Yellowstone National Park
For diehard outdoor enthusiasts, the only way to experience the park is to camp it. To live in the land is the best way to explore its incredible variety of flora and fauna, its steaming geysers and bubbling thermal mud pots, spectacular lakes and river canyons, extraordinary vistas...
Luckily, Yellowstone has camping facilities at a dozen sites scattered around the park. Five of Yellowstone's campgrounds are operated by AmFac Parks & Resorts. Only these five campgrounds accept reservations. Please call 307-344-7311 for reservation information about camping at the following locations:
Bridge Bay Campground - open from mid-May to mid-September
Grant Village Campground - open from mid-June to early October
Madison Campground - open from early May to late October
Canyon Campground - open from early June to early September
Fishing Bridge RV Park - open from mid-May to mid-September
Seven of Yellowstone's campgrounds are operated by the National Park Service and are on a first-come, first-served basis. During the height of the tourist season (late June through mid-August), these seven campgrounds are full by late morning, so it is best to secure a site early in the day. These NPS-operated campgrounds are located at:
Mammoth - open year-round
Norris - open from mid-May to late September
Indian Creek - open from early June to mid-September
Lewis Lake - open from early June to late October
Pebble Creek - open from early June to the end of September
Slough Creek - open from late May to late October
Tower Fall - open from mid-May to the end of September
Camping or overnight vehicle parking in pullouts, parking areas, picnic grounds, or any place other than a designated campground is not permitted. There are no overflow camping facilities. However, camping is often available in neighboring communities and forests outside the park. All camping is limited to 14 days between June 15 and Labor Day, and to 30 days the rest of the year. Checkout time for all campgrounds is 10 a.m.
RV Park - A trailer village (no tents or tent trailers allowed) is operated by AmFac Parks & Resorts at Fishing Bridge. Water, sewer, and electrical hookups are available. For information and reservations, call AmFac Parks & Resorts at 307-344-7311.
Group Camping - Group camping areas are available for large organized groups with a designated leader such as youth groups, educational groups, etc. (family reunions or similar gatherings do not qualify).
Advance reservations are required and can be made beginning January 1 by contacting Yellowstone National Park, Attention: Visitor Services Office, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190, 307-344-7381.
Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil to reduce the chance of infection.
Don't take chances in backcountry thermal areas. Scalding water underlies thin, breakable crusts; pools are near or above boiling temperatures. Each year, visitors traveling off the trail have been seriously burned, and people have died from the scalding water. No swimming or bathing is allowed in thermal pools.
Rules and Regulations
Visiting Yellowstone is the trip of a lifetime, but you have to be prepared for any situation. To preserve Yellowstone's backcountry and enhance your wilderness experience, the National Park Service has established the following regulations and permit guidelines. Contact a park ranger before you begin a day hike or overnight trip for updated info.
Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight stays. Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite varies from one to three nights per trip. Campfires are permitted only in established fire pits. Wood fires are not allowed in some backcountry campsites. A food storage pole is provided at most designated campsites so that food and attract ants may be secured from bears. Neither hunting nor firearms are allowed in Yellowstone's backcountry.
Permits may be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. Permits are available from most ranger stations and visitor centers. In order to obtain the best information on trail conditions, permits should be obtained from the ranger station or visitor center nearest to the area where your trip is to begin. The Backcountry Use Permit is valid only for the itinerary and dates specified. Backcountry travelers must have their permits in possession while in the backcountry.
Advance Reservations for Backcountry Campsites
Although permits must be obtained in person no more than 48 hours in advance, backcountry campsites may be reserved in advance. Requests for reservations must be submitted by mail or in person. They cannot be made over the phone or by fax. Reservations are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. A confirmation notice, not a permit, is given or mailed to the camper. This confirmation notice must then be converted to the actual permit no more than 48 hours in advance of the first camping date. Details are provided on the confirmation notice. To receive the forms to make an advance reservation, write: National Park Service, Attention: Backcountry Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. Or you may call 307-344-2160 or 307-344-2163 to request forms.
Permits and Reservations Made Less Than 48 Hours in Advance
Because only a portion of the approximately 300 backcountry campsites are available for advance reservations, you may choose to wait until you arrive in the park to reserve your site(s) and obtain your permit.
Where to Get Your Permit
During the summer season (June to August), permits are available seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the following locations:
- Bechler Ranger Station
- Canyon Ranger Station/Visitor Center
- Grant Village Visitor Center
- Mammoth Ranger Station/Visitor Center
- Old Faithful Ranger Station
- Lake Ranger Station
- South Entrance Ranger Station
- Tower Ranger Station
- West Entrance Ranger Station
In addition, permits may sometimes be obtained from rangers on duty at the Northeast Entrance, East Entrance, and Bridge Bay Ranger Station. However, these rangers have other duties and may not be available to provide assistance at all times.
During the spring, fall, and winter seasons, ranger stations and visitor centers do not have set hours. To obtain a Backcountry Use Permit during these seasons, check the office hours posted at the nearest ranger station or visitor center.
Lodging in Yellowstone National Park is available at Old Faithful, Mammoth, Canyon Village, Lake Yellowstone, Roosevelt Lodge, and Grant Village. The park has nine hotels/lodges (2,184 hotel rooms/cabins), and seven National Park Service-operated campgrounds (458 sites). Opening and closing dates vary by facility. Call the concessionaire for the latest information. Facilities include cabins with bath, cabins with showers and restrooms nearby, rooms with a bath, rooms with a bath down the hall, and suites.
Lodging in Yellowstone National Park is operated by AmFac Parks & Resorts. Please call 307-344-7311 for reservations and more information on accommodations.
For information on lodging in gateway communities and in the Greater Yellowstone area, contact area Chambers of Commerces.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication