Heading to Yellowstone National Park and on a budget? No problem! We recently visited Yellowstone and had an amazing time, and our wallets left full & happy. Here are our 5 budget tips for Yellowstone:
1. Sleep Outside The Park
There are several lodges, cabins, and campgrounds located within Yellowstone National Park, BUT once again with location comes a cost. Sure you could stay at the lodges within the park but that has a price tag. Instead, you could stay just outside the park in West Yellowstone at The Brandin’ Iron Inn for much more reasonable rates. That is exactly what we did, centrally located and budget-friendly. Another bonus about staying in West Yellowstone is that you’re still very close to Old Faithful. For Old Faithful eruption predictions check their twitter – or dial 307-344-2751.
If you are camping, the campsites within the park are $$ per night and on a first come basis. There are campsites located outside the park at budget-friendly prices. We stayed at Crazy Creek campground on our way into the park by the North East entrance just outside of Cooke City one night for $8 a night.
2. Gas Up Outside The Park
Learn from our mistake…I would suggest having at least a half tank of gas when entering the park every day. If you do end up with your low fuel light glaring at you, no fear there are several gas stations located within Yellowstone National Park. However, with convenience comes a cost. Gas within the park was 30-40 cents more per gallon. So, if you do have to fill up, just squirt in a few gallons and plan on filling up outside the park. We stayed in West Yellowstone where gas was average prices, a lot lower than I actually expected. Try and fill up before you head into the park, save your money for tip #5.
3. Pack A Lunch
There are several restaurants located within Yellowstone, but none of which are within reach if you are on a budget. There are several picnic sites within Yellowstone, many of which you will be the only ones at. Pack a picnic lunch, or bring your grill (that’s what we did). A peaceful picnic spot beats a cafeteria full of tourists any day!
NOTE: If you are staying in West Yellowstone there are 2 grocery stores, that are both reasonably priced.
4. Budget For Daily Ice Cream At Visitor Centers
After hours of exploring Yellowstone, you deserve an ice cream break! With the money you’ve saved by using tips #1-4 you’ll have enough to indulge in an ice cream cone. We ended up having an ice cream break daily inside Yellowstone. At first, I thought there is no way the ice cream is going to budget-friendly, but with the number of tourists licking ice cream cones I thought maybe it is! I was shocked when I saw I could get a double scoop cone/dish for under $4, and this was a massive dish. Being on a budget, Adam and I share the double dish as it would have been over $7 for two single scoop dishes.
NOTE: I found the prices varied throughout the park, as did the flavors.
5. Buy Annual National Park Pass
If you are planning an #EpicUSroadtrip like us, you might want to invest in America The Beautiful Pass. It’s a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The pass is valid for one year and costs $80, you can purchase online here. Every time you enter a National Park just hand over your card and picture ID. Your card will get a hole punched on the month the card activated, as it’s valid one year. The pass will get the pass holder and occupants of a single, private vehicle into National Parks.
So far our pass has paid for itself just in the first month of our road trip. We have only visited 3 National Parks, but that would have cost us $80 without the pass. We visited Theodore National Park in North Dakota fee was $20 per car for a 7-day pass. Yellowstone National Park was $30 per car for a 7-day pass, and Grand Tetons National park was another $30 for a 7-day pass. We have several more National Parks on our #epicUSroadtrip route, we for sure will be getting the value out of the pass and saving a lot of money too.
Now that we have shown you that Yellowstone on a budget can be done, you have extra money in your wallet to start exploring your next vacation!
Tuesday 27th of February 2018
Not all the campgrounds are first come, first serve...we have reservations for Canyon and Bridge Bay. I believe there are 5 where you can make reservations. As we have a senior pass we pay half price. $15 a night a Bridge Bay and $17. at Canyon.
Tuesday 13th of March 2018
Thanks for the update!
Monday 6th of February 2017
Just FYI for those who are not road tripping and only going to grand teton and yellowstone. You can get a joint pad for $50. Saves $10.
Tuesday 7th of February 2017
Thanks for the tip!
Friday 15th of July 2016
Loved your suggestions and the fact you did it in three days was a relief. I was nervous we didn't plan enough time there. I would love to learn more about your itinerary or sections you broke the park into to conquer it in so few days. I'm going in August.
Tuesday 2nd of February 2016
Great informative post guys! Visited yellowstone in summer '14 as part of our Western states road trip and loved it. I think the national parks pass was the best $80 we spent! Great to see they've not hiked up the price. Looking forward to returning there this summer!
Tuesday 15th of September 2015
We were just in Yellowstone a few weeks ago and made a few mistakes. At this point in our road trip, we were sick of the food we had, so we ate out for every meal one day (and spent 100$ in the process!). We had to gas up in Yellowstone also, which was not fun on the wallet.
We saved by spending one night backpacking (at 3$ per person, our backcountry campsite was 6$ as opposed to the 15$ at the park campsites).