It’s settled: you’re dreaming of your Yellowstone adventure, where you can wander through nature’s majestic vistas, take a dip in the hot springs or watching the eternal gushing of Old Faithful. But before you set forth on your epic journey, you’ll need to figure out where to stay in Yellowstone.
And that isn’t always an easy task.
There’s a lot to see and do in Yellowstone, and chances are you won’t be able to squeeze every sight into your agenda. Choosing the right location for your lodging “basecamp” will certainly be an important decision for your Yellowstone Park vacation, as it helps to assure you get quality time at Yellowstone’s outdoor attractions, wildlife, and scenery.
Our family-owned business, Brandin Iron, has been providing trip planning assistance and lodging to Yellowstone National Park visitors for 3 generations, and hope this article helps you make your Yellowstone vacation a “trip of a lifetime.”
So where is the best place to stay?
At Brandin Iron, we hear this a lot from visitors, even those who have visited the park before. But the truth is, your best bet for basecamp depends on what you plan to do while you’re there. You can use this guide as a discovery tool to help you choose the best lodging in Yellowstone to help make your vacation nothing short of unforgettable.
Things to Consider When Looking for Lodging in Yellowstone
How much time will you spend in the room?
Obviously, you didn’t travel all the way to Yellowstone to hang around the hotel all day, but you will spend some amount of time at your home base when you aren’t cruising for your next adventure. But how much? If you only plan to enjoy the park for half a day, then you might choose a hotel that offers amenities like a game room or free Wi-Fi.
What do you plan to do during your stay?
To determine your best lodging in Yellowstone, it’s helpful to consider what exactly you plan to do during your stay. Then you can choose where to stay in Yellowstone based on the closest locations to those activities.
The Lower Loop (96 miles)
Most geothermal attractions, geysers, hot pools, mud pots are located on this loop, including the iconic Old Faithful Geyser. In addition, most of the park’s wildlife varieties call some parts of this loop “home.” The iconic 308′ tall Lower Falls of the Yellowstone is a must see on this loop.
The Upper Loop (70 miles)
This loop includes Norris Geyser basin, Yellowstone’s hottest thermal basin and the world’s tallest active geyser Steamboat Geyser. Mammoth Hot Springs and the Park headquarters are on the north end of this loop.
The Grand Loop (142 miles)
The Lower Loop and Upper Loop combined, called the Grand Loop is a figure eight configuration. To give you ample time to view wildlife, attractions, and photography opportunities, we recommended spanning a trek around this loop over multiple days.
How will you enter the park?
Once you figure out which loop you’ll spend most of your time on, you need to figure out which of the five entrances to Yellowstone will take you there.
Yellowstone’s West Entrance (West Yellowstone)
As Yellowstone Park’s most popular entrance, this portal puts you near the geyser basin, with approximately 150 geysers within a square mile. West Yellowstone is the closest entrance to the center of the Grand loop, making it convenient to visit the Upper and Lower loops on consecutive days.
Yellowstone’s North Entrance (Gardiner)
The Mammoth Hot Spring terraces is a photo opportunity you won’t want to miss. History and museum buffs will want to visit the newly renovated Albright Visitor Center with two stories of new exhibits.
Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance (Cooke City)
Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley may offer more wildlife viewing opportunities and diversity than any other road section in Yellowstone Park. Lamar Valley has been referred to as the “Serengeti” of the United States because of its collection of diverse wildlife inhabitants.
Yellowstone’s East Entrance (Cody)
A stop at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum is a must (but definitely not a quick activity). Passing through Yellowstone’s East entrance, you’ll have another 27 miles until you reach Yellowstone Lake and connect to the Upper Loop Road at Fishing Bridge.
Yellowstone’s South Entrance (Jackson Hole)
Jackson Hole, a renowned “ski town,” offers a variety of summer activities and high-end boutique shopping before you cross through to the Grant Teton National Park and ultimately reach the lower loop connection at West Thumb Geyser Basin.
In some cases, the cheapest option isn’t always the best option, especially if it means sacrificing amenities and conveniences that you can’t or don’t want to go without. It’s important to find a balance between what you need and will actually use vs. what sounds good but isn’t actually necessary.
Finding Places to Stay Near Yellowstone
As you compare different lodging options, here are a few things to keep in mind before booking your stay:
Look for amenities you can’t live without
- Pet Friendly
- Free Wi-Fi
- Family oriented
- Smoke Free
- Free Breakfast
- Snowmobile parking
- Free parking
- On-site activities
Make sure the location fits within your plans
- Walking distance to restaurants and shops
- Close to the park entrance of your choice
Check the hotel or motel website to ensure it creates the right “vibe”
- Does it match the local flavor?
- Does it look well maintained?
Finding the best lodging in Yellowstone depends on several factors, and a little forethought on your part can help set the tone for an epic trip you won’t be soon to forget. Once you compare places to stay in Yellowstone and find your perfect base camp, the rest of the planning for your trip should be a lot more fun.
About Brandin Iron
The Roberson family has offered Yellowstone Park visitors lodging, and trip planning assistance in West Yellowstone, Montana for three generations.
Under the umbrella name “Brandin Iron,” we operate three great lodging properties with three price tiers that can meet your budget and needs for a great Yellowstone Park vacation:
- The Brandin’ Iron Inn is just two blocks from the popular West Entrance and within walking distance of museums and restaurants.
- The City Center Motel is nestled in the heart of West Yellowstone alongside shopping, dining, and entertainment.
- The Pony Express Motel sits adjacent to the park boundary.
Jeremy Roberson, our lodging manager who grew up in the family business, spent many years working in the Marriott Hotel network. Upon his return to West Yellowstone, Jeremy carefully merged his experience with the western hospitality and room decors we are known for. You can expect an authentic Montana experience combined with the niceties you are accustomed to, all wrapped up in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Book your stay with Brandin Iron and become part of the Roberson family – we can’t wait to meet you!