Camping Guide to Yellowstone [Infographic]
Updated April 20, 2020
YELLOWSTONE CAMPING GUIDE
Exploring Yellowstone National Park is a one-of-a-kind experience. Sleeping under our stars allows you to take in the beauty of Yellowstone and experience it in a whole new way. It’s one of the most popular camping destinations in America. Whether you choose one campground as your home base or explore several different sites to cover more ground, there’s no better way to discover America’s first National Park.
Follow these tips to maximize the indescribable wow and minimize the anxiety of your next camping trip.
Plan ahead and book campsites as early as possible.
Xanterra operates four campgrounds and an RV park totaling approximately 1,700 sites that accept reservations while the National Park Service operates seven campgrounds with more than 450 sites that are first-come, first-served and usually fill by early morning during peak season.
Many campsites are not open year-round and their opening dates can vary from year to year. Most campgrounds begin opening in May and close by sometime in September. The Mammoth Hot Springs campground, though, is open year-round. Being flexible with dates or sites gives you a better chance of securing a reservation.
Consider buying an annual pass to the national parks for $80 (free to military).
The America the Beautiful passes cover entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands. Fourth graders and their families are eligible for the “Every Kid in a Park” pass that grants them free access during the year.
Pack smartly by understanding the weather at your destination.
The temperature and conditions can vary greatly, depending upon the park. At Yellowstone, day temperatures may be in the 70s, then may dip to freezing at night, even in summer. Pack rain gear, sturdy hiking shoes, hats, and sunscreen. Check the National Park Service website for seasonal weather.
Hang on to that map the ranger hands you when you enter the park.
We’re accustomed to using our phones for navigation, but cell coverage is spotty at best in many parks. So rely on that old-fashioned piece of paper.
Build in unscheduled time to explore the options at your park.
Whether it’s a guided ranger tour, an art class, or a hike on a less-traveled trail recommended by a camper nearby, leave time for serendipity.
Check out guided tours.
There is a dizzying array of opportunities for exploration-on land, on water, on horseback, and more.
Embrace the retreat from civilization.
National parks are rare places in the modern world that are quiet and dark. And camping provides the perfect way to enjoy that. Find a spot where you can listen to the silence and watch the Milky Way emerge from the blackest of night skies. Turn your cell phone off for some real peace and quiet.
Camp outside the prescribed area.
Limit the trauma on the park’s natural areas by sticking to your designated site.
Leave your food out.
Store it in your vehicle or in a designated animal-proof container, often provided at the campground. Keeping your food protected keeps you safe from an up-close-and-personal meeting with wildlife.
Engage the wildlife.
It’s their turf; you’re just a temporary resident. Take sensible precautions and remember that wildlife means “wild.”
Leave a mess.
When you pack, reduce your litter even in a campsite. Trash attracts wildlife and insects. Leave no trace.
Forget first aid.
Pack a small kit of essentials you may need so you don’t have to go out looking for a Band-Aid when you injure yourself with the s’mores stick at midnight.
Check out this infographic guide to camping in Yellowstone National Park.
Contributors to this article include Jim Morrison. Jim has flown barrel rolls with the Navy’s Blue Angels (he didn’t barf), climbed and slept overnight in a 243-foot-tall redwood (he didn’t fall), and gone one-on-one with Muhammad Ali (he didn’t flinch). His award-winning stories have appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Private Clubs, This Old House, National Wildlife, and numerous other publications.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.
Want to experience Yellowstone in-depth? See what makes Yellowstone National Park a great place to work for a season or longer!