Located in Yellowstone National Park, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the oldest (opened in 1891) hotel in the park. Often called the “Grand Lady of the Lake”, its early guests arrived by stagecoach–no doubt wind-whipped and covered in a thin layer of dust.
Today, guests arrive much more comfortably (and usually cleaner) to this historic hotel which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2015.
If you’re expecting the typical “parkitecture” we see in most national parks– rustic wood beams and log furniture similar to the style found at Old Faithful Lodge—you’ll be as surprised as I was upon arrival.
Back in 1903, the simple lakefront lodging was redesigned in the Colonial Revival style—with white neoclassical columns. The building was painted a sun yellow with white trim (reflecting the popular east coast grand resorts at that time). Through the years since then, it has been expanded, renovated and updated more than once. Amazingly, it has managed to keep its own character and look (it’s still yellow and white) into the 21st century. This year (2016), the hotel celebrates its 125th anniversary.
The “registration” desk where you check-in seems small compared to the expansive lobby that stretches through the sun room, past the gift shop, bar and into the dining room. (In its entirety, the hotel from east wing to west wing is more than two football fields long.)
Featuring walls of windows looking out onto Lake Yellowstone, much of the lobby space is filled with numerous comfy sitting areas, including one in front of a spectacular Arts and Crafts tiled fireplace that was created in 1923.
Check in was easy, with friendly and helpful staff who obviously love where they work (Who wouldn’t with a view like they have?)
Most guests enter from the parking lot through the entrance that does not face the lake–and I loved the “Bell Porter” desk I passed while doing so. A large antique “annunciator board,” is still displayed there. Back in the day, this was a way for the bellmen to respond to guests. Guests pushed a button in their room that corresponded to a number on the board. I noted there were more than 200 room numbers on that board—which must have kept the bellmen busy.
Nowadays, the hotel has 153 rooms and 110 cabins located on the grounds (and you can call the desk for a bellman by phone). None of the rooms have air conditioning, radios or televisions. There is also only wired internet access, for a fee.
My room was in the east wing and considered a “Superior” Room—with a magnificent view of Lake Yellowstone. (“Premium” rooms are not facing the lake.)
Dark wood furnishings gave it a casual elegance as did the warm neutral color scheme and carpet. It was not oversized but still offered plenty of space. I liked the coffeemaker with real cups (no plastic here) and was impressed they even had a special divided wastebasket for recyclable trash.The bed was comfortable with nice linens—and a soft teddy bear sitting on the corner of it was yours to take home—a nice touch in all the rooms!
The bathroom is not huge, but has a perfect classic style that matches the bedroom’s décor. Mine even had a window with a lake view. It’s a combination bathtub/shower plus a single sink.Robes are provided, plus hairdryer, and plenty of plush towels.
The hotel has a deli, bar, and beautiful dining room. With a hardwood floor, table linens, and windows all around, the dining room is a sunny, delightful spot for breakfast—whether you choose the huge breakfast buffet or order off the menu. My tip for off the menu? Try the huckleberry cream cheese stuffed French toast –it’s decadent and delicious. I also enjoyed evening dinner here (when the sun is just setting, it’s a lovely scene). Bison tenderloin, grilled quail, lamb and gorgeous salads grace the menu—along with several sweet dessert choices. I indulged on the “Yellowstone Caldera”: a warm chocolate torte that oozed out molten chocolate—it just seemed so appropriate.
Even if you are not staying here, you can enjoy a meal or a cocktail while gazing out onto the largest alpine lake in North America. This is a peaceful gracious sort of spot—a place to relax away from the crowds. I especially enjoyed the nightly piano music (a string quartet performs in the lobby area on weekends). It seemed the perfect accompaniment with my glass of wine.
The hotel is open from mid-May to mid-October, and room prices start at $157 for one of the frontier cabins. My “Superior Room” with its lake view was $405. There is also a Presidential Suite. Check the website to make reservations or for more information. Be aware national park properties often need to be booked months in advance.
Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long who was a guest of the hotel .