I love camping and I’ve enjoyed many a night staring up at the stars. But when you’re in Yellowstone National Park, the views aren’t just confined to the evening sky. Here’s some of my favorite things to do while on a camping vacation in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 sites. Some are first-come, first-served only.
Some campsites have a first-come, first-served policy. This means that if you’re not there to claim your spot when the campground opens, it will go to someone else. If you don’t get a campground spot—or want to stay longer than originally planned—you can try backpacking in (see “Backpacking” below). You should also know how many spots are available at a particular campground and what time they open before making your decision to book your camping trip online or in person.
For example, if you wanted to stay at Colter Bay campground in Grand Teton National Park on May 27 and 28 (a Saturday night), you would need to arrive between 6 am and 8 am on May 27 to secure a site. If the office isn’t open yet, park outside and wait until someone unlocks it; then immediately rush inside and grab a reservation slip from the window (you’ll need $20 cash or check per reservation). If all spots are taken already by this point, try backpacking!
Some are open all year.
Some of the campgrounds are open all year, including Mammoth, Norris and Grant Village. Bridge Bay and Canyon Campgrounds are closed from mid-November through late spring/early summer (Bridge Bay opens in mid-May while Canyon usually opens around Memorial Day). Other campgrounds may be open only during certain months—Grant Village Campground is only open in the summer.
Most open in mid-May and close by late September.
The exact dates vary from year to year, so check the park’s website for specific dates.
All take reservations.
Reservations are not required, but we highly recommend making them. Reservations are available six months in advance of your trip date and can be made by phone, mail or in person. Campgrounds that require reservations include:
- Mammoth Campground – Located near Old Faithful Geyser.
- Bridge Bay Campground – Across the lake from Grant Village and Canyon Village, has great views of geothermal activity and wildlife viewing opportunities.
- Madison Campground – Located near Yellowstone Lake with excellent fishing opportunities nearby.
- Lone Star Geyser Basin campgrounds – Primarily for those who wish to explore this remote corner of the park before other visitors arrive at the end of June each year (the park opens May 22). These campgrounds are open from mid-June through mid-September; make sure you book early!
There’s a camping limit of 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day.
The 14-day limit is in place to ensure the park’s campsites, trails and facilities stay safe and enjoyable for all visitors. In addition to this rule, Yellowstone has a limit of 8 people camping together at one site.
As long as you keep these regulations in mind and follow them, you will be able to enjoy your trip without getting into trouble or getting kicked out of the park!
Pets are not allowed on park trails or in backcountry campsites.
Pets are not allowed on park trails or in backcountry campsites. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds and parking areas, but must be kept leashed at all times.
Pets may not accompany their owners on any boat trips in Yellowstone National Park, including float trips down the Snake River.
A lot goes into planning a trip to Yellowstone – make sure you know what you’re doing before you go.
- Pack smart. Make sure you have everything you need to survive in the wilderness, but don’t overpack.
- Find a place to stay. Camping in Yellowstone is an experience unlike any other and the best way to enjoy it is by getting away from the crowds. If you plan on camping out of your car, stop by one of the park’s campgrounds (which are free) and look for one that isn’t too crowded yet still has enough amenities so that you don’t feel like you’re roughing it too much (like showers).
If there aren’t any open campsites available then consider staying outside of Yellowstone at one of its surrounding towns such as Cody or Big Sky since they offer more lodging options than just tents!
- Find a trail! If hiking isn’t your thing then try something else entirely like biking or horseback riding through those scenic trails instead – whatever floats your boat! Just make sure not everyone goes at once because otherwise there won’t be enough space for everyone n’ their gear which could get really dangerous really fast especially if someone gets lost along with them because then all hell breaks loose when everyone else tries finding them too…
For anyone who likes to go camping, Yellowstone is an amazing place to do it. There are lots of campsites and cabins available for rent, but you can also bring your own gear and set up camp anywhere you want if there is no designated area nearby. It’s important that you check with the park service before bringing any kind of equipment into the park because they have rules about what is allowed on their land. Remember too, though – not all wildlife will be friendly or harmless so stay alert when traveling in these areas!