Yellowstone on a Budget – Is It Possible?
Yellowstone National Park is an American icon and it’s on the bucket travel list of both domestic and international tourists.
However, seeing a grand spectacle like this usually doesn’t come cheap, if you don’t know some of the budget-busting tips that can help cut costs.
Can you see Yellowstone on a budget?
It is possible to cut costs in some areas when seeing Yellowstone National Park, including on accommodation, food, and park tickets.
With careful planning and timing your trip just right, you’ll be able to see the natural wonder for a more affordable price and not send yourself broke on this one vacation.
Whether you’re planning a family road trip or want to hike some of Yellowstone’s trails on your own, you’ll soon see why it’s such a treasured national icon.
Our tips and advice for seeing Yellowstone on a budget mean you can enjoy the adventure at hand without having to worry about what’s happening in your wallet.
To save money when visiting Yellowstone, you can look for nearby towns and cities that give you the same experience and scenery as the park, as well as being in fairly close proximity.
Cooke City and Gardiner are both affordable options and a little further away, but a good way to cut costs. Because you’re still driving into the park, adding these few extra miles won’t make much of a difference.
Camping is a great way to save money and see Yellowstone National Park, but staying in the park itself can be costly, even if many people agree that it’s worth spending on.
The amenities there are modern and clean, so when you compare to other campsites, it’s the clear winner.
Those wanting to camp in the park and not stay in a neighboring area can do so during the off-season to save money.
At Yellowstone, this is over two periods, including early March to late April and early October to mid-December, so you get some options of what type of weather you’d prefer to camp in.
Eating and Drinking for Cheap
Yellowstone Park has plenty of amenities that make it easy to prepare your own meals, and whether you’re camping or staying at some other accommodation, this is the best way to reduce costs.
Creating a meal plan before you leave and doing a grocery shop to cover all your basics means you won’t have to spend up big for last-minute items when you’re staying near the park.
Depending on how long you stay, you might want to splurge for just a few meals over the length of your trip.
There are lots of cafes and restaurants around the area including Old Faithful Basin Store, Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room, Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room, and Bear Pit Lounge, just to name a few.
Drinking is legal on the campgrounds and other areas of Yellowstone Park, and with the relaxed rules that Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho hold around public drinking, it’s not that frowned upon.
Just be sure that you’re respectful of the land and those around you, without drinking to excess and becoming a nuisance.
The most common mode of transport at Yellowstone National Park is a car and people are usually more comfortable bringing their own vehicle.
There are no public transport options inside the park and they’re limited in the surrounding areas, but the road system is easy to follow and follows a central ring loop that connects with other parks and popular attractions.
To save even more money, some travelers prefer to hitchhike, but it’s a practice that comes with risks.
As well as the concerns for your safety, others might not feel comfortable collecting a stranger from the side of the road at the entry to a national park, so avoid it where you can.
If you don’t have a car and aren’t comfortable hitchhiking, there are bus tours that can collect you from your accommodation and take you into the park.
However, you’ll have to follow the time limits they set for daily visits and go to locations that they take you to, which removes some of the freedom of the trip.
Guided Tours and Popular Spots
Those visiting Yellowstone National Park on a budget could do away with guided tours if they really wanted to, and have fun exploring for themselves.
Otherwise, choosing just one that departs from an area close to the park and lets you enter by foot is another great option.
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid paying the entry fee for the national park, which costs $35 per person.
However, if you’re looking for the chance to have affordable or free vacations all year long, investing in an annual pass is recommended.
The America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series gives you access to over 2,000 federal recreational sites.
Along with the many national parks, you can also access forests and grasslands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and it covers you for a full year.
Budget-Friendly Tips for Yellowstone
With many money-savvy travelers coming before you, there’s no shortage of tips and tricks that they’ve left behind for you to follow.
Here are just a few ways that you can save money on a trip to Yellowstone, and America’s other national parks.
Opt for free parks
Look for one of the many national parks that have free entry and build a trip based around this.
Although only a small amount that you can save, it’s money you could use for something else, like feeding yourself for a whole weekend.
During certain days of the year, all national parks offer free entry, so you can book a visit around this.
Plan a trip for six to eight months in advance to get the best prices, and give yourself time to shop around for bargains on airfares and travel.
You’ll also be able to secure a spot at the accommodation of your choice and guarantee a prime position at the campground.
You can save a few extra dollars by entering the Yellowstone National Park on foot rather than taking your vehicle in.
Entry for walkers is only $10, and if you’re going hiking and happy to travel this way, there’s no need to pay more just to bring a car along.
Create a meal plan
Eating out is one of the biggest costs you’ll encounter on vacation, and staying at a campsite is the perfect opportunity for making a meal plan and doing some basic meal prep that can counteract this.
By knowing exactly what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert, you’ll never need to spend anything at a restaurant and will never go hungry.
An Affordable Way to See an Icon
There’s nothing quite like the wonder that is Yellowstone National Park, but high costs for entry and accommodation can be enough to turn some travelers away.
By following our tips for saving money and only spending where you have to, you’ll get to enjoy the national park in a more economical way.
A visit to one of America’s many wonderful national parks is on the top of many traveler’s bucket lists, but with a huge list of options to choose from, how do you know which is the right one?
To help you learn a little more about the national parks of the US, read on for some commonly asked questions and our expert answers.
Are There Any Free National Parks?
The United States has more than 400 national parks, with many of them costing nothing to gain entry into.
If you want to visit one of the parks that usually charge a fee, you can visit them on the fee-free days that occur throughout the year, and only pay for the amenities and activity fees, is they have them.
What is the Largest National Park in the US?
The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Reserve is the largest national park system in the US and is located in Alaska.
The park measures roughly 13.2 million acres and is larger in size than Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone Park, and the country of Switzerland all put together.
Do National Parks Close in Winter?
Many of the US National Parks stay open in winter, although there may be some changes and limitations to the lodging options.
If you’re planning a visit to one of the parks during the winter season, check ahead to ensure they’re open and that they have accommodation options to suit your needs.