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 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.
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 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.
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.