Yellowstone Park is amazing. The problem is that I am not the only one who thinks so. Over 4 million other people annually share my dream of visiting the park and some of them are camping. If you didn’t make reservations and don’t get to the campground very early in the morning to stake your claim, you may be moving on down the road before rolling out the sleeping pad. But, that’s okay. Some of the best campgrounds are just outside of Yellowstone Park’s boundary. Don’t forget that the park is surrounded by millions of acres of forest service land, wilderness and other federal land. So, there are lots of great campsites waiting outside the park. I have selected a few options for each entrance whether you are traveling through the north, south, east or west entrances.
North of Yellowstone Park
Just minutes form the Roosevelt Arch at Gardner to the north is Eagle Creek Campground in Gallatin National Forest. Take Jardine road north of town for two miles to a left on forest road 3242. Vehicles longer than 48′ are not recommended. Perfect! Eagle Creek has long been a secret camping spot for those who arrive to the Yellowstone area a bit too late to get any campsites within the park boundaries. Because there are only sixteen sites, there’s not much leeway with how late you can show up to Eagle Creek either. If you strike out here, continue up forest service road 493 to Timber Creek Campground and Bear Creek Campground. If you get a spot, congratulations, you are camping like a local. Lots of Montanans camp here during fall elk season.
Northeast of Yellowstone Park
Soda Butte Campground is just outside of Cooke City. Hard sided units allowed only, too many bears. Nearby is Colter Campground and Chief Joseph Campground both nestled in the dense pines right off the highway. With close proximity to the park and miles of wilderness, these campgrounds are a great place to launch your daily adventures from. Cooke City has good restaurants, great bars, motels and tourist amenities including The Knotty Fly, Yellowstone Fly Fishing Guide Service which can take you on a guided day hike to some great fishing spots, teach you to fly fish if needed and put you on some catch and release fly fishing for native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout . For fishing information in Yellowstone contact Fly Fish Yellowstone Park.
East of Yellowstone Park
Between Yellowstone and Cody, Wyoming lies 50 miles of forest service and plenty of campgrounds some of which lie at trailheads that can lead you into the most remote region in the lower 48…or to Cody for a vacation western style.
Hard sided units can stay at Three Mile Campground appropriately named from its close proximity to the park boundary. Nearby Newton Creek Campground offers 41 sites and tent camping is available. There are other campgrounds including Wapiti, Rex Hale, Eagle Creek and Elk Fork. Don’t let their close proximity to the highway fool you. Mountain Lion, Elk, Moose, Mule Deer, Mountain Sheep, Grizzly and Black Bear all call this wild corridor home.
West of Yellowstone Park
There are plentiful motels in West Yellowstone, a small town on Yellowstone’s west border. For campers, there are several campgrounds just off of Highway 191. Baker’s Hole is the closest campground to the west entrance at only 3 miles away and offering 73 campsites. Rainbow Point Campground is on Hebgen Lake, a lake created by an earthquake in the 1950’s. Rainbow Point offers views and access to the Lake.
Two miles further and only 8 miles from West Yellowstone is Lonesomehurst Campground. With only 27 sites and close proximity to some fabulous summer trout fishing, be sure to get there early or contact the forest service for a reservation.
South of Yellowstone Park
For RV and campers wanting amenities, there is Headwaters Campground and Colter Bay Campground at Flagg Ranch. Other options include the Gros Ventre Campground, Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake. You don’t have to camp at Signal or Jenny, but in my opinion it is a must see when passing through. You can pull over and make a pot of tea and take in the scenery across the Lake where the Tetons tower over the lake shore. It’s the kind of place that even scenery-numb locals never get tired of being lost in.
These are just a sampling of the many camping opportunities around Yellowstone Park’s boundary. Here’s a list of campgrounds near Yellowstone Park within 35 miles. Have fun planning and executing your Yellowstone adventure.