Camping in Yellowstone National Park

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is the first park to ever be designated a “national park.” With land in three states – Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana – Yellowstone National Park boasts incredible wildlife viewing and a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities.

Camping For Yellowstone National Park Lodging

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park choose to camp within the grounds of the park. Camping of all types, including RV camping and backpack camping, is permitted, though the restrictions for each vary considerably between sites.

There are seven sites that operated on a first-come, first-served basis within Yellowstone National Park. Lodging in any of these areas require planning ahead to arrive and secure a camping location. The sites that operate on this basis are:

  • Indian Creek
  • Lewis Lake
  • Mammoth
  • Norris
  • Pebble Creek
  • Slough Creek
  • Tower Fall.

The National Park Service advises that most of the seven sites that offer camping in Yellowstone National Park fill up by 11:00 am each day. RV, tent, vehicle, or other camping is not allowed outside of the designated areas. The fees for these campsites start at $12 per night.

Reservations can be made ahead of time for the other campsites within Yellowstone National Park. These campsites are managed by a third-party operating company. They control the reservations for the Madison, Grant Village, Fishing Bridge RV, Canyon and Bridge Bay campsites. The fees for Yellowstone National Park lodging in these campsites starts at $18.50 per night, plus applicable taxes and fees.

Backcountry Camping and Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

In addition to the hundreds of camping sites that are available to visitors of Yellowstone National Park, backcountry camping is also permitted within the park. Visitors who would like to take advantage of the backcountry camping at Yellowstone are required to hold a permit allowing them to do so.

To reserve a permit for backcountry camping, a reservation may be made through the National Park Service no more than 48 hours in advance of arrival. Permits are available on the day of arrival in most ranger stations and visitors’ centers throughout Yellowstone. Reservations must be made in person or via fax, and cannot be made online or over the phone.

Each of the approximately 300 backcountry campsites has different rules and designations when it comes to campfires, stock, and the number of nights allowed to lodge. Food storage poles are available at many of the backcountry campsites in Yellowstone, and campers are advised to read the bear safety literature prior to arrival. Wood campfires may not be allowed in certain campsites, and all campers should be clear about each site’s rules and regulations prior to departure.

While pets are allowed in some camping areas of Yellowstone National Park, they are not permitted to accompany campers into the backcountry areas and campsites.

Camping Outside of Yellowstone

Peak times for visiting Yellowstone National Park can mean a scarcity of available campsites within the park. However, there are many camping options just outside of several Yellowstone entrances. Some of these sites are government run, while others are privately owned. Their amenities and proximity to Yellowstone National Park vary, as do their cost for each night of camping.

Other Yellowstone National Park Camping Tips

Yellowstone National Park lends itself well to camping of all varieties. However, its popularity means that the rules and regulations for each type of camping vary and can change at any time. The National Park Service has several brochures available, including a camping trip planner, online or by mail.

Those who will bring their RV to Yellowstone should be advised that there are very few sites that can accommodate an RV that extends beyond 30 feet in length. However, there are sites available for large RVs outside of the park.

From July 1 – Labor Day, campers are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days. Every other time of year, the maximum length of stay is 30 days. However, Fishing Bridge RV park does not have a maximum length of stay restriction.

The weather in Yellowstone National Park varies and campers would be well advised to be prepared for all conditions. The spring months tend to average low-to-mid 40s in daytime temperature, but can drop significantly in the night. Summer boasts average daytime temperatures in the comfortable 70-degree range, but the nights are considerably cooler, often in the 40-degree spectrum.

Autumn weather is comfortable, but usually about 10-to-20 degrees lower than the summer temperatures, while winter weather can vary wildly. Campers should always check the weather prior to departure, to ensure a comfortable and safe Yellowstone camping trip.

Campgrounds in Yellowstone

There are 12 campgrounds inside the park: Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant Village, Madison, Mammoth, Norris, Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, Tower Fall and Fishing Bridge RV Park. All of these have access to running water and most have access to flushing toilets.

While most campgrounds are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, sites can be reserved at Canyon, Bridge Bay, Madison, Grant Village and the Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days July 1 through Labor Day, and 30 days for the rest of the year. There is no limit at the Fishing Bridge RV Park.

For those with large families or groups, group tent camping is available at Madison, Grant and Bridge Bay. Cost varies depending on the length of stay and the size of the group.

Each campsite is set up with a fire pit and picnic table. It is your responsibility to leave the campground as clean or cleaner than you found it.

Safety in National Parks

For your safety and the safety of fellow campers, food, beverages, cooking utensils and coolers must be stored inside a vehicle. Yellowstone is bear country and keeping your belongings in bear-proof containers is essential. Garbage should be put in bear-proof dumpsters and not left outside a tent.

Pets must be on a leash or in a vehicle at all times. Pet owners should pick up after their pets and throw waste into bear-proof dumpsters.

Wildlife in the Park

In addition to bears, bison, elk, birds of prey, deer and several small animal species inhabit the park. Do not approach wildlife, no matter how tame they may seem. Do not feed wildlife under any circumstances.

Other Considerations

Quiet hours at the park are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and campers are expected to respect one another. To avoid being charged for an extra day in the campground, be sure to check out by 11 a.m.

Peak summer months are the busiest for the park, so to ensure a campsite arrive at your chosen campground before 10 a.m.

So whether it’s wildlife viewing or a wallet-friendly get away, Yellowstone National Park is a great place for a family vacation.