Yellowstone on a Budget

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See Yellowstone without emptying your wallet

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You can visit Yellowstone on a budget. Looking to make an affordable trip to Yellowstone National Park? No problem. Even though big park lodges have rooms that knock up the rates, a few locations have rustic cabins that come with lower price tags. To soak up the park’s major sights, spend a night or two in each of the following locations.

Of course, the cheapest way to stay in Yellowstone is to camp. But if roughing it in a tent in bear country isn’t your style, you can sleep in a bed in a cozy cabin for under $100 per night. In the cabins, you’ll find no frills. In fact, some are rather Spartan, but they serve to provide a basecamp.

Most of the lodges are open in summer only, and competition for reservations starts early. If you can plan ahead, make reservations 13 months in advance. But due to cancellations, last minute cabins do pop open. Keep checking back with the concessionaire to nab one when it does.

Yellowstone on a Budget: Roosevelt Lodge

At Tower Junction, the historic Roosevelt Lodge sports a front deck with wicker rocking chairs, a restaurant inside, and the feel of the West. Around the lodge, rustic log cabins offer places to stay while you fill the days with horseback riding, wildlife watching, and hiking.

While at the lodge, plan to take a horseback trail ride from the neighboring corral. In the early morning, drive into Lamar Valley to see bison, antelope, bighorn sheep, wolves, and bears. In the evening, catch a wagon ride to the Old West Cookout at Yancy’s.

Just south of the lodge, take in Tower Falls and Calcite Springs on Grand Loop Road. For a scenic hike, find the trailhead at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area. The trail climbs to look down into the Yellowstone Narrows, where the frothing river constricts with cliffs of basalt columns.

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Yellowstone on a Budget: Lake Lodge

Move on to Lake Lodge for one or two nights to explore the Lake Yellowstone region. On the lodge porch, lounge in wicker rockers to enjoy the lake across a broad grassy meadow. In the nearby vicinity, you can hike or drive to lake overlooks, watch wildlife, and brave the chilly lake waters for swimming on hot days.

While staying at Lake Lodge, plan to get up early one day to drive through Hayden Valley. Home to summering bison, the valley is a great place to spot trumpeter swans and elk with early morning offering the best wildlife watching time of day. For an evening sightseeing drive, tour the north shore of Lake Yellowstone to Lake Butte to watch the sunset.

For hikers, several short trails lead to scenic destinations. On the north shore of Lake Yellowstone, Pelican Valley Nature Trail and the Storm Point Loop Trail both go to the beach. On the west side of the lake nearest the lodge, a trail climbs Elephant Back Mountain to an overlook of the immense lake. South at Bridge Bay, two routes (one for hikers and one for mountain bikers) go to Natural Bridge, a stone archway over a small creek.

Lake Lodge lobby in Yellowstone
Lake Lodge Lobby in Yellowstone. Photo by David Restive/NPS

Yellowstone on a Budget: Old Faithful Lodge

Hop over the Continental Divide to Old Faithful Lodge and Cabins, adjacent to Old Faithful Geyser. The cabins are so close that you can watch eruptions several times. At the lodge, sit on the back deck to watch it blow or catch it while dining inside. You can also learn about how the geyser works by touring exhibits at the neighboring Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

When staying at Old Faithful Lodge, you don’t need to drive anywhere. Boardwalk routes through Upper Geyser Basin depart from the lodge. The trailhead to Observation Point takes you to an overlook of the famous erupting geyser. For hikes under 10 miles, trails also head to Lone Star Geyser and Mallard Lake. For longer hikes, you can go to Fairy Falls, Mystic Falls, and Biscuit Basin.

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