Not only is Yellowstone the most famous national park in the United States, but it’s arguably the most famous national park in the entire world as well.
The park takes up nearly 9,000 square meters (3,500 square miles), and this area encompasses quaint lakes, towering mountains, enchanting forests, canyons, and so on.
When it comes to deciding where to stay in Yellowstone, you should probably base your decision on what you want to see in the park and how much walking and hiking you’re prepared to do to get from your hotel to the attraction that you’re interested in.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone
Yellowstone sees somewhere between three and four million visitors a year, and most of those come solely to see Old Faithful erupt.
It’s pretty understandable that a lot of people come to see this geyser since it’s one of the most noteworthy attractions of the park, and it’s probably the first thing that most people think about when you mention Yellowstone.
However, the park itself contains so much more natural beauty than just this one attraction. For one, you also have the Steamboat Geyser, which might not be nearly as famous as Old Reliable, but it has the title of being the largest active Geyser in the entire world.
Taking a hike through the many forests or the mountain ranges in this area will also give you a chance to experience the breathtaking vastness, the spectacular views, and even the wonderful flora and fauna scattered all over the park.
This national park is so much more than what first-time visitors seem to believe.
When it comes to deciding on where to stay in Yellowstone, we’d suggest sticking close to the location that you want to visit the most because you’ll be in for one hell of a trek each day before you manage to get to what you want to see.
Now, the only question is how you will know which attraction you might like to visit if this is your first time at the park. That’s where we come in! We’ve made a list of the most famous attractions that the park has to offer and let you in on the easiest way to get to them.
The 5 Best Areas of Yellowstone
The four cities that we mention in this article are very far apart, so you’ll need to pick one of them before you take your trip. To make the choice easier, we’ve outlined the best attractions and hotels in the following areas:
- West Yellowstone: The gateway to the park filled with eateries and wildlife tour opportunities
- Cody: Buffallo Bill’s original town and awesome golf courses
- Jackson: The go-to spot for fishermen
- Red Lodge: Winter wonderland and the best way to experience the Beartooths
Yellowstone’s Best Areas and Hotels
Before we start, we should probably mention that none of the cities that we mention are all that close to the park itself.
This means that even if you stay in one of these locations, you’ll still need to get in your car and drive for between half an hour and over 60 minutes just to get to the attraction that you were hoping to see.
That being said, the hotels and the locations that we mention are still your best bet if you want to get as close to Yellowstone as possible without breaking out the camping equipment.
We think that we picked out some pretty good hotels and lodges, so now all that’s left is for you to pick out a destination and go on that trip!
1. West Yellowstone
As the name suggests, West Yellowstone is located west of the park. Due to its proximity to the park itself, this city is often used as a destination for tourists that are looking to find a room so that they can have easy access to the park in the morning.
While it primarily serves as a gateway to the park, West Yellowstone Town still has a few restaurants and bars that you can visit if you’re in the mood to go out for a drink with your friends or if you want to go to a fancy restaurant for a night out in town.
You might also be interested in visiting the animal refuge center, where you might be able to sneak a glimpse of the grizzly bears, wolves, and the several bird species that are usually kept there until they’re healthy enough to be released back into the wild.
There are also plenty of wildlife tour organizers that you can get a hold of and see the animals in their natural habitat. While West Yellowstone is known as a gateway to the park, it’s still pretty far away from the main attractions.
This means that you’re still in for quite a long trek to the park itself and the attractions that you might be interested in seeing.
Things to Do
- Visit the Grand Prismatic Spring that’s located on the path between the city and the park, and check out all of the colors on display there.
- Rent out a mountain bike, get a pair of sunglasses, grab a bottle of water, and take a trip down the designated biking mountain trail.
- While it may not be as impressive as the other two, the Jelly Geyser is located relatively close to West Yellowstone, so you can easily get there by car.
- Visit the site of Old Faithful and wait to see the eruption of the most famous geyser in the world once it hits the 90-minute mark.
Where to Eat
- Firehole Bar-B-Que Co. is the best place in town to get some meat from a grill.
- Running Bear Pancake House is the place to go if you want some breakfast in the morning.
- Trappers Family Restaurant has a pretty large menu that you can order from.
West Yellowstone Budget Hotels
- Travelers Lodge comes with free wifi in the lobby, BBQ facilities, and rooms that come with an AC unit and a cable TV.
- Under Canvas Yellowstone is located really close to fishing and hiking spots, has an on-site restaurant and bar that guests can use, and all of the tents come with a wood stove and private shower.
West Yellowstone Mid-Range Hotels
- Stage Coach Inn has a small but well-equipped fitness center, an indoor pool that you can use all year round, and rooms with free wifi and cable TV.
- Kelly Inn West Yellowstone provides all of the guests with access to a communal sauna and a business center, and all of the rooms come with a microwave and a flat-screen TV.
West Yellowstone Luxury Hotels
- Gray Wolf Inn & Suites provides all of the guests with rooms that have a TV with satellite channels, continental breakfast each morning with quite a spread of different food, and free wifi throughout the hotel.
- Yellowstone Park Hotel provides all of the guests with a microwave, refrigerator, a flat-screen satellite TV, and a coffee maker in every room, in addition to the indoor pool and the ironing facilities that all of the guests can use.
Cody is a pretty small city on the east side of Yellowstone. However, despite the diminutive size, this is still one of the largest towns within the bounds of the park and one of the only cities that’s close enough to stay in and actually see Yellowstone in all its glory.
The authentic buildings that you can find if you visit the Old Trail Town can give you a small glimpse of what the cities looked like back during the days of the American frontier.
This place features cabins that were used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as the grave of mountain man John Johnston, who used to be a noteworthy figure in the old west.
There are a few horse ranches in this area where you can go and see these majestic animals for yourself, and maybe even take a few lessons and try to stay on the back of one until you get used to the feel of the saddle and can take the horse for a ride.
Cody is a tourist town that’s mostly there to provide tourists with easy access to the national park, so it’s mostly empty of any sort of shops or entertainment venues that might serve as a draw to tourists in other cities.
Things to Do
- Visit the Old Trail Town to see the buildings and carts that were left as remnants from Buffalo Bill’s original Cody Town.
- Go to one of the ranches in this area, learn how to ride a horse, and take it down to one of the mountain trails for a fun cowboy experience.
- Go down to the Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center and check out the beautiful scenery in the area.
- Take your can and go down the main road until you get to a path that leads you to the massive Yellowstone lake to see the South Arm, Southeast Arm, or the West Thumb.
Where to Eat
- Granny’s Restaurant is a great place to go if you want some breakfast in the morning.
- Trailhead Bar – Grill – Wood Fired Pizza is where visitors should go to get some Italian food.
- China Town offers a buffet-style eatery where you can get yourself some Chinese food.
Cody Budget Hotels
- Super 8 comes with a cable TV in all of the rooms, a complimentary breakfast each morning, and free wifi throughout the hotel.
- Beartooth Inn has a free continental breakfast every morning that comes with Belgium waffles, as well as cable TV and free wifi in every room.
Cody Mid-Range Hotels
- Cody Legacy Inn & Suites comes with an on-site gym, free wifi, and a cable TV in all of the guest rooms, as well as coffee and tea facilities.
- Best Western Sunset Inn has a laundry facility that all of the guests can use, a children’s playground, and a fitness center in the hotel.
Cody Luxury Hotels
- Cody Cowboy Village gives you access to an outdoor seasonal pool and a hot tub, a free parking space for all of the guests, and a tennis court where you can play a few matches against your friends or family.
- Best Western Premier Ivy Inn & Suites has a pretty boastful name, but the claim is supported by the fully-equipped fitness center, the fully stocked bar where you can get a drink, and the rooms that come with an AC unit and a Flat-screen TV.
Jackson is located around 90 miles south of the south entrance to Yellowstone, which might not seem like it’s that close, but it’s actually one of the only cities in this area.
It’s a decently sized city, and it comes with quite a few shopping malls, restaurants, markets, and other shops that you might need during your visit. On the road toward Yellowstone, one of the paths will take you through Grand Teton National Park.
Here, you’ll be able to find beautiful hiking trails, areas where you can go for a swim in the lakes, rafting locations where you can rent out a little boat for yourselves, and plenty of wildlife that you can catch glimpses of.
Taking the other trail to Yellowstone that leads you past Teton Village will also take you past the many lakes that are present in this area.
There are six in total, namely Jackson Lake, Leigh Lake, Jenny Lake, Bradley Lake, Taggart Lake, and Phelps Lake, and they all have their own natural beauty that you can stop and admire if you want to take a break during your drive.
The obvious problem with this location is that it takes a few hours to get to the park, and even then, you’ll need to drive on rough and narrow roads, so it might take you half a day just to visit Yellowstone and get back to your hotel.
Things to Do
- Visit the nearby Beaver Creek and take a hike down one of the most beautiful mountain trails that you’ll find in the entire US.
- While the Lone Star Geyser might not be Old Reliable, it’s still surrounded by a lot of great sights that you can snap a few pics of.
- Fairy Falls is probably the most beautiful waterfall in Yellowstone National Park, and the track to get there is equally as breathtaking.
Where to Eat
- Jackson Hole Winery is where you go if you want to grab a stiff drink.
- El Abuelito Family Mexican Restaurant offers an authentic Mexican menu with all of the spices that you might expect.
- Picnic offers quite a nice breakfast spread as well as a place where you can grab a quick coffee and pastry.
Jackson Budget Hotels
- Flat Creek Inn offers a simple room that comes with a cable TV, a microwave, a mini-fridge, and even coffee-making facilities.
- Cache House provides you with larger beds than the standard hostel, as well as free wifi, a front desk that’s open 24/7, and very reasonable prices for the accommodations.
Jackson Mid-Range Hotels
- Antler Inn comes with a fully-equipped fitness center, an indoor pool and a hot tub for the guests, and a coffee maker in every room.
- The Virginian Lodge has a cable TV and AC unit in every room, and it comes with a beauty salon and liquor store on the premises, free wifi in all of the rooms, and billiard facilities in the common area.
Jackson Luxury Hotels
- The White Buffalo Club has a 42-inch TV in every room, an in-house steakhouse where you can get a free breakfast every morning, as well as lunch and dinner when you want, and each room also comes with tea and coffee making facilities.
- 49’er Inn & Suites comes with a pretty well-equipped fitness center, an indoor pool and hot tub that you can use at any time, and a cable TV and coffee maker in every room.
4. Red Lodge
Red Lodge is a very small town but a very popular tourist destination during the winter months. Many people come here in order to try out the ski slope on Red Lodge Mountain.
But a lot of people also enjoy the local attractions like the skating rink and the Clay Center, which allows you to make a misshapen vase as a souvenir of your trip.
While this particular location might be a bit more popular during the colder season, there are also plenty of things to do during the summer as well.
You can try to do a bit of hiking up the Beartooths, you can go down to Wild Bill Lake and try your hand at fishing, and you can even get a few swings in on the local golf course as well.
Nature lovers will find no shortage of fun activities here like the ones we just mentioned, but we believe that just about anyone can enjoy the rustic beauty of this place. And plus, who can say no to fresh air and beautiful landscapes as far as the eye can see?
Well, that’s just the thing, if you’re not much of an outdoorsman and don’t enjoy any of the activities that we just mentioned, then this small town doesn’t have much else that it can offer you.
Things to Do
- Spending the winter in Red Lodge is the best way to learn how to ski or maybe brush up on those same skills if you’re a bit rusty.
- While you’re picking up new skills, you can try your hand at horseback riding as well and experience the hiking trails from an elevated perspective.
- The candy emporium is another pretty popular attraction in the town, but it can be pretty dangerous, especially if you don’t floss daily.
- Take your car and go down Beartooth Highway, which is a very scenic road that takes you past valleys, thick forests, and glacial lakes.
Where to Eat
- Cafe Regis is a great place to grab a cup ‘a joe in the morning
- Sam’s Tap Room & Kitchen lets you sit down and grab a drink with your friends
- Cattail Bakery is where you go if you’re in the mood for some pastries
Red Lodge Budget Hotels
- Red Lodge Inn provides all of the guests with a microwave in every room, and some rooms even come with a kitchenette as well.
- Chateau Rouge provides you with free parking and wifi, as well as an indoor pool and a flat-screen cable TV with a DVD player in every room.
Red Lodge Mid-Range Hotels
- Chickadee Chalet by AAA Red Lodge Rentals offers you access to a cabin that comes with three bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a flat-screen TV.
- Lupine Inn comes with coffee-making facilities that all of the guests can use, a 24-hour front desk, and a vending machine in the lobby.
Red Lodge Luxury Hotels
- Beartooth Hideaway Inn & Cabins come with both an indoor and an outdoor hot tub that all of the guests can use, free wifi throughout the location, a TV and AC in every room, and kitchens that come with a microwave.
- The Pollard Hotel provides you with access to a well-equipped fitness center where you can work out, a sauna for post-workout steam, a bar where you can sit and get a drink, and even a vending machine in the lobby if you get peckish in the middle of the night.
So, Where Should You Stay in Yellowstone?
If you want to be as close to the hiking paths as possible, then Cooke City is where you’ll want to stay.
West Yellowstone is the closest when it comes to most of the geysers that make the park famous, including Old Reliable, and Jackson has a lot of natural beauty even before you get to Yellowstone itself.
As for Red Lodge, it’s a great place to visit during the winter months with plenty of interesting attractions of its own.