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Camping in Yellowstone: Everything You Need to Know

Camping in Yellowstone: Everything You Need to Know

Recently, I spent 10 days camping in Yellowstone National Park. It was sooo nice to wake up each morning in the park. It made getting out to see the sights or go for a hike MUCH easier since we didn’t have to commute into Yellowstone. And for me, camping is the best way to experience nature!

On my June 2019 trip, I spent 3 nights in Mammoth, 3 nights in the backcountry and 3 nights at Norris. It was a bit of a last minute trip so we made due with what we could get. However… I always want to make sure I’m choosing the best option. So while we were touring around the park, I checked out most of the other campgrounds to see which campgrounds were awesome… and which were not.

I’ve put together a truly MASSIVE guide to camping in Yellowstone for you, updated for the 2022 season. It’s got literally everything you need to know including:

This is a sensitive wilderness area. Learn how to Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness wild. Make sure you are prepared by bringing the 10 Essentials. Get ready for adventure with this checklist of things to do before every hike.

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting my website! -Taryn

WANT MORE YELLOWSTONE INFO?  Check out these posts:

How to Make Camping Reservations in Yellowstone

There are three main types of campgrounds in Yellowstone: National Park-run campgrounds, privately-run Yellowstone National Park Lodges campgrounds, and backcountry campgrounds. You can drive up to the first two types but you’ll need to walk, paddle or ride a horse into the backcountry.

The reservation process for each type is different.

Yellowstone National Park-Run Reservable Campgrounds

These campgrounds are rustic – they don’t have showers and some do not have flush toilets. Scroll down for details about each campground.

A few years ago, all of these campgrounds were first-come, first-served. However as of 2022, all campgrounds run by Yellowstone National Park are reservable.

You can make reservations on Recreation.gov. You can make a reservation exactly six months in advance of the date you want to camp. So if you want to camp on July 15, the earliest you can make a reservation is January 15. If your dates are sold out, keep checking back. They do get last minute cancellations and sites open up again.

Yellowstone National Park-run campgrounds are:

  • Indian Creek Campground
  • Lewis Lake Campground
  • Mammoth Campground
  • Norris Campground
  • Pebble Creek Campground
  • Slough Creek Campground
  • Tower Fall Campground

Yellowstone National Park Lodges Privately-Run Campgrounds

The Yellowstone National Parks Lodges campgrounds are run by a park concessionaire. They are not run by the parks service. These campgrounds are huge, with hundreds of sites. They all have flush toilets and RV-friendly sites and some have showers. Scroll down for details about each campground.

You can make reservations on the Yellowstone National Park Lodges website. They get fully booked up for the summer months in advance, so make a reservation as early as you can. (The earliest you can book is 13 months to the day before your trip.) If your dates are sold out, keep checking back. They do get last minute cancellations and sites open up again.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges-run campgrounds are:

  • Bridge Bay Campground
  • Canyon Campground
  • Fishing Bridge RV Park
  • Grant Village Campground
  • Madison Campground

First-Come, First-Served Campgrounds in Yellowstone.

In previous years, many campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park did not accept reservations – they were available on a first-come, first-served basis. As of 2022 all camping is Yellowstone National Park is reserveable.

However, it may still be possible to get last-minute, first-come, first-served campsites in Yellowstone National Park. If someone does not show up for their reserved site or they check-out early, their site may become available. Check with the campground host at each campground to see if they have any sites available. Go early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) for the best chance of getting a spot.

Backcountry Campgrounds in Yellowstone

Backcountry campsite at Blacktail Creek in Yellowstone National Park
Backcountry camping at Blacktail Creek campsite

There are over 300 backcountry campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park that you can reach by foot, horseback or boat. Some of them are less than a mile from the road, while others are a LOT further.

I stayed at three of them along the Yellowstone River Trail during my trip to Yellowstone, and they were all pretty gorgeous.

However, info on backpacking in Yellowstone is outside the scope of this campground guide, so I won’t get into details. If you want more info, see the Backcountry Camping page on the Yellowstone National Park website.

Which Yellowstone Campground Should You Stay At?

That’s a tough question to answer. It really depends on what you are looking for in a campground. As well, Yellowstone is a REALLY big park so many attractions are hours apart. It might make sense to stay in one campground for a night or two, then move to another one to be close to other sights.

On my visit we stayed at Mammoth for three nights, then at Norris for three nights. I also visited most of the campgrounds just to see if we might want to consider trying to get a site there.

Here’s my campground-by-campground breakdown of each of the places to camp in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve got all the info on each campground so you can decide for yourself which Yellowstone campground is the best.

However, if you need some recommendations for the best campgrounds in Yellowstone, here are mine:

Most central campground: Norris

Best campground with showers: Canyon Village

Best Yellowstone campground for wildlife watching: Slough Creek

Best campground for RVs: Fishing Bridge

Details for Every Yellowstone Campground

Mammoth: $25/night, 85 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near Mammoth Hot Springs, reserve via Recreation.gov

Indian Creek: $20/night, 70 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near Mammoth Hot Springs, reserve via Recreation.gov

Norris: $25/night, 111 sites, flush toilets, no showers, near Norris Geyser basin, reserve via Recreation.gov (NOTE: closed in 2022)

Madison: $29/night, 278 sites, flush toilets, no showers, near Old Faithful, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Grant Village: $34/night, 430 sites, flush toilets, showers, near West Thumb Geyser Basin, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Lewis Lake: $20/night, 84 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near West Thumb Geyser Basin, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Bridge Bay: $29/night, 432 sites, flush toilets, no showers, near Yellowstone Lake, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Fishing Bridge RV Park: $83/night, 310 sites (RVs only), flush, showers, near Yellowstone Lake, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Canyon: $34/night, 273 sites, flush toilets, showers, near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, reserve via Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Tower Fall: $20/night, 31 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near Tower Fall, reserve via Recreation.gov (NOTE: closed in 2022)

Slough Creek: $20/night, 16 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near Lamar Valley, reserve via Recreation.gov

Pebble Creek: $20/night, 27 sites, pit toilets, no showers, near Lamar Valley, reserve via Recreation.gov

Yellowstone Campground Map

Want to know where to find every single campground in Yellowstone? I made this custom Google map for you. It shows all the campgroundsin Yellowstone Naitonal Park as well as key attractions and places to buy groceries.

Camping in Yellowstone
Click the map to zoom in

Mammoth Campground

Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone National Park
The view from Mammoth Campground

Open: Year-round (part of the campground is closed from mid-October to the end of March)

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $25/night

Sites: 85 total.

RVs: Some sites will fit a max combined length of 40′ and a few will fit max 75′ combined length. Max 30′ in winter. Sites are pull-through or back-in and there may be limited width for slid-outs. Sites may not be level. No hookups.

Elevation: 6200 ft (1890m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, cell phone reception, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale. No showers. (Closest pay showers are at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.)

Nearest Grocery Stores: Mammoth town, Gardiner, MT

Location: Mammoth Campground is in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park, just a few minutes from the north entrance at Gardiner, Montana. 

Pros: It’s a good place to base for a night or two to see the sights in the northern part of Yellowstone. It’s easy to drive to Gardiner for groceries or a dinner out. The Mammoth area is very popular with elk, especially in the spring. You may even see elk in the campground. On my visit, there were protective elk mamas with calves hanging around. We had to give them a wide berth. 

Cons: The Mammoth campground is in the middle of a long switchback in the main park road. This means that it is not very quiet as there is traffic going in and out of the park at all hours. If possible, request a site away from the road. The campground is in an open sagebrush environment with few trees. Some sites don’t have much shade and it’s pretty hard to string up a tarp in wet weather.

Indian Creek Campground

Campsite at Indian Creek Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Campsites at Indian Creek Campground. Photo: NPS/Diane Renkin

Open: Mid-June to early September

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $20/night

Sites: 70 total.

RVs: 10 sites with 35′  combined length. 35 sites with 30′ combined length. Sites are pull-through or back-in and there may be limited width for slid-outs. Sites may not be level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7300 ft (2225m)

Amenities: Pit toilets. No generators allowed. no cell reception. No showers. (Closest pay showers are at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.)

Nearest Grocery Stores: Mammoth town, Gardiner, MT

Location: Indian Creek Campground is south of Mammoth, but higher up in the mountains. From Indian Creek, it’s a 20-minute drive to Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Pros: Indian Creek is a rustic campground so it’s great if you want a more natural experience. The no generator rule and the location away from the main road also makes it nice and quiet. It also is usually one of the last campgrounds to fill up. There is lots of tree cover at this campground, which is good for shade or stringing up a tarp on wet days.

Cons: There isn’t anything to do nearby. There are a few backcountry hiking trails in the vicinity, but unless you’re a hardcore hiker, you’ll need to drive a good distance to get to any of the sights from Indian Creek. 

Norris Campground

Camping at Norris Campground in Yellowstone National Park
The walk-in tent sites at Norris Campground

NOTE: Closed in 2022

Open: Mid-May to late September

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $25/night

Sites: 111 total, including some walk-in sites.

RVs: 2 sites with 50′ combined length and 5 sites with 30′ combined length. Sites are pull-through or back-in and there may be limited width for slid-outs. Sites may not be level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7,500 feet (2286 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale. No cell reception. No showers. (Closest pay showers are at Canyon Village)

Nearest Grocery Store: Canyon Village General Store

Location: Norris Campground has a good central location on the western side of the park. It’s about 35 minutes to Mammoth, 25 minutes to Canyon Village, 55 minutes to Old Faithful and 55 minutes to Yellowstone Lake.

Pros: Norris is really central. It’s easy to see the whole park from here since most attractions are less than an hour drive. The only thing that is further is the Lamar Valley. The campground is located along the banks of a creek, which is really pretty. If possible, get a site in loop A or a walk-in for the best views. Bison often hang out in the area, so you might be able to spot them grazing without leaving your campsite. There is also a 1-mile trail directly from the campground to Norris Geyser Basin so you don’t have to deal with finding a parking spot there.

Cons: Norris is really popular and can fill early. As well, some of the sites are really close together (especially the walk-in sites), so they don’t feel that private.

READ NEXT: Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Madison Campground

Camping at Madison Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Camping at Madison Campground. Photo: NPS/Renkin

Open: Early May to mid-October

Reservations: Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Price: $29/night + tax.

Sites: 278 total.

RVs: Some sites will fit rigs up to 40′ long. Sites are pull-through or back-in. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 6,800 feet (2073 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale, dump station. No cell reception, no showers. (Closest pay showers are at the Old Faithful Lodge.)

Nearest Grocery Store: West Yellowstone, MT

Location: Madison Campground is just 25 minutes from the west entrance of the park. It’s also only about 30 minutes to Old Faithful. It’s about an hour to Mammoth, an hour to Yellowstone Lake and 45 minutes to Canyon Village.

Pros: Camping at Madison puts you within an easy drive of all the major geyser basins on the west side of the park. It’s also not that far from Mammoth, Canyon Village or Yellowstone Lake. And if you need a bit of civilization, its easy to drive out of the park to West Yellowstone to get dinner at a restaurant. The campsites are also near the Madison River, which is good for fishing.

Cons: There’s not too much to do nearby. There are a few hiking trails (Harlequin Lake and Purple Mountain), but otherwise, you’ll have to drive everywhere from your site. Loops G and H (for tents only) are the quietest. The rest can get a lot of road noise from the highway to West Yellowstone. As well, since the campground has hundreds of sites, it can feel crowded as the sites are close together. 

Grant Village Campground

Campsites at Grant Village Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Campsites at Grant Village Campground. Photo credit: NPS/Peaco

Open: Early June to mid-September

Reservations: Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Price: $34/night + tax

Sites: 430 total.

RVs: Some sites will fit rigs up to 40′ long. Sites are pull-through or back-in. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7,800 feet (2377 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, cell reception, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale, two free showers a night, dump station.

Nearest Grocery Store: Grant Village

Location: Grant Village Campground is situated on the west shore of Yellowstone Lake. It’s part of the large Grant Village community that includes a visitor centre, hotel, grocery store, marina, restaurant, and gas station. West Thumb Geyer Basin is a 5-minute drive. It’s also about 40 minutes to Old Faithful.

Pros: You can walk over to Grant Village from your campsite to check out the visitor centre, buy groceries or go to the restaurant. If you are into boating, the location on Yellowstone Lake is great. Grant Village is also an easy drive to Old Faithful. If you get a spot towards the end of loops E, G, H, or on the north side of I, you’ll be really close to Yellowstone Lake

Cons: Loops J, K, L and get road noise from the highway south to Grand Teton National Park. The sites are small and close together, without too much privacy. Being located in the south of the park means this campground is a far drive from many attractions.

Lewis Lake Campground

Camping at Lewis Lake Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Camping at Lewis Lake Campground. Photo credit: NPS/Neal Herbert

Open: Late June to late October

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $20/night

Sites: 84 total including some walk-in sites.

RVs: Some sites fit RVs 25′ combined length or less. Sites are pull-through or back-in. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7,800 ft (2377 m)

Amenities: Pit toilets. No cell reception. No generators allowed. No showers. (Closest pay showers are at Grant Village.)

Nearest Grocery Store: Grant Village

Location: Lewis Lake Campground is on the shores of Lewis Lake in the southern part of Yellowstone. It’s a quiet part of the park, but Grant Village is only 20 minutes away. It’s a longer drive to the rest of the park.

Pros: Lewis Lake is popular with boaters. It’s also the gateway to the backcountry of Shoshone Lake, which is only open to canoes and kayaks. The campground is rustic with no generators and pit toilets, so it’s great if you want a more natural experience. It also tends to fill up later than other campgrounds.

Cons: This is the southern-most campground in the park. That makes it the farthest away from most attractions. 

READ NEXT: 70 Things to do in Yellowstone National Park

Bridge Bay Campground

Tents at Bridge Bay campground in Yellowstone National Park
Bridge Bay Campground. Photo credit: NPS/Renkin

Open: Mid-May to early-September

Reservations: Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Price: $27/night + tax.

Sites: 432 total.

RVs: Some sites will fit rigs up to 40′ long. Sites are pull-through or back-in. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7,800 ft (2377 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, cell reception, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale, dump station. No showers. (Closest pay showers at Grant Village and Fishing Bridge RV Park.) 

Nearest Grocery Store: Lake Village, Fishing Bridge

Location: Bridge Bay campground is located on the northern part of Yellowstone Lake in the southern part of the park. The Bridge Bay Marina is right next door. It’s a short drive to Canyon Village and West Thumb Geyser Basin, but other sights are much further away.

Pros: This is a good campsite to choose if you brought a boat since the marina is nearby. It’s a short drive to Lake Village and Grant Village if you need groceries or want to eat at a restaurant. And you can hike the popular Natural Bridge Trail right from your campsite.

Cons: Many of the campsites are very close together with no privacy since there aren’t many trees. As well, some people have complained that the tent sites are not very level.  Being located in the south of the park means this campground is a far drive from many attractions.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

RV camping at Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone National Park.
Fishing Bridge RV Park. Photo: NPS/Renkin

Reservations: Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Price: $83/night + tax and utility fees

Sites: 340 total for hard-sided RVs only. No tents. No tent-trailers.

RVs: Sites are 30-95′ long. Most sites are pull-through. 30′, 35′ and 40′ sites are back-in and some allow for side-by-side parking of truck and unhooked trainer. Full hookups for electricity, water, and sewer (50 or 30 amp).

Elevation: 7,800 ft (2377 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, cell reception, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, pay showers, full hookups, dump station. No campfires allowed.

Nearest Grocery Store: Lake Village, Fishing Bridge

Location: Fishing Bridge RV Park is at the north end of Yellowstone Lake. It’s close to the Fishing Bridge over the Yellowstone River and a general store. Lake Village is a short drive away. It’s a short drive to Canyon Village and West Thumb Geyser Basin, but other sights are much further away.

Pros: If you camp in an RV and want full hook-ups, this is your only option for that in Yellowstone National Park. The campground got a complete renovation (finished in 2022) with larger sites, bigger parking lot, new dump station, more showers and laundry, and updated comfort stations.

Cons: The campground is set up like a traditional RV Park with rigs parked very close together. The hard-sided RV requirement is because grizzly bears frequent the campground. You aren’t allowed to have a campfire at these sites, which is a bummer on cold nights.

Canyon Campground

Camping at Canyon campground in Yellowstone National Park
A campsite at Canyon campground. Photo credit: NPS/Neal Herbert

Open: Late-May to mid-September

Reservations: Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Price: $34/night + tax

Sites: 273 total.

RVs: Some sites will fit rigs up to 40′ long in pull-through and back-in sites. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 7,900 feet (2408 m)

Amenities: Flush toilets, cell reception, generators allowed, amphitheater with ranger programs, firewood for sale, two free showers a night dump station.

Nearest Grocery Store: Canyon Village.

Location: Canyon campground is located in Canyon Village near the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It’s a pretty central location on the east side of the park.

Pros: Canyon Village is within walking distance of the campground and it has a grocery store and restaurants. The campground is away from the village and the main road so it is quiet. If you don’t want to worry about parking on the canyon rim, you can follow a trail one mile from the campground through the cabins to the North Rim.

Cons: The sites are small and close together. As well, people complain that some of the sites aren’t very flat.

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Yellowstone Packing List for Every Summer Visitor

Tower Fall Campground

Camping at Tower Fall Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Tower Fall Campground. Photo credit: NPS/Neal Herbert

NOTE: Closed in 2022

Open: Late May to late September

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $20/night

Sites: 31 total.

RVs: Best for rigs 30′ combined length or less due to a hairpin curve. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 6,600 feet (2012 m)

Amenities: Pit toilets, amphitheater with ranger programs. No cell reception, no showers, no generators allowed. (Closest pay showers are at Roosevelt Lodge.)

Nearest Grocery Store: Tower Fall

Location: Tower Fall campground is located across the road from Tower Fall in the northern part of Yellowstone. It’s a 10-minute drive away from Tower Junction and the Roosevelt Lodge.

Pros: It’s a small campground so it won’t feel crowded. You can walk to Tower Fall from your campsite. If you want a restaurant meal, the Roosevelt Lodge is a short drive away.

Cons: The sites are smaller so they are better for tents, not RVs (although shorter RVs are permitted.)

Slough Creek Campground

Camping at Slough Creek Campground in Yellowstone National Park
The Slough Creek Campground. Photo credit: NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Open: Mid-June to mid-October

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $20/night

Sites: 16 total.

RVs: 14 sites fit rigs up to 30′. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 6,250 feet (1905 m)

Amenities: Pit toilets. No cell reception, no showers. (Closest pay showers are at Roosevelt Lodge.)

Nearest Grocery Store: Tower Fall

Location: Slough Creek is located on a gravel road in the northeast part of Yellowstone. It is in the Lamar Valley, one of the park’s best wildlife watching destinations. Since it’s the remote northeast of the park, it’s not near any of the other attractions.

Pros: There is a wolf den nearby so this is the best place in the park to try to spot a wolf. Bison, bears, pronghorn, and elk are also common. It’s a small and quiet campground with a wilderness feel. 

Cons: RVs won’t really fit in this campground. (Although very small rigs may fit.) This campground is a long drive from the rest of the park and frequent bison jams can make the drive even longer.

Pebble Creek Campground

Pebble Creek Campground in Yellowstone National Park
Pebble Creek Campground. Photo Credit: NPS/Neal Herbert

Open: Mid-June to late September

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Price: $20/night

Sites: 27

RVs: Some sites have long pull-throughs that will accommodate RVs. There may be limited clearance for slide-outs and not all sites are level. No hookups.

Elevation: 6,900 feet (2103 m)

Amenities: Pit toilets. No cell reception, no showers. (Closest pay showers are at Roosevelt Lodge.)

Nearest Grocery Store: Tower Fall, Cooke City

Location: Pebble Creek Campground is in the northeast corner of Yellowstone at the foot of the Absaroka Mountains. It’s a 20-minute drive to Cooke City, MT on the eastern edge of the park. Otherwise, it’s not near anything else in the park.

Pros: Pebble Creek is a small and quiet campground with a wilderness feel. There’s a pretty little creek right in the middle of the campground. Nearby Soda Butte Creek is popular with anglers. It’s also close to the wildlife mecca of the Lamar Valley.

Cons: It’s a LONG drive to the rest of the park.

Campgrounds Outside Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone RV Park in Gardiner, Montana
Yellowstone RV Park in Gardiner, Montana. Photo via rvparkyellowstone.com

If you can’t get a campsite inside the park, you aren’t out of camping options. There are first-come, first-served campgrounds in the National Forests outside Yellowstone. There are also RV parks in some of the nearby towns. I haven’t visited any of these, so I can’t give you any recommendations. But here’s the list of all the campgrounds near Yellowstone I know of, sorted by which park entrance they are closest to:

North Entrance:

Northeast Entrance

East Entrance:

West Entrance:

South Entrance:

Yellowstone Campground Rules and Tips

In most ways, camping in Yellowstone is a lot like camping in any other National Park. Except for the bears… and a few other things. Here are some tips and rules you need to know about camping in Yellowstone. And to get you in the camping mood (and help give you a better idea about what campsites look like in Yellowstone) here’s a somewhat cheesy National Parks video about camping in Yellowstone.

Campfires in Yellowstone

Each campsite at all campgrounds except Fishing Bridge RV Park has a fire ring. However, there may be season fire-bans during dry summers when the fire danger is high.

You can buy firewood at some campgrounds. Keep in mind that the firewood kiosk may only be only open in the evening from 6 to 8 pm. You can also buy firewood at most stores and gas stations in the park.

Drinking Water at Yellowstone Campgrounds

There are water taps in all campgrounds in the park. It’s fresh mountain water and is safe to drink. You can fill up there or water bottle refill stations at visitor centres. There’s no need to bring wasteful and expensive bottled water!

Group Size at Yellowstone Campgrounds

You are only allowed to have six people per campsite. If you have more than that, you’ll need more campsites.

RVs in Yellowstone

Most campgrounds in Yellowstone accept RVs. RVs are welcome at all of the campgrounds. Just make sure you book a spot that is big enough to accommodate your rig – many won’t fit longer RVs and have maximum length restrictions. Check site details when making a reservation.

Bear Safety in Yellowstone

A bear tries to get in to a bear proof garbage bin in Yellowstone National Park
A curious black bear investigates a bear-proof garbage bin. Photo: skeeze/Pixabay

All of Yellowstone’s campgrounds have strict bear safety rules. You’ll get an info sheet about it when you check in to your campsite, and maybe a mini-lecture too! The reality is that bears walk through all the campgrounds.

To ensure the safety of campers and bears, you have to protect all your food and smelly stuff. Of course, bears (and other critters) are interested in your food, but they might also like your dishes, pots, stove, drinks, cooler, pet food, garbage, and toiletries. 

Unless you are actively using them, you need to put those items away. You can’t leave them sitting out in your campsite or store them in your tent. You can put them in your car or you can store them in the bear-proof storage box.

The bear-proof storage boxes are large metal lockers big enough to store a few large coolers. In most campgrounds, you’ll get your own, but in some of the reservable campgrounds, you will need to share them between 2 or 3 campsites.

If a ranger or campground host finds unattended food or smelly items in your campground, you could get a fine or a ticket. They will also put your gear away for you. We saw that happen to three different groups during our trip! For more tips, read my post about bear safety for campers and hikers.

READ NEXT: Bear Safety for Hikers, Campers and Backpackers

Camping With Dogs in Yellowstone National Park

Dogs are allowed in Yellowstone National Park and at campgrounds, but there are quite a few restrictions. They must be in a car, in a crate, or on a leash that is less than six feet long.

Dogs are allowed on leash within 100 feet of roads, parking lots, and campgrounds. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails or boardwalks. You are not allowed to leave your dog unattended in a car or tied to an object.

What to Pack for Camping in Yellowstone National Park

All of Yellowstone’s campgrounds are above 6000 feet so it can get cold at night. As well, it can rain at any time in the mountains. Make sure you’re prepared. For my recommendations on what to bring camping, see my Yellowstone Packing Lists

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Yellowstone Packing List for Every Summer Visitor

So that’s everything you need to know about camping in Yellowstone. I know you’re going to have an AWESOME trip! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section. I’ll be happy to answer!

READ NEXT:

Taryn Eyton

Michael

Sunday 24th of April 2022

I booked a site at Madison a year in advance and now that the trip is getting closer we are looking at selling our current trailer and getting a larger trailer. Will the campground work with me if my trailer is larger than initially planned or will they just turn me away. I have been researching and it appears most of the sites are pull through. I am sure I could probably make the trailer fit and keep tires on the pad, but don't want to be turned away immediately.

Taryn Eyton

Sunday 24th of April 2022

Your best is to contact customer service for Yellowstone National Park Lodges. They can let you know what restrictions there are for length at the site you booked.

Kathy Welch

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Taryn, Thank you for this post. Very helpful. A couple of questions: We are driving from Jackson Hole in a Sprinter Van. What campsite should we stay in first? We plan to stay a week in Yellowstone - a few days at a number of different parks. Is thee a better order of places to go to? After Yellowstone we are heading down to Utah.

Thank you for your help, Kathy

Taryn Eyton

Sunday 10th of April 2022

It depends when you are going - if you are planning for this year, have a look at the online booking sites - you should stay at whatever campsite you can get a reservation for. But if you're planning for next year, you have your pick of sites, provided you reserve early. As to where to stay, it depends on what you are looking for. Some campgrounds have lots of amenities, while others are more rustic and natural. Try to split up your trip to Yellowstone to do a few days in the southern part of the park and a few days in the north. Don't miss early mornings in the Lamar valley for wildlife - to the earliest start try to book a site at Pebble Creek or Slough Creek for a night or two. It's also not that far from Mammoth or Tower Fall

Steve Kampa

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

Thanks for this info it's super helpful. I am looking at Slough creek fill times and it shows the campground as open now but the reservation system shows it as fully booked. Any idea what this means?

Taryn Eyton

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

The campgrounds in the park open and closed based on the season or due to major renovation projects. The Slough Creek campground is open but since it is fully reservable, it is full. It's a bit confusing that they show fill times for reservable campgrounds.

Nick

Sunday 20th of June 2021

I just booked a camping at Bridge Bay and Grant, but I received an email that says "Please note: public showers are not available at campgrounds or lodges at this time."

Any suggestions? Your article gave me hope this shower closure situation is not actually true...

Thanks!

Taryn Eyton

Sunday 20th of June 2021

Sorry Nick - my info was correct pre-pandemic but it seems like things are in a state of flux this summer - hopefully they will return to normal in time for your trip.

Alyssa Acker

Friday 4th of June 2021

Can you stay at a campground that does not taking reservations more than one night?

Taryn Eyton

Friday 4th of June 2021

Yes you can. Once you get a spot in a first-come, first-served campground, you can stay for 14 days.