Yellowstone National Park is a breathtaking place, complete with bubbling mud, spewing geysers, and some of the most fabulous wildlife viewing in any park — it’s the perfect place to take a vacation!
Where should you stay while visiting Yellowstone? If you want to be in the park to cut down on driving, stay in Madison, Norris, or Canyon Village. If you’re looking for something outside of the park, West Yellowstone is a fabulous option.
My name is Ash, and I worked as a park ranger in Wyoming — I’ve spent a lot of time in the park! I’m excited to help you decide where to stay while visiting Yellowstone, so let’s talk about your options.
Yellowstone Map, Entrances, and Nearby Towns
First, let’s get the lay of the land around Yellowstone. This park has five official entrances, so you’ve got plenty of options for places to stay while visiting Yellowstone.
West Entrance of Yellowstone (West Yellowstone)
The West Entrance is an excellent jumping-off point for seeing some of the best geysers in the park! From here, you’re close to Norris, Old Faithful, and Grand Prismatic just to name a few. Because of its location, this entrance is usually my preferred place to stay near the park.
The town of West Yellowstone has plenty of amenities, hotels, and things to do while still maintaining a small-town feel.
North Entrance of Yellowstone (Gardiner)
There’s not a lot of geyser activity near the North Entrance, but it’s a great place to stay while visiting Yellowstone if you’re interested in history and wildlife. From here, you’ll have quick access to the historic Fort Yellowstone area, the gorgeous Mammoth Hot Springs, and the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley.
The town of Gardiner sits just outside the North Entrance, and it’s one of the only entrances with lodging that is open year-round.
South Entrance of Yellowstone (Grand Teton)
Yellowstone’s neighbor to the south, Grand Teton National Park, is definitely worth a vacation all on its own. Even if you’re not able to devote any time to exploring Grand Teton, you might still consider driving to Yellowstone via the South Entrance. You’ll see amazing views of the famous Grand Teton peaks.
Lodging choices near the South Entrance are extremely limited and still don’t get you very close to Yellowstone’s points of interest.
East Entrance of Yellowstone (Cody)
The East Entrance brings you into Yellowstone near the stunning Yellowstone Lake and is one of the most popular ways to enter the park.
On your way to the East Entrance of the park, you’ll pass through the gateway town of Cody, Wyoming. This town is a hoot! There’s always something going on, and if you’d like a taste of the Old West, this is a great place to stop. Be aware that the commute from Cody to Yellowstone will add 1.5-2 hours of extra driving EACH WAY.
Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone (Cooke City)
The Northeast Entrance is the smallest and least-visited entrance in Yellowstone and is the gateway to the Lamar Valley. If you’re looking for some peace during your visit, this may be the entrance for you.
The towns of Cooke City and Silver Gate are tucked between the towering mountain peaks just outside of the Northeast Entrance. What these towns lack in visitor services they make up for in scenery! Driving the Beartooth Highway and entering Yellowstone through the Northeast Entrance is the most dramatic way to enter the park.
If you’d like more information on the best airports and roads around Yellowstone, including details about getting to each of these entrances, check out How to Get to Yellowstone National Park.
Staying Inside of Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a large and complex national park, with many different roads that travel to the most popular boardwalks and trails. I recommend staying inside of the park if you want to have more opportunities for sightseeing without the crowds. If you can cut down on your drive time by staying near a point of interest, you’ll be able to get out at sunrise or sunset when the main crowds have cleared out.
Hotels and Lodges in Yellowstone
There are nine lodges in the park, so you’ve got a lot of options of places to stay while visiting Yellowstone! Experiencing the park before everyone gets there or after everyone has left is the very best thing about staying in one of these lodges.
National park lodges typically aren’t known for their amenities or comforts, so you’re usually paying for location and ambiance. Yellowstone lodges are no different — you may not find any televisions or air conditioners in these rooms, and bathrooms are shared in some hotels. It’s all about the location and historical significance for these options.
I recommend trying to stay in the middle of the park if you’d like to be in the same lodge for your entire trip — Canyon Lodge, Lake Lodge, or Lake Hotel and Cabins are good for that.
If you don’t mind moving around a little, I recommend spending a few days in the southern part of the park and then a few days up north. Lodges in the Old Faithful area or Grant Village can be paired with the lodges in Mammoth Hot Springs or Roosevelt to dramatically cut down on your drive time between sights.
Yellowstone lodges are some of the most competitive places to stay in any national park! To book a room, you’ll need to be ready to make your reservations in May the year before your trip.
Yellowstone has twelve different campgrounds to choose from — some are located in the popular areas, and some are more off-the-beaten-path.
I recommend trying to stay in the middle of the park if you’d like to be in the same campground for your entire trip — Canyon, Madison, and Norris are great options for that.
If you don’t mind moving around a little, I recommend spending a few days in the southern part of the park and then a few days up north. Campgrounds at Grant Village, Lewis Lake, Bridge Bay, and Fishing Bridge can be paired with the campgrounds at Mammoth, Indian Creek, Slough Creek, Pebble Creek, or Tower Fall to dramatically cut down on your drive time between sights.
All campsites in Yellowstone, whether reservable or first-come, first-served, are extremely competitive. If a reservable site is available, I suggest snagging it immediately! If you plan on trying for a non-reservable site, be aware that most campgrounds fill by 7 or 8 a.m. and you will need to be there much earlier to get in line for the sites that come available.
To learn more about your camping options and how to snag a site, read all about camping in Yellowstone.
Planning a trip to Yellowstone can be overwhelming.
How do you make a solid plan if you’ve never been to the park before? How do you keep everyone in your group excited and engaged?
You can spend hours on the internet searching for things to do, but you still won’t find the insider tips and first-hand knowledge that I’ve gained from working as a park ranger.
If you’re hoping to see the best sights without getting stuck in traffic, circling parking lots, or being surrounded by people, check out this Yellowstone Itinerary.
You will see all of the can’t-miss spots, plus get lodging and dining guides, driving directions, and insider tips!
Staying Outside of Yellowstone National Park
Because Yellowstone has five different entrances into the park, it’s easy to stay close to the park without actually being in the park. I recommend staying outside of Yellowstone if you want nicer amenities, cheaper prices, or more dining and activity options.
But here’s the disclaimer — not all entrances to the park are created equal! If you stay outside of the park, be sure to pick a town that won’t add a ton of driving to your day. You’ll already be driving a lot to see the sights in Yellowstone, so it’s best not to add more driving just to get to the park entrance.
Staying in West Yellowstone
So that being said, West Yellowstone is hands-down my favorite place to stay outside of the park. Its location right outside of the West Entrance makes it super easy to get into the park. It’s also located along the road that travels right through the middle of Yellowstone, making it easy to visit the sights in both the northern and southern portions of the park without too much extra driving.
Staying in Gardiner or Cooke City
If you don’t want to stay in one place for your entire trip, consider staying in a few different gateway towns. Gardiner (North Entrance) and Cooke City (Northeast Entrance) make great jumping-off points for exploring some of the park’s more scenic areas, such as the Lamar Valley or the Beartooth Highway. It may be worth it to stay a few nights in one of these areas and then moving further south.
Staying in Cody
I get a lot of questions about making the town of Cody your basecamp for seeing Yellowstone, and in response, I say don’t do it! Cody is an exciting Old West town with lots of fun activities — I love adventuring in this town! But staying here is just too much driving for exploring Yellowstone.
You’ll drive about 1 hour to get from Cody to the East Entrance of Yellowstone. But when you reach the East Entrance, you’ll still have another 30 minutes or so to get to Fishing Bridge. That’s 1.5 hours of driving just to get to the main park loop road — it’s still another 20 minutes to Canyon Village. And if you want to go to Old Faithful, you’ll be in the car for almost 3 hours each way!
My recommendation if you want to experience Cody is to book lodging here separately from your Yellowstone sightseeing. Spend a night or two in Cody before moving on to lodging that’s closer to (or inside of) the national park.
Should I Stay in One Hotel to See Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton?
I don’t recommend staying in one hotel to visit both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. If you want to take advantage of your time in Yellowstone, I suggest staying closer to Yellowstone.
Some people day trip from Grand Teton up to Yellowstone, or vice versa, and that’s fine if it’s the only way you can make time to see the parks. But it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from the town of Jackson to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, and driving that route each day will significantly cut into your sightseeing time in Yellowstone.
If you have the time, it makes more sense to book separate hotels for each park.
I hope you find a fabulous place to stay while visiting Yellowstone National Park — happy trails!
More Yellowstone Trip Planning Information
Yellowstone Itinerary — a detailed hour-by-hour sightseeing schedule.
How to Get to Yellowstone — the best airports and roads in the area.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Yellowstone? — itinerary ideas.
The Best Time to Visit — what to expect during each month of the year.
Weather, Hours, and Closures — important weather info and common closures.
All About Camping — learn about the park’s campgrounds and how to get a site.
12 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Visit to Yellowstone — the top spots
The Best Easy Hikes — the perfect trails for kids, wheelchairs, and beginners.
Best Things to Do — activities for every type of adventurer.
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