Back in 1883, visitors were already coming to tour Yellowstone National Park, and Mammoth Hot Springs boasted its luxurious National Hotel. With 150 rooms, the structure was over 400 feet long, had electricity, a spacious lobby and “a long line of vermillion spittoons precisely arrayed down the hall.” By 1936, most of it (except one wing) was razed and the place rebuilt. It re-opened in 1937 and is today’s Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
Now, it boasts 211 rooms (including cabins), an ATM, gift shop, restaurant, Map Room, espresso service and a clinic. Internet access is available in the public areas, and there’s a lovely lobby to relax in. But there are no spittoons.
Located five miles from the park’s north entrance, Mammoth Hot Springs is also where the Park Headquarters are located. In fact, from the front of the hotel, you can see where many of the administration reside: living in the line of old-fashioned red-roofed buildings which were once part of Fort Yellowstone (in 1886, the U.S. Cavalry took control of Yellowstone).
Besides the hotel rooms (some with shared bath), there are also cabins on the property—and I stayed in one. These are not rustic log cabins but quaint buildings with little front porches; all encircling a grassy common area shared with the other cabins.
My cozy cabin was categorized as a “frontier cabin”. It was simple, small, efficient, and immaculate. I had two queen beds (with beautifully patterned blankets). In hindsight, I should have put my suitcase on the bed I wasn’t using instead of the luggage rack. The luggage rack was squeezed behind the door. With my suitcase on it, this meant going in and out was a rather interesting and awkward procedure.
The tiny basic bathroom had a toilet and shower, while the sink and mirror vanity were outside of it, near the front door. Depending on how you looked at the entire room, it could feel cramped and claustrophobic or cozy and old-fashioned.
The restaurant and bar here are a delight. An expert bartender shakes up specialty “Huckleberry Margaritas” (delicious)
and the beautiful dining room serves wonderful “small plates” like prime rib sliders and fresh salads. Entrees include fettuccine with tomato lamb ragout and huckleberry barbecue chicken. (Huckleberry is popular in this western neck of the woods!) The view is something you don’t see everyday either. Across the parking lot, in the area that was once the parade ground of the original Fort Yellowstone, there’s usually a herd of free roaming bison, grazing—with crazy tourists trying to snap selfies and being entirely too close to the animals.
The best part of staying at the cabin was when I woke up at midnight, looked out my little cabin window and saw a small herd of bison in the grassy area in the middle of our cabins; mama bison relaxed while their babies cavorted around. It’s a scene I will never forget—and the reason I continue to love these kinds of lodgings. They may not offer all the luxuries, but the serendipitous experiences that can occur at them often become the most memorable of a trip.
Standard rooms in the hotel start at $90 for a room with a shared bath. “Rustic Cabins” without bath start at $98. My “frontier cabin” with its own bath was $160.
None of the lodgings in the park offer televisions, radios or air conditioning. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is one of two Yellowstone National Park properties that are open in the winter. (Wintertime 2016-2018 the hotel will be closed for renovations. Summertime, it remains open.)
Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long who was a guest of Yellowstone National Park. As always, all opinions are her own.