Is Dispersed Camping Allowed In Yellowstone National Park
As mentioned above, dispersed camping isnt allowed within Yellowstone itself.
Few, if any, national parks offer drive-in dispersed camping or boondocking so as to keep the land as unaltered by minimizing human impact on the land.
In other words, the National Park Services main goal is conversation and dispersed camping doesnt align with this goal.
Fortunately, there are countless dispersed camping options just outside of Yellowstones boundaries in Bridger-Teton, Custer Gallatin, Caribou-Targhee, and Shoshone National Forests.
Although the campgrounds in Yellowstone itself are nice and extremely convenient , dispersed camping outside the park is typically a much quieter, more laidback experience with just as beautiful scenery.
If youre in the national park in the evening, youll likely see people stealth camping in RVs, trailers, and vans in roadside pull-outs, day-use picnic areas, and visitor center parking lots.
Although stealth camping is very common in the summer and youll likely get away with it without getting a ticket, I encourage you to respect park rules and stay in an official Yellowstone campground or in a dispersed campsite outside of the park.
Specifics About Madison Campground
There are 278 individual sites and 3 group sites. The campground can accommodate RVs and tents. Campsites for hikers and cyclists are also available . Each site includes a picnic table and fire grate. Access to water is nearby the sites. Additional campground facilities include:
- There are no electricity, water, or sewage hook ups at any of the campsites.
- 14 public restrooms with flush toilets and faucets with cold running water. Pay showers are not available on the premises. Personal portable showers are permitted at your campsite only if the wastewater is collected and disposed of properly.
- The nearest laundry and shower facilities are located at Canyon Campground.
- Dishwashing stations are located at all restroom buildings.
- Rates for this campground do not include showers.
When calling to make a reservation be prepared to give the size of your tent or the combined length of your RV and any other vehicles or towed vehicles.
- Campground rates are per night, for up to six people or one family and do not include taxes and fees.
- Campground sites that will accommodate a maximum combined length of 40-feet or more are limited.
Most campsites in Yellowstone will not accommodate oversize units. Please note: if you arrive at the campground/RV Park with equipment different than that for which you have reserved, we will not be able to accommodate you. Also, please note that all rates are subject to change without notice.
Where To Stay Near Yellowstone National Park
If the weather isn’t cooperating for camping, or if you just want a night under the covers of a comfortable bed, you’ll find many hotel options surrounding Yellowstone. The more affordable options at Yellowstone can be found right outside of the park in surrounding towns like West Yellowstone and Gardiner.
- If you are looking for overnight accommodations that go beyond the ordinary, the Kelly Inn West Yellowstone provides comfortable king beds, well-furnished rooms, and breakfast included with each stay.
- Also in West Yellowstone, the Stage Coach Inn is a historic hotel with an elegant lobby and affordable rates for their well-maintained rooms.
- Up north, the town of Gardiner also offers affordable overnight options, including the Super 8 Gardiner/Yellowstone, which features clean rooms, an inviting indoor pool, and easy access to Yellowstone’s North Entrance.
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Taylor Fork Designated Dispersed Camping Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana
When people talk about visiting Yellowstone, they often forget to include the parks scenic northwest corner.
This region often gets overlooked because it is not part of what is considered the parks interior. But between West Yellowstone and Big Sky, patient travelers can enjoy this short stretch of Highway 191, which parallels pristine open meadows and clear-watered mountain streams.
Indeed, most set their cruise control and fly through this lovely stretch of highway, hardly realizing they are inside of Yellowstone National Park. But those willing to slow down and spend quality time here can take advantage of the many roadside pullouts to enjoy the views without the crowds and congestion of the parks interior.
And yes, one can find boondocking spots!
Not within the national park, of course. But just north of the park boundary on Highway 191, about ten miles south of Big Sky, is a turnoff for Taylor Fork, FS Road 134.
Here, along about 11 picturesque miles of gravel, exist a couple dozen designated, dispersed campsites in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Starting at the two or three-mile mark, most sites are well-spaced for privacy and can be found on both sides of the road.
All sites are well placed, with some tucked away quaintly in the forest and others right on the banks of the lovely, free-flowing stream.
Camping is allowed only at designated, marked sites. Arrive early in the day or plan for mid-week as the locals know about this area and weekends can fill up.
Rv Parks Near Yellowstones West Entrance
The west entrance, off Highway 20, is the parks busiest entrance and also closest to the famous geysers. There are many more RV park options on the west side.
Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone is only 4 blocks from the West Yellowstone Park entrance and has 220 sites, most with full hook-ups and 50 amp service, including spots for RVs up to 45 feet in length. Wifi, pet-friendly, cable tv, paved, and lots of amenities including convenience store, laundry, and playground. Walking distance to restaurants and shopping, but over $90 per night.
Buffalo Crossing is also in West Yellowstone and literally backs up to the park fence. You cant get much closer to the park without being INSIDE the park. Its a perfect place for walking to the town of West Yellowstones shopping and restaurants without using a car. Its also next door to a visitor center, and the Grizzly and Wolf Experience. There is minimal grass and no playground or resort amenities, but the park gives you a $20 credit for the gift shop and has clean, hot showers. $78-85/night for back in or pull through.
Pony Express Motel & RV Park is also adjacent to the park, in West Yellowstone. This small park has 16 spots, is big rig friendly, and has wifi and cable along with full hookups. Laundry and showers on-site and pets are allowed.
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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 heres a somewhat cheesy National Parks video about camping in Yellowstone.
How Do You Get A First
The first-come, first-served campgrounds include Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, and Tower Fall. Pebble Creek also designates a portion of its campsites as first-come, first-served.
These campgrounds fill in the early morning hours during the summer season. When you arrive, youll need to wait in line at the campground entrance until the campground host can assign you an empty campsite. You can track historical fill times here.
If you cant get a campsite in Yellowstone, I recommend using The Dyrt to find a campground outside the park.
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Best Campgrounds In Yellowstone National Park
Are you planning a camping trip in Yellowstone but are feeling overwhelmed by all the options? Are you trying to figure out how to pick the best campground for you?
If so, this guide is here to help!
Yellowstone National Park has so much to do, from exploring the great geyser basins to waterfall hiking. And like the things to do, theres no shortage of places to stay in Yellowstone either.
Camping in Yellowstone allows you to stay close to all the best things to do, save money, and immerse yourself in Yellowstones natural landscape.
In this post, youll find an overview of the 12 best campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park, plus tips on reserving a campsite, when to camp in Yellowstone, and essential things to know before your trip.
Are you looking for more ideas for your trip to Yellowstone? Check out these posts!
This post may contain affiliate links, where I may a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read more in this disclosure policy.
Yellowstone National Park At-A-Glance
Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:
Free Camping Inside Yellowstone National Park
There is technically no free camping inside of Yellowstone National Park. It is frowned upon, but we have done it multiple times and have seen 50+ other people doing it also. Our rule of thumb is to arrive to our spot around sunset, and to try not setup camp and leave our slide outs in, and ready to hit the road.
There are parking lots, pull offs and picnic areas that we have seen people camp at. There are a few places in Yellowstone that specifically say no camping, which we dont sleep in. Every spot we have ever slept in does not say no camping.
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The Best Free Camping In The Usa
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Heres our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you havent tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! Simply enter your email below.
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Yellowstone National Park Campsites Overview
The 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park are managed by two separate entities: the National Park Service and Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
Five of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone are managed by Yellowstone National Park Lodges . Reservations at these campgrounds are made via the Yellowstone Lodges website. These campgrounds include Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant Village, and Madison.
The National Park Service manages the remaining seven campgrounds. Reservations for these campgrounds are made via Recreation.gov. These campgrounds include Indian Creek , Lewis Lake , Mammoth, Norris, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, and Tower Fall .
Before diving into the details of each campground, heres a quick overview of the 12 campgrounds available inside Yellowstone National Park.
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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 didnt 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 Im 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.
Ive put together a truly MASSIVE guide to camping in Yellowstone for you, updated for the 2022 season. Its got literally everything you need to know including:
This is a sensitive wilderness area. Learn how to Leave No Trace before you go to keep the wilderness wild. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency 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
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Campgrounds Outside Yellowstone National Park
If you cant get a campsite inside the park, you arent 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 havent visited any of these, so I cant give you any recommendations. But heres the list of all the campgrounds near Yellowstone I know of, sorted by which park entrance they are closest to:
- Bakers Hole Campground, Custer Gallatin National Forest
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How To Camp For Free In Yellowstone National Park Boondocking
Technically you are not allowed to camp for free in Yellowstone from my understanding. We asked a park ranger if they cared if people camped in pullouts and visitor parking lots and he said its frowned upon, your not supposed to. We took this with a little bit of optimism as we had seen ALOT camping throughout Yellowstone before in pull offs or parking lots. Certain parking lots do say NO CAMPING but the majority of them do not.
We have seen people camping at the old faithful visitor center, canyon village and numerous pull offs. We have now camped in Yellowstone a total of 3 nights without any issues. So where are good spots to camp in the park for scenic views, quiet areas and places you wont get a ticket.
Arguably the best spots to camp overnight inside the park are at one of the major visitor centers such as Old Faithful, Madison, Canyon Village and West Thumb. You will almost always see other campers parked overnight here depending on what time of year you visit. While these places dont have the best views, you will be at a central location in the park to go exploring the next day.
Enjoy your time in Yellowstone and plan ahead so that you make your route as efficient as possible!
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Yellowstone National Park Camping Free Camping Near Yellowstone
Finding places to camp in and around Yellowstone National Park can be a challenge. Even though Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds throughout the national park, it is still not nearly enough for all the visitors. Yellowstone averages around 5-6 million visitors per year, which means that people are often left finding campsites FAR away from the park itself.
The problem with staying outside of Yellowstone is that the National Park is massive. To see the entire park, it can take at least 3-5 days of driving to explore everything. Staying anymore then 30 minutes outside the park will require more gas, longer days, more driving and less time to relax on your vacation.
This article highlighting free camp spots and boondocking destinations near Yellowstone does not always show the most beautiful spot. It rather is meant to showcase free places we slept overnight in our 31 Foot Class A motorhome while exploring Yellowstone and the surrounding area.
Exploring a little bit of Yellowstone each day and being able to camp as you explore makes your journey that much more enjoyable. Instead of having to drive back to your campsite each day, you can camp on your way to the next destination. Check out this map of Yellowstone National Park.
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Camping Near You Find A Free Campsite
Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we’ve got you covered. You can simply use your smart phone’s GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.
Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
This is a platform for sharing campgrounds and camp sites you have discovered. We are community driven, and while we will be adding many free camping spots, we hope that you will add some of your favorite camping places as well. By sharing camping information freely, we can all spend less time researching campgrounds, spend less money, and more time camping. If everyone contributes a few campsites, we’ll all have more places to go camping.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
We are not actively seeking Wal-Marts, truckstops or other parking lots and will not be adding very many of these. There are enough Wal-Mart and truck stop directories out there already. However, if a member of the community finds one of these locations to be useful for overnight RV parking and creates an entry, we may approve the listing.
Please come back and let us know what you find!