The best Yellowstone National Park experience should include one or more nights actually sleeping in the Park, whether it be a stay at the Old Faithful Inn or a night sleeping under the stars at Slough Creek or Tower Fall. But unless you’ve planned ahead months in advance, you may find yourself shut out of the most desirable locales — or out of the Park completely.
So, your only choice is to find accommodations outside the Park. There are three gateway communities where you can usually find a hotel room of some sort. Now, we’re not going to be the ones recommending you pursue a room outside the Park in order to snare some air conditioning and other creature comforts: there is a certain level of hypocracy in traipsing around one of the most ecologically pure areas of the globe and then retreat to an air-conditioned hideaway. So don’t stay in a gateway community because it’s a more comfortable experience: stay there because you can’t find accomodations in the Park.
This is not an exhaustive listing of gateway accommodations. These are some of our favorites, places we’ve stayed, and places we know.
Big Moose Resort is right next door to the cabin owned by YellowstoneInsider.com’s senior editor, Nelson King, so we have no choice but to recommend it. No cabin is over $100, and they feature satellite TV and Internet access. The newer cabins are nicer, but there’s not a bad one in the lot. Tell Bev her neighbor Nelson sent you — if you’re lucky enough to snare a reservation.
The Super8 is the newest hotel in town, and the accommodations rate highly, even though the prices ($65-$90) are very reasonable. Free Internet and continental breakfast as well.
Above the Rest Lodge is located a couple of miles outside of Gardiner, but it offers a unique view of the city and the North Entrance. The five units are a little grander than just cabins and are suited for longer-term stays as well.
The Yellowstone Village Inn always has a witty saying on the highway sign, and it’s a standard hotel (featuring a nice pool and Internet access) where families can stay for under $100. It’s been remodeled in recent years, and the owners clearly take pride in their hotel’s cleanliness.
City Center Motel features cheap prices, a clean decor and fairly standard motel rooms. A $90 room may look good after spending time in the Park, spending over $200 a night plus tax.
Hibernation Station is located just outside the West Entrance and features 50 cabins, ranging in size from 480-square-foot single cabins to 980-square-foot family condos with multiple queen beds. Most of the cabins are done up in classic Yellowstone decor. The cabins are far enough apart to provide some intimacy, while art throughout the grounds adds a classy touch to a town that isn’t known for its subtlety.
The Lazy G Motel is straight out of the 1960s, with low prices ($56-$99, depending on the time of the year) and decor to match. Many of us have pleasant memories of roadside motels of this era, and owner Janice Gruber has maintained the 1960s vibe in both good and bad ways.
There are more accomodation farther afield, though you’ll spend a lot of time driving to Cody, Bozeman, Billings, Idaho Falls, Jackson Lodge, or Red Lodge.