About Yellowstone

Your Guide to Camping in Yellowstone

Camping in Yellowstone is one of those classic Americana experiences, filled with evenings around the fire, nights under the stars, and days wandering the wilds of the first national park in the United States. Here’s a look at all things Yellowstone camping, and what you should know before you go. 

Frontcountry camping

If you’re picturing mom and pop with a few kids in the back of the station wagon, pulling a tent out of the hatchback and tossing a checkered tablecloth over the picnic table before cooking s’mores over the fire, you’re probably imagining frontcountry camping. Yellowstone has 12 developed campgrounds, with over 2,000 sites to choose from. Vanlifers and car campers, just keep in mind that any overnight camping is limited to designated sites, so stealth camping in parking lots or along roadsides is a no-go within the park. 

Yellowstone Campground Rundown

Yellowstone National Park Lodges runs Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant Village and Madison campgrounds. The National Park Service runs Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Mammoth, Norris, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, and Tower Fall campgrounds

In general, the campgrounds that Yellowstone National Park Lodges runs tend to have more amenities, like showers (Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, and Grant Village), flush toilets (all five campgrounds they manage) and RV dump stations (all five).  The ones managed by the park, on the other hand, generally have more rustic amenities. Mammoth and Norris do have flush toilets, but all the other NPS campgrounds just have vault latrines. 

When to book 

Campgrounds in Yellowstone must be reserved in advance, with just one exception. From October 15 to April 1, Mammoth Campground offers first come, first served sites. And for winter travelers, this is the only spot open year round. Most campgrounds open in May or June and close in September or October, though dates can vary from year to year depending on the conditions.

As the fifth most visited national park in the USA, that makes it especially important to plan ahead for camping in Yellowstone. You can book the seven campgrounds run by the park service on Recreation.gov with fees around $20 to $25 per night, while the other five are reservable through Yellowstone National Park Lodges with fees starting around $40 per night. Through National Park Lodges you can book sites up to 13 months in advance, while dates on Recreation.gov open 6 months before the arrival date. Planning ahead doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but sites for desirable dates tend to fill far ahead, so you want to be on it as soon as bookings open. 

Backcountry camping 

While frontcountry camping may be how the majority of visitors experience sleeping under the stars in Yellowstone, there’s another option: backcountry camping. Amping up the adventure and strapping your pack to your back for a tromp into the woods, far from roads and showers, might not be for everyone. But for the select few who are ready to see a different side of Yellowstone’s wild landscape, a backcountry permit may be in order. 

With 300 backcountry campsites to choose from, there’s no limit to the natural beauty you can experience. If your backwoods survival skills are up to the challenge, you can reserve backcountry campsites online or go directly to the permit office in the park. Before you go, it’s important to have the skills to be safe and have fun while following park rules when you step onto the trail. 

Ready for your Yellowstone camping adventure? Check out our other articles on all there is to do and see in the park during your stay.

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