THE BEST WAY TO YELLOWSTONE
From LAX, United and Delta offer connecting service (change of planes) to Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyo. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $354. Cody is about 52 miles east of Yellowstone's eastern boundary.
WHERE TO STAY
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins, in the northern end of the park, (866) 439-7375 or (307) 344-7311, http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com. Open May 14-Oct. 11, then reopens late December-March. Of the 97 rooms, 29 rent year-round for $87 (shared bath), 66 for $117 (private bath) nightly, and two suites at $439 nightly. The cabins go for $79 (shared bath), $107 (private bath) or $213 (for the four that have hot tubs). Part of the hotel dates to 1913, part to the 1930s. Rooms are clean but smallish and Spartan. (They haven't gotten around to switching from metal keys to keycards yet.) None of the nine hotels, lodges, cabin collections and inns inside the park offers air-conditioning or televisions in guest rooms. Also, no Wi-Fi at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Old Faithful Inn, In the southern end of the park, (866) 439-7375, or (307) 344-7311, http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com. An architectural wonder, with great location, staggering public spaces and 329 rooms. The Old House part, completed in 1904, includes 89 rooms, 77 of them with shared baths. East and west wings with 240 more rooms were added in the teens and '20s. We would have stayed here, if anything had been available. Often books up far in advance. Opened this year on May 7 and closes Oct. 17. Rates $96-$179 (shared bath) or $122-$231 (private bath) or $400-$502 (suites). If you can't snag a room or dinner reservation, try breakfast or lunch (first come, first served) or just a drink on the second-floor deck.
The Cody, 232 W. Yellowstone Ave., Cody; (307) 587-5915, http://www.thecody.com. Built and opened in 2008 within walking distance of Cody's rodeo grounds at the west end of town. Its 75 rooms and generous public spaces have a sophisticated vibe, fancy furnishings, free breakfast buffet, indoor pool. Rooms feature big, flat TVs and hushed air-conditioning. Rates $139-$250 in summer, $59-$129 in winter.
WHERE TO EAT
In Yellowstone's Lake Yellowstone area, Lake Lodge Cafeteria (search "dining" at http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.) No fancy food here, just fuel for hikers. But the log construction, soaring ceilings, wide porch out front and lake across the street make this a memorable spot. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, closing 11 a.m. Oct. 3. Most items under $10. (I liked the $4.95 bison chili bowl.)
In Yellowstone's northern Tower/Roosevelt area, the Roosevelt Lodge (search "dining" at http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a woodsy 82-seat dining room, complete with stone fireplaces and a broad porch in front. Usually less crowded than the southern end of the park. It closes at 10 a.m. Sept. 6 and doesn't reopen until next summer. Menu includes ribs, catfish and elk empanadas. Dinner entrees about $16-$24.
Irma Hotel, 1192 Sheridan Ave., Cody; (307) 587-4221 or (800) 745-4762, http://www.irmahotel.com. This throwback lodging-restaurant-saloon was founded by Buffalo Bill in 1902, with additions in 1929 and again in the 1970s. Lunch entrees under the dining room's tin ceiling and antler chandeliers run up to $16.50, and summertime dinner buffets run $23. If that's not enough for you, consider the 15 original hotel guest rooms in the oldest section above the bar & restaurant. Rates for most of them run $157 in summer, dropping to $65 in winter. (The hotel also has 24 less-interesting newer rooms, priced at $107 in summer, $55 in winter.)
Proud Cut Saloon & Steakhouse, 1227 Sheridan Ave., Cody; (307) 527-6905, no website. The front room, over 21 only, is full of stuffed heads and Western atmosphere. For families, there's a back patio (and a demoralizing little back room). Dinner entrees $7.25-$32.95.
TO LEARN MORE
Yellowstone National Park, http://www.nps.gov/yell/
Wyoming Tourism, http://www.wyomingtourism.org
Cody Chamber of Commerce, http://www.codychamber.org/visit-cody.cfm
Xanterra, Yellowstone's main concessionaire, http://www.travelyellowstone.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times