While it might be hard to do a cheap flight or car rental on the trip to the park, there is one expense that might save or skyrocket your budget: lodging. How to stay inside the Yellowstone on a budget, all secrets below :).
Hotel rooms inside the Yellowstone National Park during peak season (summer) cost around $200-$400 per night. Moreover, they start filling up almost a year in advance for the cheapest and exclusive options, while the rest may still be available even in the middle of January.
In spring, most of the lodging inside the park will be fully booked for the upcoming summer season. Regardless of how much money you are willing to spend.
Why lodging inside Yellowstone is so important
Lodging is the one most crucial thing for your trip to Yellowstone National Park and has to be arranged far in advance (more about it below). Staying inside the park means spending less time driving and sitting in traffic at a park entrance each day, and more time on sightseeing and rest.
During our trip to Yellowstone at the beginning of September, we booked 3 nights inside and 2 outside the park. The morning we had to enter the park was a nightmare: we spent in line for 2 hours just to get through the park entrance. From there, it took us another hour to get to our first destination.
At the end of day 1, we were staying in Lake Lodge cabins inside the park, so there was no need to repeat this painful process the following morning, nor spend extra hours driving back and forth.
The park is huge and crowded: everybody wants to visit it during the high season (June – September).
Top 3 locations to stay inside Yellowstone National Park
The top three locations for staying at Yellowstone are Lake Lodge, Old Faithful Lodge, and Canyon Lodge.
Lake Lodge and Old Faithfull Lodge were built years and years ago and not all of the rooms are renovated (you can check that on the website while booking). Be ready for a digital detox: at all three lodges, you won’t find TV, radio, nor AC. You can purchase and use WiFi in the lobby only.
On the picture below, one of the most popular lodges at Yellowstone: Old Faithful Inn:
Also, there are no phones, fridges, coffeemakers or microwaves in the rooms, except for the most expensive ones.
Yellowstone: stay inside on a budget
This is one of the top secrets about Yellowstone we have discovered thanks to our friends. You can stay as low as $30 per night if camping or less than $100 in a cabin at Yellowstone National Park.
On the picture below, view from Artist Point at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is only 9 minutes away by car from Canyon Campground
We booked our cabins pretty late – at the end of February for the upcoming season. It cost us $150/night, which isn’t cheap, but definitely better than the $300/night we paid for the Gardiner and West Yellowstone hotel rooms.
Plus, we saved on driving time by staying inside the park, which is priceless.
We stayed 3 nights at Lake Lodge cabins and were pretty happy with them. Rooms were small but clean. The cafeteria at Lake Lodge had a huge variety of healthy foods at reasonable prices. Most visitors just walked to the cafeteria from cabins (don’t forget a flashlight, it’s really dark outside after sunset).
Every morning and at the dusk we were driving along the Yellowstone Lake and it was gorgeous:
My favorite photo of cabins at Lake Lodge Yellowstone:
Our cabin at Lake Lodge was renovated. It was small but neat, with a bathroom and enough place to squeeze in a queen air mattress for kids:
Our friends had an old (not renovated) cabin with a quite shabby interior. I would stay there only if there are no other options available.
Book Old Faithful Lodge/Canyon Lodge/Lake Lodge cabins 6-12 months before the upcoming summer or as soon as reservations becomes available.
Camping at Yellowstone
Camping is a great experience and the best way to save on lodging at Yellowstone. Our friends camped at the park and liked it. We stumbled at one campground and were surprised how nice and well maintained it was (we checked the bathrooms too).
I personally would not choose to camp at Yellowstone for 2 reasons. First, we would lose precious time at the park because we are slow as a snail at packing/cooking, etc. And second, nights at Yellowstone are very cold. Temperatures get as low as 35.6 F (2 C) on a summer night!
On the pictures below: Mammoth Hot Springs and its location n the map. Mammoth Campground is the only one available year-round at Yellowstone.
Be ready to book super early for the best rates and availability: 6-12 months in advance for camping or Old Faithful Rustic Cabins, Lake Lodge Cabins, Roosevelt Lodge Cabins.
Best places to stay outside the park
If everything is already booked inside the park, the best locations for staying outside of the Yellowstone are West Yellowstone and Gardiner (we tried both).
Outside of the park, lodging will be much easier to find. We booked rooms for the Labor Day weekend only 4 weeks prior to arrival. But be ready for high prices if you are running late. We paid around $300/night for standard hotel rooms vs $150/night for cabins inside the park.
Thanks for reading and have a great trip!
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