Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds and 300 backcountry campsites, which require a permit that must be obtained within 48 hours of planned stayed. Along with permits, information on specific campsites and recent activities in the area can be obtained from ranger stations close to the area you will be staying in. Permits can be obtained from the following locations:
- Bechler Ranger Station
- Canyon Visitor Center
- Mammoth Visitor Center
- Old Faithful Ranger Station
- South Entrance Ranger Station
- Tower Backcountry Office
- Grant Village Visitor Center
- West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center
- Bridge Bay Ranger Station
Other safety and packing tips include bringing a first aid kit, a surplus of water, creating a packing list to ensure essentials are met and some prior knowledge of the land you will be navigating. Preparing for mosquitoes and having a backup plan are the top two things I forget to do for camping trips. And as always, let a friend know you or your groups plan.
Weather in the park can sometimes be unpredictable, from fast forming lightning and rain storms to freezing weather in the summer so clothing for all conditions is highly recommended as well as checking the forecast for the area you will be staying in.
It’s highly advised to either reserve a campsite or arrive early in the morning to get a first come first serve site as the campgrounds fill up fast. The park advises having a back up plan such as taking just a day trip or locating another campground that is less popular but similarly suitable.
Mammoth campground is the only one open all year round, availability can be checked online before arrival as well as at any of the welcome centers. As well the park website offers specific information on campsite amenities such as parking and toilets and regulations for proper preparedness. Please be respectful of other campers while enjoying your stay at Yellowstone National Park as there is an established quiet hours and rules regarding campfires.
Fees for campsites vary in price from $15 (most first-come, first-served campgrounds) to $31 plus park entry fee.
A few tips for camping in the park; arrive early, there is a limit to 6 people per site, as well, camping in total is limited to 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day, outside of these dates camping is unlimited. Though camping is season in yellowstone and does not occur during the winter months outside of Mammoth campground.
Tent Camping: In total there are 2000 sites available, 5 take reservations (Bridge Bay Campground, Canyon Campground, Fishing Bridge Campground and Madison Campground) while the rest are first come first serve. Madison campground being the most popular campground usually draws a large crowd while the less popular first-come, first-served Indian Creek campground can be a relaxing alternative. Slough Creek campground is another first-come, first-served campground that is off the beaten path and provides a great view of the stars due to it’s more isolated position in the park.
The sites offer the usual campground amenities, vault toilets, tent platforms, potable water, fire pits and food and scented item storage containers (ie bear boxes). Some of the larger campgrounds which hold upwards of 200 sites have more luxurious camping amenities such as showers, laundry, flush toilets, firewood sales and trash and recycling receptacles.
Backcountry Camping: Of the 300 campsites available in the backcountry there are some that are accessible close to the trailhead while others can require extended hikes to reach. Time spent on the trail is well worth it though as there are campsites in a variety of different sceneries (lakes, meadows, streams and more). Nightly fees are charged between Memorial Day and September 10th and cost $3/night with a maximum party size of five people while stock parties (those traveling with pack animals) cost $5/night with no maximum party size.
Group sizes can vary and depend on what part of the backcountry you will be visiting. All sites have a limited capacity and depending on group size parties may have to split up and obtain separate permits (splitting up requires parties to cook and camp at different sites). Certain sites have fire pits as well and all have a food storage pole. Reservations can be made of certain backcountry sites and may be made January 1st through October 31st and cannot be made over the phone or through email, they must be made by mail, fax or in person and cost a flat non-refundable fee of $25.
Reports and general information on the area you will be staying at can be found on the Park’s backcountry site as well as other helpful tips.
RV Camping: Fishing Bridge RV park only allows hard exterior campers due bear activity in the area, but is closed for upgrades during the 2019 season.