This Has To Be One Of The Best Budget-Friendly Options To Stay In Yellowstone

For many, visiting Yellowstone National Park is a lifelong dream. This famous park provides its guests with a unique opportunity to see iconic landmarks like Old Faithful, to view incredible creatures like bears, bison, wolves, and elk living free in their natural habitat, and explore more than 2 million acres of wild country. Unfortunately, because it is such a popular tourist destination, finding places to stay in and around Yellowstone National Park can be too expensive for the average person. The best solution? Camping.

A 2023 report by Montana Free Press noted that in just five years the price of staying at Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn had gone from $274 to $424, with higher demand dates costing almost $600. Due to the prices of the lodges which used to be the most affordable way to visit the park climbing higher, reserving one of the park's campgrounds is not only the best way to experience everything the park has to offer — it's the best option for the budget-conscious.

Campgrounds are the most budget-friendly option

While the prospect of bundling up in a sleeping bag and keeping all food in bear-proof containers may not sound like the ideal vacation to some, camping in Yellowstone offers visitors the opportunity to get closer to nature — which is the reason millions of people flock to the park every year. Yellowstone National Park has 12 different campsites to choose from, but competition for spots can still be stiff. For those who know the dates of their trip months in advance, camping in Yellowstone can be an unforgettable experience that won't break the bank if you're only planning a short trip –– and you can even bring your dog.

The cost of reserving a campsite for the night starts at $20 for sites like the quiet Indian Creek which has an amazing view of Electric Peak and offers nearby fishing and hiking opportunities, and Slough Creek which the National Park Service notes is one of the best spots for seeing and hearing wildlife including wolf packs. For $30 to $45, guests can choose from sites like Canyon Campground which is near the Grand Canyon, Bridge Bay which offers incredible views of Yellowstone Lake and is sometimes visited by bison, and Grant Village, which is wheelchair accessible, close to places to shop and eat, and perfect for those looking for a less wild experience.

Backcountry camping

For those whose goal in coming to Yellowstone National Park is to fully immerse themselves in nature, a campground crowded with other excited visitors may be a little too close to civilization. If you would prefer to pitch your tent in a spot a little farther off the beaten path, you'll need a backcountry camping permit. In general, securing one of these coveted permits requires some advance planning — either entering the early access lottery or being ready to reserve a permit as soon as they go up on, but some locations do have a few permits available to buy within a day or two of the night you'd like to stay in the park.

While having a permit doesn't mean that you can set up your camp anywhere you want in the park, it does drastically expand your options (unless you have a pet with you, dogs are not allowed at backcountry camping sites). There are almost 300 areas designated for backcountry campers, and they generally only allow one group to stay in them at a time, so you are guaranteed privacy. Backcountry permits will only cost about $10 per night. For those planning to spend a lot of time in the beautiful Yellowstone wild, there is also an annual pass available for $50.

Yellowstone's lodges and cabins

Camping is not for everyone! If you're hoping to explore the hiking trails, watch geysers, and spot exciting wildlife by day but prefer to spend your nights safe and warm indoors, preferably with running water, there are alternatives to campsites — but they will cost you a bit more. There are nine lodges located in Yellowstone National Park, some of which are like simple log cabins while others are closer to a nice hotel. Just like campsites, they need to be booked well in advance, as rooms fill up quickly.

Some of the lodges are fairly pricey, with the Old Faithful Snow Lodge hotel costing an average of around $430 per night, but they aren't all that expensive. While prices on many rooms have gone up, the similarly named Old Faithful Lodge still costs an average of around $130 per night. For those who don't mind roughing it a little more but still prefer four walls and a roof to a tent, the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins may be the perfect fit. None of these cabins have internet access, and some, known as Roughrider Cabins, have shared bathrooms and use a wood-burning stove for heat, but they only cost around $125 per night.