Vegan Yellowstone: How to Eat Plant-Based in This National Park
Like any other trip that my husband and I plan, one of the very first things we start researching is where and what we can eat. So, naturally, after deciding that we’d be heading to Yellowstone — the first national park in the United States — our first order of business was answering this question: What are the vegan Yellowstone options?
We’ve been to other national parks, so we already knew that non-meat eaters aren’t exactly catered to when it comes to dining in the great outdoors.
Beyond big cities like LA, NYC or even Detroit, being a vegan can often feel like you’re persona non grata. With all the bison, elk and other animal products cramming the restaurant menus, we weren’t expecting much in the way of plant-based feasting.
Eventually, we realized that it’s a lot easier to find vegan food in Yosemite than it is in Yellowstone. It’s probably because Yosemite is in California (generally a more veg-friendly state) while Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, aka cowboy country. (Well, technically 96% of it is — 3% is in Montana and 1% is in Idaho.)
Anyhow, after poring over different sites about vegan Yellowstone options, I wanted to do my fellow plant-based foodies a favor by providing an honest, up-to-date guide on how to do vegan in Yellowstone without making it sound more wonderful (or worse) than it is.
Here’s a no-nonsense and accurate assessment on how to do vegan in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone for Vegans: Where to Find Vegan Food in Yellowstone
First things first. The reason for going to Yellowstone isn’t for the food. It’s for the raw, natural beauty of the flora and fauna that you’ll get to see up close and personal when visiting this incredibly majestic and spectacularly massive park.
When you’re a vegan in Yellowstone, you’ll be roughing in more ways than one. Unless you’ve brought some food of your own, be prepared to have some less than stellar meals. Still, it’s not a total loss. (Full disclosure: My husband and I also happen to be quite picky when it comes to dining out, so if your palate is easy to please, you’ll be alright.)
While there were plenty of gluten-free and even vegetarian options throughout the park, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to vegan Yellowstone choices. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. (Or should I say, huckleberry jelly, which is so, so good!)
Be forewarned: When you’re a vegan in Yellowstone, you’ll have to ask a lot of questions. Even foods that sound vegan-friendly aren’t necessarily animal-free. Here’s what you can expect when planning your meals at Yellowstone.
Vegan Food at Lake Lodge
For the first part of our trip, we stayed at this rustic lodge just steps from Yellowstone Lake. We loved the large porch lined with rocking chairs and the log cabin-like lobby with comfy couches. We also appreciated that the cafeteria offered some food that could be veganized.
The Lake Lodge Cafeteria
Thank goodness for the wraps at Lake Lodge Cafeteria. They’re only available during lunchtime, but these vegan burritos are a lifesaver. Instead of steak or chicken, opt for the portobello mushroom with lime rice, black beans, and salsa.
While you might want to order the hummus with pita, you’ll have to swap it out with veggies since the pita has milk powder. (The chef checked for us.)
Vegan breakfast options at Lake Lodge Cafeteria are limited to fruit and cold cereal. Dinner options are non-existent, so it’s best to order an extra burrito or two during lunch. Otherwise, you’ll end up like we did, chowing down on Raisin Bran with almond milk (and even then, they only had vanilla milk).
Vegan Food at Lake Hotel
Often called “the yellow hotel,” Lake Yellowstone Hotel is just a short walk away from Lake Lodge, but it’s quite a bit fancier. To my surprise, we actually enjoyed the vibe more at Lake Lodge (it feels very camp-like), but the lobby at this hotel offers better views, live music, and table service. There are also significantly more vegan options in the hotel’s eateries.
Lake Hotel Lobby
While I love the Lake Lodge lobby for its rustic simplicity, the spacious Lake Hotel Lobby became a favorite spot thanks to its beautiful lake views, comfy seating, friendly service, and insanely delicious huckleberry margaritas. There’s also vegan-friendly mixed nuts and olives. Not exactly a smorgasbord, but enough to make it a worthwhile afternoon.
Pro tip: If you want to eat at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room, be sure to make a reservation at least a couple of days in advance. As we learned, if you don’t have one, you’ll have to get on a waitlist (you can sign up starting at 5 p.m.) and then wait for an hour or so. Also, keep in mind that vegan options are quite limited.
Lake Hotel Deli
The fast-casual Lake Hotel Deli has a fair amount of vegan options, including a daily soup (vegetable chili or lentil dal) with crackers, garden salad, and quinoa that can be veganized if they remove the cheese. There are also mini boxes of cereal and soy milk.
Although it wasn’t as flavorful or filling as the lunchtime portobello wrap at the Lake Lodge Cafeteria, the veggie wrap at Lake Hotel Deli will do the trick when you’re hungry and don’t feel like eating from a box. It comes with hummus, carrots, cucumber, and lettuce.
Speaking of eating from a box, these falafel cakes from Fresh Nature were surprisingly good. Granted, my expectations were low, but I was pleasantly surprised by their moistness, flavor, and the little side of hummus.
Vegan Food at Yellowstone General Store and Deli
What a disappointment. When it came to vegan options at the Yellowstone grocery store, the best we could do was adding hot water to Annie’s miso and teriyaki bowls. We also got some Fritos, bean dip, and Sabre hummus to up our protein intake.
While the general store has very limited items, the deli that shares the space is even worse. Don’t believe any other blogs that say you can veganize the food at the diner. You can’t. Even the salad dressings weren’t vegan. The only plus side was that we could sit at the diner and eat our Fritos and bland noodle bowls.
Vegan Food at Old Faithful Inn
This historic hotel adjacent to the famed Old Faithful geyser is a sight to behold with its asymmetrical architecture, towering lobby of gnarled wood (aka “freaks of the forest”), and proximity to Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in Yellowstone Park. It was by far my favorite stay of the trip and had the best vegan options.
The Bear Pit
More of a bar with lunch options, the Bear Pit has plenty of booze, but very little for plant-based foodies. Still, it’s a good spot for a drink and snacks, especially after a long walk checking out all the geysers outside the hotel. Vegan options are limited to hummus and veggies — request veggies instead of pita, which contains milk powder.
Pro hack: Ask for olive oil and vinegar (or lemon), so you can make a salad with the side greens that come with the hummus. You’ll also want to check out the etched glass panels that the lounge shares with the Old Faithful Dining Room — the whimsical depictions of animal musicians are worth seeing up close.
Old Faithful Inn Dining Room
This capacious restaurant located off the Old Faithful Inn’s main lobby was the most vegan-friendly restaurant of the trip. The Old Faithful Inn Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with vegan options available at each meal.
For breakfast, opt for a tofu scramble with veggies. We skipped lunch, but for dinner, we were thrilled to have a few choices that made us feel like we were having a real restaurant experience.
The kale and quinoa salad was delicious and heartier than we expected. There’s also a decent garden salad with faux chicken strips as a $6 upgrade — it’s on the menu as a “salad topping.” Since none of the dressings were vegan, we asked for oil, lemon, and salt, which worked out just fine.
The vegetable curry was a pleasant surprise. We ordered it two nights in a row. It was quite satisfying with chopped mushrooms, cubed potatoes and rutabaga, carrots, and scallions. You’ll want to ask for saltine or oyster crackers (instead of bread) to keep it vegan.
Pro tip: During the high season (summer), make dinner reservations at least a couple of days in advance. Otherwise, you’ll have to get on the waitlist (available for sign-up at 4:30 p.m.) and wait for an hour to 1.5 hours. Each time we tried for a same-day reservation or one for the next night, nothing was available until 9:15 p.m.
Vegan Food at Mammoth Hotel Dining Room
On the north side of Yellowstone is where you’ll find the Mammoth Hotel and its onsite restaurant, the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room. Like all the restaurants in Yellowstone National Park, even when the space looks like it might be a little fancy, it’s quite casual.
While there’s a solid selection of vegetarian options, vegan options are almost non-existent, so you’ll need to modify. For the Beyond burger on the menu, order it as a salad since the bread (once again) is not vegan. The dressings also aren’t vegan-friendly, so you can create a DIY version with olive oil, vinegar (or lemon), salt, and pepper.
Vegan Yellowstone Food … It’s Not Much, But You’ll Survive
When planning our trip to Yellowstone National Park, we had no expectations of a full-on vegan restaurant, but we were hoping there would be more vegan options than what we discovered.
While vegetarians and gluten-free diners will have plenty of choices, vegans in Yellowstone should manage expectations for plant-based sustenance. It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t order any fried foods (falafel, french fries, etc.) at Yellowstone’s eateries since the fryers share oil with non-vegan items.
Still, if you remind yourself that this wonderful national park is a chance to rough it a bit and get in touch with nature, you’ll have an unforgettable time that will sustain you much longer than any meal ever could.
For more vegan traveling tips, be sure to check out my posts on what to expect at Curry Village in Yosemite as well as vegan options at Grand Teton and Jackson Hole.
Lifestyle writer Mar Yvette is on a mission to bring you the best people, places and products to make your life pop!