In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of Yellowstone National Park's Grant Village campground, along with photos of Yellowstone's spectacular natural wonders. Discover info about the park's 12 developed campgrounds on this page!
Yellowstone National Park Camping--Overview
If you're planning a Yellowstone camping trip, then you're in for a treat. You'll feast your eyes on Yellowstone National Park's spectacular geysers, waterfalls and wildlife by day...then come back in the evening to a campsite that's nearly as lovely as the popular park features that you've been viewing!
What's more, Yellowstone's 12 developed campgrounds offer a variety of camping experiences, with "something for everyone."
If you love being in the heart of the action (near Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake and other popular attractions,) then there are campgrounds that fit the bill.
On the other hand, if you'd like to feel "away from it all," just you, your family, and the wildlife all around you...then Yellowstone has campgrounds fitting that description, too.
Our family has made about half a dozen Yellowstone camping trips. That doesn't make us experts, but on the other hand, if you're planning your first campout, there are surely things we can mention that might be helpful to you.
Basic facts about Yellowstone's 12 developed campgrounds
Yellowstone National Park's 12 developed campgrounds can be divided into two categories...
...those that are run by Yellowstone National Park itself, and campgrounds that are run by the Xanterra company. It's a good idea to know about the differences between the two before you plan which campground you'd like to use. Trying to keep the entire DOZEN of the park's developed campgrounds straight in your head can be difficult during your planning phase. Naturally, you're going to want to compare features from one campground to another...and it's pretty easy to lose track of the mental notes you'll be taking on each one of them. So, trying to figure out a way to separate the different campgrounds in your head...and eliminate those that are NOT under consideration as soon as possible...is a handy idea. How can you "divide and conquer" the campground list? Here are some ways:
Yellowstone NP is bigger than it looks on park maps. The driving time between attractions can be substantial. So obviously, you will probably try to get the closest campgrounds to those attractions you wish to see most. Aah...but so is everyone else! If all attractions were created equal, then that wouldn't be a problem. People would naturally spread themselves out between all of the campgrounds. But...some of Yellowstone's features are better than others. Watching Old Faithful & other geysers; taking kid-friendly walks along interpretive trails; boating in Yellowstone Lake. These are all examples of attractions which draw both tenters and RVers to campgrounds close by. Those campgrounds closer to scenic drives still fill up when the park is full; but those campgrounds near the most popular campgrounds fill up first.
We've made a Google Custom Map of the Yellowstone Camping areas (above,) so you can view where each one of the campgrounds is located.
As you read through the list of camping grounds below, you may wish to refer to each one's location on the map.
1.) Southern Yellowstone NP Campgrounds
Most of the best-known attractions are in the southern half of Yellowstone Park. Now, Yellowstone purists will tell you that the entire park is a gem...and that you can't say that one part is better than any other. In some ways, that's true; each facet of Yellowstone complements and enhances the others. And yet...tourists who have driven a long distance are still want to see Old Faithful first and foremost!
Yellowstone's park map looks like a Figure 8. Campgrounds in the southern loop of the Figure 8 are run by the Xanterra company. These are busy and bustling campgrounds, since they're near the park's most sought-after features. And, the GOOD news (if you, too, would like to stay close to the main sights) is that the Xanterra campgrounds DO take reservations.
We can't emphasize enough that campgrounds at Yellowstone DO fill up completely to the brim. We know, because we've been to the park on days like that! (And, on those days, all of the lodging will be filled to capacity, as well.) The good thing about camping is that you'll still find a place to camp somewhere, even if it's outside the park's perimeters. With lodging...well, it's possible that you may hit West Yellowstone, Cody or Jackson on a day when there just aren't any rooms left at all!
The Xanterra campgrounds are all popular, but although you'll face the biggest competition for them, you CAN make reservations ahead of time. Obviously, the sooner the better, but even a day or two of advanced notice can make the difference between getting a spot...or not.
Here's a list of the Xanterra-run campgrounds...all in the southern half of Yellowstone:
A.) Campgrounds closest to Old Faithful
Open early May to late October; 278 woodsy spaces; flush toilets/cold running water; dish-washing stations; no showers or laundry; dump station; RV's welcome, but no hookups; generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm; ranger station/museum; amphitheater with ranger programs; 16 miles from Old Faithful; nearest gas & restaurants are at Old Faithful.
Grant Village Campground:
Open early June to late September; 430 woodsy spaces; flush toilets/cold running water; dish-washing stations; dump station; showers/laundry; RV's accepted but no hookups; generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm. Nearby: amphitheater with ranger programs; boat ramp; gas/diesel/propane; restaurants; food store; gift shop; 20 miles to Old Faithful; on shore of Lake Yellowstone. And, of course, you've been viewing our pictures of Grant Village Camp in the slide show above, and posted on this page.
B.) Campgrounds closest to Yellowstone Lake
The Grant campground, mentioned in the section above, is not only close to Old Faithful---it also sits on the stores of Yellowstone Lake, as well. Here are other campgrounds (a bit farther from Old Faithful) that are also on Lake Yellowstone (or fairly close to it.)
Bridge Bay Campground:
Open late May to early September; 432 grassy spaces/some woodsy spots, too; flush toilets/cold running water; dish-washing stations; dump station; no showers or laundry (but you may use the pay showers at Fishing Bridge, about 3 mi away); RV's accepted but no hookups; generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm. Nearby: amphitheater with ranger programs; gas/diesel/propane; restaurants, cafeteria, lounge; food store; gift shop; about 35 miles to Old Faithful; on shore of Lake Yellowstone. Adjacent Bridge Bay Marina offers rental boats, boat docks, boat fuel, fishing supplies.
Fishing Bridge RV Park:
Open mid May to mid September; 325-340 spaces; flush toilets/cold running water; dish-washing stations; dump station; showers/laundry; RV's up to 40 ft accepted; back-in access only; full hookups at all sites (50 amp electric service, water and sewer hookups); generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm; ranger station with Visitor's Center/Museum. Nearby: amphitheater with ranger programs (at nearby Bridge Bay); boat marina available at Bridge Bay; gas/diesel/propane; restaurants; food store; gift shop; about 40 miles to Old Faithful; on shore of Lake Yellowstone. Despite this campground's name, fishing hasn't been allowed on the Fishing Bridge in quite a few years.
CLOSEST PARK-RUN CAMPGROUND TO SOUTHERN YELLOWSTONE ATTRACTIONS:
There is one more campground located in the vicinity of Yellowstone Lake...and it's one of the Yellowstone-run campgrounds. (All the other campgrounds run by the National Park Service are located in the northern half of the park, and they will be discussed further down this page.)
Lewis Lake campground is also the closest campground to the southern border of the park (and therefore, also the closest campground to the Grand Teton National Park, as well.) Features: Open mid-June to early November; 85 woodsy campsites; RV's accepted/no hookups; generators not allowed; vault toilet; cold water; Boat ramp.
C.) Campground closest to Yellowstone Falls
pen early June to early September; 273 woodsy spaces; flush toilets/cold running water; dish-washing stations; dump station; showers/laundry; RV's accepted but no hookups; generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm. Nearby: amphitheater with ranger programs; Visitor's Center with interpretive exhibits; horse rentals; gas station; restaurants; food store; gift shop; about 55 miles to Old Faithful; about 16 miles to Lake Yellowstone. You may hike or take the scenic drive to a lookout point for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River & Yellowstone Falls.
2.) Northern Yellowstone Campgrounds
There are 7 developed campgrounds at Yellowstone that are run by the park service itself. All but one of these are in the central to northern part of Yellowstone.
These campgrounds have in common: running water, tent spaces (some of which RV's can also use without hookups), fire grates, picnic tables, and food lockers (which you may have to share with other campsites. Restrooms may have vault toilets (pit toilets.) Water spigots are shared; so are trash bins. And, while all campground prices at Yellowstone are quite reasonable, the prices at NPS camps are even cheaper than at the Xanterra-run campgrounds.
The BIGGEST attraction of the NPS campgrounds is that they do NOT take reservations. This isn't necessarily a great thing if you're an avid pre-planner. But, for those who are more laid-back about trip preparations (as well as for those whose schedules are simply so hectic that they don't know in advance when they'll be able to take a break,) having campgrounds that aren't already filled up with advance-reserve guests when you arrive is really wonderful. With these camping areas, you have just as much chance of getting a spot as anyone else.
A.) Campgrounds closest to Mammoth Hot Springs
Closest campground to the park's northern entrance from Gardiner, Montana...and also the closest to the Mammoth Hot Springs attraction. This campground is the warmest, due to its lower elevation. Features: OPEN YEAR ROUND; in fact, Mammoth is Yellowstone's ONLY year-round campground. 85 campsites/more grassy than woodsy; RV's welcome, but no hookups available; generators allowed 8 am to 8 pm; MAY ACCOMMODATE RV'S UP TO 75 FEET (which is unusual at Yellowstone); flush toilets/cold water; no showers, but showers are available nearby at the Mammoth hotel; amphitheater with informative ranger talks; elk and deer spotting. Nearby: restaurants, clinic/first aid; shops and gas; interpretive trail of the Mammoth Hot Springs "Lower Terraces" area; scenic drive of the Upper Terraces area; Albright Visitor's Center; stables for horse rentals. Closest RV dump is 5 miles north in Gardiner, MT. Here's a video of Yellowstone's Mammoth Campground taken by "RedbeardMathPirate" on YouTube.
Indian Creek Campground:
Located about 8 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Features: open early June through Labor Day; 75 partially-wooded campsites; RV's up to 40 feet welcome, but no hookups and NO GENERATOR USAGE; vault toilets (outhouses); cold water spigots; no showers (closest are at Mammoth Hot Springs); animal-viewing; hiking and fishing in the Gardner River; no ranger talks (but you can catch them nearby at Mammoth.) No stores or restaurants. Here's a video of Yellowstone's Indian Creek Campground taken by "RedbeardMathPirate" on YouTube, which will give you the circle tour of the camp.
B.) Most centrally located NPH campground
Situated at the middle of the park, Norris Campground is the most centrally located of the NPS campgrounds. From the Norris camp, you can reach both northern and southern Yellowstone attractions equally well. It's also quite popular for this reason, however. Features: open mid-May through Mid-September each year; over 100 woodsy sites/some grassy sites; flush toilets/ cold water; dish washing station; no showers/laundry; RV's accepted, but no hookups; generators OK from 8 am to 8 pm; nightly ranger talks; bison & elk are sometimes viewed; ice/wood/vending, but no restaurants. Nearby: Museum at the campground; Norris geyser basin (with its interpretive trail, museum & bookstore) is a quick drive or easy hike. Nearest showers are at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, about 21 miles away.
c.) Quiet Northwest campgrounds; good for wildlife viewing
and for those wanting a more "back to nature" experience
NPS CAMPGROUNDS IN NORTHWEST YELLOWSTONE PARK:
These park service camping areas are farther away from Yellowstone's popular lake and geysers. As such, the area in-general is quieter and more appreciated by those who visit Yellowstone for the outdoors "experience" rather than sightseeing. Just because the area is quieter doesn't mean that the campgrounds sit empty. Because these are smaller camping areas, you'll have to take just as much caution to snag your spot here as you will at some of the larger, more bustling campgrounds.
Tower Falls campground; Features: Open mid-May thru mid-September; 32 smallish, woodsy campsites; RV's under 30' welcome, but no hookups; vault toilets (but flush toilets are available nearby at Tower-Roosevelt village); wildlife-viewing, including bears.
Slough Creek campground; Requires a 2 1/2 mile drive from the highway on a dirt road to reach. Features: Open mid-June thru late October; 23 semi-wooded campsites; vault toilets; accepts RV's under 30 feet; no hookups; may not use generators; wildlife-viewing. Nearest services at the Tower-Roosevelt area, about 8 miles.
Pebble Creek campground; Features: opens mid-June thru late September; 27 semi-wooded/grassy campsites; vault toilets; accepts RV's but no hookups; no generaters may be used. No stores, restaurants, gas.
Yellowstone campground amenities
Both the National Park Service and the Xanterra campgrounds offer sites with the very same basics: a tent pad, parking area or parking apron, picnic table, potable water and fire rings or cooking grills. Beyond that, the Xanterra campgrounds generally have more frills (although some of the NPS campgrounds are just as feature-filled.)
In addition, all Xanterra campgrounds feature:
1.) Restrooms with cold running water & flush toilets
2.) Vending machines
3.) Firewood and ice for sale
4.) Food storage lockers to keep scents from attracting foraging animals
Note:) Fishing Bridge RV Park does not have fire rings nor firewood, since there isn't room. Since all camping spaces have hookups, campers may cook on their own stoves...or else head to the nearby restaurants.
NPS campground features: As you might have noticed when you were reading through the campground descriptions above, the features in park-run campgrounds vary more widely than the Xanterra-run camping areas. They range from nearly-primitive campsites all the way to the feature-filled camps at Mammoth and Norris.
Campground amenities that are NOT available
1.) There is NO campground by Old Faithful. Old Faithful Village has hotel rooms, stores, restaurants and gasoline...but no camping grounds. The closest camping locations were listed above.
2.) There are no swimming pools in Yellowstone campgrounds, and no hot tubs/spas, nor children's playgrounds.
3.) There is no animal boarding facility. It's actually best to leave pets home even though they are allowed (on a leash) in campgrounds. There are many places in Yellowstone where pets are not allowed. You could actually miss viewing things you might like to see just because your pet can't go in. Pets may stay in hard-sided RV's and campers, but not in tents.
Yellowstone Camping Fees
How much does it cost to camp at Yellowstone? What are nightly prices?
Camping spots at Yellowstone are generally not easy to get. And this is despite the fact that, when all the campgrounds are added together, there are more than 2,000 spaces available!
In fact, you may not believe how crowded it can get! And that you might not get to camp inside of the park's boundary lines. Why is this so?
A big reason for the shortage is that not all campgrounds are open all year. In fact, only ONE campground is open all year long -- the Mammoth Campground. The other camping grounds stagger their opening and closing dates so that the only time all 12 campgrounds are open is from mid-June through Labor Day. Camping in the "shoulder season" is often a way that you can find good camping spots when you visit OTHER places...but it's not necessarily true at Yellowstone National Park.
The other reason is that MOST Yellowstone visitors arrive between mid-June and mid-August. The big influx simply overwhelms the park's capacity, and yet more campgrounds aren't added in order to keep the park in its "natural state" as much as possible.
There are camping facilities outside the park, including West Yellowstone, Cody, Gardiner (Montana) and Jackson Hole. Your chances of finding a camping space at the last minute are good, even if you can't find room in the park.
We have been among those unfortunate visitors who have been turned away from numerous Yellowstone campgrounds because they were all full. As such, we will not be focusing on campground prices very much...and neither should anyone, really. People are lucky if they can get a space at all!
But, generally speaking, even in recessionary times, Yellowstone campgrounds haven't raised their rates much. Fees are reasonable. As of Summer 2013, developed campgrounds cost $25 or less, and the Fishing Bridge RV Park prices run under $50 per night. And in fact, prices can be even cheaper. The least developed camping spaces start at only $12-$14 per night.
FOR A CURRENT LISTING OF YELLOWSTONE CAMPGROUND PRICES: If you'd like the exact prices of a particular campground, here's a list of Yellowstone camping fees on the Yellowstone NP official website.
Yellowstone Camping Reservations
Only the Xanterra-run camping grounds accept reservations at Yellowstone Park. If you've forgotten, these are the Madison, Grant Village, Bridge Bay & Canyon campgrounds, plus the Fishing Bridge RV park.
There are NO reservations accepted in the park-run campgrounds, which are all of the other campgrounds inside Yellowstone.
The only year-round campground (Mammoth) is run by the park service, which means that unless you'll be camping between May and October, then you don't need to waste your time even thinking about it!
RESERVATIONS FOR THE XANTERRA CAMPGROUNDS: At the time of this update, reservations are only being taken by PHONE. To make reservations for any of the Xanterra camping areas, you may call the very catchy phone number 1-866-Geyserland (866-439-7375.)
Here is the link to the Xanterra Campgrounds page of the YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com website, which is the official website for this concessionaire. If they add the ability to make reservations online, then they will update this page with the appropriate information.