Where Should I Camp in Yellowstone National Park?

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You’re headed to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, where some of the world’s most incredible geysers, vistas and wildlife await you for an adventure full of fun. But where should you camp? Here’s a guide to Yellowstone campgrounds to help you decide where to spend the night, from car camping paradise and remote backcountry sites to a slice of RV heaven.

All of Yellowstone’s campgrounds can (and should) be reserved in advance during peak summer months. Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant Village and Madison can be reserved through Yellowstone National Park Lodges. The other campgrounds can be reserved through the National Park Service at recreation.gov.

Campgrounds Near Yellowstone’s North Entrance

Mammoth Campground

Mammoth Campground Tent Site
Mammoth Campground RV Site. Photo by NPS

Nestled in sage brush country with juniper and Douglas fir trees providing shade in the summer, Mammoth Campground is a fantastic place to relax and spot bison or elk wandering through or near the campground. It’s also really close to Mammoth Hot Springs, so you can beat the crowds in the early morning and explore this natural wonder.

Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Spring Lower Terrace. Photo: Jeff Vanuga

In the evening, return to the campground for live entertainment in the form of ranger programs in the amphitheater located at the back loop June through mid-September.

The park’s only year-round campground, sites can be reserved through recreation.gov Apr. 1 – Oct. 15, and are first-come, first-served the rest of the year. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit with grate. There are flush toilets and water pumps with potable water.

The campground can accommodate RVs up to 75 feet long, and most sites are pull-throughs. In the winter, however, RV sites are limited to 30-feet in length. Don’t expect hook-ups or a dump station as you will find neither here. However, you can run your generator from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you find you forgot to pack something, Gardiner, Mont., is just fives miles down the road and has a grocery story, outdoor supply shops and a colorful selection of restaurants and shops.

Indian Creek Campground

On the way from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris, Indian Creek Campground sits at the base of the Gallatin Mountains with stunning views and access to plenty of hiking and fishing. It’s located off the main road, making it a great choice for those looking for a peaceful experience.

Usually open early June through early September, there are several sites that can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length, and the rest are suitable for up to 30 feet. The restrooms here are vault toilets.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Campgrounds Near Yellowstone’s West Entrance

Madison Campground

Madison Campground is the closest to Yellowstone most popular West Entrance and the town of West Yellowstone, Mont. Located near the Madison River, this campground is a great choice for spotting herds of elk and bison. In the fall, bugling elk are a common soundtrack.

Open from early May to mid-October each year, Madison is a great choice for RVers, with pull-through and back-in sites for rigs up to 40-feet in length and a seasonal dump station. Generators are allowed in the day time at this campground from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Reservations are required, and it is strongly recommended you make them far in advance (they are available up to 13 months in advance) by going online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, or by calling 866-Geyserland or 307-344-7311.

Norris Campground

Norris Campground. Photo: NPS Diane Renkin

At the Norris Campground, you can guarantee yourself easy access to some of the world’s most incredible geysers and flush toilets (although both operate on separate plumbing systems)!

Norris Porcelain Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Photo: Adobe Stock

Norris Campground is closed in 2022.

Because this campground is so close to the Norris Geyser Basin, you can sleep in a bit before rolling out of bed and hitting the basin’s boardwalks and dirt trails before everyone else. The basin has been home to thermal features for 115,000 years, and you’ll find the Steamboat Geyser here, the tallest geyser in the world at 300-400 feet.

Nestled under lodgepole pines with the Gibbon River snaking by part of it, the Norris Campground is usually open late May through late September. It has 112 sites, only seven of which are for RVs. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit. As an added bonus: you can walk to the Museum of the National Park Ranger from the campground.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Canyon Campground

If you want to experience the beauty of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Canyon Campground is an excellent choice. Located in a lodgepole pine forest in Canyon Village, you’ll be situated close to the canyon and its beautiful waterfalls, hikes to Cascade Lake and Mount Washburn and all the amenities that Canyon Village provides from stores to restaurants.

Canyon Campground is usually open late May through mid-September. For those who aren’t interested in roughing it, this campground has flush toilets, hot showers, potable drinking water and laundry facilities. As a guest of the campground, you can even access the internet from the nearby lodges.

RVers will find sites that can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet in length and while there are no hookups at this campground, a seasonal dump station is located on-site.

Reservations are required, and it is strongly recommended you make them far in advance (they are available up to 13 months in advance) by going online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, or by calling 866-Geyserland or 307-344-7311.

Campgrounds Near Yellowstone’s East Entrance

Bridge Bay Campground

Bridge Bay Campground. Photo: NPS Diane Renkin

Put yourself in the heart of it all at Bridge Bay Campground, one of the park’s largest with 432 camp sites. With flush toilets and sinks with running water, you don’t have to sacrifice modern comforts to enjoy outstanding views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka mountain range.

For those traveling in their RV, sites can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet in length and a seasonal dump station is available on-site.

Plus, you are close to the launching point for the one-hour scenic Yellowstone Lake cruises hosted by a park ranger who will tell you all sorts of interesting things about the area and lake. Held mid-June through mid-September, these boat trips require advanced reservation which can be made online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/adventure/water-adventures/yellowstone-lake-scenicruise/.

Geysers on the side of Yellowstone Lake. Photo: Depositphotos

When you get off the water, the 6-mile round trip hike to Natural Bridge starts right near the campground. Or go to the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center to find out details on how to participate on programs like a ranger-led hike or family-focused wildlife workshop.

At the campground, wheelchair-accessible sites are available. Reservations are required, and it is strongly recommended you make them far in advance (they are available up to 13 months in advance) by going online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, or by calling 866-Geyserland or 307-344-7311.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone. Photo: NPS Diane Renkin

Within driving distance of the wildlife-packed Hayden Valley, Fishing Bridge RV Park is your one-stop shop in the park if you are traveling in an RV. It’s the only Yellowstone campground in the park with full hookups and also has a dump station. The RV park underwent a major renovation in 2021 including bigger campsites and remodeled shower and laundry facilities.

On the eastern side of the park a stone’s throw from Yellowstone Lake, the campground is across the road from the historic Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center. Don’t miss the nightly evening ranger programs at the visitor center’s amphitheater June through early September.

Yellowstone’s Fishing Bridge. Photo: Jeff Vanuga

Because the campground is located in the heart of grizzly country, only hard-sided campers (no tents or tent campers) are allowed, which makes for excellent bonding amongst you and your fellow RVers. Its 310 sites can fit RVs up to 40 feet in length at most sites and up to 95 feet in select sites. You can turn your generator on from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

You can take a shower here (two showers per night are included in your reservation fee), use the flush toilets and do laundry, but leave your campfire supplies at home. No campfires or portable fire pits are allowed.

The RV park is usually open from late May through early October. Reservations are required, and it is strongly recommended you make them far in advance (they are available up to 13 months in advance) by going online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, or by calling 866-Geyserland or 307-344-7311.

Also read: 8 RV Tips for Yellowstone

Campgrounds Near Yellowstone’s South Entrance

Grant Village Campground

Open early June through early September, Grant Village is located on the southwest shore of Yellowstone Lake, tucked in a pine forest. Close to the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the South Entrance, you’ll be primed to explore both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park to the south.

The campground has flush toilets and running water, as well as pay showers and laundry facilities on-site. RVs up to 40 feet in length will fit here and there is a seasonal dump station.

Reservations are required, and it is strongly recommended you make them far in advance (they are available up to 13 months in advance) by going online at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, or by calling 866-Geyserland or 307-344-7311.

Lewis Lake Campground

Lewis Lake is the furthest south of Yellowstone’s campgrounds, making it a great choice for those who want to explore both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Situated a short walk from the shores of Lewis Lake, this campground is quite peaceful.

Generators are not allowed and only RVs smaller than 25 feet in length can be accommodated, so it’s a paradise for tent campers. The restrooms are vault toilets, but there is seasonal potable water.

Spend your day canoeing, kayaking or boating on the waters of Lewis Lake from the boat ramp located right next to the campground.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Campgrounds Near Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance

Pebble Creek Campground

For a park as popular as Yellowstone, it can be hard to find a spot that feels truly isolated to camp at, but Pebble Creek Campground accomplishes just that with only 27 sites. Closest to the park’s Northeast Entrance at the foot of the Beartooth Highway, Pebble Creek situates you perfectly for sunrise explorations of Lamar Valley, an excellent place to spot wildlife.

There are some pull-through sites that can accommodate RVs around 30 feet in length, but most of the sites are smaller. The restrooms here are vault toilets and there is no generator use allowed.

Pebble Creek is usually open from mid-June through late September.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Slough Creek Campground

A tent beside Slough Creek. Photo: NPS

Get away from it all in this gem of a campground that is home to only 16 sites, the smallest in the park. Tucked along the picturesque Slough Creek in a sage meadow and located between Lamar Valley and Tower-Roosevelt, the campground puts you close to some of the best wildlife viewing in Yellowstone. In fact, you may see bison, deer and bears from the campground.

Scenic Slough Creek. Photo: Adobe Stock

Rustic is the name of the game here with clean pit toilets and a water pumping station. Since generators are prohibited, you will fall asleep to the sounds of the creek and possibly the cries of wolves.

Slough Creek Campground is usually open mid-June through early October. Owners of small RVs up to 30 feet should do a walk-through of the site first to see if this campground is appropriate for your rig.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Tower Fall Campground

Tower Fall Campground is located near the Tower-Roosevelt area of the park on the steep road to Dunraven Pass. Campers can easily hike to Tower Fall from the campground and the Tower General Store is nearby, as well as the Roosevelt Lodge which offers dining and horseback riding a short drive away.

There is a hairpin curve on the campground loop, so RVers should keep that in mind. The campground can accommodate rigs up to 30 feet in length. There is no generator use allowed here and the toilets are vault.

Sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.

Backcountry Camping in Yellowstone

Yellowstone provides endless opportunities for backpacking. We’ve picked two of our favorite trails below, but there are enough trips in the park to keep you busy for a lifetime with 293 backcountry campsites.

All backcountry campers in Yellowstone are required to have a wilderness permit. During the peak summer season, an advanced lottery opens on recreation.gov in early March for the following summer. The remaining reservations become available in late April.

Canyon Village Area: Grebe Lake

Grebe Lake Trail in Yellowstone. Photo: Public Domain
An aerial view of Grebe Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Public Domain

For a family friendly hike with very little elevation gain, head to Grebe Lake for a night or two. There are four campsites marked around the lake. It’s a 3-mile hike into the lake from the Grebe Lake trailhead.

In this area, there are a chain of lakes connected by trails, so you can spend a day exploring nearby lakes like Cascade Lake, just 1.9 miles away. Or summit Observation Peak, which is 4.4 miles away from Grebe Lake one-way. Be prepared to work hard as you will gain 1,400 feet in elevation in 3 miles. The views of Yellowstone are incredible, though, from the top.

Because the Grebe Lake area is at 8,000 feet, snow can hang on until mid-June and mosquitos until early July, so if you want to avoid mud and mosquitos, do this trail later in the summer rather than early.

To get to the Grebe Lake trailhead, head 3.5 miles west of Canyon Junction on the Norris-Canyon Road. It will be on your right.

Between Old Faithful and West Thumb: Shoshone Lake

Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone. Photo: Adobe Stock

Just 10 minute drive from Old Faithful lies a trailhead to an incredible backcountry lake ⎯ Shoshone. It’s the second largest lake in Yellowstone, but there are no roads to it, so backpacking three miles to it and sleeping along its black-sand shores is an incredible experience. You’ll go through a forest before the trail opens up to grassy plains and the shores of the lake.

With its deepest section stretching down 205 feet, its beauty has been attracting people for hundreds of years, including members of the Shoshone tribe and early fur trappers, including Jim Bridger who allegedly visited it in 1833. The lake is the source of the Lewis River, which enters the Snake River system and eventually reaches the Pacific Ocean. Lake trout, brown trout and Utah chubs inhabit the lake.

There’s also an amazing geyser basin northwest of the shores, which is fun to explore. There are no boardwalks, so park officials urge visitors to act responsibly to protect the fragile thermal features and to avoid getting hurt.

Shoshone Geyser Basin. Photo: Greg Willis via Wikimedia Commons

You can make this a one-night out-and-back or camp around the lake for more mileage and nights.

To get to the DeLacy trailhead from Old Faithful, head east on the Grand Loop Road. The trailhead will be on your right.

Yellowstone Campgrounds at a Glance

Campground
Sites
Toilets
Shower/Laundry
Dump Station
Generators Permitted

Bridge Bay*
432
Flush
No
Yes
Yes

Canyon*
273
Flush
Yes
Yes
Yes

Fishing Bridge RV*
310
Flush
Yes
Yes
Yes

Grant Village*
430
Flush
Yes
Yes
Yes

Indian Creek**
70
Vault
No
No
No

Lewis Lake**
84
Vault
No
No
No

Madison*
278
Flush
No
Yes
Yes

Mammoth**
85
Flush
No
No
Yes

Norris**
111
Flush
No
No
Yes

Pebble Creek**
27
Vault
No
No
No

Slough Creek**
16
Vault
No
No
No

Tower Fall**
31
Vault
No
No
No

*Reservations required at Yellowstone National Park Lodges
**Reservations available at www.recreation.gov

Yellowstone Camping Rules

Can I Camp Anywhere in Yellowstone?

Camping or overnight vehicle parking in pullouts, picnic areas, picnic grounds or any place other than a designated campground are not permitted and there are no overflow camping facilities. However, camping is often available in neighboring communities and forests outside the park.

Camping in Yellowstone Park is limited to 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day to 30 days the rest of the year. There is no limit at Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Can I Have a Campfire in Yellowstone?

Wood and charcoal fires are permitted only in locations with fire grates. Special fire restrictions are occasionally put in place when the danger of wildfires is great. If you plan to light a fire in the park, please ask about current fire restrictions at the entrance station when you arrive or email our Visitor Services Office immediately prior to your visit.

When are Quiet Hours?

Camping in Yellowstone Park is a special experience. Each visitor deserves the opportunity to hear the birds, wildlife and streams in this beautiful environment. Respect this by complying with the law: generators are prohibited from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.; quiet hours 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. No loud audio devices, or other noise disturbances are allowed during these times. Generators are only permitted in six Yellowstone campgrounds and the Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Is Camping in Bear Country Safe?

No matter where you camp in Yellowstone, you’re in grizzly country. While staying in designated campgrounds where there are many other people and noises around is safer than dispersed camping outside the park, there is still a good chance you’ll encounter grizzly or black bears near a Yellowstone campground.

When camping, you must keep your camp clean and store all good, garbage and any scented items (like toothpaste, pots and pans and coolers) properly. This means in a designated bear-proof storage locker at your campsite, or in your locked vehicle at front country campsites. In the backcountry, store food and scented items in a bear cannister or hang it on your campsite’s food pole.

Do you have a park map? You’ll receive a free park map when you enter the park or you can download one now. But if you’d like to plan your trip with a detailed topographic map, consider purchasing a Trails Illustrated map of Yellowstone on REI.com that includes hiking trails, iconic sights and more.

The post Where Should I Camp in Yellowstone National Park? appeared first on Yellowstone National Park.

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