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The Best Guide to Camping in Yellowstone National Park

After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about pet care, science, travel, and gardening.

All you need to know about camping inside Yellowstone National Park - whether camping in a tent or a large RV!

All you need to know about camping inside Yellowstone National Park - whether camping in a tent or a large RV!

I have camped for years using both a tent and tent trailer, accompanied by our children who hammock camp. I love exploring National Parks in the USA and helping others learn how to take advantage of cost-effective adventures in the great outdoors.

Benefits of Camping Inside Yellowstone

Is it worth it to camp inside Yellowstone? In summary, yes. The lack of facilities and hookups at most of the campgrounds is easily overcome with the ability to skip entrance lines and have early access to the most popular sites along the loop road. Benefits of camping inside Yellowstone include:

  • Avoiding entrance lines at the park gates. By staying inside the park, you can rise as early as you would like and do not need to wait for timed reservations or entrance queues at the main park gates.
  • Early access to popular sites. Rising early to see Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic before the crowds arrive is invaluable. By the time other guests arrive, you will have already moved on to less crowded sections of the park.
  • Proximity and reduced driving time. Yellowstone is massive, and even staying within the park requires long drive times between distant sites. By staying within the park, many attractions are closer and the time required to see major points of interest is reduced.
Camping inside the park was peaceful and allowed us easy and early access to Yellowstone's most popular sites. This image was captured at Grant Village campground.

Camping inside the park was peaceful and allowed us easy and early access to Yellowstone's most popular sites. This image was captured at Grant Village campground.

Do You Need Reservations to Camp in Yellowstone?

While technically possible to drive up and secure a campsite on the spot, most Yellowstone campgrounds are completely sold out during the high season of June-August. For those camping with large trailers, advanced reservations are highly recommended due to the limited number of sites that can accommodate a combined tow vehicle/trailer length of 40’ or more.

For those camping with a tow-behind trailer, the total length of your tow vehicle and trailer are required for reservations. For example, if you have a 20 foot (fully extended) tent trailer and a 16 foot long tow vehicle, the total site length you require will be at least 36’. While other campgrounds only require the length of your trailer and provide additional space to park your vehicle, the Yellowstone campgrounds do not offer additional space for your tow vehicle and the total length must be taken into consideration.

Our tent trailer is 10’ long when closed, and 20’ long when fully open. Our tow vehicle was 16’ in length. When reserving, we actually called the National Park Lodges to ensure we would have an appropriate site for our car and trailer. This was a wise choice, as we would not have fit into a 30’ long site, as there would have been no place for our tow vehicle.

The size of your campsite in Yellowstone requires the combined length of your tow vehicle and trailer.

Campsites in Yellowstone do not offer additional parking space for your tow vehicle. The site length must account for the size of  your trailer and your tow vehicle. If in doubt, call to book your reservation with exact details!

Campsites in Yellowstone do not offer additional parking space for your tow vehicle. The site length must account for the size of your trailer and your tow vehicle. If in doubt, call to book your reservation with exact details!

How Early Can You Reserve a Campsite?

Reservations may be made six months in advance of your planned dates.

If you do not have reservations, it is wise to get to the campground early in the morning to try to secure a site for that evening. During the high season, this may not be possible, especially for larger RV’s or trailer units.

Reservations for Grant Village, Madison, Bridge Bay, Canyon, or Fishing Bridge RV Park are made through the National Park Lodges website (Xanterra) or by calling Xanterra at (307) 344-7311.

All other campgrounds (including Mammoth and Lewis Lake) are reserved through the governmental recreation website or by calling the TDD Line at 877-833-6777 from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Eastern time zone).

Campground Reservations Through National Park Lodges

Fees/night will vary by season. Prices listed are for high season in 2022.

CampgroundNumber of SitesFee/NightBear Box FacilitiesMaximum Site Length

Grant Village

430

$34

Yes

40’

Madison

278

$29

Yes

40’

Bridge Bay

432

$29

Yes

40’

Canyon

273

$34

Yes

40’

Fishing Bridge RV Park

310

$83

No

95'

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Campground Reservations Through Recreation.gov

Fees/night are representative of the high season in summer 2022.

CampgroundNumber of SitesFee/NightBear Box FacilitiesMaximum Site Length

Indian Creek

70

$20

Yes

35’

Lewis Lake

85

$20

Yes

25’

Mammoth

85

$25

Yes

75’

Norris

112

$25

Yes

50’

Pebble Creek

27

$20

Yes

50’

Slough Creek

16

$20

Yes

30’

Tower Fall

31

$20

Yes

30’

Cost of Camping in Yellowstone National Park

The cost of camping can be as low as $10 per night for bike campers and hikers. For all others, the cost ranges from $20/night to as much as $83/night at Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Camping is the most affordable way to see Yellowstone National Park - for both lodging and food costs.

Camping is the most affordable way to see Yellowstone National Park - for both lodging and food costs.

Can you camp for free in Yellowstone?

Camping for free, also known as boondocking, is allowed inside Yellowstone. The national park terms this as “backcountry camping.” While true dispersed camping may occur anywhere, Yellowstone requires that campers stay in a designated site for all backcountry activities. There are many restrictions to boondocking in the park, including:

  1. All backcountry campers must use a tent.
  2. Advance reservations are required.
  3. A permit is required, which costs $25.
  4. Camping must take place at one of 300 official backcountry sites.
  5. The maximum length of stay at any one site is three days.

To obtain a permit, contact the Backcountry Office at:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
307-344-2160 (phone)
307-344-2166 (fax)

Three campgrounds (Grant Village, Bridge Bay, and Fishing Bridge) are located on Yellowstone Lake, offering beautiful sunset views.

Three campgrounds (Grant Village, Bridge Bay, and Fishing Bridge) are located on Yellowstone Lake, offering beautiful sunset views.

General Campground Locations in Yellowstone

South Yellowstone campgrounds include Lewis Lake and Grant Village. These campgrounds are close to Old Faithful and provide easy access to visiting the Grand Tetons for a day trip, if desired.

West Yellowstone campgrounds include Madison and Norris. These campgrounds provide easy access to Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Springs, are a great mid-point destination for seeing both the upper and lower loop roads in the park.

Campgrounds on the north end of Yellowstone Lake include Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay campgrounds. These campgrounds provide easy access to Hayden Valley for wildlife viewing and are excellent locations for fishermen.

Canyon Campground is an excellent location, providing easy access to Yellowstone Canyon, Hayden Valley, and Lamar Valley. Its central location makes exploring the northern and southern loops of the park without a long drive back to the campsite.

For access to the Lamar Valley with abundant wildlife and wolves, Tower Falls, Slough Creek, and Pebble Creek campgrounds are fantastic campgrounds for those willing to rough it.

North Yellowstone campground options include Indian Creek and Mammoth campgrounds. Gardiner, Montana, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Boiling River are nearby attractions.

Mammoth campground is conveniently located near Mammoth Hot Springs and is the only campground open year-round.

Mammoth campground is conveniently located near Mammoth Hot Springs and is the only campground open year-round.

Best Campgrounds for Large RV’s

The best campgrounds for large RV’s or hard-sized trailers are Fishing Bridge RV Park and Mammoth campground. Both of these campgrounds will accommodate large motorhomes or trailers. Fishing Bridge is the only campground with electricity, sewer, and water hookups.

Avoid Tower Fall and Slough Creek campgrounds with large units. Tower Fall has hairpin curves and unpaved roads, and Slough Creek is at the end of a two-mile long dirt and gravel road.

Generators are not allowed at Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, or Tower Fall campgrounds.

Parking may be difficult for large RV’s at sites like Old Faithful or Grand Prismatic Spring. If possible, bring a towable vehicle for exploring the park by day!

Best Campgrounds for Camping Vans and Small Motorhomes

While Fishing Bridge has full hookups, the sites are closer together and less “natural” than other campgrounds available within the park. Mammoth, Grant Village, Canyon, and Madison are excellent choices that offer more secluded campsites and flushing toilets. Fishing Bridge, Grant Village and Canyon are the only campgrounds that offer showers.

Traveling with a camper van allows visitors to stay in any campground within the park.

Madison campground has the river adjacent for swimming and fishing activities.

Madison campground has the river adjacent for swimming and fishing activities.

Best Campgrounds for Tents and Tent Trailers

The best campground for tent and pop-up campers will vary depending on the camping experience desired. For primitive wildlife encounters and more rustic accommodations (read: vault toilets), Slough Creek and Tower Falls are fantastic options. Be aware that these sites offer no camp store, no ice for sale, and no firewood for sale.

For tent campers seeking full shower facilities and laundry, Canyon and Grant Village will offer the most comfortable stay. Grant Village offers the most amenities, including laundry and a camp store. Canyon does offer ice and firewood for sale in season, but lacks the camp store. All campgrounds offer potable water.

Tent size limitations are a maximum size 12’ x 12’ for most campsites. Bridge Bay, Grant Village, and Madison offer “extra-large” tent sites that will accommodate a tent 18’ x 18’ or two 8’ x 8’ tents.

Campground Amenities for Tent Campers

All campsites offer potable water, but not all offer luxuries like flushing toilets or showers.

CampgroundToiletsShowersLaundryCamp Store

Grant Village

Flushing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Madison

Flushing

No

No

Yes

Bridge Bay

Flushing

No

No

Yes

Canyon

Flushing

Yes

Yes

No

Indian Creek

Vault

No

No

No

Lewis Lake

Flushing

No

No

No

Mammoth

Flushing

No

No

No

Norris

Flushing

No

No

No

Pebble Creek

Vault

No

No

No

Slough Creek

Vault

No

No

No

Tower Fall

Vault

No

No

No

Tents and soft sided campers are not allowed at Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Camping in Slough Creek is rustic, but offers ample opportunity to view wildlife. Bear spray is recommended for camping or hiking in this area.

Camping in Slough Creek is rustic, but offers ample opportunity to view wildlife. Bear spray is recommended for camping or hiking in this area.

Is it safe to tent camp inside Yellowstone?

As noted by the many tent campers within the park, the answer is a resounding yes. Bear safety protocols must be followed in all campgrounds, and store all food or scented items inside the provided bear boxes.

Some campgrounds offer shared bear boxes, but Yellowstone is attempting to increase the number of food storage lockers so that every site will eventually have its own box. Be sure to store anything with a scent (including deodorant or chewing gum) away from your tent or pop-up when staying in bear country.

We do not cook inside our tent trailer to eliminate food odors from penetrating the canvas. We frequently camp in bear country, so we limit all cooking and food-related activities to the great outdoors and clean the area around our campsite thoroughly after mealtime to prevent attracting wildlife.

Abundant wildlife and boiling hot springs are the primary reasons dogs are banned from hiking trails and major attractions in Yellowstone.

Abundant wildlife and boiling hot springs are the primary reasons dogs are banned from hiking trails and major attractions in Yellowstone.

Can You Bring a Dog when Camping in Yellowstone?

While dogs are technically allowed in most campgrounds within the park, it is generally not a wise idea to bring pets into Yellowstone. Yellowstone contains a lot of wildlife and natural dangers, including thin ground over boiling hot springs. In 2021, a young woman suffered serious burns trying to pull her dog out of Maiden’s Hole hot spring – the dog did not survive. Dogs are restricted to the parking lot of all major sites and are not allowed onto any hiking trails within the park. We observed several families standing in the parking lot with Fido, taking turns to see Old Faithful (while one person in the party missed out) on our most recent visit. If possible, leave the dog at home with a trusted sitter and enjoy the natural wonders without risk to your pet or to your vacation.

The rules for bringing a dog into Yellowstone include:

  1. The dog must stay within 100 feet of a parking lot or road at all times.
  2. Dogs may not go on hiking trails within the park.
  3. Dogs must always be on a leash no longer than 6’ in length.
  4. Pets must never be left unattended outside.
  5. All pet waste must be cleaned up immediately.
  6. Dogs are limited to front-country campsites and cabins.

Dogs may be boarded at Yellowstone Pet Boarding in Livingston, MT (north of the park), Cody Country Bed and Biscuit in Cody, WY (east entrance), or VCA Happy Trails in Jackson, WY (south entrance).

If you must bring your dog (or dogs) with you, it is possible to drive the loop road and stop at overlooks along the way to get an overview of various attractions. After exiting the park, it is possible to hike with your dog on National Forest land. Pine Creek Falls in Livingston, MT is an excellent out-and-back hike for dog lovers to take with their beloved furry friend.

Camping inside the park will allow uncrowded access in the early morning hours. We were able to see Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic (pictured) with almost no crowds.

Camping inside the park will allow uncrowded access in the early morning hours. We were able to see Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic (pictured) with almost no crowds.

Yellowstone Campground FAQs

Can I sleep in my car in Yellowstone?

Camping in Yellowstone must occur at designated campsites. Camping vehicles are cars are not allowed to stay overnight in parking lots or day use areas.

Is there cell service in Yellowstone?

Campgrounds with seasonal cell service include Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant Village, Mammoth, and Fishing Bridge. Note that depending on the carrier and current usage, signal strength can be very poor to non-existent even where service is “available.” Free wi-fi is available at the Mammoth and Albright visitor center.

Does Yellowstone have gas stations?

There are six gas station locations within the national park. Gas stations are located at Old Faithful, Grant Village, Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Tower/Roosevelt Junction, and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Can you camp in the winter?

It is possible to camp in the winter months at Yellowstone. Mammoth campground is the only year-round campground, and is open to all camping types throughout the winter months. It is important to note the maximum length of a camper may not exceed 30’ during the off-season months of mid-October-April at Mammoth Campground.

Is there group camping in Yellowstone?

Large groups (with a designated leader) may find group campsites at Madison, Grant Village, and Mammoth campgrounds.

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.

© 2022 Leah Lefler

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