National Park Road Trip 2011: The Lodges of Old Faithful In Yellowstone National Park

The iconic Old Faithful Inn just might be the best-known lodge in the National Park System. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Editor's note: David and Kay Scott have returned to Yellowstone National Park for a stay at Old Faithful, where they sampled the options available to update their book, The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges.

The Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park is busy, busy, busy. As usual, there are lots of people, lots of tour groups, and lots of vehicles. The new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center that opened in August of last year probably adds to the crowds because travelers tend to stay in this area of the park for a longer period of time. Still, it is the famous geyser that attracts the multitudes. We can’t complain, however, because the new education center is very impressive, Old Faithful is still impressive, and Old Faithful Inn is its usual wonderful self. Returning to the inn is like visiting a favorite grandparent. It’s old, but in a wonderful way.

The view from the Old Faithful Visitor Center frames the geyser nicely. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

The Visitor Education Center is a major improvement over the small visitor center it replaced. The center includes a large area devoted to exhibits, an interactive area for children, a theater, a library, and of course, a gift shop.

This is probably the finest national park visitor center we have experienced. Over half the $27 million cost was covered by funds raised by Yellowstone Park Foundation. The remaining $12 million was paid by the National Park Service.

As we have discovered in several newer NPS buildings in other parks, synthetic shake shingles, including those used on the education center, often result in roofing problems.

Following our last report from Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park we drove north and stopped at Flagg Ranch to try and take some better photos of the cabins. Next was a stop at Grant Village for the same task. Leaving Grant Village we ran into a rain and hail storm for the ages. Fortunately, the hail wasn’t sufficiently large to damage our vehicle.

It was pouring rain as we drove into the Old Faithful area and the visitor center and hotel lobbies were packed with people. The rain eventually ended and the trapped masses escaped their shelters to hike the boardwalks through the geyser area and watch Old Faithful perform.

The Snow Lodge at Old Faithful is one of several lodging options available. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

There is more lodging in the Old Faithful area than the famous inn. Here visitors have a wide range of lodging options ranging from small rustic cabins without a private bathroom to an upscale and relatively new lodge. Likewise, prices span a wide range from $70 to $236 per night.

Three lodges at Old Faithful are in close proximity to the famous geyser and to one another. Guests at one lodge have an easy walk to the neighboring lodges, to Old Faithful, and to the NPS education center.

The least expensive rooms are at Old Faithful Lodge Cabins, a complex that consists of a large rustic lodge constructed in the 1920s and approximately 100 cabins.

The Old Faithful Lodge cabins. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

The lodge has a food court, ice cream shop, and lobby, but no guest rooms. Cabins are in two classes; Budget cabins without a private bathroom cost $67 per night, and Frontier cabins with a bathroom cost $110 per night.

Budget cabins are pretty plain and the least expensive lodging in the Old Faithful area. Nearby, Snow Lodge and Cabins is by far the newest lodging facility in the Old Faithful area and it offers some of the nicest lodging in this section of the park.

The complex also includes 34 nearby cabins. Opened in 1999 to replace another hotel that was demolished the prior year, Snow Lodge offers 100 similar rooms that rent at $206 per night. Cabins come in two classes, Frontier ($96) and Western ($149). Cabins in both classes have a private bathroom.

Old Faithful Inn is the iconic national park lodge that, at some point, attracts every visitor who enters Yellowstone National Park. At least it seems that way in the inn’s lobby where hoards of people are constantly roaming.

The inn is comprised of the central section called the “Old House” that opened in 1903, plus two large wings that were added over the following two decades. Most guest rooms in the Old House are without a private bathroom. These one-room units cost $96, while the same rooms with a bath are $30 more. Two-room units in both categories are also available at a higher cost. More modern rooms in the two wings range in cost from $159 to $236.

Despite the crowds and noise, there is something special about staying in the Old House section of the inn, especially the first floor where guest rooms have interior log walls that add to the ambiance. Old House rooms on the second and third floors have walls of rough-hewn pine, but still offer the feel of a historic lodge.

A room in the "Old House" of the Old Faithful Inn. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Second and third floor rooms also have better wall insulation to deaden noise from neighboring rooms. Rooms in the two wings are more modern and quite nice, but don’t offer the ambiance of Old House rooms.

This morning we leave for two nights at Lake Yellowstone Hotel, our favorite lodge in the park. The atmosphere at Lake is much different than in the Old Faithful area. Not necessarily better, just different. We will tell you about it in the next report.

Comments

The new visitor center is impressive,but the location ? Why would they block the geyser?

"Returning to the inn is like visiting a favorite grandparent. It’s old, but in a wonderful way."
That is SO true! The OFI is our home away from home! Our family has made a lifetime of memories there and we have enoyed every one of the rooms that we have ever gotten! We enjoy the Inn after all the tourists have moved on to their lodging for the evening and the Inn is quiet and less active. We enjoy playing cards on the second floor veranda waiting for Old Faithful to go off. We also enjoy strolling out to catch Old Faithful one last time under the stars before turning in to our rooms for the night. In the mornings my husband will get up early, take his photos of the Inn's interior while I sit down by the massive fireplace with a book. (I miss the complementary coffee they used to have outside the dining room!) Sigh...

Maybe a blog on Canadian national parks would be good as well. We get many American travelers coming up for the rugged beauty of places like Banff National Park.

MikeB, you do have some gorgeous parks up north. We have written a bit about them, but not extensively due to staffing restrictions. Here's one from last August:
http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/08/tale-two-lakes-two-canadian-national-parks6340

Hey MikeB,
Last September my husband & I took a week and did Banff & Jasper National Parks. We stayed at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake. We had stayed there in 2007 and enjoyed it so much we had to come back. In Jasper, we stayed at Alpine Village. We had a small cabin with a fireplace and my husband grilled Bison Burgers on the small grill outside. It was absolutely wonderful! The Canadian Rockies take my breath away!

Again - since you seem to be fans of the work of Gilbert Stanley Underwood, I'll point out that the Old Faithful Lodge main building was one of his designs. Or at least the final design, which was apparently a composite design to combine several existing buildings into one.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to check out Old Faithful Inn or the new visitor center on my last visit during an early June. The new visitor center was under construction, and the temporary post office and visitor center was housed in a portable structure. Old Faithful Inn was undergoing seismic work for a few years and didn't open until July each year. It was blocked off by a fence when I last visited Yellowstone. I do remember visiting Old Faithful Inn years ago.

Nice blogs...enjoying your tour of the national parks. Please stop by the front desk at Lake Hotel and say hello to Marie P from Georgia....from Connie in NH. She has been working there for at least the last 15 yrs, driving up from Georgia every summer. I worked there with her in 2002....

We need help with lodging in Banff & Jasper. We want our next hiking trip to be in the Canadian rockies near the cities of Banff & Jasper. We need help with finding a cabin for 4 people. Thanks