Your Guide to Camping in Yellowstone National Park (Video)
Self-quarantining provides plenty of time to start planning your next camping trip for when the national park reopens.
Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Thanks to our current stay-at-home climate, the pleasures of camping sound more alluring than ever: pristine air, nighttime skies dotted with millions of stars, and a soothing cacophony of nature sounds. With that plus lakes, streams, active geysers, and fragrant conifer trees — all spread in a vast wilderness many miles from civilization — it’s easy to see why Yellowstone National Park is one of the world’s best places to camp.
As of publication, however, the park is completely closed to visitors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The National Park Service stated, “In consultation with local county health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is closed to all visitors until further notice.”
That includes all campgrounds. However, self-quarantining provides plenty of time to start planning your next camping trip for when the park finally reopens.
(Need a quicker cure for cabin fever? You can tune in to the Yellowstone National Park webcams for a taste of the great outdoors while you stay safe inside.)
Camping in Yellowstone National Park is a must-do for outdoorsy types and adventure lovers, but deciding between the 12 different campgrounds, which comprise over 2,000 campsites scattered throughout the park (not including the 300-plus backcountry campsites along the nearly 1,000 miles of trails), can be a task in itself.
Yellowstone National Park Lodges take reservations for five of the campgrounds, but the other seven are first-come, first-served, and nightly fees vary. Services available at each campground also vary, especially depending on size. For example, some of the larger campgrounds have an amphitheater to host an evening ranger program.
With that in mind, here are our top picks for Yellowstone National Park campgrounds, so you can plan the camping trip that’s right for you.
Located north of Mammoth Hot Springs, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, Mammoth Campground is the only campground in Yellowstone that’s open year-round (all others open and close seasonally). It’s about five miles south of the park’s north entrance in Gardiner, Montana, so its 85 total sites are relatively easy to access. Campers love to visit a high sagebrush steppe habitat, complete with juniper and Douglas fir trees, as well as the campground’s proximity to fishing, hiking, hot springs, and cell phone reception. In addition, it’s not uncommon to spot wildlife like elk and bison roaming nearby.
Madison Campground is one of Yellowstone’s five reservable campgrounds, and due to its central location, nearby rivers, and long season, it’s also one of its most popular. Madison Campground sits at an elevation of 6,800 feet and is located around 16 miles north of Old Faithful and 14 miles east of West Yellowstone. Campers here love the chance to spot grazing bison and meadows blooming with wildflowers in the spring and summer, as well as bull elk bugling in the fall. Madison Campground is home to 278 total sites; seasonal amenities include potable water, flush toilets, firewood and ice for sale, an on-site staff member or volunteer host, food storage lockers, trash and recycling collection services, and more. Showers, cell service, and Wi-Fi, however, are unavailable, so expect a fully immersive Yellowstone camping experience.
Lewis Lake Campground
There are very few amenities available at Lewis Lake Campground, but if you want to get off the beaten path and enjoy a sojourn to remote lakeside bliss, then this is the spot for you. The campground is perched at an elevation of 7,800 feet, just a short walk from the southeast shore of Lewis Lake and about eight miles from Yellowstone’s south entrance. There are 84 total sites at Lewis Lake Campground and access is first-come, first-served.
Grant Village Campground
With 430 total sites, Grant Village Campground is one of the largest and most populous places to camp in Yellowstone National Park. It’s located within Grant Village at 7,800 feet, offering campers access to nearby stores as well as a restaurant, gas station, visitor center, and boat ramp. There’s no internet connectivity available, but there are seasonal amenities like an amphitheater, laundry facilities, hot showers, flush toilets, on-site staff members, and more. It’s also situated near the southern shore of Yellowstone Lake.
Fishing Bridge RV Park
Because grizzly bears are frequent visitors to the area, which is near Yellowstone River, Fishing Bridge RV Park is an RV-only campground; there’s no soft-sided tent camping allowed. As such, it’s also the only campground in Yellowstone to offer water, sewer, and electrical hookups for RVs, and has a lot of amenities available, including a seasonal camp store, laundry facilities, hot showers, and more. Fishing Bridge RV Park is currently undergoing improvements, with construction slated to complete in September 2020.