Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn

While we were in Yellowstone, we took the free, 45-minute tour of Old Faithful Inn. Our guide, Ruth Quinn, had an obvious love of the place. Any interesting facts mentioned below were learned from her.

The Inn’s entrance is pictured above. The deck fills with guests fifteen to twenty minutes before Old Faithful’s next eruption. However, we preferred a closer view of the geyser — from a wide, composite boardwalk surrounding the geothermal area.

Guests still enter the lobby through the original wood and steel doors, which are painted red. Red was once the international sign of welcome.


At the time of its building, no one knew whether the Old Faithful Inn would be a success. It was generally believed that guests, who were typically from the East, would prefer hotels similar to those they’d become familiar with. The hotel in Mammoth Hot Springs, built in 1883, was specifically designed to mimic eastern hotels.

Architect Robert Reamer, however, wanted Old Faithful Inn to reflect its surroundings. He designed the country’s first “rustic style” lodge, using materials within a five-mile radius of the construction site.

The height of the building is that of an average lodgepole pine. Lodgepoles are the dominant tree in Yellowstone.

Originally, even in the building’s  interior, the bark was left on the logs. It was removed years later when it started flaking.

In 1904, the Inn opened with heat, electric, and indoor plumbing.

The fireplace was made using 500 tons of volcanic rock. We were fortunate to see it burning. In 1959, an earthquake collapsed the brick within two flues of the fireplace. The damaged flues were filled with cement. However a new flue system was recently installed and the fireplace was relit in mid-August of 2012 — just two weeks before our visit.

A large clock once adorned the exterior of the fireplace, and is in the process of being restored.

From 2004 through 2008, the Inn was retrofitted to meet current earthquake codes. The original foundation was replaced with steel and concrete. Plywood was inserted into the walls.

Interior showing the second and third floors, and stone fireplace.

There are two aerial platforms in the picture above. Musicians once played on the lower platform, which is reached by a zig-zag staircase from the third floor. They performed for visitors who danced in the lobby.

The upper platform overlooks Old Faithful, but is now closed to the public due to fire regulations. The crow’s nest lacks an alternate escape route. Now, only those who raise and lower the flags are allowed access.

When the hotel first opened, only guests were allowed to enter. An exception was made for officers in dress uniform, who were allowed to attend  evening dances so that unescorted ladies might have partners. In 1947, pay toilets were added to the building. A visitor remarked in her journal that “people from the geyser” are now coming in. In 1948, after World War II, anyone could enter the building.

Guests in this room use a communal bath.

Dining room, as seen from a small balcony where string quartets once played.

Until 1917, guests came to the Old Faithful Inn by stagecoach, through Gardiner, Montana. The stagecoach horses were swapped out every fifteen to twenty miles. This is why the park roads are laid out in fifteen to twenty mile sections.

Some of the most dramatic views of the Inn are from trails around Old Faithful geyser…

Old Faithful Lodge is an easy walk from Old Faithful Inn. Behind the lodge are cabins. That’s where we stayed.

The cabins would be small for a family, but are adequate for a couple. This cabin had a sink, toilet, and small shower.

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