Yellowstone Forever

June 20, 2011

Yellowstone Camping Q & A

Camping in YNPLike many Americans, the economy and gas prices may be affecting your summer vacation plans. The good news is that camping in Yellowstone is a budget-friendly alternative to hotels, and a whole lot of fun to boot. Read on for a few useful and interesting facts about getting closer to nature at a Yellowstone campground.

How do I choose a Yellowstone campground?

There are eleven developed, “front country” campgrounds in Yellowstone that can be accessed by automobile.  You’ll want to choose one 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 online including photographs, maps, and schedules.

How much does it cost to camp in Yellowstone?

Campsites cost as little as at $12 per night, per site. Campgrounds with more amenities such as flush toilets and nearby laundry facilities are approximately $20 per night. All campgrounds have tent sites and most can accommodate RVs, but Fishing Bridge RV Park sites are $28-$37.

Campfire in YNP


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 other four campgrounds are operated by lodging concessioner, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, and these sites can be reserved in advance through the Yellowstone Reservation Center by calling toll-free: 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.

How popular is camping in Yellowstone?

There are more than 1,800 individual campsites in Yellowstone, used by nearly 140,000 people each year. For many visitors, their trip would be incomplete without the opportunity to share a campfire meal with family or friends, and to sleep under the stars. But some of the most beloved campgrounds in the Park take a lot of wear and tear over the course of a summer season. Through the Visitor Experience Initiative, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has funded projects like Campground & Landscape Rehabilitation to help ensure that your favorite campground remains the safe, attractive, and enjoyable place you love.

Can I camp in Yellowstone in the wintertime?

The Mammoth campground, in Mammoth Hot Springs, is the only front country campground in Yellowstone that is open year-round. Interestingly, it is 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.

Are evening activities offered at Yellowstone campgrounds?

Yes, a wide variety of evening programs are offered in and nearby Yellowstone campgrounds, especially during the peak season of June through August. There are ranger-led “campfire programs” on a host of topics 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. And for those amateur astronomers, there are scheduled telescope programs for viewing Yellowstone’s spectacular starry sky. Prior to your visit, check out the online program schedules on the Park’s website.

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. Over the past 14 years, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has supported several projects to help prevent human-bear conflicts including ranger-led educational programs, and signage to promote proper food storage among campers. Through the Sponsor a Bear Box campaign, we are currently raising funds to install bear-proof food storage boxes  in campgrounds like Grant.

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. You can  learn more online about backcountry hiking and camping.


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