Yellowstone National Park Interactive Campground Map
Click on the campground for its respective page
 


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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 permits:

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

Backcountry Office
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Phone: 307-344-2160

Non-image links to campground pages:

Bridge Bay Campground
Canyon Campground
Fishing Bridge Campground
Grant Campground
Indian Creek Campground
Lewis Lake Campground
Madison Campground
Mammoth Campground
Norris Campground
Pebble Creek Campground
Slough Creek Campground
Tower Campground

Those looking for less crowded camping near Yellowstone will want to visit the Gallatin National Forest pages.

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 82190.

 

What's wrong with tent camping in Yellowstone?

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 as RV's.



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, Slough 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 and Glacier. 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 conversion: Slough Creek, Pebble 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 campsite.

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:

Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, Norris. 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?

Colter 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 River), Spire Rock Campground (off the beaten path north of Big Sky), and Swan Creek Campground (also off the beaten path north of Big sky).

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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