Friday, April 20, 2018

Roosevelt Lodge - Yellowstone National Park

The Wild West lives on at Roosevelt Lodge. The rustic lodge building was built in 1920 and, aside from the modern cars in the parking lot, you'll think you've gone back in time. Cabins surround the lodge and offer an affordable lodging option. The most popular things to do in the area all involve horses. You throughout the day you can go on a stage coach ride or a horse back ride. The signature activity in the area is a wagon ride to an Old West style cookout dinner. 

Location: Roosevelt Lodge is located in the Northwest corner of the park at Tower Junction where the Grand Loop intersects with the North East Entrance Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are a few hikes in the area.  Lost Creek Falls is only .02 miles.  The Lost Lake/Petrified Tree trail is a 3.5 mile loop.

Open Season: Roosevelt Lodge has the shortest operating season in the park. Most amenities are only offered during June, July, and August. Check the official website for exact dates.

Cost: Check the official websites for prices of activities, dining, and lodging.

Official Websites: Activities, Dining, Lodging

Date of Visit: July-August of 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Until my summer in Yellowstone I didn't really appreciate the Tower/Roosevelt area of Yellowstone National Park. The area doesn't have any "big" attractions like the Old Faithful or Canyon Areas so I didn't feel like driving up there would be worth the time. On previous visit to the park I had traveled from the southwest, and to drive all the way up to the northeast area of the park seemed a little too far.

I had plenty of time to explore the park during my summer in Yellowstone and so my family and I were able to visit the Tower/Roosevelt area of the park. I realized that many tourists avoid going into the northeast area. That meant the area was quieter and slower paced than the rest of the park. (Though Tower Junction was prone to some traffic congestion during peek times.)  The area didn't have a single attraction, instead the whole area was an attraction. There were sweeping vistas, abundant wildlife, and an intense feeling of isolation.

During the second half of my summer I came to appreciate the area even more.  I had been working in Canyon Village when a position opened up at Roosevelt Lodge.  I applied for the position, and was thrilled to receive the promotion. The tricky thing was that I lived in an RV with my family and there weren't any RV hookups in the Roosevelt Area.  So I was granted the very rare privilege of commuting to work.  (Most employees are expected to live at the sight where they work.)

We'd only brought our Honda Pilot to Yellowstone, and I didn't want to take the family car to work and leave Brandon stranded with the kids every day.  So my in-laws were kind enough to bring our Jeep Cherokee up to Yellowstone for me to drive to work.  Four times a week during the remainder of the summer I drove the 20 miles from Canyon Village to Roosevelt Lodge.  My commute took me up the shoulder of Mount Washburn, over the Dunraven Pass, and past the Tower Fall parking lot.  I never got tired of that unique commute.

I enjoyed working at Roosevelt Lodge.  I quickly fell in love with the rustic environment.  I often saw deer outside my office, and once a bear walked right behind my building. The whole area was much more relaxed than any other part of the park.  Ever since I left Roosevelt I've been wishing I could go back.

Today I want to tell you about the things you can do in the Roosevelt Area.  I hope I can convince you that this area is definitely worth putting on your itinerary for your trip to Yellowstone.

Roosevelt Lodge 

Let's start with Roosevelt Lodge. This building was completed in 1920. The area is named for President Theodore Roosevelt, though he never stayed in the area or the lodge.
Today it contains the front desk check in area for the lodging cabins; a small dinning room that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and a small bar area.     

The most popular part of the lodge is the massive porch that spans the front of the building.  This is a place where people like to relax.  Usually every one of these chairs is full.  I took this picture at 7:00 am before work one morning. 
I don't really understand why people enjoy that porch so much.  Years ago there was a grassy knoll in front of the lodge, but that has been replaced by a parking lot.  There are talks of moving the parking lot and restoring the knoll, but that is probably a few years off - if it ever happens.
If you can look beyond the cars you do get a great view of an immense valley.  Maybe people like sitting on the porch because the view reminds them just how isolated this area is.
Many small cabins surround the lodge. Some of the cabins were built in this spot, but others were moved from other areas of the park when those areas upgraded their accommodations to more modern options. These cabins are available as overnight accommodations. They all have beds with linens provided, but most do not have their own bathrooms.  There are community bathrooms with running water and showers.  The rustic conditions make these the least expensive lodging options in the park.  There are only 80 guest cabins so you'll want reservations.

The rustic conditions also mean you'll see more wildlife nearby than you will at other places in the park.  Bears went by the lodge at least two times while I was at work.  And I often saw deer.  On one of my last days of work a herd of deer stopped by to say goodbye.
There are no campgrounds in the Roosevelt area.  However, the Tower Fall campground is only two miles southeast along the Grand Loop Road.  This campground is first-come first serve so plan accordingly.

Cell Phone Service
Cell phone service is spotty throughout the park. Verizon has a tower in the park so people with that carrier usually can usually find a signal.  However, even Verizon can't reach Roosevelt Lodge.  I had to walk down to the gas station on the Grand Loop Road in order to make and receive phone calls or text messages.  I never minded the walk though because the view was so beautiful.

Hiking Options
There are a few trails that start at Roosevelt Lodge.  Keep in mind that bears frequent this area throughout the year so carry bear spray and make noise while you hike. 

Lost Creek Falls originates behind the lodge.  You find the trail head by going to the west side of the lodge (left hand side if you are looking at the lodge), and heading straight back.  There is a drinking fountain at the official trail head.  

The trail is only .02 miles and doesn't take you all the way to the falls.  You'll have to be content looking at them from a distance.  This is a nice little hike, but it isn't a "must do" activity by any means.  Don't go out of your way to do this hike. 
The Trail for Lost Lake starts at the same place as Lost Creek Falls.  Take the right fork. This hike is longer and has many switchbacks.  You'll reach Lost Lake after about 3/4th of a mile.  From there you can return to the lodge or you can continue hiking to the Petrified Tree.
The Petrified Tree has it's own parking lot area, but that can quickly become congested during peek times.  If you are already at Roosevelt Lodge it might be a good idea to plan to hike to the Petrified Tree instead of drive there. 

You can reach the tree from the Lost Lake Trail.  This option is a 3.5 mile loop trail with switch backs.  Or you can start at the trail head near the Tower/Roosevelt Gas station.  That option is 1.4 mile one way so it's 2.8 miles there and back.  I never hiked on this trail so I can't give you pointers on which way is better.   

Roosevelt Corral Activities
Horses are the big draw in the Roosevelt Area.  There are a variety of equine related activities you can do here. Everything originates from the corral that is just a few hundred feet down the road from Roosevelt Lodge.  

Stage Coach Ride
The stage coach ride is one of the most affordable activities in the park.  On a per-person basis it is the least expensive activity.  Tickets are $15 for an adult and $8 for children from 3-11.  Children under 3 are free but do require a ticket.  It's a good idea to have reservations for a stagecoach ride, but these go out so frequently that if you have a small party you can get a walk-up spot without much trouble.

When my in-laws brought my Jeep up to Yellowstone we decided it was the perfect time to go an a stagecoach ride. None of us had ever done this before so we were really excited.  
The ride lasts about 30 minutes and takes you out into the valley in front of Roosevelt Lodge.
People over 12 can ride on the little seat on top of the stage coach, but since we had so many children with us we all sat on the inside. This is how the first tourists in Yellowstone traveled.
We were having a grand time riding in the stagecoach down a dirt road when we noticed there was quite a crowd of cars on the real road. It looked a lot like a bear jam. We realized that everyone was looking in the area that we were about to drive through. We started looking closely for a bear. And suddenly we saw one in the bushes less than 20 feet from us. He disappeared in the bushes so it was hard to get a picture, but when we looked back we could see him climbing the hill. It was amazing. My mother in law had never seen a bear in Yellowstone so she was very excited.
At the end of the ride the wranglers let you pet and take pictures with the horses.  Ours were named Creep and Crawl.
If your budget allows it I recommend adding a stagecoach ride to you plans for Yellowstone.  It's an easy way to get in touch with the area's history.  

Horseback Ride
When you drive through the Roosevelt area it's highly likely that you'll be stopped by horses.  It seems like there are always wagons or stagecoach crossing the Grand Loop Road. Occasionally you'll encounter a line of horse back riders crossing the road too.  Most of these horse back rides are provided through the Roosevelt Corral.
There are 1 hour and 2 hour options for horse back rides.  Prices are $50 for 1 hour and $73 for a 2 hour.  Riders must be over 8 years old and weigh less than 240 lbs.  I never went on a horseback ride in the Roosevelt Area, but I did do one in Canyon Village.  The horses are saddled for you and the wranglers really help you as you guide your horse.

Cook Out Dinner
If you have a large travel budget you should consider going on the Cookout Wagon Ride.  The dinner menu includes steak, beans, coleslaw, and other "cowboy" foods.  But the real treat is the setting.  You ride to the cook out in either a wagon or on horse back. The food is served outdoors and the wranglers provide stories and music for your entertainment while you eat.

Prices for the cookout dinner are steep ($94 for the two hour horse back ride, $87 for the one hour horse back ride, and $63 for the wagon ride), but they are worth it for one of the signature experiences offered in the park.  If you have money for a splurge, spend it on the cookout dinner at Roosevelt Lodge. 
Bus Tours
Roosevelt is one of three places in the park where you can board a Historic Yellow Bus for a Wake up to Wildlife Tour. This four hour tour will take you through the Lamar Valley with an experienced guide who will help you see wildlife you may not have noticed otherwise. These tours are almost $100 per person so they obviously aren't for everyone.

If that is out of your budget you can drive into the LaMar Valley yourself. If you go early in the morning or in the evening you'll have a good chance to see wildlife.

* * *

Working on this post made me feel homesick. Roosevelt Lodge truly is a special place in Yellowstone. I took this picture on my last day in the park. The sign says, "So Long Pardner, Come Back Soon."  After you've spent any amount of time at Roosevelt Lodge you'll want to heed the sign's advise.

Recommendation: I know it seems far, but a trip up to the Roosevelt/Tower area is worth your time. If you have room in your travel budget you should consider reserving a spot for one of the horse activities. These activities are worth the money.

Directions: Roosevelt Lodge is located in the Northwest corner of the park at Tower Junction where the Grand Loop intersects with the North East Entrance Road. The Corrals are located along the Grand Loop Road. The Lodge itself is located a short distance back from the road.

Places Nearby: Tower Fall is only two miles away from Roosevelt Lodge which is why the area is referred to as Tower/Roosevelt and the intersection in front of the Lodge is called Tower Junction.  If you are in the area and if the parking lot is clear then Tower Fall is worth a quick look.  But Tower Fall is not worth a stop if the area is full of cars. Read my full post about Tower Fall to find out why.

Want more Yellowstone Vacation Ideas? Visit my list of Things you can't miss and hidden gems along the way.

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I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?


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