone outnumber those in the East. In addition to the famous geysers, there are several other highly popular attractions, like the Fountain Paint Pots and the highly photogenic Grand Prismatic Spring.
In 1991, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone after years of research into their importance as a keystone species. When conservationists resettled them, it was into East Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. Now, wildlife watching continues to be the biggest draw for this side of the park. Herds of bison roam at all hours of the day, and spotting elk, antelope, mountain goat, and the occasional moose or bear is common. Additionally, no vacation to East Yellowstone is complete without watching for wolf packs in the sunrise and sunset hours.
However, staying in East Yellowstone brings more than just chances to see the “locals.” Natural features like The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone highlight the incredible sightseeing opportunities around the area. The 20-mile long canyon is cut by a river that flows from Yellowstone Lake. Amazingly, this lake has 141 miles of shoreline for anyone looking towards a beach vacation in Yellowstone.
The best places to stay in Yellowstone for an incredible vacation
From primitive campgrounds to hotels, and cabins, there are numerous types of incredible lodgings in Yellowstone. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the coolest places to stay.
Campground lodgings in Yellowstone
A vacation in Yellowstone can be whatever you make it. But, for many visitors, Yellowstone lodging is all about being as close to nature as possible. Tent camping choices are plentiful in America’s crown gem of parks. Here are some of the most unique camping spots in the area.
1. Madison Campground
With 278 camping-only sites and one of the park’s longest seasons, Madison is arguably the most popular location to pitch a tent in Yellowstone. Located around 16 miles from the West entrance, Madison is your first option to plant stakes. Be prepared to make a reservation, because slots fill up fast.
Madison is a short drive to the active Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, and the Firehole River (a popular warm-water swimming hole). Wildflower meadows stretch all around the campground, lighting up the area with spring colors. Madison’s season goes from May 1st through the middle of October. As far as lodgings in Yellowstone go, Madison campground is a classic.
2. Canyon Campground Yellowstone
Canyon Campground is centrally located, which means it’s chockfull of chances for adventure. However, this makes Canyon nearly as popular as Madison. With a small park village within the grounds, guests can find seasonal cell-reception, hot showers for sweaty hikers, and even coin laundry.
Outside of Canyon, exciting experiences abound. Mount Washburn, a 10,000-foot dormant volcano is an excellent day hike for the intrepid wayfarer. Additionally, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is laced with walking trails around its rim, and Lake Yellowstone is just a short drive south. Make a reservation for this one too.
3. Pebble Creek Campground
Staying in Pebble Creek Campground is as close to backwoods camping as you can get in Yellowstone, without a full commitment to roughing it. Because Pebble Creek is the closest site to the Northeast Entrance, it is a bit more secluded. Fortunately, the incredible view and ambiance are worth the drive.
The Absaroka Mountain range flushes Pebble Creek with 360 degrees of cinematic views. The campsite’s namesake stream babbles relaxingly through the 16-odd tent lots. Soda Butte Creek is also close by and is a popular locale for fly-fishing. Outside the park gates, campers can explore Cooke City, a preserved example of a Western mining town. With a season running mid-June through the end of September, you’ll want to arrive early to Pebble Creek: sites are first-come and tend to fill up by 7:30 am.
4. Slough Creek Campground
As the only developed site within Lamar Valley, Slough Creek is a wildlife camper’s dream. At night, sharp-eared campers can often hear wolves howling from afar. Above, the open sky creates exceptional stargazing vistas. There are few places that can match the flashing colors of autumn in Slough Creek.
Similarly to Pebble Creek, Slough Creek has a no-reservation policy. So, make sure to set your alarm early in order to secure a spot at one of Yellowstone’s greatest lodging options. The extensive system of trails that branch out immediately from the site is too good to miss.
Inns and Cabins
For those who want to enjoy a getaway in Yellowstone, but prefer to maintain their creature comforts: this section is for you. There is an abundance of inns, motels, and cabins when visiting the national park.
Skyscanner is a community of travelers, so we know how important COVID-19 safety is to consider when booking hotels right now. Whether in a city or a national park, we are keeping that at the center of our focus with 5-star ratings on hotel cleanliness and free cancellation filter. Book a safe and smart Yellowstone vacation with our detailed info.
1. Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Do you remember that Yellowstone beach vacation we mentioned early? Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the elegant lodging for it. Structured as a colonial-style building, Lake Yellowstone was awarded the Green Seal Lodging Certification for sustainable operations. The hotel doesn’t just look luxurious: it’s outfitted with varying levels of suites, including a Presidential Suite once occupied by Calvin Coolidge. And, there’s wired internet! We’re not saying that the low-tech option is the way of the future, but we didn’t see anyone else out in the wild with such a strong web connection…
Lake Yellowstone Hotel is open from May 7 to September 26, so you can tan all summer on the shores of the lake. Since we know that lake life is the new American Dream, this plan sounds pretty good. While you’re staying at Lake Yellowstone hotel, consider booking a chartered boat tour; catch some fish, or just stick to catching rays. Either is productive.
2. Old Faithful Inn
The Old Faithful sector of Western Yellowstone has several different lodging options for guests to the park. There is the Old Faithful Inn, a historic landmark built between 1903-04. As the largest log structure in the world, the inn is often filled with creative inspiration via live music events, and an ‘Inspired By Yellowstone’ artist series. The massive stone fireplace serves as a central meeting place and a great photo backdrop. The season runs from May 2 to October 11.
Then, there is the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. As the newest hotel in Yellowstone, the Snow Lodge won the Cody Award for Best Western Design. The lodge, as well as the varying levels of log-cabin accommodations and amenities, offers a “build your own” Yellowstone vacation. You can book a bare-bones stay, all the way up to a full suite room, depending on the luxury you desire. Wherever you stay, the setting is an Instagram paradise. The Snow Lodge season goes from April 30 through October 24.
3. Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is another historic establishment within Yellowstone. One section of the building hails from 1911, while another was constructed in 1936. Similar to the Snow Lodge, there are several types of rooms or cabins you can rent. For us, it would have to be the Hot Tub Cabins: an accommodation that offers a fenced-in hot tub for six. Despite COVID-19 currently nixing that option, Mammoth still has plenty more to see.
From the hotel, visitors have the daily pleasure of watching scores of calm elk roam the property. Additionally, the hotel is seated right at the foot of one of the most interesting geothermal features in all of Yellowstone, the Mammoth Hot Springs terrace. The nearby Boiling River is one of Yellowstone’s only naturally heated swimming areas, although, you’ll need to double-check COVID-19 closures before you take a dip. Mammoth Hotel has a long season, going from June 1 to November 1.
However you are planning your Yellowstone escape, rest assured: there is an option for you. Lodging can be as luxurious or low-brow as you please. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should all be striving to follow our dreams in whatever way that feels best for us. Because, who knows what’s going to happen next.
Speaking of this crazy year, remember: When booking any travel, make sure to check local government guidelines. Things are constantly changing, so secure smart travel by staying up-to-date on regional changes, and utilize new features from Skyscanner like our ‘Flexible Ticket’ option when booking flights.
Where Can I Go?
Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Want to read more?
Check out these articles from Skyscanner’s community of travelers. And, while you’re getting inspired to travel again, make sure to stay up-to-date with the latest coronavirus regulations, safety precautions, and travel restrictions.
- 12 coolest places to camp in the USA
- The best national parks in Utah
- 12 things to pack if you’re traveling right now
Yellowstone National Park crosses the borders of three different states. Parts of the park are in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. The majority of the park is found in the latter two states.
Technically Yellowstone is open year -ound, though sometime around early November the park begins to close roadways due to weather. Yellowstone experiences heavy snow in the winter, and while local residents are permitted to snowmobile and cross-country ski throughout the park, automobile traffic is severely limited for safety reasons.
The entrance cost to Yellowstone depends on the mode of transportation (i.e. car, motorcycle, on foot etc.). A private vehicle can enter the park for 7 days for a $35 fee. If you have an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, it is valid to use at Yellowstone.
Yellowstone’s geothermal activity comes from a significant amount of volcanic activity underground. Technically, Yellowstone is an active volcano, although it’s “eruptions” have been dormant for 640,000 years. The U.S. Geological Survey has stated that Yellowstone is not overdue for an eruption.