- Road closures, construction, limited lodging, and seasons can affect the availability of overnight lodging within Yellowstone National Park.
- Some advantages of staying outside Yellowstone include a wider variety of activities, lodging amenities, diverse food options, and cheap nightly stays.
- Some disadvantages of staying outside Yellowstone include increased traffic congestion, increased driving time, park reentrance fees, and limited attractions within the park.
What Causes Visitors to Stay Outside of Yellowstone National Park?
Due to ongoing construction, road closures, and limited space in hotels and campgrounds, visitors may have to look outside Yellowstone National Park for overnight stays. Furthermore, seasons can affect Yellowstone overnight stays. During summer, nights within the park may be difficult to acquire due to popularity, forcing people outside the park.
On the other hand, winter limits overnight stay opportunities as many attractions and roadways close during late autumn. Thus, staying outside the park may be out of requirement or necessity, rather than of choice. While this may seem like a tragedy to some tourists, staying elsewhere could transform into an incredible opportunity for others.
Why Should Visitors to Yellowstone Stay Outside the Park?
Visitors to Yellowstone National Park should consider staying outside the park for various reasons. For one, staying outside the park allows tourists to see attractions around Yellowstone. Visitors who stay outside Yellowstone may experience a wider range of sightseeing and physical activities that are otherwise limited within the park. For instance, a visitor who stays overnight in Jackson, Wyoming would be able to experience both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.
Furthermore, it may be cheaper to stay overnight outside of Yellowstone than within the park. For example, lodging in Yellowstone can exceed $300 per night. On the other hand, hotels outside the park record around one-third to one-half of these nightly prices. However, a visitor looking to camp overnight should attempt to stay in Yellowstone. Campsites in the park typically cost just over $30 a night. Likewise, camping outside of the park is similar in price but requires visitors to drive to the park entrances during the daylight. Extended driving time limits opportunities for sightseeing.
In addition, some hotels and lodgings outside of Yellowstone offer better amenities and a greater diversity of food choices, which may be preferable for some visitors. Yellowstone’s dining opportunities are limited to a few restaurants and general stores. These limited options may not be suitable for all tourists, especially those with dietary restrictions.
Are There Disadvantages to Staying Outside of Yellowstone?
While staying outside of Yellowstone National Park may be a viable option for visitors, disadvantages also exist. For example, staying outside of the park requires visitors to drive to the park every day. Traffic conditions may impede visitors from reaching Yellowstone entrances at a reasonable hour. These conditions may result in frustration for tourists and may limit activities within the park.
In addition, reentering the park may take extended time due to vehicle processing. Each vehicle must pay a fee to rangers before entering Yellowstone. When a visitor travels to the park, they must pay the entrance fee every time of reentry, or they may purchase a year-long membership to the National Park Service. Thus, reentering the park every day can increase the expenses of the traveler as well as delay entrance into Yellowstone.
Another disadvantage of staying outside Yellowstone is the lack of ease in traveling and sightseeing. Traveling becomes more difficult when visitors must reenter the park every day, especially if they enter through the same entrance. In this way, tourists will be in the same area they have already visited, causing them to travel approximately one to two hours to a new attraction. As a result, extended travel time within the park limits sightseeing opportunities.
Where are the Best Places to Stay Outside of Yellowstone?
Below outline some of the best overnight stays outside of Yellowstone National Park, including hotel ratings according to Tripadvisor.
Jackson, Wyoming is a great option for overnight stays outside of Yellowstone. The town lies south of Yellowstone, recording around an hour and 15-minute drive from the south entrance of the park. Some attractions near Jackson include Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. By staying in Jackson, visitors can experience two national parks in one trip!
Some great hotels near Jackson include The Lexington, the Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa, and Bentwood Inn. Both The Lexington and Rustic Inn are found at Jackson Hole and receive high ratings on Tripadvisor at 4.5 stars. Furthermore, Bentwood Inn showcases a five-star review and a Travelers’ Choice award from Tripadvisor for 2023. Finally, Snake River Cabins and RV Village features camping and outdoor nightly stays for visitors of Jackson. Snake River also reports a four-star review and Travelers’ Choice ranking for 2023.
Cody, Wyoming is often considered the capital of the rodeo, showcasing incredible rodeo performances throughout the summer. Therefore, Cody is another attractive location for visitors to stay overnight outside Yellowstone National Park. The top-rated hotel in Cody is the Cody Hotel with a score of 4.5 stars. Other viable options for overnight stays include the Moose Creek Lodge and Suites, Cody Cowboy Inn, and Chamberlin Inn. Both Moose Creek and Chamberlin record five-star reviews on Tripadvisor.
Cooke City, Montana
Cooke City stands as one of the closest cities to Yellowstone, only a seven-minute drive from a park entrance. The town includes various restaurants and shops unique to the area that both visitors and residents can enjoy. Elk Horn Lodge ranks as the best overnight stay in Cooke City. Most of the top-rated lodgings in Cooke City are motels or cabins, rather than hotels or resorts. Therefore, Cooke City’s lodging features a quaint, cozy feel, but it may not be appropriate for some tourists looking for finer amenities.
Red Lodge, Montana
While Red Lodge, Montana is further away from Yellowstone than other locations, it offers incredible scenery and nature unique to the region. Around a one-hour and 45-minute drive from Yellowstone, Red Lodge sits just east of Custer Gallatin National Forest. In addition, the drive from Red Lodge to Yellowstone follows the Beartooth Highway. Beartooth Highway is considered one of the most scenic drives in the United States. Red Lodge is also a popular location for skiing during winter. In fact, skiing in Red Lodge draws many tourists to the area during Yellowstone’s off-season.
Some hotels and lodgings available in Red Lodge include Alpine Lodge, The Pollard Hotel, and the Two Bears Inn Bed and Breakfast. These locations rank in the top three best overnight stays in Red Lodge, reporting scores of over 4.5 stars. Attractions in Red Lodge include a bustling downtown area, electric nightlife, and family-friendly shopping and dining.
Like Cooke City, Gardiner lies right outside Yellowstone National Park. In fact, visitors can see Gardiner from inside the northern park entrance. Gardiner features various shopping and dining opportunities, diverse activities, and informative visitor centers that promote Yellowstone’s best attractions.
Lodging in Gardiner includes Yellowstone Riverside Cottages, Yellowstone Village Inn, and Yellowstone Basin Inn. Each location scores highly according to visitors, and they offer a homey feel amidst incredible scenery. For tourists who desire to be close to Mammoth Hot Springs, Gardiner is the best place for an overnight stay.
West Yellowstone, Montana
West Yellowstone, Montana lies directly west of the park and is extremely close to the West Yellowstone entrance, offering visitors a desirable location for staying overnight. Some hotels in West Yellowstone include Kelly Inn, ClubHouse Inn, and Explorer Cabins, which all score at least four stars according to reviews on Tripadvisor. The top-rated hotel in Yellowstone is Kelly Inn, which also receives the Travelers’ Choice award for 2023.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jess Kraft/Shutterstock.com
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