Camping in Yellowstone National Park
What’s more exciting for campers than a getaway in a national park? Yellowstone, now 150 years old, is a beloved spot for nature buffs, family vacationers, and water explorers alike. Since the park’s so big, how can you get the most out of your visit? Keep reading to find out how to get there, where to stay, and what activities you can’t miss.
Traveling to Yellowstone
So, where is this incredible national park located? Yellowstone is situated mostly in northwestern Wyoming, and spans into southern Montana and eastern Idaho. In total, the park covers nearly 3,500 miles of land! There are five entrance stations, with a several hour distances between some of them. So, be sure to check the status of roads and directions for the entrance you intend to use before heading to Yellowstone.
Making a cross-country trip to explore the park? Plan on flying into Cody and Jackson airport in Wyoming, Bozeman, and Billings in Montana, or Idaho Falls in Idaho. Travelers can get from the airport to Yellowstone by bus. However, it’s important to note that you might want to rent a car instead because around 50 miles of road separate most popular destinations in the park.
Now that you know how to get there, when should you fly or drive in? It will primarily depend on what activities float your travel party’s boat; are you cross-country skiers or laid-back kayakers? Most visitors say that the best time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park is April, September, and October, since crowds are lower, but the weather is still nice. Summer is the most crowded time for Yellowstone, and winter is much less busy. The thing to keep in mind about winter, though, is only some roads and campgrounds are accessible during those months.
Best Places to Camp in Yellowstone
With thousands of miles to explore, it might be difficult to narrow down a campground. Keep reading to find a site that’s accommodating, beautiful, and close to your must-see attractions.
1. Grant Village Campground in Yellowstone
Those eager to explore the waters of Yellowstone Lake will love camping in Grant Village (Named after Ulysses S. Grant who signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law in 1872). Situated on the lake’s southwest shore, you’ll be surrounded by lodgepole pine forests at an elevation of 7,800 feet. With a few-mile hike or bike ride, you’ll reach the enchanting West Thumb Geyser Basin. It’s one of the best geysers in Yellowstone! Grant Village has got you covered whether you’re pitching a tent or hauling an RV up to 40 feet. Enjoy a daytime picnic or evening campfire during your stay, just be sure to use the food storage lockers at night. You won’t have to totally “rough it” either: freshen up in the ground’s restrooms and shower or throw in a load of laundry. Since some sites can be a bit less level for vehicles, this location is ultimately the best tent camping in Yellowstone from June to October.
2. Yellowstone’s Lewis Lake Campground
Headed to Yellowstone for all the boating adventures it has to offer? Lewis Lake Campground might be the best camping in Yellowstone for you.
You’ll be just eight miles from the park’s south entrance and with a short walk, you’ll find the southwest shore of Lewis Lake. Canoe, kayak, or motorboat from the ramp for a day full of fun.
Reserve one of the 85 sites on this campground up to six months in advance for tent and pop-up camping in Yellowstone. Procrastinators don’t have to worry, though, because 20% of the sites remain open until two weeks in advance. Friendly staff will be there to assist with the food lockers, restrooms, and campsite fires.
3. Madison Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Big travel groups should head to Madison Campground, as it’s one of the largest in the park. It sits about 14 miles east from the town of West Yellowstone and 16 miles north of Old Faithful.
During the summer, you can expect to see beautiful meadows full of wildflowers and bison. Autumn visitors can hear bugling elk in Yellowstone.
All 278 sites on this campground come equipped with trash collection, drinking water, food storage lockers, an amphitheater, and helpful staff to assist. Book a single-family site or choose from one of the three group spots for an increased nightly fee. You can enjoy this dispersed camping in Yellowstone anytime between May and mid-October.
4. Yellowstone’s Canyon Campground
Canyon Village is one of the coolest spots in Yellowstone, so why not camp right near it? This campground lies in a lodgepole pine forest, near the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Spend your days hiking the beautiful Cascade Lake, Mount Washburn, and Canyon Rim trails. After a day of nature adventures, head into Canyon Village for shopping and yummy eats.
Head to the campground’s website to reserve one of the 273 some of the best RV camping in Yellowstone. From May to September, enjoy the campground’s restrooms and showers to freshen up. Nighttime at Canyon campground consists of smore’s and campfire stories, the perfect end to a day of fun.
Activities in Yellowstone National Park
Nature and Wildlife of Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is the place to go for an abundance of diverse wildlife viewing. If you’re wondering what animals are in Yellowstone, the answer is, hundreds. There are nearly 300 species of birds, 16 fish species, five types of amphibians, six reptile species, and a whopping 67 species of mammals. Some of the animals at Yellowstone National Park include bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats, wolves, and bears. Don’t get scared yet, you can keep track of the park’s predators with the live bear cam Yellowstone offers online.
Yellowstone’s Land Adventures
As fun as it is to observe cute Yellowstone animals, you’ve got more exploring to do! The nearly 1,000 miles of trails are a haven for hikers and bikers. Those visiting in summer must check out the thermal basins and horseback riding. Winter campers can ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile. Year-round, join the ranger programs for a trip full of activities and getting keen on Yellowstone’s nature. During long hikes and bike rides along Yellowstone Lake, you’ll be eager for more exploring in the park’s waters.
Water Excursions in Yellowstone
Whether you’re ready to jump in the water, or just admire it from afar, Yellowstone has got you covered. Hop in a motor or rowboat and cruise the 136 miles of scenic waters. Just head to the Bridge Bay Marina to get a permit and a boat rental. For some more laid-back lake time, kayak or canoe on any of the park’s lakes and in the section of the Lewis River between the Lewis and Shoshone Lakes.
Fishing enthusiasts, bring your bait! You can enjoy traditional and fly fishing in the park’s lakes and rivers. Yellowstone Lake is packed with native cutthroat trout, while Gardner River has brookies, rainbow fish, and browns. As soon as you obtain a license, the Yellowstone waters will be your fishing paradise.
Nearby Fun at Grand Teton National Park
If your Yellowstone getaway wasn’t enough to satisfy that nature craving, travel just under two hours to Grand Teton National Park. The mountainous park has extraordinary wildlife and pristine waters. Spend a day backpacking in the Teton Range and look out for geology exploring opportunities. Winter visitors, get your snow pants on, because it’s time for some backcountry sporting.
Stay on one of the campgrounds at Grand Teton National Park or book a stay in one of the lodge rooms. Most spots will offer standard amenities for your comfort. For more updates on camping, or a map of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, download the NPS (National Parks Service) app.
You know how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and even where to go after Yellowstone. The beautiful park is practically calling your name. Hopefully this guide helped narrow down your travel plans and find the best place to camp in Yellowstone. Don’t forget to browse Crow Survival’s other camping articles to make the most of your trip. Wishing you a happy adventure through Yellowstone National Park!