The best campgrounds, hotels and lodges near Yellowstone National Park
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Yellowstone is one of the nation's most popular national parks. It's also one of my favorites. I've been four times in 2020 alone. I can tell you from experience it's also not a cheap place to visit -- especially in the summer. There are some tricks and decent deals can be found if you do your research.
Related: Complete guide to Yellowstone
Here's a complete guide to staying in the towns surrounding the park or in the park itself.
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There are plenty of places for you to stay in and around Yellowstone. Both vacation rental properties and hotels are plentiful at all five entrances to Yellowstone (there are three in Montana and two in Wyoming).
Points hotels (And a few non-points hotels) near Yellowstone
Search Cook City, Gardiner, Red Lodge or West Yellowstone in Montana for hotels or rental properties near the trio of Montana entrances. There are also plenty of places to bed down at the two Wyoming entrances or even in nearby Idaho. You can search Cody, Wyoming too. Jackson, Wyoming-area hotels will work too, but I've found the Jackson Hole area to be the most expensive place to stay.
If you’re looking for places to spend points, there are far fewer options unless you’re willing to stay a few hours outside the park in places like Bozeman, Montana; Idaho Falls, Idaho; or Jackson, Wyoming.
West Yellowstone, Montana
There’s a nice Holiday Inn in West Yellowstone where last-minute rooms in August start at $272 a night. That’s steep, but if you book early you can certainly find better rates. A long weekend in September will set you back $252 a night, or you can use 45,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night.
(Screenshot courtesy Holiday Inn/IHG)
I booked a room here in July and, despite the last-minute reservation, managed to secure a decent rate. Just watch out for added taxes and fees (unlike the rest of Montana, there are taxes in West Yellowstone). The final price ended up being almost $300 a night. Ouch.
There are also two Choice hotel properties travelers may want to consider: An Ascend Hotel for $212 a night and a Comfort Inn starting at $186 a night in West Yellowstone. Choice also has select properties in Livingstone, Montana, but that’s an hour away from the park.
Travelers can also consider the Days Inn by Wyndham West Yellowstone (from 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night). And if you have Best Western Rewards points, you could try the Best Western Desert Inn or the Best Western Weston Inn, both from 28,000 points per night.
If you’re looking for a major chain hotel, you’ll need to head to Bozeman, Montana or Jackson, Wyoming or even Idaho for a Hilton or a Marriott property. Rates are generally better, but it’s a good two-hour drive to Yellowstone from Bozeman. Prices are also high during the peak summer season — yes, even in 2020 — and can easily run at least $250 per night.
When it welcomes its first guests in August 2020, the 122-room Kimpton Armory Hotel Bozeman will be one of the area’s most exciting new properties. The art deco building dates back to 1941 and features a whiskey bar, a rooftop pool and a concert hall. It’s about an hour from Big Sky and two hours to the north entrance to Yellowstone. Rates range from $207 to $299 a night during August and September.
There are three Hilton properties in Bozeman including a Hampton Inn, a Homewood Suites and a Hilton Garden Inn.
Marriott has SpringHill Suites, Element, and a Residence Inn. Rates are high this summer starting around $200 a night, and it's even worse looking out to next summer when much is already sold out.
Big Sky, Montana
In Big Sky, the relatively new Wilson Hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, is one of the first from a major brand in the area. Rates start about $244 a night, and it's just about an hour (52 miles) from Yellowstone National Park. It's 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
The Lodge at Big Sky looks pretty rustic too. Rates start at about $189 a night.
Lone Mountain Ranch looks charming if you want to indulge your Western fantasies. In my research, it looks like rates start at about $450 per night.
You could use your Capital One card to put a dent in that spend. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is currently offering a bonus of 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This is $750 you can put toward travel expenses of your choice. (You can "erase" travel purchases from your credit-card statement at the exchange of 1 Capital One mile for 1 cent.)
If you're on a budget, there are lots of options in Gardiner, Montana, including a Super 8, a Travelodge by Wyndham and a Comfort Inn. There's also a non-points option that looks pretty charming and rustic: the Roosevelt Lodge. It averages around $200 a night, but prices can go as high as about $500 per night.
There is a brand-new Fairfield Inn and Suites in Livingston, Montana, about an hour from the park. It's near the northern entrance which is the only entrance open year-round. It is a Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 hotel and rates in August of 2020 started at $188 a night or 105,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Also in Livingston, there's a Travelodge and a Super 8 -- both by Wyndham, There's the Yellowstone Valley Lodge, an Ascend Hotel Collection, and a Comfort Inn as well. All are pretty basic but will do the trick for less than $150 a night.
Cody, Wyoming is another option for folks who don't mind driving a little over an hour to the park. It's a charming town in its own right with a museum dedicated to the Old West called the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
There are lots of motels and lodges in Cody, but the one that looks most interesting from a points POV is the Holiday Inn Cody at Buffalo Bill Village. Cash rates in September were about $122 a night or you could use 7.500 IHG Rewards Club points and $66 per night. A straight redemption would run you 17.500 IHG points (but availability is scarce).
There are tons of options in Jackson, Wyoming, but prices are high. You are literally at the doorstep of Grand Teton National Park, and only about an hour to a southern entrance to Yellowstone. It's 100 miles to Old Faithful.
There's the Marriott property SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole, but rates are high. Like almost $500 high. I was able to find rates as low as $355 in the offseason but that's still pretty pricey. It's a category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property, and redemptions start at 50,000 Bonvoy points per night this time of year (if you can find availability) and can go higher.
Hilton has a few properties in Jackson but they are pricey ($400+ a night). You could also use 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night which I would call a good deal.
If you want a really good cash deal, you'll need to head for Rexburg, Idaho, which is a pretty long drive over the mountains from Grand Teton National Park... another hour past Yellowstone. Rates there start at just $136 a night.
IHG has a new property in the area called Mr & Mrs Smith Caldera House, but there's no firm opening date.
Staying inside Yellowstone’s borders
Within the park, travelers will discover several rustic lodges. Xanterra is the concessioner for all accommodations inside Yellowstone National Park (as well as Glacier and others, too). Many of the large lodges have existed for more than a century, so keep that in mind and manage your expectations accordingly.
Hotels sell out quickly during the high season. Even with the coronavirus crippling travel, there isn’t much availability. In fact, only cabins are available in the park right now. Lodges are closed and are likely to remain shut down for the remainder of 2020. That makes inventory even scarcer than it usually is this time of year.
I was able to find some dates with availability, but prices are high. At Mammoth Falls Lodge cabins, rates were $277 a night for dates in August.
Back in June, I stayed in the cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge. They are charming but basic. The beds are small, and there’s no air conditioning. Still, it was really fun staying inside the park and having easy access to hiking trails and the beautiful Mammoth Springs.
The cabins at Old Faithful Lodge are cuter and just steps from the famous Old Faithful geyser. They’re tiny, sure, but the perfect base for exploring the nearby geysers, mountains and hot springs when I stayed there in June. Rates in August start at $174 a night.
If you’re thinking about staying inside the park next summer, act fast.
Betsy O’Rourke, chief marketing officer at Xanterra, told TPG earlier this year, “We open the inventory 13 months out and we sell out in a few hours. However, about 30% of that inventory cancels and gets rebooked.”
Her advice? Check back frequently. “Our cancellation policy is 48 hours out, so we do get cancellations even close in.”
You can find better deals if you’re willing to stay at a vacation rental instead. Airbnb has plenty of properties, especially for travelers who want something unconventional like a traditional log cabin, glamping-style tent or a treehouse.
Even last minute, there’s availability on Airbnb outside the park. I recommend searching for West Yellowstone or Gardiner. I found plenty of options near Montana’s Western entrance to the park starting at $157 a night.
Luxury accommodations near Yellowstone
It can also make a lot of sense to use your credit card points to help offset the cost of an upscale stay near the park. Consider redeeming a stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a stay at an independent property.
The Under Canvas “glamping” lodge is just 10 minutes from Yellowstone’s West Entrance. I found availability in August for $264 a night. With taxes and fees, a four-night stay would be just over $1,200.
If you want to splurge, try the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana — it’s about 4.5 hours from the park, and rates start around $1,600 a night. Paws Up resort in Greenough, Montana, is also a 4.5-hour drive, and rooms will set you back about $1,700 a night. And the first five-star, ultra-luxury hotel in the entire state, a Montage in Big Sky, will debut in 2021.
Camping in Yellowstone
Of course, you can always camp inside Yellowstone. The park has 12 proper campgrounds with over 2,000 individual spots. You can head over to Yellowstone National Park lodges to make reservations, which cost $27 a night, on average.
Other campgrounds are available on a first come, first served basis. They fill up quickly in the summer, and in 2020 not all campgrounds are available because of the pandemic, so your mileage may vary. A search in July found just four of the 12 campgrounds open and accepting reservations. In fact, most were full by 7 a.m.
If you have an RV or camping equipment, you can stay outside the park in the surrounding national forests for very little — or nothing at all. It’s called dispersed camping, and travelers comfortable with a more primitive stay should consider the surrounding Custer Gallatin or Bridger Teton National Forests.