Nothing compares to a night under the park’s stars. If you’re remotely interested in camping, this is a phenomenal place to try it—and an excellent way to stay inside the park without maxing out your vacation budget. You have two options: staying in one of the 12 developed, drive-in campgrounds, or backpacking into the wilderness. If the latter is more up your alley, check out rules, regulations, and info about getting a permit at www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm or call the Backcountry Office at tel. 307/344-2160.
Getting a Campsite—Of the developed campgrounds, the park operates seven as first-come, first-served sites; most are on the primitive side. Xanterra runs the other five, which can be reserved ahead and have more amenities.
Camping is hugely popular in the park, and campgrounds often fill up every night in summer and early fall. Make reservations for Xanterra sites well ahead of time. If you’re gunning for a first-come, first-served site, get up early and make a beeline for your campground of choice—many fill before 8am. Tip: Lewis Lake and Indian Creek tend to book up last, and they’re two of the park’s nicest campgrounds.
The Campgrounds—Yellowstone’s campgrounds range from enormous tent-and-RV villages with hundreds of sites to intimate, back-of-beyond outposts. The larger, more developed options have showers, laundry, flush toilets, and RV dump stations, while the more rustic ones have pit toilets and more limited spaces for RVs. Most campgrounds have picnic tables, campfire rings, and running water.
Mammoth ★—The first campground you’ll hit coming in from the north entrance, Mammoth is the only year-round camping facility. Sites are clumped among the sagebrush, with a few trees for shade. A short trail connects to the Mammoth Hot Springs attractions, and rangers present seasonal programs in an amphitheater. This is a good pick for larger RVs.
Tower Fall ★★—Set off a bit from Grand Loop Road in an evergreen forest, Tower Fall is a small, quiet campground at the west end of the Lamar Valley. A general store and the overlook to the Tower Fall waterfall are a stroll away.
Slough Creek ★★★—Located creekside in the Lamar Valley, this 23-site, generator-free campground is a popular base for anglers and wildlife-watchers (and my favorite in the park, thanks to its out-there feel, small size, and lovely setting).
Pebble Creek ★★★—The park’s most out-there option is this small, primitive campground deep in the Lamar Valley and a great spot for spotting wildlife and fishing.
Indian Creek ★★—This primitive campground just west of Sheepeater Cliff between Mammoth and Norris campgrounds sits in an evergreen forest at 7,300 feet, close to the Gallatin Mountains. Its mountain views, fishing ops, and remote vibe make it one of the park’s best camps.
Canyon ★—Big and busy, Canyon (elevation 7,900 feet) sits in a lodgepole pine forest a short walk from the restaurants and other facilities at Canyon Village. Here you’ll find laundry, showers, and evening ranger programs.
Fishing Bridge RV Park ★—This huge campground on the north side of Yellowstone Lake is essentially a large parking lot for RVs—as this is the heart of grizzly country, tents aren’t allowed. Though it’s a bit short on charm, the RV park has an amphitheater with ranger programs, the Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center, and a general store, and it’s the only one with full RV hookups.
Bridge Bay ★—The park’s largest campground with 432 sites, Bridge Bay is the best option if you’re looking to get out on the water. It’s very close to the Yellowstone Lake shoreline and walking distance from Bridge Bay Marina. There’s also a general store, as well as evening ranger programs.
Grant Village ★—This mega-campground on Yellowstone Lake’s West Thumb is fully loaded with laundry facilities, showers, dump stations, and a boat launch. It’s very close to the restaurants, general stores, and visitor center at Grant Village. You also get evening ranger programs.
Lewis Lake ★★—Shaded and remote, the sites at the midsize Lewis Lake Campground are very private and all a short stroll from the lakeshore and its boat ramp. This generator-free camp, 8 miles north of the south entrance, is also a great spot to scope for moose.
The Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests run several wonderful primitive campgrounds near the north, northeast, east, and west entrances to the park. You won’t find space for hundreds of campers, full RV hookups, or flush toilets, but you will enjoy amenities like trout streams, lakeside sites, and quiet nights around the campfire. Most campgrounds are first-come, first-served and some fill quickly in the summer. Sites cost $10 or less per night unless otherwise noted.
Three developed campgrounds cluster just north of Gardiner, near the north entrance. Eagle Creek is the closest, just 2 miles northeast of town on the Yellowstone River; next come Timber Camp and Bear Creek (both free).
You’ll find four nearby developed campgrounds on the Beartooth Highway outside Cooke City, starting with Soda Butte and Colter; both are for hard-sided campers only. Chief Joseph lies just east of Colter Pass, 4 miles from Cooke City; continue down the road to reach Fox Creek ($20; electric hookups available), a remodeled campground in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest.
Two popular campgrounds just past the east entrance offer riverside camping along the North Fork of the Shoshone River for hard-sided campers only (due to frequent bear activity in the area). Threemile ($15) is 3 miles east of the park entrance and can be reserved ahead of time at www.recreation.gov. Continue east another 5 miles to reach Eagle Creek ($15).
The national forest lands west of West Yellowstone offer a slew of options, and the closest ones to the park boundary are especially desirable for anglers. Baker’s Hole, 3 miles northwest of town, lies on the Madison River; Rainbow Point is 5 miles from West Yellowstone on Hebgen Lake (reservations accepted; www.recreation.gov or www.yellowstonecountrycampgrounds.com). Both have some electric hookups and cost $20. Among private options, Madison Arm Resort stands out for its lakefront campsites, free showers, full RV hookups, and marina with boat rentals (www.madisonarmresort.com; $38–$43 tent site, $53 full hookup site).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.