Camping Outside Yellowstone: Gallatin National Forest

Updated on May 31, 2016

Why Choose Gallatin National Forest ?

You are enjoying (or perhaps still planning) a fantastic trip to Yellowstone National Park. Congratulations, Yellowstone is just astounding! Old Faithful is so impressive, and the falls at the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" are indescribably breathtaking. Hopefully, you will spot some of the fantastic wildlife that resides in Yellowstone (and the surrounding areas) such as bison, elk, Bighorn sheep, moose, bears, wolves, otters, eagles and Trumpeter swans.

Yellowstone National Park is indeed a wonder, a hugely popular wonder that hosted nearly 3.7 million visitors last year, most of whom visited in the summer months. People from all over the globe travel to the world's first national park to enjoy the natural attractions, wildlife, and geographic splendor preserved in this part of America.

(A quick note here: according to Montana State Senator Art Wittich, 1/3 of the annual Yellowstone National Park visitors fly into the Bozeman, Montana airport and use HWY 191 to get to the park. If you are one of these travelers, you are driving right through the Gallatin National Forest, the very subject of this article.)

Some folks love being part of the crowd, but if you are seeking a little more solitude, you will not likely find it inside the boundaries of the park, at least not in the summer.

Perhaps when you envisioned your travels to the majestic mountains, you pictured something that looked like this:

Campsite in Gallatin National Forest just Northwest of Yellowstone National Park
Campsite in Gallatin National Forest just Northwest of Yellowstone National Park

Instead, you may find that sites within Yellowstone National Park can feel a bit too much like this:

Camping in the Crowds
Camping in the Crowds | Source

Escape the Crowds

When you have had enough of the crowds and are ready to enjoy a little breathing room, follow me to a treasure trove for the outdoor enthusiast. I will include the best camp sites and excellent accommodations for those who are not camping or are simply tired of roughing it. So here we go!

West Entrance/ Exit of Yellowstone National Park: HWY 191

DIRECTIONS:

Yellowstone National Park has 5 entrances: North, South, East, West and Northeast. 3 of the 5 are in Montana, the remaining 2 (the South and East) are in Wyoming.

Exit the West entrance (yes, you will be leaving the park) through the small and aptly named town of West Yellowstone. This town offers a few don't-miss attractions, but more on that later. Do pick up a fishing license and any groceries you might need, this is your last stop to shop.

In West Yellowstone take HWY 191 north out of town. HWY 191 runs along the border between Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest. Continue on 191 for approximately 20 miles. The campground I am sharing with you will not likely be found on any map. Therefore, I have marked it on a topographic map (see below.) Look for a small sign which says Taylor Fork Road and a larger brown sign for Nine Quarter Circle Ranch. Turn left onto Taylor Fork Road. This road is a well maintained dirt road, suitable for large campers, RVs and even horse trailers.

Camp sites just northwest of Yellowstone National Park

Gallatin National Forest Map: for details see inset below.
Gallatin National Forest Map: for details see inset below.

National Forest Camping/ Taylor Fork (click to enlarge)

Taylor Fork Campsites in Gallatin National Forest (click to enlarge map)
Taylor Fork Campsites in Gallatin National Forest (click to enlarge map)

Designated Campsites in Gallatin National Forest

Taylor Fork is so unpublicized, you wouldn't even know that these campsites exist without the markers.
Taylor Fork is so unpublicized, you wouldn't even know that these campsites exist without the markers.

After a few miles, you will see large designated camp sites on both sides of the road. This road and the adjoining camp sites continue back into the beautiful Madison mountain range for more than 10 miles.

Approximately 5 miles in, you will pass the aforementioned Nine Quarter Circle Ranch. This is a guest ranch which seems to specialize in horseback riding but also has other activities. I have never stayed at this ranch, but it is very picturesque and open to the public. For more information go to www.ninequartercircle.com/ or call (406) 995-4276.

If you've got your camper with you, just roll on by the ranch (slowly, you don't want to spook the horses.) About 8 miles back there is a fork in the road that is marked with an old sign. To the left is Lightning Creek Road, which leads to the Taylor Falls trail head. There are several more camp sites along this road (assuming you haven't already selected one by now,) and the Taylor Falls trail is a pleasant hike. Remember, you are hiking in bear country; please see the link below for tips on safe hiking in bear country:

National Forests just beyond Yellowstone National Park

The road on the right is to Cache Creek, which has several more prime camping spots. You do not have to go this far back (about 10 miles) as there are great camp sites starting from mile one or two, but the farther you go, the more beautiful it seems to get.

Aside from the lack of crowds, camping in Gallatin National Forest has many perks. For one, it is totally free, as is the abundant wood for campfires (I think firewood is $5 or more per bundle in Yellowstone.) You will still see all the wondrous wildlife, just like inside the park boundaries. In fact, I see moose in Taylor Fork quite often and have never seen them in Yellowstone National Park. Do remember your bear country camping rules, or see the link below.

Please don't trash our treasure!

Now that I have shared this pristine place with you, I implore you to do your part to keep the "treasure state," of Montana beautiful. Here are some tips for keeping your impact on nature to a minimum and preserving this beautiful place for generations to come:

  • Pack it in/ pack it out. In-other-words, if you brought it, take it with you when you leave. Don't leave anything behind including food scraps, bottles or cans, plastics, paper, broken whatever-its, etc.
  • Plan ahead and bring trash bags, zip-lock bags and whatever else you will need to keep your garbage to yourself.
  • Use existing campsites. Don't trample over new vegetation.
  • Use designated fire rings and make certain your campfire is completely out before you leave.
  • Dispose of human waste properly. If your camper has no "facilities" you must pack out toilet paper and hygiene products and bury solid waste at least 8 inches underground and 200 ft. away from your tent, water and trails.
  • Dirty dishwater, urine and other liquid waste should also be kept 200 ft. away from the campsite, water and trails.
  • Use biodegradable soaps, shampoos or detergents. These are available at most camping supply stores.
  • Respect the wildlife. Do not disturb, follow, feed or approach wild animals...ever!
  • Please refrain from playing loud music or making other disruptive noise.

Other Great Stuff To Do...

In addition to top notch camping, there are many super fun things to do in the immediate area. You may feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, when in fact, you are a mere 20 miles from the 2 charming towns of Big Sky and West Yellowstone, Montana.

Big Sky, Montana

Continue a bit further north on HWY 191 and you will arrive at the peaceful resort town of Big Sky. Big Sky is a ski town and a popular winter destination, but I have never seen Big Sky crowded in the summer. This doesn't really make sense because there are many, many things to do in Big Sky, in the summer, such as:

  • Horseback riding: Jake's Horses (406) 995-4630(406) 995-4630(406) 995-4630(406) 995-4630, Lone Mountain Ranch (406) 995-4644(406) 995-4644(406) 995-4644(406) 995-4644, Cedar Mountain Corrals (406) 539-4065(406) 539-4065(406) 539-4065(406) 539-4065, 320 Guest Ranch (800) 243-0320(800) 243-0320(800) 243-0320(800) 243-0320.
  • Whitewater rafting: Geyser Whitewater Expeditions (800) 914-9031(800) 914-9031(800) 914-9031(800) 914-9031, Montana Whitewater Raft Company (800) 799-4465(800) 799-4465(800) 799-4465(800) 799-4465.
  • Fly fishing: Wild Trout Outfitters (406) 995-2975(406) 995-2975(406) 995-2975(406) 995-2975, East Slope Outdoors (406) 995-4369(406) 995-4369(406) 995-4369(406) 995-4369
  • Free Outdoor Live Music Festival (July -September) in the Big Sky Town Center, every Thursday night at 7pm. For more information call (406) 995-2742(406) 995-2742(406) 995-2742(406) 995-2742.
  • More free live music at Choppers Grub and Pub in the Town Center starting at 10pm Thursday nights and 9:30 pm on Saturday nights, for more information cal (406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830
  • Golf: Big Sky Public Golf Course: (406) 995-5780(406) 995-5780(406) 995-5780(406) 995-5780.
  • Thrills and Chills at the Big Sky Resort Base Camp: ZIpline, High Ropes Course, Climbing Wall, Bungee Trampoline, Paintball/ Laser Tag, Skeet Shooting, Archery, Disc Golf and more. Call (406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769.
  • Mountain Biking: Rentals and rates at (406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769(406) 995-5769.
  • Enjoy a therapeutic massage at Ozssage Spa. Call (406) 995-7575(406) 995-7575(406) 995-7575(406) 995-7575.
  • There are also many hiking trails such as the Ousel Falls Trail. For more information about Big Sky, MT call the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (406) 995-3000(406) 995-3000(406) 995-3000(406) 995-3000 or go to www.bigskychamber.com.
  • Big Sky also has several great dining options. Stop by Bugaboo Cafe for a fantistic breakfast (406) 995-3350(406) 995-3350(406) 995-3350(406) 995-3350 or Choppers Grub and Pub for a Huckleberry Lemonade cocktail and a killer bison burger (406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830(406) 995-3830.
  • If you are looking for hotel accommodations in Big Sky, I recommend the River Rock Lodge (406) 995-4455(406) 995-4455(406) 995-4455(406) 995-4455/ toll free (866) 995-4455(866) 995-4455(866) 995-4455(866) 995-4455.
  • Try Priceline, Expedia or Kayak for information about flights and hotel accommodations in Montana.


West Yellowstone, Montana

I mentioned West Yellowstone earlier because they are home to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit wildlife park and educational facility. My children and I love this place. Not only do you get to see some incredible animals, but you can learn heaps about bear and wolf behavior and more.

This is not a zoo, these animals were all rescued for one reason or another. With or without kids, don't miss the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center: www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.com.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Located in West Yellowstone, Montana
Located in West Yellowstone, Montana

Hopefully, I have laid it all out clearly. I am not suggesting for one minute that you miss Yellowstone National Park. I just wouldn't want you to spend your entire vacation battling the crowds when you are just a few miles away from a veritable sanctuary.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope that you enjoy your trip to one of the most spectacular places on earth!

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • Pax Pacis profile image

        Pax Pacis 

        23 months ago from North Carolina

        Great Article. I have camped in the national forest land around the park as well can cannot recommend it enough!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Hello Stephanie and streamside, thanks, I'm very glad to hear that you have been out here enjoying YNP!

        Thank you Chamilj for your kind compliment!

        Hahaha Atomic Paulsen and good luck!:)

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Suzettenaples, your kind words are so much appreciated!

        Thank you Cardesa, I hope you get a chance to visit. It is actually particularly nice this time of year, the weather is perfect and the crowds are thinning out because kids are back in school.

        Hi Flora, thanks and I just finished the Woman in White and really enjoyed it. Thanks for recommending it!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Thank you very much Houseseller!

        Denise, thank you for asking...we still have no answers with the Lehman Bros. fiasco.

        I'm glad you enjoyed emdi...I love your profile picture, hilarious!!!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Hafeezrm....wow, Massai Mars sounds amazing!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Rtalloni, Cardelean and catsimmons...I hope you do come visit! Thanks for the comments!

      • atomicpaulsen profile image

        atomicpaulsen 

        7 years ago from Orem, UT

        beautiful hub! haven't made it out yet to yellowstone but this is making me want to go. just don't show that list of bears and wolves to my girlfriend.

      • chamilj profile image

        chamilj 

        7 years ago from Sri Lanka

        Congratulations on being chosen hub of the day.Really well written article. Thanks for sharing these information.

      • profile image

        streamsidedown 

        7 years ago

        this is great! I visited Yellowstone this summer and now, having read this, I want to go back!

      • Stephanie Henkel profile image

        Stephanie Henkel 

        7 years ago from USA

        Thanks for the terrific information on Gallitin National Forrest. We love National Forest camping as the sites are almost always scenic, spaced far apart and well laid out. Gallitin NF will definitely be on our list of places to stay the next time we visit the Yellowstone area.

        We have stayed in several campgrounds at Yellowstone NP. The photo you showed of the very crowded campground certainly was an example of one of the largest and most popular campgrounds, but there are others that are quieter, more spacious and with beautiful views. If we were to go back, I would still spend some time camping inside the park because it is so large that driving in and out would be too time consuming. However, after reading your hub, I would be sure to include some time in Gallitin NF, too.

        Congratulations on your well-deserved award of Hub of the Day!

      • FloraBreenRobison profile image

        FloraBreenRobison 

        7 years ago

        Congratulations on being chosen hub of the day. I've never been to this forest or the park, although I have driven through Montana on my way to visit my grandparents when they were alive.

      • Cardisa profile image

        Carolee Samuda 

        7 years ago from Jamaica

        Congrats on making hub of the day! This is definitely a very good place to visit. I wish I could visit soon.

      • suzettenaples profile image

        Suzette Walker 

        7 years ago from Taos, NM

        This truly is a wonderful hub! I hope to get to Yellowstone Park one of these days and I am so glad to know about Gallitin National Forest. I won't miss it! Your directions and maps are great and easy to follow. Congratulations on Hub of the Day. You truly deserve this. I am so glad to see you give suggestions/directions on preserving the natural grounds and area. This is so important. Thank you for a great hub. Voted up, of course.

      • emdi profile image

        emdi 

        7 years ago

        Thanks. Now I don't need to buy a travel book to go there. Your hub has a lot of information

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        7 years ago from North Carolina

        Congratulations, MM on your Hub of the Day. Wow, you've had a few showing up here lately, I've noticed. Bravo. How are you doing? Hope all is as best as can be.

      • HouseSeller profile image

        HouseSeller 

        7 years ago from Glasgow

        wow you've brought to life what I always imagined Yellow Stone Park would be.. Now I will seriously consider taking the trip! Fantastic hub, enjoyed it!

      • hafeezrm profile image

        hafeezrm 

        7 years ago from Pakistan

        I visited Yellow Stone Park some 10 years back. It is fantastic.

        The guide said something which I still donot understand,"Yellow Stone is most polluted place on the world in winter due to a large number of snowmobiles."

        I loved Old Faithful and saw some wildlife but it was nothing compared to Massai Mara of Kenya where a vehical can go right to the face of the animal when you are eye-ball to eye-ball. In Yellow Stone, we were not allowed to leave the main road.

        But it had its beautity and grandeur. I still remember a variety of colors and scenic spots. Thanks for bringing back my memories.

      • catsimmons profile image

        Catherine Simmons 

        7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

        This is an awesome and useful hub. I'll be bookmarking it for future adventures. The bear tips are really useful too !!!

      • cardelean profile image

        cardelean 

        7 years ago from Michigan

        Congrats on your hub of the day! This is such a detailed, well put together hub. I'm bookmarking this for when I eventually make it to Yellowstone! Thanks for sharing all of your great information.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        7 years ago from the short journey

        No wonder it made Hub of the Day--Congrats!

        Voted up and placed on my wish list. This would be a fabulous camping trip.

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Oh you've made my day with your generous words! I really enjoyed your hub as well! Thanks JSParker!

      • JSParker profile image

        JSParker 

        7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

        Voted awesome. This is an excellent hub, well written, perfectly proofread, with very interesting material and visuals. You're an excellent representative of what HubPages should be. Also, I have never heard of this place, so it was really enlightening. Thanks so much!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Thank you Charlu! You and I both love those animals!

      • Charlu profile image

        Charlu 

        7 years ago from Florida

        Great hub with awesome tips for things to do and for those of us who don't like crowds. I think I need to move west where the wildlife and I can hopefully retire soon :) Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome Thanks for sharing

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Awesome Denise!!! I also "adopt" wolves, sometimes as gifts for people who already have everything. I always pick the Omega-got a soft spot for the underdog, I guess.

        Thanks so much Ruby...I hope you do come to our beautiful neck-o-the-woods!!!

      • Ruby H Rose profile image

        Maree Michael Martin 

        7 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

        Great maps, great way to camp, I'm gonna go there for sure! Great hub!

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        7 years ago from North Carolina

        Thanks Mrs. M-I know Olivia has been 'begging' her parents to go to Yellowstone and she actually received 'adoption' papers this sunmmer for a wolf at a refuge place in Mississippi.

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Aww, thanks Denise! I was actually thinking of you and your granddaughter that loves wolves when I last took my kids to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. She would love it...so cool!

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        7 years ago from North Carolina

        Great hub, Mrs. M-I loved the camping tips you offered-so important. I have been to Yellowstone, although not camping-I stayed in one of the lodges. Beautiful experience there.

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Yes, you must Simone!

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Wow, Mrs. Menagerie! I MUST VISIT GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST! You make it sound so amazing- plus with your great tips, I will be uber prepared. Great Hub!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks-a-million!

      • kashmir56 profile image

        Thomas Silvia 

        7 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Mrs. Menagerie, great hub, it is nice to be out in these parks camping and enjoying the wildlife around us .

        Vote up !!!

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

        Mrs. Menagerie 

        7 years ago from The Zoo

        Thanks nikkiraeink! I appreciate the comment!!!

      • nikkiraeink profile image

        nikkiraeink 

        7 years ago from So. Cal.

        I've had "Camp at Yellowstone" on my life list for years now but after reading your hub, I may just change it to "Visit Yellowstone & Camp at National Forest." Great tips!

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