Tips, Tricks and Favorites of visiting Yellowstone National Park. It’s possible to have fun and save money even in a national park.
The Hardworking Husband and I went to Yellowstone this weekend.
We have been visiting Yellowstone in early May or late April for three years now. And we go several other times through the spring and summer.
With going this often, we have found some things that have made our trips easier and less expensive. So I thought I would share my tips, tricks and favorites.
When planning a trip to Yellowstone there are a few things to consider. They are similar to any vacation you would take – a place to stay, food to eat and activities.
First a place to stay.
We enter the park through West Yellowstone and like to stay there or just over the Idaho border is Island park. The gate into Yellowstone is on the edge of West Yellowstone.
Gardiner and Cooke City are also close to the gates. We like to be able to enter the park right away. The east gate and the south gate are both quite a drive to their respective towns.
Since we live on the west side of the park, we stay in West Yellowstone and Island Park.
I have stayed at a few hotels in West Yellowstone. They all are rather expensive during the busy summer season. So be prepared to spend some money on a good room.
However, there is another option. Vacation rentals are a great way to save some money. We have stayed at a few. Below are a few we love in Island Park. Island Park is a short drive from the West Gate entrance.
3 bedrooms, 2 baths, sleeps 12
5 bedrooms, 4 baths, sleeps 18
3 bedrooms, 2 baths, sleeps 7
The best part of staying at rental houses is that you can cook your own meals and save on costs.
Next up is food.
Because you are in a resort area, food is going to be expensive. But there are some ways to save money and still eat great. We have two different routines for food.
The first is when I’m on top of things. We pack food to take with us. Bread, lunch meat, condiments, cheese, bagels, cream cheese, drinks, etc.
We picnic for breakfast and lunch, and then either use the kitchen in our room if we get that kind of room and cook dinner. We even have put together 45 Vacation Rental Meal Recipes to help you with this!
The second way we deal with food when I’m totally worn out and frazzled is to eat out.
We stop in at Ernie’s first thing in the morning and get breakfast and a sandwich to go. They have great biscuits and gravy, and their sandwiches to go are fantastic. They also have boxed lunches that include quite a bit of food and a drink. We picnic in the park with the sandwiches and then go back to West Yellowstone for dinner.
I liked the restaurant, but because there was a juke box The Hardworking Husband didn’t care for it. Be aware that it has a bar atmosphere and I wouldn’t recommend taking children in there.
Also be aware that because it is a resort town, McDonald’s prices are higher than the one in your town. If you are flying into the area and renting a car, I recommend going to the grocery store in a town before you get to Yellowstone.
Pick up a small cooler and ice, and you will be set for meals during your stay.
Now for activities.
Yellowstone offers so many activities.
There are visitor centers in Mammoth, Canyon Village, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village, and Old Faithful. I have only been in the visitors center at Canyon Village & Old Faithful.
Both of these are fantastic centers. They have so much information and are very interesting (even for kids).
Yellowstone has some very interesting natural phenomena including Grand Prismatic Spring, Artist Paint Pots, Mammoth Hot Springs, and so many more.
Some are beautiful, some are amazing, some are crazy, and some are stinky. But they are all cool.
Yellowstone has a lot of geysers including Old Faithful, Grand, Steamboat, Castle, Great Fountain, and Daisy. Some are very predictable like Old Faithful (about every 90 minutes) and some are not predictable at all.
There are a lot of geysers in the Old Faithful area. Take a little hike and see them all or at least more than just Old Faithful.
Yellowstone also has some beautiful waterfalls including Upper and Lower Falls, Gibbon Falls, and Firehole Falls.
Upper and Lower Falls have trails on each side of the canyon. One side has easy trails and is great for non-hikers. The other side has trails that range from easy to difficult.
There is even a set of stairs that descends down about 3/4 of the way of the Lower Falls. It has 328 stairs. Gibbon Falls and Firehole Falls are super easy walks to see their beauty.
And last but not least, Yellowstone has animals. This is our favorite part of the park.
Yellowstone has a lot of buffalo. It has so many that if you missed getting a picture of the first bunch, you are guaranteed to see several more herds, so you don’t need to stop in the middle of the road for that picture!
There is a buffalo herd that spends its winters on the western side of the park and migrates to the Hayden Valley every summer and spends the hotter months there. They like the heat of the thermal features on the western side of the park during the winter. They migrate over to the valley for the summer.
There is another herd that is in the Lamar Valley.
The bears and wolves tend to come out more in the spring when the buffalo are calving.
We did not see any wolves this trip, but we did get to see four bears, a grizzly and a black bear and her two cubs. The cubs were tiny and so adorable.
Yellowstone also has a large elk population. During the early summer quite a few hang out at Mammoth.
Yellowstone is also home to coyotes. We learned this trip that there is a large pack that lives around the Old Faithful area. We saw a rather large coyote.
There are also deer, big horn sheep, various small animals, and lots of birds.
I must give a word of warning though. All of these animals are wild. Do not approach them! It is very dangerous.
We see far too many people walking or standing far too close. Also please do not stop in the middle of the road to take pictures. Find a pull out and park there. And always obey the park rangers.
If you’re looking for more tips for visiting Yellowstone, we’ve got more posts that you’ll want to check out!
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