The Best Camping Near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The Best Camping Near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Between watching the super volcano, touring the hydrothermal features, and exploring the endless trails and viewpoints, it’s hard to get bored at campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park! An icon of the American west, this area is filled with cascading waterfalls, mountain views, and wildlife ranging from bison to bears.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
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About Camping Near Yellowstone National Park

Wildlife enthusiasts flock to campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park to witness wolves, grizzly bears, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep and more, living freely in their natural habitat. Geology buffs visit for the 10,000+ hydrothermal features, from geysers to hot springs. Families, hikers, bikers, and fishermen go camping near Yellowstone National Park to join in thousands of years of human history, admiring the wonder of one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.

Top Campgrounds Near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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Yellowstone National Park Camping FAQs

Wildlife enthusiasts flock to campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park to witness wolves, grizzly bears, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, and more, living freely in their natural habitat. Geology buffs visit for the more-than 10,000 hydrothermal features, from geysers to hot springs. Families, hikers, bikers, and fishermen go camping near Yellowstone National Park to join in thousands of years of human history, admiring the wonder of one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.

While it might not be the most popular park, Yellowstone has the greatest name recognition and is still one of the most visited with 3 million visitors annually, which accounts for nearly 4% of all visits in the entire National Park Service (NPS) system each year. This is a bucket-list park for seemingly everyone, from outdoor and travel enthusiasts to just casual observers. There’s something about Yellowstone that just has universal appeal.

What Is Yellowstone National Park Known for?

Yellowstone National Park is known all over as the world’s premier national park. Ask anyone to name a national park, and there’s a good chance they’re naming Yellowstone. For good reason, too! Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, established by then-President Ulysses S. Grant after he signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act in 1872. That’s mostly just a nature nerd fact, but it’s still fun to know.

Beyond its history, Yellowstone National Park is primarily known for one thing: Old Faithful. That geyser has been going off pretty faithfully for basically forever, and it’s probably the biggest tourist attraction in the U.S. national park system that isn’t its own park (read: Grand Canyon). If you haven’t seen Old Faithful go off, it’s really a bucket-list item.

Old Faithful gets all the press, but it’s hardly the only game in town. There are so many hydrothermal features among the rest of the park’s geysers and hot springs that are worth your time as well. Yellowstone is also a hotbed of wildlife activity, and there’s a chance a bison might walk through your camp while you’re cooking dinner. I say this mainly because it happened to me, so look up occasionally when cooking.

Top Sights to See in Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful

I’m gonna say something controversial: if this isn’t your first Yellowstone rodeo, skip Old Faithful. If you’ve never seen it before, you absolutely should see it. In fact, it’s a must-see for any national parks enthusiast.

If you’ve seen it before, there are just so many great things to see in Yellowstone you should explore. Plus, some of the crowds thin out when Old Faithful is getting ready to go, so you have an advantage.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yep, there’s more than one Grand Canyon out there. This one looks a little different from Arizona’s, though. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the park’s most majestic sights and puts the whole ecology of the park on display all at once. There’s a crashing waterfall, beautiful trees, and awe-inspiring rock formations. There are plenty of spots from which to view it, and each season shows a different version of it, so you’re ensured a different experience each time you visit.

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring

Even if the name doesn’t mean anything to you (though it probably does), you’ve absolutely seen this hot spring. Photos of an illustrious, multi-colored pool of water are almost always Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. Photos, though, don’t do this proper justice. The third-largest spring in the world, Grand Prismatic has been attracting visitors for decades. At 370 feet in diameter, it’s actually larger than a football field!

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is absolutely a park to visit in the summer. June to September is the time to be here, no matter the crowds. The reality of this section of the country is that snow stays late into the season and shows up early, making an area like this quite seasonal.

Now, if you don’t mind being a bit more self-sufficient, you can enjoy the shoulder seasons pretty well. Consider starting in late April or early May, when some of the snow has gone, but the crowds haven’t hit yet. I visited in May once, about two weeks before the season’s opening, and the crowds were quite thinned out still. That said, most seasonal amenities aren’t open (including restaurants on your drive into the park), so road trippers will want to be extra prepared.

Spring and fall have a lot to offer in terms of crowd control, but don’t underestimate the weather. In May, the average low is still about 28 degrees. In September? That number only goes up to 39 degrees, and January sees a daily high of 28 degrees. For some campers, late spring and early fall are still good options. For most campers, summertime is the right choice. Winter camping? You better be really knowledgeable and prepared.

Tips for Camping Near Yellowstone National Park

There Are Lots of Campsites, But No Guarantees

Big park, lots of sites. That’s good, right? Well, sure, it does mean you have more opportunities to get a campsite. The only downside is that everyone else in the world also wants one of those sites. You’re gonna want to book as far out as you possibly can, so finalize your plans ASAP. Most of the time, you’re going to have to plan months in advance. Off-season travelers have a little more leeway, especially if you travel mid-week. Even then, though, it’s not easy.

If You Can Get a Site, Pick It Carefully

Pay attention when you’re picking a campground. Learn from my mistakes—Mammoth Campground is basically in Montana. If you can get a last-minute campsite at Yellowstone, ask yourself why it’s available. The answer for my situation was that it’s as far away from everything as possible and takes hours extra to get to. It’s also the only one open year-round, so that’s something worth knowing.

This Park Is Massive

Back to my Mammoth mistake (ha), this park is huge. You won’t spend hours driving from place to place like you would in Olympic National Park, for example. Still, the whole park takes about 2.5 hours to drive through, so you might be in the car for a bit when you’re traveling from one site to another.

Tips on Entering Yellowstone National Park

Off-season Travelers Have Limited Options

The northernmost entrance (right by Gardener, Montana) is the only entrance that’s open year-round. Off-season travelers, of course, won’t contend with the same crowds or backed-up entrance lines that in-season travelers do, so it’s a trade-off. That said, if you’re traveling here even a few weeks before the season starts, be sure you know where to enter the park. The rest of the entrances open in roughly mid-May and go until October.

West Entrance Is the Most Popular

There are five total entrances to Yellowstone, but the west entrance (West Yellowstone, Montana) is easily the most popular. If you can avoid that one, you’ll save yourself some headaches. The north and northeast entrances tend to be less trafficked, so if you can work your itinerary to go through those, things should be easier.

The other main option is the south entrance, coming from Grand Teton National Park. While you’ll get plenty of crowds through this entrance, it’s still better than the west. If you’re on the fence about visiting Yellowstone’s next-door neighbor, absolutely do it. You’ll get a better overall experience at a park with lower visitation, all while entering conveniently through a less-popular entrance than the West Yellowstone entrance.

Get There Early

This is good advice at any popular park, really. Starting around 9 a.m. until about 11 a.m., everyone who’s ever lived seems to want to enter Yellowstone National Park. You want to beat that rush or just wait until mid-day. That morning rush means long lines, extended wait times, and, pardon the pun, unhappy campers.

How to Camp in Yellowstone National Park

As an avid tent camper, I may be biased. However, I still stand by the idea that the best way to camp in Yellowstone is by snagging a tent spot. That said, if tent camping isn’t in your wheelhouse or sphere of interest, there are some other great options. Yellowstone has some of the best lodges available in any national park, so if you’ve got the extra cash, it’s an experience worth having at least once.

Getting a campground here takes a little bit of luck, so you may end up getting a campground further from the park’s center. That certainly isn’t the end of the world, as the drive is beautiful, so don’t sweat it. If, by some miracle, you get a centrally located tent or RV spot, it’s clearly a sign of good karma, so keep doing what you’re doing. For the rest of us mere mortals, there are several Campspot campgrounds nearby.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Yellowstone National Park for Tent Campers

Red Rock RV Park

If you want a reminder of just how big Yellowstone National Park is, this campground is in Idaho. Granted, it’s close to the border and makes for a very reasonable (and beautiful) drive, but still. Red Rock RV Park is located in a spot that gives you access to the park, of course, but also to some of the best nature spots untouched by development (or crowds).

For campers wanting to pitch a tent under the stars and sit back for a peaceful experience, there’s no better campground. Your basics are covered, so even if you’re roughing it, showers and laundry are on hand if you change your mind.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Yellowstone National Park for RV Campers

Valley View RV Park Campground

Just 15 minutes from Yellowstone, this stop is perfect for RV travelers who couldn’t get a spot in the park itself. You’ll still get all the excitement of being away from it all, though you’ll be able to hit the road almost immediately in the morning.

Outside of the park itself, it’s hard to beat the views from these RV sites. Plus, you’ll have even more on-site amenities than the park’s campground if you want to minimize your time spent in town. Valley View RV Park Campground has laundry, a convenience store, and even its own gas station, so you’re certain to have everything you need before you start the drive into the park.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Yellowstone National Park for Lodging

Yellowstone Hot Springs

Travelers who value comfort, even in the wilderness, will be pleased to hear they don’t have to sacrifice nature views for relaxation. Only a few minutes from the northern entrance to the park (a less trafficked entrance), guests here will be in Yellowstone before they know it. Granted, with the mountain ranges surrounding you and the river just steps away, there won’t be much difference between your campsite and the park.

Yellowstone Hot Springs, at the southern end of the renowned (and well-named) Paradise Valley, is fully focused on relaxation. The campground bills itself as a “hot springs experience,” so be sure to take a dip while you’re here! Beyond the springs, you’ll have a pool, pavilion, and internet access if you need it.

There are few places on earth that capture the human imagination like Yellowstone. This historic park calls out to visitors of all stripes, some who will never set foot in another national park in their lives. Why? What about this park has that kind of pull on us all? Guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

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