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Camping Outside Yellowstone: Gallatin National Forest

Menagerie refers to the wildly varying topics covered here in my eclectic collection of carefully crafted creations.

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 3.8 million visitors in 2020, 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.

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.

According to Montana State Senator Art Wittich, one-third of the annual Yellowstone National Park visitors fly into the Bozeman, Montana airport and use Highway 191 to get to the park. If you are one of these travelers, you are driving right through the Gallatin National Forest.

Campsite in Gallatin National Forest just Northwest of Yellowstone National Park

Campsite in Gallatin National Forest just Northwest of Yellowstone National Park

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!

Camping in the Crowds

Camping in the Crowds


Yellowstone National Park has five entrances: North, South, East, West and Northeast. Three of the five are in Montana, the remaining two (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 as 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 that 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.

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 ten miles.

Approximately five 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 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 eight 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:

Designated campsites in Gallatin National Forest: Taylor Fork is so unpublicized, you wouldn't even know that these campsites exist without the markers.

Designated campsites in Gallatin National Forest: Taylor Fork is so unpublicized, you wouldn't even know that these campsites exist without the markers.

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.

National Forests just beyond Yellowstone National Park

National Forests just beyond Yellowstone National Park

Tips for Camping Safely in Bear Country

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Read More From Skyaboveus

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, or Leave No Trace. 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 eight 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 two charming towns of Big Sky and West Yellowstone, Montana.

Things To Do in Big Sky, Montana

Continue a bit further north on Highway 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 here in the summer, such as:

  • Horseback riding
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Fly fishing
  • Free Outdoor Live Music Festival (July -September)
  • More free live music at Choppers Grub and Pub in the Town Center
  • Golf
  • Thrills and chills at the Big Sky Resort Base Camp
  • Mountain biking
  • Therapeutic massage at Ozssage Spa
  • Many hiking trails such as the Ousel Falls Trail
  • Great dining options

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.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center located in West Yellowstone, Montana

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center 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!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Pax Pacis from North Carolina on November 17, 2016:

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

Mrs. Menagerie (author) from The Zoo on September 14, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on September 13, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on September 12, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on September 11, 2011:, Massai Mars sounds amazing!

Mrs. Menagerie (author) from The Zoo on September 11, 2011:

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

atomicpaulsen from Orem, UT on September 11, 2011:

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 from Sri Lanka on September 10, 2011:

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

streamsidedown on September 10, 2011:

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

Stephanie Henkel from USA on September 10, 2011:

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 on September 10, 2011:

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.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on September 10, 2011:

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

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on September 10, 2011:

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 on September 10, 2011:

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

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on September 10, 2011:

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 from Glasgow on September 10, 2011:

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 from Pakistan on September 10, 2011:

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.

Catherine Simmons from Mission BC Canada on September 10, 2011:

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

cardelean from Michigan on September 10, 2011:

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 on September 10, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 22, 2011:

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

JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on July 22, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 15, 2011:

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

Charlu from Florida on July 15, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 14, 2011:

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!!!

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on July 14, 2011:

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

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on July 14, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 14, 2011:

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 cool!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on July 13, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 12, 2011:

Yes, you must Simone!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 12, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 11, 2011:

Hi Tom,


Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 11, 2011:

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 (author) from The Zoo on July 10, 2011:

Thanks nikkiraeink! I appreciate the comment!!!

nikkiraeink from So. Cal. on July 10, 2011:

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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