Yellowstone National Park camping is simply sublime. There's nothing
like spending the night amongst the wild landscape and creatures
of this spectacular national park. Wildlife can and does enter
campgrounds, so be aware at all times. Also, you may be awoken
at night by the sounds of grunting bison, elk calling, loons singing,
and wolves howling. Yellowstone National Park is truly wild camping
country. All the big predators still exist in this park.
Please feel free to use the clicky map above! Each click will
take you to that specific campground. And don't forget to check
out our camping DVD and iPad downloads on your right. Parkcamper.com
was designed for friendly, interactive use on portable devices,
so there's no need for an App, and no need for cluttered, ad-riddled
pages like you see on so many other sites these days. Parkcamper.com
is not a generic data aggregations site. We pride ourselves on
providing camping opinions and perspectives.
Like with other National Park campgrounds, signing up and paying
for your campsite in Yellowstone National Park is easy. Simply
walk up to the campground entrance registration center, fill out
the form, insert your money, tear off your portion of the envelope
(receipt) then deposit the envelope in the collection box. You
then place your receipt on your campground stake (usually this
has your site number and a clip). Some campgrounds in Yellowstone
National Park operate on a first come, first serve basis, and
some on a reservation system as well. Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge,
Madison Canyon and Grant Village are some of the more popular
campgrounds with reservation systems. Also, some of these campgrounds
require you to pay at a front office rather than with a strong
box and envelope system. Some Yellowstone National Park campgrounds
can fill by 11 AM, especially Pebble Creek and Slough Creek (limited
sites). Gathering firewood in Yellowstone National Park is permitted
as long as it is only dead and downed wood. No chain saws allowed.
Check out time in Yellowstone National Park is 10 AM. Also, pets
are prohibited on boardwalks, trails and roads at all times. They
must also be kept on leashes no longer than six feet.
Yellowstone National Park has 287 backcountry campsites! Overnight
stays require permits and safety information. Write or visit the
local backcountry office to obtain the latest information and
Bechler Ranger Station
Canyon Ranger Station/Visitor Center
Grant Village Backcountry Office
Bridge Bay Ranger Station
Mammoth Ranger Station/Visitor Center
Old Faithful Ranger Station
South Entrance Ranger Station
Tower Ranger Station
West Entrance Ranger Station
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Non-image links to campground pages:
looking for less crowded camping near Yellowstone will want to
visit the Gallatin
You can make camping reservations
in Yellowstone at this number:
307-344-7311 or 1-866-GEYSERLAND (439-7375)Yellowstone
National Park Lodges,PO Box 165, Yellowstone National Park, WY
What's wrong with tent camping
We've been doing this camping thing for a long time, and if there's
one thing we hear about consistently, it's that Yellowstone's
campgrounds aren't very good if you happen to have a tent.
We would agree. Yellowstone is an amazing, beautiful park, but
its campgrounds are inferior to nearby places such as the Gallatin
National Forest, Glacier
National Park, or Grand
Teton National Park.
So what's wrong with the campgrounds?
Balance. Yellowstone's campgrounds seem to be designed strictly
for those in RV's or hard-sided campers. Now, there's nothing
wrong with camping in that style. It's great, and we encourage
it 100%. But Parkcamper.com also has to look after the tent-camping
contingent. They are just as large of a user base of Parkcamper.com
To put it simply, Yellowstone's campgrounds are an unpleasant
place for tent campers. Here's a list of the reasons:
1. Xanterra run campgrounds. Ever pulled into a campground in
Yellowstone expecting to see forest, campsites, and enjoying the
ability to just grab the site you like? Not going to happen unless
you're looking for sites at Pebble
Creek, or Lewis
Lake. Yellowstone's biggest
campgrounds are run by Xanterra, and places such as Madison,
Bridge Bay, and Fishing
Bridge require you to wait in line with your vehicle
before entering the campground. Not a big deal, right? Well, unfortunately
not. In places like Madison, this line can back up into the road,
causing traffic issues. It also fouls the air, and the joy of
entering what should be a pollution-free place becomes an almost-gagging
experience. Best to let the vehicles park, with their engines
OFF. People don't come to Yellowstone to sit in lines of traffic
and breathe diesel fumes. This creates a very unpark-like experience.
Tenters (or anyone, really) shouldn't have to sit in line and
breathe exhaust fumes at a national park campground.
2. Tent Loops. These are often a token gesture, with little forethought
planned. Sites lack privacy and are usually smaller than nearby
national forests or parks like Teton
In Yellowstone, tenters are expected to park their cars in the
lot and carry their car camping gear into a shared "walk-in"
tent site. If this isn't a gentle way of saying, "get back
there, tent varmints," I don't know what is. Usually the
sites are small. Pebble
Creek Campground is one such example. While this is
probably the prettiest campground in the park (and well, well
out of the way up in the northeast corner), the sites are super-small
and offer no privacy. Tenters are expected to sleep ten feet from
RV's and generators. You an often hear people snoring next to
you and other noises you may not be so keen on hearing. We love
RV's here at Parkcamper, don't get us wrong. But we have to look
at this from other perspectives, too.
Tenters are well aware of the NIGHT OF A THOUSAND COOLERS. If
you haven't heard that before, it's probably because you were
in an RV. When the campground wakes up or winds down, those inside
RV's close and open the interior cabinets again and again and
again. It sounds like endless cooler lids opening and closing
throughout the campground. Imagine camping in a tent in the middle
of this and generators. Can you say, "no thanks?".
3. No dedicated tent campground. This is badly needed in Yellowstone.
Grand Teton offers Jenny
Lake Campground, which is tent-only. The sites are
huge, site privacy is nice, and it's eerily quiet. Jenny Lake
Campground is easily the finest campground in the Yellowstone
area. Grand Teton also offers a tent-only loop in Colter
Bay Campground which is outstanding. Site privacy is
very good, the sites are roomy, and the tent-pads are excellent.
They actually put tenters on a little plateau with nice views
of snowcapped Grand Teton. You can sit at your picnic table and
watch the mountains, or take a five minute walk down to the beach.
While this is a very popular campground with a ton of RV's, the
tent loop is quiet and peaceful.
4. Lack of enforcement for quiet hours. This is a killer for
tenters. All sounds are much louder without metal between you
and the rest of the campground. This includes generators, partying
(we're talking about stuff to three a.m., or groups coming back
from bars in West Yellowstone and Gardiner and deciding to cook
dinner drunk at 2 a.m.).Of course, the single biggest issue for
tenters and peacefulness is generators. This is a biggie that
takes away the park experience for some. There's nothing worse
than tenting next to a giant RV that is running its generator
at 12 a.m. The generator actually shakes the ground beneath you.
5. Camp hosts don't do much. I've seen plenty of good camp hosts.
A few in Yellowstone have been less than impressive. Many seem
disinterested, and fail to help with campground rule enforcement.
Their biggest priority seems to be collection of payment, and
then they're in their trailers munching on snacks. They generally
seem irritated by tourists (if you don't like national park first-time
visitors, you picked the wrong job). Not everyone will be an expert
on camping. This is expected and should not be a surprise or a
source of irritation.
6. Hoarders. This one hurts the best campgrounds (Slough and
Pebble Creek) which are first come, first serve. Locals will come
up to Slough
Creek, and get a good site. From there, they badger
other campsite users who may or may not be packing up so they
can secure the other sites for family and friend, creating a de
facto group site. This is not a problem at large campgrounds.
However, for tiny campgrounds like Slough Creek and Pebble
Creek, it can be devastating. I've experienced this
myself, and it's quite annoying to be eyed constantly by a guy
who already has a site who's desperate to get the one next to
him for his buddy or brother or whatever. I could care less if
this happened at a larger site, because this annoying person would
move on to other sites. But not in a small campground. It's almost
like he's willing you to leave. And if you don't, he gets more
aggressive each morning. Even telling you there are "better
sites down the road". Camp hosts and rangers need to enforce
these hoarders. They can be so effective that half of Slough or
Pebble Creek is cut off for weeks.
All right, so we've griped a lot. But we're not ones to gripe
without offering solutions either, so here they are.
1. Require all those who must wait in line with their vehicles
to PARK them, and walk up. Stop fouling the air and causing traffic
jams please. This is a national park, not a city avenue. No one
wants to drive past a cacophony of diesel engines and smog as
their first view of their campground which they were so pumped
to finally see. The camping experience is damaged, big time.
2. Fix the tent loops. Make them further away from RV's. Widen
the sites, plan for better privacy for tenters.
3. Create new tent-only campgrounds in Yellowstone to help restore
balance to the camping experience. Right now, if you don't have
an RV in Yellowstone, expect the camping experience to be less
than desirable. There are three prime candidates for this tent-only
Creek, and Tower. Tower
is an afterthought of a campground on a plateau above the Yellowstone
River. It smells like rotten eggs (geothermal area), has nasty,
biting red ants, and tiny sites with no privacy of any kind. But,
it can be fixed by making it tent-only.
Pebble Creek should've been tent-only a long time ago. There's
no reason at all to have trailers there. Yes, site privacy will
still be bad, but at least you won't be within spitting distance
of other campers. The sites can then be widened, reaching to both
sides of the loop road. Smashing two sites between that small
loop drive was a big mistake. No one wants to camp so close to
another site that you could hit them with a gob of spit.
The same goes for Slough Creek. It's a shame that Yellowstone
doesn't have a single campground set aside for a quiet camping
experience. That's a complete failure of self-awareness on the
park's part. By turning Slough, Pebble Creek ,and Tower into tent-only,
Yellowstone will have restored balance to those seeking a beautiful,
quiet camping experience in one of the greatest parks in the world.
And RV users can enjoy their park experience without dirty looks
from those who just want to tent.
4. Better enforcement of quite hours. Yes, the Rangers often
have more important things to do, so perhaps create a new campground
patrol below that of a ranger who can enforce campground regulations.
5. Camp hosts Find camp hosts that are enthusiastic and interested
in engaging national park first time visitors no matter how "green"
they may be. Camp hosts should smile, offer interesting information,
and generally enjoy what they do for at least 50% of the time.
6. Cut back on the hoarders. If you see campsite users getting
harassed again and again to leave their sites early, kick the
harasser out. And ban them for a year. It's one thing to pull
up into a busy campground in the morning and to ask a family who
is packing up their tent if you can park your car behind theirs
and put a new tag on the campground stake. It's another to do
it ceaselessly over a period of a week when you already have a
So, Yellowstone may not change anything soon. How do you maximize
your tent-camping experience in Yellowstone this year and the
next? Here's how:
You never want to drive into the park without a campsite in the
busy season (July to Labor Day weekend) unless you can hit the
sites at 8 a.m. We recommend reserving a site at
Canyon or Bridge
Bay, and then packing up at first light and heading
to any of these campgrounds:
These are the best tent campgrounds in Yellowstone.
Okay, so you don't want to tent in Yellowstone after reading this
article. What are your options?
Bay Campground in Grand Teton (the exceptional
tent loop). Jenny Lake
Campground in Grand Teton. Pacific
Creek Campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
just northeast of Grand Teton National Park. Grand Teton is six
miles south of Yellowstone. Colter Bay Campground is twenty miles
from the Yellowstone southern border.
If you want to be north of Yellowstone and just want to dip into
the park for a day or two, the Gallatin
National Forest is a superior place for tent camping.
We actually prefer the scenery in the Gallatin National Forest
to Yellowstone. Check out
Red Cliff Campground (south of Big Sky along the Gallatin
Rock Campground (off the beaten path north of Big Sky),
Creek Campground (also off the beaten path north of
If you ever get stuck in the park without a campsite and you're
on the northern end, backtrack up to Eagle
Creek Campground which is just behind Gardiner. It's
a good emergency campground although site privacy is nonexistent.
Beyond Eagle Creek on a long, rough drive are two more Gallatin
National Forest campgrounds. You can see our list of Gallatin
National Forest campgrounds
here. If heading into Yellowstone Park late during
the busy season, take note that there are many serviceable campgrounds
along Highway 191 from Bozeman to Yellowstone. They are listed
on that page. There are also a plethora of other great campgrounds
in the Gallatin National Forest that we have not posted. Sometimes
it's more fun to discover things yourself. But you can't go wrong
with finding a map of the Gallatin National Forest and exploring
the campgrounds. There are some real gems. ;)
Of course, there are tenters who will say that they find tent
camping in Yellowstone to be just fine. But over the years, we've
gotten more negative feedback on the tenting experience in Yellowstone
than we have positive. Big time.
By restoring the camping balance to Yellowstone, both RV'ers
and tenters can finally claim Yellowstone to be the best camping
experience in the lower 48.