The Best Camping in Yellowstone National Park

Bison Near River in Yellowstone National Park

Camping in Yellowstone National Park is one of the best ways to explore the crown jewel of America’s national park system.

Notable as the world’s first national park, a Yellowstone camping trip should be high on every outdoor lover’s bucket list. Visitors enjoy stunning natural beauty, the diverse array of wildlife, unique geothermal features, and miles upon miles of hiking trails.

Although cabins, lodges, and hotels are available both inside and just outside the park, staying at a Yellowstone campground will give you a true taste of what this outdoor wonderland is all about.

Here is our ultimate guide to the best camping in Yellowstone National Park.

Index

  1. Best Campgrounds
  2. Other Campgrounds
  3. Best Campgrounds Nearby
  4. Free Camping
  5. Other Lodging
  6. Must-See Destinations
  7. Hiking & Backpacking
  8. Other Park Activities
  9. Things to Do Nearby

Best Campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park

Camping in Yellowstone National Park is the best way to get the full Yellowstone experience.

There are currently 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone. The five largest are managed by Xanterra. These also have the most amenities and offer reservations. The National Park Service manages the remaining seven first-come, first-served campgrounds. These are typically smaller and more primitive.

Bridge Bay Campground

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Bridge Bay Campground is the largest campground in Yellowstone National Park. It’s beautiful location next to Yellowstone Lake makes it very popular with anglers and boaters.

This Yellowstone campground is open mid-May to mid-September. It has 400 reservable sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets and running water are available.

Learn more about Bridge Bay Campground.

Canyon Campground

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Canyon Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park. It’s located just one mile from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Visit the canyon to observe the two towering waterfalls and hike the North Rim Trail for a closer look.

This Yellowstone National Park campground is open late May to late September. It has 270 reservable sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets, running water, and showers are available.

Learn more about Canyon Village Campground.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

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RV camping in Yellowstone National Park doesn’t get much better than Fishing Bridge RV Park. The only campground in Yellowstone with full RV hookups, it’s also conveniently located on Yellowstone Lake’s scenic north shore.

This Yellowstone campground is open early May to mid-September. It has 340 reservable sites designated for RVs only. Flush toilets, running water, showers, and laundry services are available.

Learn more about Fishing Bridge RV Park.

Grant Village Campground

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The bustling Grant Village Campground is located on the southwest shore of Yellowstone Lake. It’s an excellent jumping off point for exploring the geothermal features in West Thumb Geyser Basin, including Abyss Pool and Fishing Cone.

This Yellowstone National Park campground is open early June to mid-September. It has over 400 reservable sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets, running water, and showers are available.

Learn more about Grant Village Campground.

Indian Creek Campground

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If peace and quiet is what’s on your Yellowstone camping radar, then Indian Creek Campground might be for you. In addition to its relatively small size, the use of generators is prohibited, further promoting a sense of calm serenity.

This Yellowstone campground is open mid-June to mid-September. It has 70 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly (no generators). It has vault toilets only.

Learn more about Indian Creek Campground.

Lewis Lake Campground

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Another quiet, low-key place for camping in Yellowstone, Lewis Lake Campground is notable as the southernmost campground in the park. In addition to its location near the Lewis Lake hiking trail, the campground serves as a great resting point on the way to Grand Teton National Park to the south of Yellowstone.

This Yellowstone campground is open mid-June to early November. It has 85 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly. It has vault toilets only.

Learn more about Lewis Lake Campground.

Madison Campground

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Just 13 miles from Yellowstone National Park’s west entrance, Madison Campground is a popular home base for exploring nearby Old Faithful and the Madison River. It’s riverside location makes it a popular campground for fly fishing in Yellowstone.

This Yellowstone National Park campground is open from late April to mid-October. It has 278 reservable sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets and running water are available.

Learn more about Madison Campground.

Mammoth Campground

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Mammoth Campground, also known as Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, is the only Yellowstone National Park campground that’s open year-round. It’s located a short walk away from its namesake Mammoth Hot Springs, one of Yellowstone’s most popular visitor attractions.

This Yellowstone campground is open all year round, although there’s a 30 foot length limit for RV camping in the winter. It has 85 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets and running water is available.

Learn more about Mammoth Hot Springs Campground.

Norris Campground

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The centrally located Norris Campground, sometimes called Norris Hot Springs Campground, is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant places for camping in Yellowstone. It sits on the Gibbon River (home to excellent fly fishing) next to a large meadow where bison sightings are common. Norris Geyser Basin is a short distance away as is the Museum of the National Park Ranger.

This Yellowstone campground is open mid-May to late September. It has 111 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly. Flush toilets and running water is available.

Learn more about Norris Hot Springs Campground.

Pebble Creek Campground

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Remote camping in Yellowstone National Park doesn’t get much better than Pebble Creek Campground. Located in the far northeast corner of the park, it’s the ideal place jumping off point for viewing wildlife in the Lamar Valley (including your greatest chance to see wolves).

This Yellowstone campground is open mid-June to late September. It has 27 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly (no generators). It has vault toilets only.

Learn more about Pebble Creek Campground.

Slough Creek Campground

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Slough Creek Campground is chief among the most legendary places to go camping in Yellowstone. It’s nestled along the banks of Slough Creek two miles into the famous Lamar Valley. Arrive early – this first-come, first-served campground typically fills up just after sunrise.

This Yellowstone National Park campground is open mid-June to early October. It has 16 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly (up to 30’). It has vault toilets only.

Learn more about Slough Creek Campground.

Tower Fall Campground

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Tower Fall Campground is the perfect place for exploring the northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park. Just across the road from the beautiful 132 foot Tower Fall, it’s perched high upon the uniquely beautiful Dunraven Pass. Nearby Mount Washburn Trail is a popular 6.5-mile roundtrip hike that provides panoramic views of the surrounding area.

This Yellowstone campground is open late May to late September. It has 31 first-come, first-served sites and is RV friendly. It has vault toilets only.

Learn more about Tower Fall Campground.


Other Campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park

Camping in Yellowstone National Park is a sometimes hectic experience.

Thanks to the park’s incredible natural beauty, the main Yellowstone campgrounds become crowded during the summer. Luckily, a wide variety of backcountry camping options give you the opportunity to enjoy camping in some of the park’s less developed areas.

Backcountry Campgrounds

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Yellowstone National Park is home to over 300 designated backcountry campsites.

Connected by over a thousand miles of hiking trails, backpackers have an almost endless variety of trips to choose from. Many trails even allow horseback riding and camping – there are even a few boat-in campsites in Yellowstone.

Among the most popular Yellowstone backpacking trips are the 17-mile roundtrip Firehole Meadows trail, the 23-mile roundtrip Shoshone Lake trail, and the short 4.7-mile there-and-back jaunt to a handful of backcountry campsites near Ribbon Lake.

Remember to pick up backcountry permits for all overnight wilderness camping and boat trips at a park ranger station.

Backcountry camping in Yellowstone is limited to minimize environmental impact, so arrive early to score a permit. Advance reservations are available for a portion of the park’s backcountry campsites – and are recommended for the most popular destinations.

The national park service advises all backpackers to develop a back-up itinerary (ideally to a less popular area of the park) just in case their first choice is already filled.

A fee of $3 per person per night is charged for all backpackers and boaters during the peak season (Memorial Day to September 10).

In addition to following all wildlife safety best practices, including using a bear canister to store food and carrying bear spray while hiking, all backpackers should be very careful when traveling through backcountry geothermal areas that don’t always have boardwalks.

Our beginner’s guide to backpacking is an excellent resource to start planning your Yellowstone backpacking trip.

Learn more about the best backpacking in Yellowstone National Park.


Best Campgrounds Near Yellowstone National Park

Camping while visiting Yellowstone doesn’t necessarily mean camping within the national park itself.

There is a lot of fantastic camping just outside the park’s borders. Some of the campgrounds near Yellowstone are small and help you avoid the crowds while others are large and full of amenities for RV campers.

Baker’s Hole Campground

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Located just minutes north of West Yellowstone outside the park’s west entrance, Baker’s Hole Campground has 73 first-come, first-served campsites. 33 of these campsites have electrical hookups. This Custer Gallatin National Forest campground is situated alongside the Madison River.

Learn more about Baker’s Hole Campground.

Big Game Campground

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Big Game Campground is located about midway between Yellowstone’s east entrance and Cody, Wyoming. This quiet Shoshone National Forest campground has 16 reservable campsites. It sits alongside the Shoshone River, making it a perfect place for fishing.

Learn more about Big Game Campground.

Buffalo Bill State Park

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Buffalo Bill State Park is one of the best places for camping near Yellowstone National Park. It’s just 10 miles from Cody, Wyoming and 40 miles from the park’s east entrance. This campground has two reservable camping areas, one with 37 sites and the other with 62 sites, plus a group camping area. Many of the campsites have full RV hookups. The Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center is just minutes away.

Learn more about Buffalo Bill State Park.

Cody KOA

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Families and RV campers love to include a stop at the Cody KOA on their Yellowstone camping trip. The large, spacious campground has dozens of RV sites with full hookups, a grassy tent camping area, and numerous camping cabins – all reservable online. A swimming pool, dog park, bike rentals, children’s fun zone, lawn games area, and free shuttle to the Cody Nite Rodeo are additional summer amenities.

Learn more about Cody KOA.

Colter Campground

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Located just outside of Cooke City, Montana near the park’s northeast entrance, Colter Campground is a popular Yellowstone National Park campground for RV camping. This Custer Gallatin National Forest campground has 18 first-come, first-served campsites – but allows hard-sided camping only. This means no tent camping.

Learn more about Colter Campground.

Eagle Creek Campground

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Just north of the park’s north entrance near Gardiner, Montana is Eagle Creek Campground. It has 16 first-come, first-served campsites for tent and RV camping. It’s one of the most affordable places to go camping near Yellowstone National Park.

Learn more about Eagle Creek Campground.

Grand Teton National Park

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Grand Teton National Park is just south of the south entrance into Yellowstone. Many visitors camp in Grand Teton, especially at Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch or Lizard Creek Campground, before entering Yellowstone.

Learn more about camping in Grand Teton National Park.

Soda Butte Campground

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Another Yellowstone campground just off the Beartooth Highway near Cooke City, Soda Butte Campground is a quiet, peaceful place for RV camping. Like Colter Campground, another Custer Gallatin National Forest campground near Cooke City, Soda Butte allows hard-sided camping only – no tent camping is allowed.

Learn more about Soda Butte Campground.

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins

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Another option for RV camping and cabin camping in Yellowstone is Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins. Located just blocks from the park’s west entrance in West Yellowstone, this Yellowstone campground has large pull-thru RV sites with full hookups, three styles of camping cabins, and countless amenities. No tent camping is allowed. This RV Park is very close to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

Learn more about Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins.

Yellowstone RV Park

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Just north of the park in Gardiner, Montana, Yellowstone RV Park is home to some of the best RV camping in Yellowstone National Park. In addition to its convenient location, it boasts large pull-thru sites, full RV hookups, free cable TV and free Wi-Fi, and a scenic location right on the Yellowstone River. A grassy tent camping area is also available. You can make reservations online.

Learn more about Yellowstone RV Park.

Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA

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Another great KOA near Yellowstone, the Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA is located just 7.5 miles from the west entrance to the park. It accommodates even the biggest RVs with large pull-thru sites with full RV hookups. A grassy tent camping area and several camping cabins are other lodging options. The neighboring West Yellowstone Super 8 is perfect for those that prefer a motel over camping.

Learn more about Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA.

Yellowstone Park/Westgate KOA

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Less than a mile and a half from the Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA and only 6 miles from the park’s west entrance, the Yellowstone Park/Westgate KOA is a fantastic option for RV camping, tent camping, and cabin camping in Yellowstone National Park. A swimming pool, bike rentals, mini golf, shuttle tours, pancake breakfast, and BBQ dinner are additional amenities offered during the summer months.

Learn more about Yellowstone Park/Westgate KOA.


Free Camping in Yellowstone National Park

It might seem too good to be true but free camping in Yellowstone National Park is possible.

Or, rather, free camping near Yellowstone is possible. No matter which of the five entrances you plan to arrive through, there is likely free camping close at hand.

The key is to start your search in the national forests and other public land surrounding the national park. Another option is camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Yellowstone.

Do note that most, if not all, free campsites near Yellowstone National Park are dispersed camping. This means few if any amenities (prepare for boondocking if you’re RV camping).

Although some of these camping areas will have port-a-potties or vault toilets, most do not. So prepare to go to the bathroom in the woods or buy a portable camping toilet. Bring all your own water and pack out all of your trash.

Like most campgrounds near Yellowstone, even the more remote of these free campsites fill up fast. Arrive early in the afternoon to ensure you have somewhere to stay the night.

FreeCampsites.net is an invaluable resource to find free campsites near Yellowstone National Park – and pretty much anywhere else in the country, for that matter.


Other Lodging in Yellowstone National Park

If camping in Yellowstone doesn’t appeal to you, there’s plenty of other lodging options to choose from.

Lodging in Yellowstone National Park ranges from simple cabins to sprawling lodges. There are nine total hotels, lodges, and cabins within the park. Like Yellowstone campgrounds, these fill up fast. So make your reservations early (up to a year in advance at the more popular locations).

Canyon Lodge

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Canyon Lodge is the largest lodging facility in the park with over 500 rooms and cabins. It’s located just minutes from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

It’s open from early June to early October. It features multiple lodge buildings and a smattering of cabins as well as restaurants and gift shops.

Learn more about Canyon Lodge.

Grant Village Lodge

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Grant Village Lodge boasts two hotel buildings with 50 rooms each. Rooms are slightly cheaper than most others in the park. It’s located near Grant Village Campground next to the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

It’s open mid-May to the beginning of October. In addition to the two hotel buildings, it features two restaurants, a cafeteria, a lounge, and a gift shop.

Learn more about Grant Village Lodge.

Lake Lodge Cabins

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Lake Lodge Cabins are located on the shore of Lake Yellowstone. They feature a main lodge building flanked with several small log cabins.

They’re open from early June to late September. Both recently renovated and more rustic cabins are available. A large lobby with two fireplaces is located in the main lodge building.

Learn more about Lake Lodge Cabins.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins

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Lake Yellowstone Hotel is one of the most historic structures in the park. It’s designed in the Colonial Revival style. It sits on the beautiful shores of Lake Yellowstone.

It’s open from early May to early October. Once known for their simple, rustic charm, recent renovations give rooms much more elegance. A dining room, bar, and boat pier are all available.

Learn more about Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins

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Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is notable as the only year-round lodging in Yellowstone National Park. The main hotel was built in 1936.

Though the hotel is open year-round, the cabins are only open during the summer. Both simple cabins and premium cabins (with hot tubs) are available. A popular restaurant is also on-site.

Learn more about Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins.

Old Faithful Inn

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Old Faithful Inn is the most well-known lodge in the park. It was originally constructed in 1903. It’s registered as a national historic site.

It’s open from early May to early October. It boasts 327 rooms as well as a gigantic stone fireplace in the lobby. A restaurant, lounge, and snack bar are available.

Learn more about Old Faithful Inn.

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins

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Old Faithful Lodge Cabins consist of a main lodge building (complete with a view of Old Faithful Geyser) plus several small cabins.

It’s open from mid-May to the beginning of October. It features a restaurant, bakery, and gift shop.

Learn more about Old Faithful Lodge Cabins.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins

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The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins are one of the newest additions to the park’s lodging buildings.

They’re open from December to March and May through October. Two restaurants and a gift shop are also available.

Learn more about Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins.

Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins

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Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins are just minutes from Tower Fall. They’re notable for their location near where President Theodore Roosevelt once camped.

They’re open from early June to early September. A main lodge plus several cabins (both premium and rustic) are available. Ride out into the backcountry on horseback or a stagecoach for the delicious Old West Dinner Cookout, a hit with families with children of all ages.

Learn more about Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins.


Yellowstone National Park Must-See Destinations

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Yellowstone National Park is filled to the brim with must-see destinations. Many of these can be seen from your car or RV while others require a short hike or walk to access.

  • Blacktail Plateau Drive – Winding six miles down a one-way dirt road, this scenic drive is the perfect way to get a taste of the Yellowstone backcountry without leaving your vehicle. Wildlife sightings, including bear, are common.
  • Boiling River – Located where a natural hot springs enters the Gardiner River, this popular swimming hole is one of the few places where swimming in Yellowstone is allowed.
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – One of the most impressive geologic features in the park, this jaw-dropping canyon is roughly 20 miles in length. The Upper and Lower Falls are popular overlooks reached by short hikes.
  • Grand Prismatic Spring – One of the park’s most iconic geothermal features, this beautiful natural hot spring is enormous and shines in a rainbow of colors. An elevated boardwalk gives you an up close and personal view.
  • Hayden Valley – In addition to Lamar Valley, this is one of the premier places to see wildlife in Yellowstone. Arrive early and bring binoculars for the best chance to spot grizzly bears and gray wolves.
  • Lamar Valley – One of the most rugged regions in the park, this is one of the best places to spot wildlife, especially bear and wolves, in Yellowstone National Park. Thanks to the prevalence of animal life, the valley is commonly referred to as the American Serengeti.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs – A unique thermal feature, this formation changes frequently as the flow of the springs change on a daily basis. It’s notable for the chalky white material that coats the surface.
  • Norris Geyser Basin – Another Yellowstone must-visit destination, this sprawling geyser basin is home to a variety of geothermal features, including hot springs, mud pots, and geysers.
  • Old Faithful Geyser – Perhaps the single most famous feature in the park, the Old Faithful Geyser is arguably the face of Yellowstone. It erupts up to 180 feet for up to five minutes at a time. It typically erupts every one to two hours.
  • Tower Fall – The most beautiful and accessible waterfall in Yellowstone. Just 150 yards from the parking lot, it tumbles 132 feet down a unique rock formation.
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin – Although it’s smaller than other Yellowstone geyser basins, it’s just as beautiful. This basin is home to interesting features like Fishing Cone, Thumb Paint Pots, and Abyss Pool.
  • Yellowstone Lake – Close to some of the best camping in Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake is 132-square miles. It’s the largest lake above 7,000 feet elevation in North America, sitting at 7,733 feet above sea level.

Hiking & Backpacking in Yellowstone National Park

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Hiking in Yellowstone National Park is one of the best ways to see the park the way it was meant to be seen – with minimal other human beings around. Remember that most of Yellowstone is covered in snow during the fall, winter, and spring months, so most of these hiking trails are for summer use only.

Here are some of the best Yellowstone hiking trails for all skill levels:

  • Bunsen Peak This 4.2-mile roundtrip hike isn’t long – but it is strenuous. It climbs 1,300 feet from a thick forest to the peak’s summit which boasts breathtaking views of Blacktail Plateau, Yellowstone River Valley, and the Gallatin Mountain Range.
  • Cascade Lake A 5-mile roundtrip, mostly flat hike, this one is easy enough for those of all ages and skill levels. It wanders through colorful wildflower meadows.
  • Fairy Falls Take your pick of a 5-mile or 7-mile roundtrip hike. You’ll pass countless geysers and other thermal features before you get to the 197-foot Fairy Falls.
  • Grizzly Lake This 4-mile roundtrip hike meanders through pleasant meadows to a long, narrow lake. The swampy lake is a popular place to fish for brook trout.
  • Lake Overlook A short, sweet 1.2-mile roundtrip hike. It passes through geothermal features and ends in a high mountain meadow with sweeping views of Yellowstone Lake.
  • Mount Washburn Take your pick of a 2.5, 8.7, or 13.6-mile roundtrip hike depending on your starting point. This strenuous trail climbs up 1,400 feet to the mountain’s summit (10,243 feet above sea level). Keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep as you enjoy the beautiful view from the top.
  • Pelican Valley – A classic Yellowstone Hike, the Pelican Valley trail takes you 6.8 miles roundtrip through prime grizzly bear country. Continue through meadows and forests until you reach a small hydrothermal area near Pelican Creek. Day hikers will turn around here while overnight backpackers can continue on into the vast backcountry.
  • Sky Rim Trail One of the best places for backpacking in Yellowstone, this 21-mile trail is perfect for a short one or two night backpacking trip. Over 3,000 feet of elevation gain make it a demanding hike, although the amazing views are well worth it.

Other Activities in Yellowstone National Park

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Camping, hiking, and backpacking are far from the only recreational activities in Yellowstone National Park. Here are a few other great ways to enjoy the park:

  • Bicycling Explore the established public roads and other designated routes of Yellowstone on bicycle. Rentals are available at Old Faithful Lodge.
  • Boating Both motorized and non-motorized boating, including canoeing and kayaking, are allowed in designated areas. Permits, available at ranger stations and visitor centers, are required.
  • Fishing Yellowstone is home to some of the best fishing in the world. Anglers target cutthroat trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout among others.
  • Horseback Riding Explore the Yellowstone backcountry with your own stock (overnight trips are permitted in summers only) or with a guided horseback tour out of the lodges at Mammoth, Tower-Roosevelt, or Canyon.
  • Ranger Programs Enjoy a variety of informational ranger programs, including ranger walks, Junior Ranger activities, night sky talks, and young scientist programs.
  • Wildlife Viewing Hundreds of animal species call the park home, including bear, bison, deer, elk, and wolves. Viewing wildlife is one of the most popular reasons to visit Yellowstone.

Things to Do Near Yellowstone National Park

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Yellowstone is located in an extraordinarily beautiful part of the United States. There are countless places of interest on all sides of the park. Add a few extra stops into your itinerary for an even better camping trip.

  • Beartooth Highway – This 68-mile highway is hands down one of the most scenic drives in the United States. It spans from Red Lodge to Cooke City near the northeast entrance to the park.
  • Grand Teton National Park – Just 10 miles south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton is one of the most scenic places in the entire United States. In addition to the scenic mountain peaks, this national park is notable for hundreds of miles of hiking trails.
  • Jackson – South of Grand Teton in a valley known as Jackson Hole, the quirky cowboy town is popular for its world-class dining, unbeatable hiking trails, and plethora of skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the winter.
  • Red Lodge – A bustling western town filled with excellent dining and entertainment options as well as fantastic skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

Find Other Great Camping Near Yellowstone!

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Why not visit Grand Teton National Park on your Yellowstone camping trip?

It’s just 31 miles south of the park and is known for absolutely breathtaking views of the Teton Range of soaring mountains.

Don’t forget to check out our other national park camping guides, including:

Now, we want to hear from you. What was the highlight of your Yellowstone National Park camping trip? Let us know in the comments below!

And, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional Yellowstone campground questions!

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2 thoughts on “The Best Camping in Yellowstone National Park”

  1. Wow! I had no idea that there was so much available at Yellowstone! This article made what once was a “Eh maybe I should visit it one day” place into a “Must-See Bucketlist” place. Thanks for this great article 🙂

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