When visiting Yellowstone National Park there are opportunities to camp outside of the park, but we highly recommend planning your trip by camping in the park. Yellowstone is HUGE! It takes about four hours to get from one end to the other, taking into account traffic and bison jams. (Yes it is a real thing. They walk right across the road and hold up traffic for miles).
With all that driving, the last thing you want to do is have to drive outside of the park to stay for the night just to turn around and drive back in the next day. Our recommendation is to split your time between the campgrounds in Yellowstone so that you can really explore and enjoy each section of the park.
As you can imagine Yellowstone gets VERY busy in prime season – July and August. Campsites can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. So if you like to have a plan going into it, which we do recommend if you are going in prime season, then book sooner instead of later.
Three campgrounds we suggest for a week in Yellowstone:
If you want to have hookups every night, then book your whole stay at Fishing Bridge and just know you will be doing a lot of driving. This is totally doable. We stayed in Fishing Bridge for over three weeks and had days that we got up in the morning and were gone all day so that we could do the things we wanted to do throughout the park. That being said, we did wish we didn’t have to do so much driving! So, here are our suggestions for how to split up your stay at different campgrounds across the park.
Start here for your first two nights. There are no hookups, so two days is a good amount. Also note there are no showers here – so shower before you come. But, you can run a generator during certain hours.
Nearby Activities: From here you can visit Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic. Venture over to the Norris hot springs and hike to Fairy Falls. Be sure to check out the Old Faithful hotel – it really is an amazing structure.
Stay here for four nights with full hookups. We always appreciate full hookups after staying at a place with no hookups for a few nights.
Nearby Activities: Visit the Yellowstone Lake Hotel for a nice dinner and drinks looking out over the lake. Take a row boat out on Yellowstone Lake or spend a day at the beach there. Drive through Hayden Valley to see if you can spot buffalo, bears and other wildlife. Head to Mount Washburn for a challenging, but amazing hike.
Another park that does not have full hook-ups, but does have showers on site. A great pick for your last night.
Nearby Activities: Drive through Lamar Valley to look for more wildlife from wolves to bears and more bison! Head to the Grand Canyon. Yes, there is a Grand Canyon in Yellowstone and it is beautiful. Here you can also hike the North rim or South rim or both for some amazing views. For a little further trip head to the Mammoth Hot Springs.
Pricing ranges from about $25 a night to $50 for the full hook-up sites at Fishing Bridge. I have heard they are working on more full hook-up sites throughout the park, so hopefully those will be done soon! There are also seven additional campgrounds that are first come first serve. We have done that when we were there. But again, it is busy during prime time so you may have to get up early to get there and get a site! But good to know in case you are there and want to stay longer.
Things to keep in mind when camping here:
1. If you have never driven through mountains, Yellowstone can be a bit stressful to get in and out of. But having been there multiple times now,we know it is totally doable and this park is well worth planning a visit to.
2. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds, but not on the trails throughout Yellowstone. For good reason – there are a lot of bears and other wild animals out on the trails.
3. Generators are allowed in 7 of the campgrounds during set hours.
4. Fishing Bridge is hard-sided only for good reason – the bears.
5. Don’t ever leave food out. EVER. The bears and other wildlife smell the food and come into the campground. That is a bad situation for everyone.
6. The weather can change very quickly. They have had snow on the 4th of July. It isn’t anything to worry too much about if you are there during the summer months, but something to keep in mind. Always wear layers, just in case.
7. There are convenience stores in Yellowstone, but we highly recommend stocking up on groceries before you go.
If you are thinking about going to Yellowstone don’t delay on making your reservations. Go do it now, so you can get the site and campground that you want!