Cheap Summer Vacation Series: Yellowstone National Park

After reading a post on SS4BC’s blog on her road trip (which I believe has been cancelled), I got to thinking about cheap summer vacations, and quickly realized that a very frugal way to vacation is to hit up your local (or not so local) national parks.  Many of them are free to get in, and if they are not free admission, there is usually a small fee, and you can camp for free or relatively cheap at campgrounds that are maintained by the park staff.  You can easily cook most of your own meals so you wont be eating out frequently.  This will also be a series of posts, and I’m hoping to get some posts from other bloggers around the country to talk about parks I’ve never been to.  I’ll start out the series with the first national park, Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National park is huge, and is mostly located in Wyoming (some small areas in Idaho and Montana are within the parks boundaries as well).  I’ve only been up there once, but it was amazing.  The park is currently sitting directly atop a large caldera (volcano) and that has lent to many unique features in the park.  There are very, very old redwood trees (that are normally not found in wyoming), hot pools, gyesers galore, fantastic waterfalls and much more.   There’s abundant wildlife and it was well worth the admission fee.

When I went, I stayed at yellowstone and grand teton national parks for 7 days today, and spent $25 to get into both places.  I’d have to say that it’s easily the best $25 I’ve ever spent. Even though this was during the gas price spike in 2008, I was still able to have a fairly cheap week.  A lot of the meals I made were relatively simple affairs, as I wanted to get and see as much as possible when I was up there.  I camped when I was there, and for those squirmish about not taking a shower for that long, yellowstone has shower facilities that you can use (though you had to pay a small fee).

This park is just north of Grand Teton, and there are 4 roads into the park.  You can access it from Cody, WY, Gardnier, MT, West Yellowstone MT or Jackson, WY.  You’ll need a vehicle, as no town is close enough to the park to walk to.  Visitation is very high in the summer, but you can still feel like you’re out in the wild if you get away from the main roads.

This is a picture that I took in the park. The pools in the background are steaming and you cant get in them – they are heated by the caldera.

Another picture from inside the park.  As you can see, the landscapes vary in the park widely.  This was near a gyser.  The landscapes in the park are just stunning, and you get to see them all for the low price of $25 for the week (7 days)!  The park was huge, so this did take some driving from our campsite to the best areas of the park, but it was well worth it.

One of the many gysers in the park.  It is really awesome to watch these gysers spray, some of the spray quite high and quite frequently, and some of them don’t spray that often, but often resulting in a large stream of water.

This is the iconic yellowstone falls.  Obviously my crappy camera and photo taking skills dont do it justice, but it is stunning.

Along with all of this, you get a chance to bond with whomever you decide to take and have a great excuse to unplug and enjoy your vacation.  The best part is, this (or a national park near you) wont break the bank.

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10 thoughts on “Cheap Summer Vacation Series: Yellowstone National Park

  1. Love this post. My husband has been wanting to take me to Yellowstone since we were in high school (no, we didn’t get married then–LOL). He’s been there, but I never have. I never thought about it as a way to save money on a great vacation. 🙂

  2. I’ve had Yellowstone on the list since childhood….which was a long, long time ago! I’ve been to 47 of the 50 states in the U.S., and have seen a lot – but somehow Yellowstone has eluded me. Looking forward to making that happen, and doing so with kids would be fun.

    • Squirrelers
      Thanks for stopping by – you really should move yellowstone back up to the list. Theres not really a major airport close by (salt lake is closest) but it’s worth the trip. Congrats on getting to 47 states, btw, im still in the 30s.

  3. I’m from Cody. It is just amazing to have that park in our backyard. We would often do day trips during the summer. Now living in Montana, we drive through the park (only in the summer and early fall) when traveling to visit family and friends. It’s like having a mini-vacation while driving to the real vacation! In addition to the spectacular scenery you will always see lots of wildlife, like buffalo, elk, moose antelope and even bears and possibly wolves. Even when just driving through.

    • Deedee – Cody is such a nice place. I had a chance to stay there after I was in yellowstone (car issues). I couldnt imagine having something like yellowstone so close – I would probably be there more often than not!

  4. Now you’ve got me thinking about Yellowstone! I was just discussing with my family where we should go for vacation this year. We were thinking of going back to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor Maine, but maybe I will have to consider Yellowstone.

    I loved your pictures!! I wonder how long a drive it would be for us. I am going to look into it!

    • Acadia is on my list as well. I couldn’t drive to it though, I’d have to fly. Yellowstone is a great park, so much to see. It’s worth the trip, to be sure

  5. I can’t wait to go to Yellowstone. It’ll probably be a few more years until the little guy is a bit older though. It’ll be a long road trip from Oregon. 🙂

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