Yellowstone National Park has been a destination of interest to us for years, and during the snowstorms of winter 2015 we had some time to research and book a trip using Delta miles. We decided on September, as the crowds should be less than in the summer, but still have reasonably nice weather. And that is when we learned our first lesson about visiting Yellowstone – book early! We couldn’t book the same room for our entire time in the park but this was fortuitous as it led us to spend a night in Grand Teton, which we liked even better than Yellowstone.
Our tickets had us flying in and out of Bozeman, Montana, which had better connections for us than the flights to and from Jackson, Wyoming. On arrival we bought a one-week park pass for both parks in the luggage area of the airport. Next, we got the keys to our rental car, then drove down the road to a conveniently placed Albertsons to pick up snacks: granola, trail(nut) mix, chips and local beer. Feeling prepared we continued down the Gallatin Road to Big Sky, where we stopped for beer at Lone Peak Brewery.
Since we weren’t familiar with their beer we split a taster in order to try the Steep and Deep Winter Ale, Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout, Oktoberfest, Bourbon Barrel Stout and Dark Shine of the Moon. Our server even brought us an extra sample on the house so we could try ALL the dark beers. Beer was reasonably priced by the pint, and we split a bison quesadilla with a side of guacamole.
From there we continued on to West Yellowstone, enjoying the early Fall views along the river.
Three days later our drive out of the park was even more dramatic as we followed the Yellowstone River out the north end of the park into a valley with steep sided hills and farms clustered along the river. Unfortunately, the north entrance (with the dramatic stone arch) was completely under construction and it was a bit of a detour through town to get out of the park.
Yellowstone lodging & dining
Though we booked >6 months out for a less popular time of year, there still weren’t that many room choices available. After mapping out where we wanted to be we decided to stay two nights in an Old Faithful Snow Lodge Western Cabin. The room had positives and negatives:
- We could park right outside our door
- Decent amount of space
- Keurig machine and Newman’s coffee
- Room lights were super dim for 5-10 minutes, needed a long time to warm up
- no tissues (empty when we arrived, never refilled)
- coffee creamer was labeled “whitener” (at least they are honest)
- Intensely ugly bedspreads!
Not glamorous, or even fancy, but the room kept us warm and was reasonably comfortable for sleeping.
Old Faithful is at least an hour+ drive to the nearest town, so we ate breakfast at the lodges. The first morning we went to the Obsidian Dining Room: Reasonable breakfast eggs for me with rye toast, while Leandra went for the one egg and salmon benedict. Both were OK, neither bad nor memorable.
Given that experience, on our second morning we tried the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Pro tip – go a few minutes before Old Faithful is scheduled to erupt and you may have the place to yourself! We both ordered the breakfast buffet and the food quality was a bit higher than the Obsidian Dining Room and with orange juice and coffee included, it was only a few dollars more. Given the better ambiance it was well worth it.