Some seasons, planning a trip to Yellowstone can be a breeze. Other times of the year, securing a room at in-park hotels like the Old Faithful Inn or campgrounds can be more taxing than a day’s climb up Grand Teton. The fact is: everybody and their brother will be visiting Yellowstone in the summer.
When booking your stay for a Yellowstone vacation, you consider the variables: luxury, price, time of year, and proximity to the park.
June through September Lodging – 6 Months to 1 Year in Advance
Each January, people’s thoughts turn to planning a summer vacation. The reality is that by the end of January most summer lodging and camping inside Yellowstone is already booked. August is an especially busy time for the park, bringing close to 300,000 tourists in a single month! So August vacations should be booked up to a year in advance.
If your ideal lodging inside the park is all booked up for your dates, try to book an alternative location and then call every day to inquire about cancelations. The park will transfer your reservation if something becomes available. If not, then at least you have a backup plan.
Yellowstone’s Gateway towns offer lodging with an easy drive to a park entrance, but even these areas can be fully booked for summer by the end of February or March.
Spring and Fall Lodging – 3 Months to 6 Months in Advance
Of course, during the “mud seasons” of fall and spring, competition for rooms reduce, and you only need six to three-months ahead to secure a room. In spring, be aware that most of the park’s lodging and roads are closed until May. There is less demand for hotels and campgrounds, but there are also less available. If you book lodging in Gardiner, Montana, you will have easy access to the park all year long. Other entrances are closed in winter so if you book in those entrance towns, you will need to arrange for snowmobile or snowcoach transportation into the park at that time.
Before Booking, Make an Itinerary
Yellowstone is a very large park. Before booking lodging, you should make an activities and attractions itinerary and calculate the travel time from lodging. Request a free trip planner to get maps, an email newsletter, and vacation partner information.
J. Scott Donahue is a freelance writer and essayist with a passion for alpine climbing, trail running and other hard things. He writes for YellowstonePark.com and Sierra Club, and recently graduated with an MFA in Nonfiction Writing.