Camping in Yellowstone is a budget-friendly alternative to hotels, and also a whole lot of fun. It’s a terrific way to unplug, experience the park’s natural environment, and enjoy simple pleasures like cooking and eating around the campfire. Ready to plan your trip? Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions about staying in a Yellowstone campground.
COVID-19 Camping Updates
Due to the coronavirus, all campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park are currently closed. The National Park Service reopened Yellowstone National Park on a limited basis on May 18 as phase one of a three phase reopening plan. The opening of campgrounds and issuance of backcountry permits will begin in a later phase. As of June 1, all entrances to the park are open.
Included in the closure are all campgrounds operated by the Yellowstone National Park lodges. The Fishing Bridge RV Park will remain closed through Fall 2021.
For the most up to date information visit: https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
How many campgrounds are there in Yellowstone?
There are 12 developed, “front country” campgrounds, with a total of more than 2,150 campsites that can be accessed by automobile.
How do I choose a Yellowstone campground?
You’ll want to select a campground based on several factors including seasonal opening and closing dates, what parts of the park you would most like to see, and the time of day you’ll be arriving at your overnight destination.
If you are unfamiliar with the park’s campgrounds, start by viewing the many campground details available on the Yellowstone National Park Service website, including photographs, maps, and schedules.
How much will it cost to camp in Yellowstone?
Campsites cost as little as at $15 per night, per site. Most campgrounds with more amenities such as flush toilets and nearby laundry facilities range from $20 to $31 per night.
Can I reserve a campsite in advance?
The seven campgrounds operated by the National Park Service are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of your stay. These include: the Mammoth and Indian Creek Campgrounds near Mammoth Hot Springs, the Lewis Lake Campground near the South Entrance, the centrally located Norris Campground, and the Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, and Tower Fall Campgrounds in the northeast area of the Park. The campgrounds usually fill by early morning, so plan ahead to get a site.
The other five campgrounds are operated by lodging concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges, and these sites can be reserved in advance online or by calling 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375). These include the Bridge Bay and Grant campgrounds near Yellowstone Lake, the Canyon campground near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and the Madison campground near West Yellowstone. There is also an RV Park, with 344 sites for hard-sided RVs only, at Fishing Bridge near Yellowstone Lake.
Are the RV campsites in all Yellowstone campgrounds?
While all sites can accommodate RVs, many have length limits (measured from the front bumper of your vehicle to the rear bumper of your RV or camper), some have limited availability, and there are seasonal considerations (dump stations may not be available early and late season due to freezing temperatures). Check each National Park Service and Yellowstone National Park Lodges campsite for full details. While the Fishing Bridge RV Park is the only campground with full hook-ups. After an extensive reservation, the RV Park will be welcoming guests starting September 4, 2020 through October 4, 2020.
What is there to do in the evenings at campgrounds?
Yellowstone offers a wide variety of evening programs in and nearby campgrounds, especially during the peak season of June through August. Join in a ranger-led “campfire program” on a topic of interest such as wolves, geothermal wonders, and stories from the park’s colorful history. Some campgrounds even have amphitheaters that offer ample seating and good acoustics for larger programs. Amateur astronomers of all ages will enjoy the scheduled telescope programs for viewing Yellowstone’s spectacular starry sky. Check out the online program schedules on the park’s website for details.
Why does Grant campground open so late?
Grizzly and black bears frequent this area in the springtime when cutthroat trout spawn in nearby streams. The late opening date—usually near the end of June—is an effort on the part of the National Park Service to protect both bears and visitors. In fact, the former tent campground located at Fishing Bridge, another favorite fishing spot for bears, closed permanently in 1989 due to human-bear conflicts.
How do we plan ahead for bear safety in a Yellowstone campground?
Proper food storage is the most important precaution you can take to avoid a bear encounter in a Yellowstone campground. Be sure to store any food in a locked vehicle or in a provided Bear Box. Through Yellowstone Forever’s Sponsor a Bear Box campaign, the park has successfully installed more than 185 bear-proof food storage boxes at individual campsites. Especially if you plan to go hiking, take time in advance of your trip to learn more about bear safety in Yellowstone.
Can I camp in Yellowstone in the winter?
The Mammoth campground, in Mammoth Hot Springs, is the only front country campground in Yellowstone that is open year-round. It is also historically significant as the first National Park Service “designed” campground. Formally constructed in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it served as a model for planned, national park campgrounds nationwide. Other Yellowstone campgrounds open in either May or June, and close in September or October.
What about backcountry camping?
For those who crave solitude—and are able to carry everything they need on their back—there is the option of camping in Yellowstone’s backcountry. There are approximately 300 backcountry campsites in the park, some of which are available through advance reservations. Backcountry camping permits may be obtained only in person, and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip, at one of the park’s backcountry offices. Not ready to go out on your own? The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers several backpacking programs where you’ll head out on a pre-planned backcountry adventure with an expert naturalist guide. Learn more about backcountry hiking and camping.
Photos: Courtesy of NPS