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judyvail Sep 1st, 2017 03:55 PM

First time in Yellowstone
Getting started planning our trip for next July. 2 young adult children and their bf/gf, husband and me. We're flying into Bozeman. That is all I know as of now. I've been looking for areas to stay, but have read conflicting things. We'd love to see the geysers, waterfalls, wildlife. Hubby and I like to do easy hikes, kids like moderate+,, so we will probably hike separately at times. We would like to go rafting also. Looking to rent a house for a week so we have a home base all together. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Dayle Sep 1st, 2017 05:31 PM

Hi Judy

Well, Yellowstone is absolutely not the type of place you rent a house to use as a home base. Its just too big! For the best experience you need to stay at at least two places inside the park. Those lodges, cabins campgrounds start taking reservations a year in advance, so you are already late to the game.

The good news is if you are persistent and call every day, twice a day, you will most likely be able to snag a cancellation. My preferences are the Old Faithful area and the Canyon area. Minimum stay to see Yellowstone and hike would be 5 days.

Grand Teton NP needs atleast two days if you are going to do a raft trip. There is great hiking and kayaking and photography all around the Jackson area.

There are lots of trip reports here. Use the search function and start reading. It will be an invaluable resource for you in planning a first time trip. Its worth the effort to do it right. Yellowstone and GTNP are amazing places.

Michael Sep 1st, 2017 11:46 PM

I do not think that you need to stay in two different places in Yellowstone. For our last visit we stayed in a cabin behind the Lake Lodge and did day trips to Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs area. While driving to these different areas you will come across wild animals, stop by the Yellowstone Canyon, and will simply enjoy the scenery. There is a lot to see between the point of departure and the point of arrival, and choosing a central location like the Lake Lodge will allow you to cover the figure 8 that constitutes the core of the park.

MmePerdu Sep 2nd, 2017 07:04 AM

I agree with the thought that renting a house is not your best solution as it will mean being outside the park and not situated anywhere near most park attractions. But maybe a town is what you want, rather than the park? Maybe some clarification on that point will be useful for getting more information.

I don't know if my Yellowstone blogs will be of any help but you may enjoy the pictures:

judyvail Sep 2nd, 2017 08:16 AM

IMmePerdu, I was just thinking that would be a way we could all be together and it would be less expensive than 3 rooms and meals out all the time. I think I would rather have us stay together and see/hike a portion of the park than move around. Maybe I'm wrong in my thinking, I really am not sure.

Dayle Sep 2nd, 2017 09:01 AM

Renting a house might seem like a lower cost option, but you have to calculate the cost of up to 3 or 4 additional hours of driving back and forth (RT), loss of sightseeing time, and the very high cost of gas in and near the national parks. Most cabins and vacation homes are quite far away from the park entrances. The only exception might be near Gardiner, MT out the north entrance. Add more driving time.

MmePerdu Sep 2nd, 2017 09:11 AM

The problem could be getting enough beds in the same location in the park at this point. It appears to be 6 people, so you'll need at least 2 rooms, likely 3, for your group.

A house may, in fact, be the practical solution. Checking for cancellations might be impractical if there isn't availability at park lodgings now, though it is possible to cancel and re-book if enough rooms or cabins become available between now and then.

Aside from the significant downside of being far from the park attractions, if you found a house you like and booked it now, it would be done. And you have all those energetic young people to chauffeur you around.

Michael Sep 2nd, 2017 11:52 AM

We were a party of 12 and managed to get enough cabins behind the Lake Lodge. I did not make the reservations, but as I understand it, we were lucky in that it was the first week of the season and a large group cancelled at the last minute. Otherwise we would have had to use two different locations in Yellowstone.

sylvia3 Sep 2nd, 2017 12:26 PM

Look at a map of YNP. It is basically a figure 8, and there's really no need to move lodging to cover most of it. Staying in West Yellowstone/ Gardiner are good options.

Dayle Sep 2nd, 2017 12:28 PM


I would suggest you get started immediately checking rental properties, Yellowstone park maps, getting distances. Have some others in the group start on checking lodging options in the park. Remember to add significant time to the drive time estimates for whatever system you are using for mapping. There will be traffic, animal jams and multiple photo ops to take into consideration. There might be road construction in the park too. Be sure to check for that. It you must go during the 4th of July holiday weekend, be aware that is about the MOST crowded time for Yellowstone.

It would be a shame to travel all this way and spend the money and only see part of the park. It's amazing with many different areas, geological features and endless wildlife. Wildlife viewing is best in the dawn and dusk hours too. Another reason to stay in the park.

judyvail Sep 2nd, 2017 01:00 PM

I've checked the cabins in the park and all are fully booked. Found a home in West Yellowstone, 7 miles from west entrance. It's refundable, so I booked in case I can't find anything else. I'm thinking up early and pick a different area every day. One day will be spent white water rafting, all others will be in the park.

Dayle Sep 2nd, 2017 07:32 PM

Where are you planning to go rafting? Most people go on the Snake River. A float trip or a whitewater trip out of Jackson. Some people go on the Yellowstone river out of Gardiner.

elberko Sep 3rd, 2017 09:02 AM

I'm at Yellowstone now and got the rooms I needed by checking the online calendar--sometimes daily. Things are always opening up as people change their plans.

we stayed 2 nights in a cabin by old faithful, and are in the middle of 6 nights in a cabin at Lake. I think it was a good mix for us--maybe a bit more time at the old faithful area if thermal features are your interest.

sylvia3 Sep 3rd, 2017 09:34 AM

Judyvail, your plan of subdividing the park into sections and getting early starts is a good one. West Yellowstone is the choice of many who visit the park, and you will find the choice of dining and food shopping (and rafting companies, etc.) superior to the park.

jayne1973 Sep 3rd, 2017 11:54 AM

I would check in the city of Gardiner, which is near the Mammoth Springs area of Yellowstone. It is not really commercialized like West Yellowstone and closer to a park entrance.

MmePerdu Sep 3rd, 2017 12:21 PM

The Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park was my absolute favorite. So I agree with jayne1973 that if you can find a place in Gardiner it might be worthwhile. There's more of a town feeling at Mammoth because the park HQ is there. And you may even meet Touchdown!

Staying in West Yellowstone you might be tempted is leave Mammoth off the itinerary but try not to, even though it's in the opposite direction from most other areas. I urge you to make the effort.

Patty Sep 3rd, 2017 02:50 PM

I also like Gardiner as a town. We're staying at Riverside Cottages for the first time this year and they have some units that will sleep 6 Friends of ours have stayed at Yellowstone Gateway Inn

sylvia3 Sep 3rd, 2017 05:51 PM

I also like Gardiner a lot, but the benefit of westY is that you enter the park kind of at the center of the figure 8, making access to different loops easier. (There are fewer than 2000 full time residents of West Yellowstone, but 3 Chinese restaurants; wonder where most of their tourists come from?)

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