Yellowstone national park is a natural dreamscape! There's no doubt that everyone should mark it down on their itinerary. But before you go, there are four questions you should ask yourself.
When are you going?
On season or off season? Let’s face it: the best time to travel is now. Waiting around will do no good as life passes you by. Best to take action now, and work out the details as you go.
While Yellowstone is nearly frozen throughout winter, thermal activity is breathtaking year-round. There is no need to worry about when you go because it’s always active.
Now that goes without saying, winter is bitter freezing. With frozen roads and slick driving, it may be best to avoid it. Therefore, the best time to go is spring through fall.
Where are you going to stay?
Yellowstone national park is huge! This leaves little space in the area for lodging and camping options, even extending into Montana and Idaho for nearest Airbnbs...
So for what is nearby, what's better: camping or traditional lodging (hotels, motels)?
First thing we might ask is why spend several hundred on lodging when a campsite runs for 30-35$ within the park?
Pros and Cons of Why You Should Buy Lodging near/in Yellowstone
The pros make for an effortless trip:
Easier for an early wake up
Right at the park entrance
Cheaper fuel nearby
Healthier local food
No animal complications
No equipment necessary
Of course, there are negatives to lodging:
3X more expensive
Lodging within Yellowstone = $$$$$
Longer driving distance to attractions
Traffic bottles up quick
Moving on to the other alternatives...
Should you camp in Yellowstone?
Now camping can be fun! We booked two nights in a camp site and had a mini-heater for morning tea and raspberry oatmeal. Mmhm!
Yet that required a lot of gear to lug around—not to mention the initial investment for it.
With camping gear, yes! It was totally worth it because:
Directly in the park nearest attractions
Fueling station nearby (however $$)
More time for your adventure
Immersed in nature with other animals (we are animals after all...)
A location to relax for multiple days
Why You Shouldn't Camp In Yellowstone
You're afraid of the elements. We had a summer tent, and Yellowstone at night becomes a milky bowl of icecream! We froze into popsicles as night snuck up on us.
Don't want to invest in pricey gear. Camping comes at quite a cost when you’re traveling the USA. If you’ve already purchased camping gear then you’ll have no issues, but if not, your money may be best spent elsewhere; that is, if you have no interest in future camping and saving money while traveling across the states.
What if you have no camping gear?
There are hotels and motels just outside the west park entrance (literally down the street). They are significantly cheaper than the fancy lodge inside.
Otherwise, a great way to make the trip worth it is to purchase a tour. This way, you get a bundle deal saving more on the length of your stay and transportation within the park. Worth it!
Should you get a tour?
There is a lot to do, and a lot of driving as a result. What makes or breaks a tour is up to your preferences:
Do you prefer your independence?
Being stuck on a bus means you're at the mercy others.
People may not be timely, slowing down your progress throughout the park.
Attractions are determined but may be skipped for time and group.
The group you're with could be an amazing experience, or your detriment to travel. Being mindful we may reveal the true value in the experience, but nevertheless it could be harder for you with a group.
The benefits of tours:
More social opportunities
Predetermined course means no need for exhaustive planning
No need to drive and spend more $$
No equipment necessary
Tours can be a fantastic way to see more than you might on your own, even at the delay you may experience.
To Conclude: What We Chose To Do
This sums up the questions we had when traveling to Yellowstone. In the end, we chose camping for affordability. It cost us less to camp two nights and drive 9 hours to Yellowstone than it did for the park entrance fee (combined with Grand Teton). That's a good deal!
Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? If not, what are you planning on doing? Or if you have, share with us what did in the comments below!