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Yellowstone - lodging outside of park mid August good or bad idea???

Yellowstone - lodging outside of park mid August good or bad idea???

Old May 5th, 2012, 03:20 PM
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Yellowstone - lodging outside of park mid August good or bad idea???

We are a family of 4 traveling to YNP in mid August. Not many options in the park (late planners). My plan right now is to fly into Billings and drive to Silver Gate, MT near the Northeast Entrance. Have a room reserved at Mammoth but have read some bad reviews.....wondering if we are better off in Gardiner or West Yellowstone? We have one night booked at the Lake Hotel which I will keep. We will be there 5 or 6 days. How bad is traffic into the park from the West or North entrance?

Thanks.
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Old May 5th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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Gardiner is only about 5 miles from Mammoth so travel wise there isn't much difference. West Yellowstone is also right at the park entrance but will take you a little longer to get into the main park road. We have stayed both places and also inside the park. Even Silver Gate is right outside the park entrance and close to the Lamar Valley, but will also take you longer to get to the main park road. I would stay part of the time near the southern part (Old Faithful, Lake or Canyon or West Yellowstone) and part of the time near the northern part of the figure 8 road. The only place inside the park that I don't consider convenient is the Grant Village area, and Lake and Canyon are so close you don't really need to stay at both. We've never been there in mid August, so not sure what the traffic is like then.

Right now everything is booked, but people make reservations a year ahead of time since you don't have to pay if you cancel a day or two ahead of time. There will probably be cancellations very frequently, especially as it nears your travel time, so call to check often. You can also make reservations now for outside the park where you don't pay a cancellation penalty and then you can cancel it if you get something you like better.
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Old May 5th, 2012, 07:13 PM
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Yellowstone is a very large park. And then there are the Tetons.

The parks have different areas and each has it's own personality.

The Old Faithful area is geysers. The Canyon area had large waterfalls and above and below Canyon are prime wildlife areas.

Wildlife are most active early morning and late evening. So it's best to stay not only inpark but if several different places.

We stayed in the Old Faithful, Canyon and Grand Teton (Signal Mtn) areas. It was great.

There are always cancelations in the last month or so. Just call, call, call and you'll get your dates.
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Old May 5th, 2012, 07:26 PM
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We visited Yellowstone and stayed outside the Parks in Jackson (for GTNP), West Yellowstone and Gardiner - each time near enough to Park entrance that you could almost see it from the hotels. (About 7 years ago - mid-summer) It was fine. While a totally different atmosphere inside the Parks, I do not feel we lost anything and for a family there were some advantages.

There was no traffic to get to Park - it was about 1/2 mile anyway. Within Parks, the only real traffic was when we encountered animal jams. We would get up and have early breakfast each AM and we saw plenty of animals, no matter what time of day. We sometimes packed a lunch, sometimes ate at one of the Park concessions. I understand there are evening Ranger activities, etc - but our family (teenagers at the time) had had enough wildlife and nature by then and were happy to have hotel pool, TV and more varied choice of restaurants. Other families travel different ways - no right or wrong here. But for us, having this sort of break made for a better trip for all involved.

We have visited other National Parks and felt stronger about staying inside the Park (Grand Canyon comes first to mind) - but the vast expanse of Yellowstone and GTNP made it work here.
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Old May 5th, 2012, 08:34 PM
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In Feb. I started planning 6 days in Yellowstone for the first week in June and there was little open in the park, but I booked what i could get. Have been checking frequently since then with not much luck - isolated days here and there - but yesterday I was able to get one OF Inn night and two OF Lodge nights. (We like that area the best.) I cancelled my Grant today and am about to cancel my OF Snow Lodge night, so that will open up some rooms for someone else. But I will keep checking for something that suits us better. I always book backup rooms in W. Yellowstone or Gardiner with a chain that has a flexible cancelation policy, then give up what I don't need when something better comes along; often I book the chain hotels with a separate reservation for each day so it's easier to cancel one or two nights and use one or two others if I don't get park rooms I want. I agree with people who say it's a lot more convenient to stay inside Yellowstone since it's such a huge park - and probably in a couple of different areas if you'll be there more than one day. But we don't mind getting out of the park for a night or two during our stay. (And Gardiner isn't so much farther than Mammoth.) Most park hotels make most Best Westerns look like The Four Seasons. Despite that, I would certainly try to get a couple of nights inside the park if I could; we think it's more important here than in any of the other (28) nat'l parks we've visited. Then stay outside a couple of nights for a break from the rustic and for the amenities like a pool if you have kids. All hotels around nat'l parks are pricey for what you get, not only the park service ones but also the commercial motels. A lot of them in cold climes pretty well have to "make their nut" in just a few months and are closed the rest of the year, although the loan payments and such don't stop just because they're snowed in. Overpriced accommodations are just the price you pay to commune with nature.
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Old May 6th, 2012, 04:19 AM
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Thanks everyone. I really want to get into OF at least for one night. Haven't hit the cancellation lottery yet - I will keep calling. Has anyone stayed at Mammoth? We have 3 nights reserved there and I just think that is too many for that location and too much money.....we could only get a suite there. I guess I will make a back up reservation in West Yellowstone to cover that side of the park if we can't get in to OF.
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Old May 6th, 2012, 06:12 AM
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We've never stayed at Mammoth because we actually prefer Gardner when in that area. But you will find people who really like staying there. IMO spending half or more your alloted time there is way too much. You can walk the terraces, go to Boiling River, maybe even take a hike and visit the visitor center easily in one day. Although backtracking isn't always a bad thing, we usually start the day in one direction and stop at the sights we want to see on the way to the next lodging. There is lots to see between the main areas.

It is nice to stay in the OF area because you are there in the AM and PM when it is much less crowded. In fact, when we stay there we go elsewhere (a hike or visit the other geyser areas) during the main part of the day. If you aren't picky about exactly what lodging you are looking for there you will probably be able to pick something up. If not, some of our best animal sightings have been driving back and forth to West Yellowstone since you are going in the early morning and at dusk when the animals are usually more active. So don't despair. I have always felt that there is more than one way to see and enjoy these parks which is why they are so popular to so many people with different tastes.
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Old May 6th, 2012, 08:52 AM
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Agree with maj that 3 nights at Mammoth are a couple too many. We have also stayed at Gardiner when we were at that end. It's a bit of a drive to more interesting parts of the park once you have spent a day - or even part of a day - there. (Restaurant pretty good, though, for park service.) In terms of wildlife, other than the elk at the Mammoth VC (we've only been in Sept., so plenty of feisty bulls collecting harems, but i have heard the cows stay all year), we haven't seen much wildlife up there. The park roads form a [kinda square] figure 8, and the only creature we've seen on the top and bottom is a coyote fishing at Lewis Falls. Otherwise not even a bunny or squirrel, even on the Blacktail Plateau drive which I assume is named after the deer. All our fauna sightings have been down the sides and through the middle of the 8, on the road to W. Y'stone and the road through Lamar Valley, of course. I'd choose W. Y'stone if I had several nights and couldn't get park reservations.

Check occasionally for cancellations between now and July, start checking daily in July if you can manage it.
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Old May 6th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Thanks everyone. Might cancel the Mammoth reservation all together sounds like a few hours in that area is enough. May replace that night with West Yellowstone if OF doesn't pan out. . I did manage to score 2 nights in a frontier cabin at Roosevelt Lodge....
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Old May 6th, 2012, 10:14 AM
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Definitely don't need Mammoth if you have 2 nights at Roosevelt. You can easily go see Mammoth from there. Or better yet you can go to Mammoth on your way down that side of the figure 8 on your way to Norris/West Yellowstone/OF. Or vice versa. May want to copy a map if you don't have one handy to see exactly where everything is.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 11:06 AM
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Thanks for all of the advice. I was able to get one night at OF. I cancelled Mammoth. So for now we have one night it Red Lodge, MT - to travel to YNP via Beartooth Highway. Then 2 nights Roosevelt - frontier cabin, 1 night OF and last night in West Yellowstone. I cancelled the Lake Hotel in favor of OF.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 11:41 AM
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Old Faithful Inn or OF Lodge? Sounds good to me. We really likes Lake Hotel though. Perhaps have a meal there, just to see it.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 11:31 AM
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We got OF Inn for 1 night. If I had another night I would try the Lake Hotel. We will definitely pass through there maybe have a meal.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 11:42 AM
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We got OF Inn for 1 night. If I had another night I would try the Lake Hotel. We will definitely pass through there maybe have a meal.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 05:05 PM
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So, now i'm a bit confused for some reason. List what you have now, if you don't mind. Are you staying any at Tetons?
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Old May 9th, 2012, 09:02 AM
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Hi Spiro,

No GT this time. Here is the plan as of today:

Fly into Billings or Bozeman - travel to Red Lodge, MT stay one night. Next day travel Beartooth Highway and end day at Roosevelt Lodge - 2 nights in a Frontier Cabin. Doing the cowboy cookout second night.

4th night - Old Faithful Inn

5th night - West Yellowstone - depart next day

Wondering how long the ride will take from Red Lodge to Roosevelt Lodge.....I'm planning a slow ride enjoying sights along the way.

Don't have day by day plans other than lodging locations.

Thanks for all of your feedback.
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Old May 9th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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My wife and I have been to Yellowstone for the last several years. After the first year and many suggestions we found that west Yellowstone worked well for us for 2-3 nites and the rest of the time if you dont mind the drives wich are spectacular @ one of our favorite National parks Grand Teton. There wont be ask many crowds and you get to see and abundance of wildlife without waiting in line. Its a much more personal parks.
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Old May 9th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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Sounds like your plan will work out foine for you. We liked Yellowstone far better than Tetons. The Tetons are very pretty though. You can always go again(which you will want to after you see Yellowstone).

I would just use West Yellowstone as a place to spend the night that last night.
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Old May 9th, 2012, 05:27 PM
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Hello - thanks again to everyone that took time to give me feedback. Has anyone driven from Red Lodge, MT to the Roosevelt Lodge in YNP? Wondering how long it will take. Taking the Beartooth Highway so I expect a slow ride with several stops.
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