On our recent roadtrip through Wyoming we decided to stay in the cabins of Yellowstone and Grand Teton. They are dog friendly and reasonably priced considering the captive audience (not cheap, but people would still pay more). They are close to the action and each location has its own personality.
I know that we normally camp – even primitive camp – but inexperience with grizzlies and the desire to keep packing to a minimum had me looking at the cabins for this trip and I’m really glad I did!
I thought it would be fun to share my experiences at the different locations from the perspective of someone who normally camps. We visited the Old Faithful Cabins, Roosevelt Cabins, Mammoth Hot Springs Cabins, and Colter Bay Cabins. The first three are in Yellowstone and the last in Grand Teton. We had different cabin types at each location and each had their pros and cons.
I don’t splurge on lodging that often but I paid for these on my own – this was not a sponsored trip. Even the rustic cabins seemed like luxury to me. Still, I compromised by packing all of my camp cook gear and bringing easy camp meals – as much fun as it was to stay in cabins I wasn’t about to eat out at National Park Service Cafes every meal. So I call this ‘cabin camping’ – and here’s how it worked out for us.
Location #1: Old Faithful Cabins
Cabin Type: Frontier Cabin – 1 double, 1 twin, private bath
These cabins sit right next to the Old Faithful Lodge, mere steps from the Old Faithful viewing area. Some cabins are unattached individual cabins, and some are attached in as many as four cabins in one structure. Our cabin was one of the latter and we stayed for one night.
Old Faithful Cabin Pros:
- Private Bath
- Right next to Old Faithful – we could see it from front porch
- Pretty quiet after the crowds of the day died down
- Dog friendly
- You can park right next to the cabin.
Old Faithful Cabin Cons:
- Super tiny – barely enough room for the two of us and our stuff, let alone the dog and his crate.
- The sink was in the main room and kind of in the way – but there was no room for it in the bathroom. They do give you a cute little bear shaped soap to take home!
- Attached to other cabins. Heard some talking, but since there are no TVs it was pretty quiet.
- No cooking inside the cabins (we used our tailgate out front).
Cabin Type: Roughrider – 3 doubles, shared bath
We spent two nights in the Roosevelt Cabins. This was our only cabin without a private bath, but it was right next to the shared bath and shower building. The Frontier cabins have private baths.
Roosevelt Roughrider Cabin Pros:
- Cute wood burning stove
- Quieter location – very peaceful and our cabin was its own building (no attached neighbors)
- Close to Lamar Valley: easy access for early morning and evening wildlife viewing
- Dog friendly
Roosevelt Roughrider Cabin Cons:
- No private bath – had to use public baths/shower (and my backpacking headlamp was useful for nighttime visits to the bathroom)
- Wood burning stove was cute but the warmth didn’t last unless maintained all night. The cabins aren’t insulated so it got chilly and I was glad to have brought along some warmer layers.
- Buggier (mosquitoes) than the other locations.
Location: Mammoth Hot Springs
Cabin: Frontier – 2 queens, Private Bath
Mammoth Frontier Cabin Pros:
- Totally different feel than the rest of the park – feels like the Presidio crossed with Hot Springs Arkansas.
- Cute porch where we had dinner and relaxed with our laptops late into the night.
- Dog friendly
- Private bath
Mammoth Frontier Cabin Cons:
- Close to a main entrance so it is a lot busier.
- Crowd seemed rowdier – louder
- Construction going on right behind our cabin, wasn’t the greatest view.
- Can tell they are old – I swear our floor sloped to the point where we thought we were in the mystery spot
Location: Colter Bay Village (Grand Teton)
Cabin: 1 double, 1 twin, private bath
This was my favorite cabin, simply due to the history. One of the oldest structures in Jackson Hole, it was built in 1890 by Frank Lovell, an early homesteader. There was a note hung on the wall with a detailed background.
Colter Bay Cabin Pros:
- MUCH bigger than the Old Faithful equivalent.
- History gave it a lot of character!
- Short Walk to lakeshore with a view of tetons.
- Short walk to visitor center and generously stocked grocery store.
- Private Bath
- Dog friendly
Colter Bay Cabin Cons:
- Weird shaped tiny bathroom – obvious add-on was not very space-efficient.
- Parking is plentiful but unusual – cars parked wherever they fit.
- There is no cooking allowed within cabin village, even outdoors (which we could do in Yellowstone). Luckily we were near a nice picnic area where we could go cook dinner.
- The cabin had an odd linoleum floor. It seems that an authentic 120 year old homesteader cabin would deserve better.
- It felt weird to pay so much money to stay in a cabin this after staying in so many historic cabins for free in the desert!
A note on Cooking
For obvious reasons (wildlife) there is no cooking allowed in the cabins. To avoid eating out, we brought along pre-cooked and frozen homemade meals like chili, spaghetti sauce, and taco fillings. We packed a car camping cook set and made dinner either on the truck tailgate outside of our cabin or at a nearby picnic area every night.
Having a Yeti cooler helped immensely. The food was prepared ahead of time and frozen in a deep freeze at home in a compact and well sealed manner. Even though we left home a week before the middle of our trip in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, my perishables stayed frozen and then ice cold.
I also brought along my backpacking Jetboil and a Melita packed separately so we could make coffee in the morning while watching for wildlife. I liked this setup since it was stored separately and we could quickly make a cup of coffee without getting out all the cook gear.
Booking the cabins was tricky but not impossible. We decided to use them after the early booking window had opened and most places were booked. But regularly checking for cancellations worked and we easily got what we wanted within a couple of weeks of starting to look.
The cost was higher than camping, obviously, but I’m glad we used the cabins for our first visit to Yellowstone. Bringing our own food helped with the cost, and also helped us eat healthier than we could if we has to use the cafes and restaurants in the parks.
By staying in the cabins and not camping, we didn’t have to stress about bears in camp, or waste time with camp setup/takedown when we’d rather be sightseeing or moving early for wildlife photography. A lot of the campgrounds are first-come, first-served and reducing that stress during a busy season was also nice. Overall, I’m glad we stayed at the cabins and I would definitely do it again.