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On the fence about lodging

Memphis, Tennessee
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On the fence about lodging

Hello. Our party of three adults is in the very early stages of planning a trip to GTNP, YSNP and GNP in summer 2015. We know that reservations for lodging in the parks for 2015 will open soon, hence the early planning. We want to get what lodging we want.

We've visited other national parks and generally stay in the parks. However, because we'll be spending four days at YSNP, we're undecided as to whether to stay all those nights in the park. From what we've read about the size of the park, traffic, etc., we're confident we need to split our stay to cut down on driving. We've looked at park lodging choices and at some rental properties in the surrounding towns on vrbo.com. Frankly, there's not a lot of difference in price, so that's not a huge factor. However, meals may be a deciding factor since NPS food is not our favorite and renting a cabin or condo outside the park would allow us to prepare at least our breakfasts and dinners.

So, do we stay in the park and, if so, split days between north and south or east and west lodging? Or do we stay in towns outside the park, again splitting nights so we don't have long drive times? Any suggestions from those who have done either of these choices?

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Mount Washburn
National Parks, Mountains
Gibbon Falls
Waterfalls, Nature & Wildlife Areas, Geologic Formations, National Parks
N. Idaho
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1. Re: On the fence about lodging

If you are going to Glacier after Yellowstone, then I suggest 2 nights at Old Faithful or West Yellowstone and 2 nights at Mammoth or Gardiner. Staying at the North entrance positions you well for heading to Glacier. I am just guessing at how you will structure your trip and going by how you have listed them in your post.

I find the food OK in the park, but I usually eat out of my cooler for breakfast and lunch and eat at one of the General Stores for dinner if I am staying in the park. If I stay out of the park, then I do restaurant meals for dinner. I enjoy the choices in West Yellowstone for dinner more than I like Gardiner, but many here prefer Gardiner over West Yellowstone. Even though I enjoy cooking, I am also usually pooped after a day in the park and would not enjoy fixing a meal, but that is me!

Pam

Denver, Colorado
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2. Re: On the fence about lodging

Like so many decisions about a visit to Yellowstone, your personal preferences should be the deciding factor. You have stated some of the tradeoffs (less driving versus more choices in meals) very clearly. I'll add my perspective for you.

Although we have stayed in gateway communities before and after our visit to the park, we always stay inside the park at multiple locations for the bulk of our visit. Not only do we avoid a lot of back tracking (and the potential to waste precious vacation time waiting at critter jams on the park roads), we also avoid driving the park roads at night, when there are many more vehicle/animal accidents.

The bonus is being able to enjoy a relaxed evening and night in the various villages inside the park without facing a long drive after a long day of sight seeing. An after dinner leisurely stroll around the Upper Geyser Basin to see a few more eruptions is always a treat.

And there's nothing like enjoying an adult beverage on the second floor terrace of the Old Faithful Inn while watching an eruption of Old Faithful. Or sitting inside the Inn by the fireplace listening to the live music.

This type of after dinner relaxation in a scenic environment is available at Lake, Canyon, Roosevelt and Mammoth (not so much at Grant). The night time sky is quite spectacular when you are in an area with very controlled outdoor lighting.

We have breakfast (coffee, juice, fruit, cereal, danish, etc.) in our room about 2/3 of the mornings in the park and eat at one of the park restaurants on the other mornings when we want a hot breakfast (you can make hot beverages in the rooms but not cook).

With the exception of the one day when we have a hamburger at the Lower Basin Store at Old Faithful, we prepare all of our lunches at picnic areas around the park that are convenient to where we happen to be at lunch time. (There are 52 picnic areas in the park.)

Between the formal dining rooms, cafeterias and general stores, we find the food choices to be quite adequate. We go to the park to enjoy the extraordinary scenic beauty and the flora and fauna. Our overnight accommodations are a place to rest after a long day of adventures and the food is sustenance for our journeys. We have had some memorable meals and some so-so meals inside the park.

Yellowstone is a wilderness with pockets of civilization at the various villages, not a resort. None of the gateway communities have what I would consider gourmet restaurants. They cater to the tourist trade and some do a better job than others. Personally, I'd much rather have a few more hours to enjoy my limited time to see the park than spend it going grocery shopping and cooking dinner when I'm tired from walking and driving. But as I said at the top of this post, your personal preferences on how you want to spend your evenings should drive your decision.

Xanterra has menus posted (in pdf format) for all of their accommodations inside the park, as does Delaware North, the operator of the Yellowstone General Stores.

www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/dining/

visityellowstonepark.com/in-park-shopping.as…

Memphis, Tennessee
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3. Re: On the fence about lodging

Thanks. I think that's the order we're planning for the parks, but it may change depending on airfares when we get ready to book. If so, I may have to adjust a bit.

Strangely, I cook for a living, but don't mind cooking on vacation at all. I'm pretty happy in the kitchen.

Edited: 22 March 2014, 18:05
Memphis, Tennessee
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4. Re: On the fence about lodging

It appears as if Xanterra's YSNP lodging page is currently down, but let me ask something else. If we could secure lodging in Canyon Village, we would be able to see the whole park from there without changing lodging after a couple of days?

Englewood, Fl.
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5. Re: On the fence about lodging

Deb,

One word of caution that no one else seems to have mentioned. You mentioned renting a cabin through VRBO. I have done that myself on several occasions, and while a private cabin can be a very enjoyable way to stay during your visit, there are two important things to consider. One would be how much time will you actually be spending in the lodging, compared to the costs. The other item, and of even more importance, is if you go the rental cabin route, make very sure that you know exactly how far that rental is from the nearest park gate. Do not depend solely on advertising claims such as, "Close to YNP, or, "Convenient to YNP." There are over 350 miles of roads to explore within the park itself, so you will be doing a lot of driving. The last thing you want to do is find that your lodging will add 30, 40 minutes, or more.... each way ... to your daily "commute" just to reach the nearest gate.

Tacoma, Washington
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6. Re: On the fence about lodging

As others have said on here.....

If you are going to do 4 nights in the park try to do 2 nights wither at Mammouth or at Roosevelt (both in the northern part of the park, Then do 2 nights in the area around Old faithful.

In planning your visit you want to try an minimize how much extra driving you do. you do Glacier-Yellowstone-Grand Teton or reverse it.

When in 2015 are you planning on traveling? You should target July because in Glacier the GTTS road would be open and Beartooth highway out of Yellowstone will be open. Doing the visit in early June these likely will not be open.

Memphis, Tennessee
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7. Re: On the fence about lodging

Thanks for the added advice. We definitely won't rent anything without knowing an exact distance from the park. Since we're going to Glacier, we're looking at traveling in July or August. Any opinions on crowds in late August? I wondered if it might be less crowded since some schools have started by then.

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8. Re: On the fence about lodging

I've met quite a few travelers who have used Canyon as a base from which to tour the whole park, so that certainly can work. Some folks want to move into one campsite, lodge or cabin for the whole duration. Other folks move from place to place. I've heard people rave about OF area & others who don't.

So as many opinions as there are visitors! Best to figure out what will work best for the dynamics of your group.

I'm impressed with some of the vacation rentals online that are right in the town of West Yellowstone. What is nice with vacation rentals is that 3 or more travelers can share a living/kitchen area to hang out rather than visit in each other's cabin or lodge room.

Except for the OF area & some of the geyser parking lots, it's pretty easy to get away from the crowds in most areas of the park.

July is the busiest month of the year. Late August for Glacier & early September for Yellowstone might work well:

nps.gov/yell/…visitationstats.htm

It's all good 'cause you'll be in 3 of the most fabulous parks in the country!

Edited: 22 March 2014, 23:25
Memphis, Tennessee
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9. Re: On the fence about lodging

Thanks for your insight!

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10. Re: On the fence about lodging

We have found the food at the OF Inn to be very good. We had the breakfast buffet and dinner buffet there both days that we were there last September. My sister loves the food at the Lake Hotel.

When we stay outside the park we usually stay in West Yellowstone because of lodging choices and restaurant choices. If you stay in West Yellowstone eat some yummy pancakes at the Running Bear Pancake House!!

If you stay in JH then we like eating dinner at the GunBarrel and at the edge of the park we like eating lunch at Dornan's.

Near Glacier eat at Three Sisters and Park Cafe in St. Mary's- they have delicious huckleberry pie.

You have gotten some great advice about lodging. We have been to Yellowstone multiple times and always stayed outside the park until last September. We loved staying at OF and so from now on we will stay in the park. It really cuts down on driving times!!