GudGear helps adventurers find the best outdoor gear. When you use our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Yellowstone Camping (Epic Guide) 11 Campgrounds, 10 Hikes, 9 Facts

Planning to visit Yellowstone National Park? In this ultimate guide, you'll learn about Yellowstone camping, hiking, attractions, campgrounds, weather, when to visit, and much more. Plus tons of photos and maps.

Yellowstone camping

Table of Contents

Yellowstone Camping (Visitors Guide)

Yellowstone National Park is located in northeastern United States. If you are looking for a camping adventure, Yellowstone won't disappoint.

Check out this guide book about Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Before we dive into the camping and hiking details, here are some quick facts about Yellowstone.

9 Facts about Yellowstone National Park

  1. First national park in the United States: Established by Congress, signed into law by President Grant on March 1, 1872.
  2. It is thought to be the first national park in the world.
  3. Home to Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent
  4. Home to Yellowstone Lake, one of the largest high-elevation lakes on the continent
  5. Largest megafauna location on mainland United States
  6. Home to the oldest and largest pubic bison herd in the United States.
  7. 8th Largest National Park in the United States: 2,219,790.71 acres
  8. Hikers rejoice! Yellowstone has more than 900 miles (1,449 km) of hiking trails. Day hiking doesn't require a permit.
  9. +4 million annual visitors: In 2018, 4,115,000 people visited Yellowstone National Park.

Guide to 11 Yellowstone Campgrounds 

What could be better than camping for a few days in Yellowstone National Park? Maintained by the National Park Service, Yellowstone is both the largest and the oldest national park in the nation.

It's home to multiple campgrounds overseen by that government department, though you'll also find nearby campgrounds operated by private companies.

Yellowstone camping enthusiasts love the park because of attractions such as Old Faithful and because it offers so many guided tours. No matter what you want to see or do in Yellowstone, you'll be able to find it.

Yellowstone waterfall

6 Campgrounds Inside Yellowstone National Park

Camping inside Yellowstone National Park is a great option for those who want to avoid the entrance fee. Each time that you visit the park, you need to pay this fee.

But if you made camping reservations online and printed out your confirmation, you can often show the paper at the gate and save on this fee. You'll receive a parking pass that is good until the end of your trip, which lets you come and go without paying this fee.

When you camp in Yellowstone, you'll also find campsites close to some of the best hiking trails and other attractions.

Bridge Bay Campground

  • Dates: May 15 – September 22
  • Number of Sites: 432
  • Elevation: 7,800 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: Generators of up to 60 decibels allowed from 8 am to 8 pm, flush toilets, dump station, some RV sites
  • Services: Close to Yellowstone Lake cruises, picnic tables, fire pits with grates, access to evening ranger programs
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 30 miles from east entrance
  • More info: Bridge Bay Campground in Yellowstone National Park

The Bay Bridge Campground is the largest campground in the park. It is close to boat launches for those who want to take their boats onto the water and provides convenient access to guided tours.

You'll want to keep your food safe though because wild animals such as bison often wander into the campground.

Grant Village Campground

  • Dates: June 7 – September 15
  • Number of Sites: 430
  • Elevation: 7,800 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $31
  • Features: Dump station, some RV sites, group sites, generators of up to 60 decibels allowed from 8 am to 8 pm, some lake views, flush toilets, running water in bathroom sinks
  • Services: Shared food storage boxes, fire pits with grates, picnic tables, close to boat ramp and visitor center, pay showers, laundry room
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 22 miles from south entrance
  • More info: Grant Village Campground

Located close to Yellowstone Lake, the Grant Village Campground is a popular choice for Yellowstone camping enthusiasts.

They like all the great amenities that are within walking distance of the campground, including a boat ramp, gas station, visitor center and restaurant. There are also two restaurants close to the campground.

Hiking in Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Spring

Norris Hot Springs Campground

  • Dates: May 17 – September 29
  • Number of Sites: 111
  • Elevation: 7,500
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $20
  • Features: RV sites for vehicles of 30 to 50 feet, generators allowed between 8 am and 8 pm, flush toilets
  • Services: Nightly campfire programs, fire pits with grates, picnic tables, food storage boxes
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 26 miles from north entrance
  • More info: Norris Hot Springs Campground

The Norris Hot Springs Campground puts you close to some of the best attractions in the park, including the Norris Geyser Basin and the Museum of the National Park Ranger.

When camping here, make sure that you bring some marshmallows from home for the nightly campfire programs. Some of these programs let you take tours of the basin with a park ranger.

Canyon Campground

  • Dates: May 24 – September 22
  • Number of Sites: 273
  • Elevation: 7,900 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $31
  • Features: Pay showers, on-site laundry, flush toilets, some sites reserved for hikers and bikers, generators allowed between 8 am and 8 pm – maximum 60 decibels
  • Services: Fire pits with grates, food storage boxes, picnic tables, close to shops and restaurants
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 38 miles from north entrance
  • More info: Canyon Campground

Starting in June and running through the campground closing date in September, you can take part in ranger programs each night. Those programs include guided tours and informative lectures.

The Canyon Visitor Center is also close to the campground and offers a look at the supervolcano that exists beneath the park. As bears and other animals are common in the area, you should make sure that you use the available storage boxes for your food. You get two free showers for each night that you stay.

Morning Glory Pool Yellowstone

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Tower Fall Campground

  • Dates: May 24 – September 29
  • Number of Sites: 31
  • Elevation: 6,600 feet
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $15
  • Features: Vault toilet, some sites reserved for bikers and hikers, gravel areas, space for RVs of up to 30 feet
  • Services: Close to Tower Fall and Tower General Store, food storage boxes, fire pits with grates, picnic tables
  • Accessible sites: No
  • Distance from entrance: 23 miles from north entrance
  • More info: Tower Fall Campground

Tower Fall is a popular attraction within Yellowstone, and the Tower Fall Campground is within walking distance of it. As one of the top campgrounds for those who like peace and quiet, it prohibits the use of generators.

You can choose between a gravel site for RV camping or a soft spot for tent camping. The campground opens on Memorial Day weekend and is close to Dunraven Pass, which is six miles long. When you choose this campground, you're also close to horseback riding trails.

Madison Campground

  • Dates: April 26 – October 20
  • Number of Sites: 278
  • Elevation: 6,800 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: Dump station, flush toilets, group sites available, generators of up to 60 decibels allowed between 8 am and 8 pm, paved roads
  • Services: Restrooms with running water, food storage boxes, Junior and evening ranger programs, picnic tables, fire pits with grates
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 14 miles from west entrance
  • More info: Madison Campground

If you want to take an early trip to Yellowstone, you can make a reservation at the Madison Campground, which opens in late April before most of the other campgrounds do.

The onsite Madison Amphitheater hosts Junior Ranger activities and has rangers leading guided tours and offering other activities almost every night from May through October. This campground is only 16 miles from Old Faithful and even closer to West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Campgrounds

5 Campgrounds Outside of Yellowstone National Park

Not everyone who loves Yellowstone camping likes the idea of actually staying in the park.

Though the Grand Loop makes it easy to drive around the park, you may want to get away from the crowds and take a break from the park. When you stay in campgrounds outside of Yellowstone, you'll have no problem finding grocery stores and shops that help you stock up.

Most of the supplies sold within the park cost more than what you would usually pay. There are some great campgrounds conveniently located within a few miles of the park's entrances.

Eagle Creek Campground

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 16
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $7
  • Features: Flush toilets, primitive sites, parking for vehicles of up to 40 feet, some paved roads
  • Services: Corral, fire grates, access to nature
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: Two miles from north entrance
  • More info: Eagle Creek Campground

Yellowstone camping enthusiasts who want to get away from the crowds and experience the peace and quiet they can't find in the park often choose the Eagle Creek Campground.

This campground has a remote feel but is just a short drive to the north entrance. It charges a $3 fee for each additional vehicle in your group.

Yellowstone Park/West Gate KOA

  • Dates: May 18 – October 1
  • Number of Sites: 279
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $50 for tents, $105 for RVs
  • Features: Heated indoor swimming pool, spa, clean restrooms, hot and cold running water, full hookups, laundry room
  • Services: Snack bar, pavilion, firewood and propane for sale, guided tours, bikes for rent, miniature golf course, fire pits, picnic tables
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: Six miles from west entrance
  • More info: Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA

If you worry that you'll run out of things to do while camping in Yellowstone, consider staying at this family owned KOA campground, which is only six miles away from the park's west entrance.

The large campground offers daily activities for kids and adults and has a shop where you can buy camping supplies. You should make sure you have cash because the campground's guided tours and other activities cost extra.

Soda Butte Campground

  • Dates: July 1 – September 7
  • Number of Sites: 27
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $9
  • Features: Running water, flush toilets, generators allowed during daylight hours, paved roads, quiet community
  • Services: Indoor washrooms, picnic tables, food boxes, fire pits with grates, tent pads, trash cans
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: Six miles from northeast entrance
  • More info: Soda Butte Campground

If you plan on traveling with a group, keep in mind that the campground charges a nightly rate and a $3 fee for each additional vehicle.

As the Soda Butte Campground does not take reservations, you should get there as early as possible. The 27 campsites go quickly during holiday weekends and other times of the year.

Livingston/Paradise Valley KOA

  • Dates: May 1 – October 15
  • Number of Sites: 95
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $50 for tent sites, $100 for RV sites
  • Features: 20/30/50 amp sites, water and electric hookups, full hookups for RV campers, camping cabins for rent, clean restrooms
  • Services: Onsite laundry facilities, free WiFi, dog run, fishing spots, swimming pool, pavilion, bike rentals, camp store
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from entrance: 40 miles from south entrance
  • More info: Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA

Those who have children love staying in KOA campgrounds such as this one because of all the activities and amenities they offer for kids. You can pay a fee to rent bikes for your whole family and spend a few hours fishing.

This kids guide to Yellowstone helps find and identify plants, animals, geothermal features and more.

The campground has a dog run for your four-legged family members and a camp store that sells propane, firewood and other supplies. There are also daily activities and a free breakfast served every morning in the pavilion.

Beaver Creek Campground

  • Dates: Memorial Day – September 10, weather permitting
  • Number of Sites: 64
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $15
  • Features: Quiet area, restrooms, flush toilets, access to Madison River, motorized boats and fishing allowed on the nearby lake
  • Services: Firewood for sale, daily trash pick up, running water, picnic tables, fire pits with grates, shady spots
  • Accessible sites: Unknown
  • Distance from entrance: 24 miles from west entrance
  • More info: Beaver Creek Campground

Located less than 30 miles from Yellowstone, the Beaver Creek Campground is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. The campground offers access to Madison River and to other bodies of water that allow both fishing and motorized boats.

Though the campground does not have many amenities, it does offer running water and flush toilets. You can buy firewood for just $6 per bundle once you pick your spot.

Bears frequent this area. Be sure to store food in proper containers. Here's more about how to keep bears away when camping.

Camping in Yellowstone

5 Local Attractions in Yellowstone

As much as you love Yellowstone National Park and all the things you can do in the park, you may want to find other things to do nearby.

If you camp outside of the park, you might take a day or two and visit neighboring towns to see the museums and other attractions in those areas. Cody and other cities are several hours away during the winter season and in other parts of the year when all but the park's north entrance are closed.

When you visit during the busy season, you'll find yourself much closer to some of these great attractions.

Grand Teton Wildlife Safari Tour

  • Type of attraction: Guided tour
  • Distance from park entrance: 120 miles from south entrance
  • Cost: $125 per person
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Move through the Teton area as you see wild animals up close in an open-air vehicle
  • More info: Grand Teton Tours

Depending on how you drive to Yellowstone, you might pass right through the Grand Teton National Park, which is to the park's south.

BrushBack Tours is a local tour company that lets you see some of your favorite wild animals up close. The company offers four-hour tours of the Grand Teton National Park in open-air vehicles. You can also work with the company to schedule a similar tour in Yellowstone.

Roosevelt Lodge

  • Type of attraction: Historic building
  • Distance from entrance: 30 miles from west entrance
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: See one of the former President's favorite camping sites, visit Tower Falls, spend the night, enjoy classic old west cooking
  • More info: Roosevelt Lodge

Though Roosevelt Lodge is free to visit, you'll pay extra for some of the things you want to do. President Teddy Roosevelt used this area as a campsite for many years.

It now functions as a lodge and has cabins for rent. You can hike over to Tower Falls or sign up for a guided stagecoach tour. The lodge also has an old west cookout every night and offers horseback riding adventures.

Dinosaur Center

  • Type of attraction: Museum
  • Distance from entrance: 140 miles from north entrance
  • Cost: $6 for kids, veterans and seniors; $8 for adults; free for kids three and under
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Dinosaur museum, dig for fossils, learn more about dinosaurs that once lived in the region
  • More info: Dinosaur Center

Though this museum is roughly two hours from the north entrance of Yellowstone, it's much closer to the other entrances that are open later in the year.

Dinosaur Center is a haven for those who love dinosaurs. It features a museum with a large collection of fossils and full dinosaur skeletons. You can pay to enter the dig site for an additional fee, which gives you the chance to dig for fossils that you can take home.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

  • Type of attraction: Museum
  • Distance from entrance: 120 miles from east entrance
  • Cost: Free for kids five and under; $18 for students; $18.50 for seniors; $19.50 for all other adults
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Artifacts relating to Buffalo Bill, firearms museum, raptor experience
  • More info: Center of the West

If you head to Yellowstone west through Wyoming, make sure you stop by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Buffalo Bill was one of the most famous faces in the Wild West days, and this museum has the largest collection of artifacts relating to the man in the world.

At the Draper Museum Raptor Experience, you can get closer to these wild animals than you ever thought possible. The center announced the addition of a new firearms museum for 2019 too.

Fort Yellowstone Historic District

  • Type of attraction: Historic buildings
  • Distance from entrance: Several miles from north entrance
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy to moderate
  • What you’ll see/do: Tour the old fort, get close to historic buildings
  • More info: Fort Yellowstone Historic District

Yellowstone was the first national park established in the United States. During the early days of the park, the government assigned the Army the job of caring for it. The Army quickly established Fort Yellowstone as a place for soldiers to live.

This historic district is now home to other old buildings, some of which still house employees of the park when they're not working.

Some of the oldest buildings here date back to 1891, but you'll find other buildings from the turn of the century. You can use the road through the historic district to reach Mammoth Hot Springs too.

Old Faithful Yellowstone attractions

Old Faithful in Yellowstone


10 Best Yellowstone Hikes

It can take hours to follow the Grand Loop around Yellowstone. During the busy tourist season, it can take even longer to visit some of your favorite spots.

Yellowstone hiking trails give you an excuse to get out of the car and stretch your legs. To help you decide which trails are right for your family or group, I noted (on the following list) which trails are easy and which are more challenging.

This guide book covers a total of 46 hikes for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Easy trails are often accessible and either paved or clear, while moderate and hard trails are much rougher. You'll find dozens of hiking trails and trails for horseback riding and biking in Yellowstone.

1. Lone Star Geyser Trail

  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Wheelchair accessible, paved sections, logbook to share your experiences
  • What you’ll see: Lone Star Geyser

The Lone Star Geyser Trail is one of the easiest trails you'll find in Yellowstone. It's wheelchair accessible and has paved areas that help you easily get over rougher spots.

The National Park Service has a guidebook on display where you can write down your experiences and read what others shared. This trail takes you right up to the Lone Star Geyser.

2. Duck Lake Trail

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Close to parking lot
  • What you’ll see: Views of the areas damaged by wildfires in 1988, West Thumb Geyser Basin

Located in the western region of the park, the Duck Lake Trail has a trailhead located in the West Thumb Geyser Basin parking lot.

That parking lot can accommodate both cars and trucks as well as some campers. The trail moves through the basin and lets you see how the area rebounded after the wildfires that occurred in 1988.

3. Electric Peak

  • Distance: 20.6 miles
  • Skill level: Hard
  • Features: Rocky areas, rough terrain, dangerous terrain
  • What you’ll see: Wild animals, gorgeous views

Backcountry Yellowstone camping enthusiasts often pick Electric Peak as their favorite trail, though it's also one of the most challenging hiking trails in the park.

You'll enter at the Glen Creek Trailhead and hike towards the Peak. It takes even the most experienced of hikers up to nine hours to complete the trail. You should make sure that you bring food and water and any camping gear you need if you plan on spending the night.

4. Natural Bridge Trail

  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Skill level: Moderate
  • Features: Wet rocks, some challenging areas, parking lot trail head
  • What you’ll see: Natural Bridge, spawning fish, wild animals

Though the Natural Bridge Trail is only 0.7 miles long, it's more challenging than you might think. As the water rushes up and over the rocks, the trail can become so slippery that you have a hard time planting your feet.

When the spawning season begins, Yellowstone shuts down the trail because bears come down from the mountains to eat those fish. You can access the bike trail to the Natural Bridge from the Grand Loop marina.

5. Avalanche Peak

  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Skill level: Hard
  • Features: Very rough terrain, hard for some hikers
  • What you’ll see: Views that extend out and over the trees, some wild animals

As one of the more challenging hiking trails in Yellowstone, Avalanche Peak is definitely not for beginners.

This 4.2-mile trail is really only accessible in the middle of summer. If you go up in June or earlier, you'll likely run across a few bears and other dangerous animals.

Those who hike the trail in September and later in the year run the risk of coming across snow.

6. Mount Washburn Spur Trail

  • Distance: 16.2 miles
  • Skill level: Hard
  • Features: One entrance/exit, connects Mount Washburn to other trail heads and parts of the park
  • What you’ll see: Glacier Boulder, Mount Washburn, wildflowers, some animals

It can take up to 10 hours to complete the Mount Washburn Trail, even if you head out on a nice day and have a lot of hiking experience.

This trail is challenging because it does not have any places where you can stop for water and hikers often spot grizzly bears along the path. You can hop on the trail at the trailhead on Glacier Boulder. The trail follows a set path and brings you back to your starting point.

7. Hellroaring Trail

  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Skill level: Hard
  • Features: Steep starting point, fishing spots
  • What you’ll see: Sage fields, wooded areas, Hellroaring Creek, Yellowstone River Suspension Bridge

With a name like Hellroaring, you might think that this is the scariest hiking trail in Yellowstone.

The name actually comes from a creek of the same name, which got its name from the loud noises produced as the water moves. This is the best trail for those who love fishing because of the various places where they can stop and fish along the way.

It gives you access to the Yellowstone River Suspension Bridge and is one of the park's quietest trails.

Yellowstone hiking

8. Bunsen Peak

  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Skill level: Moderate
  • Features: Some rough terrain, grassy and hilly areas
  • What you’ll see: Panoramic views, Cathedral Rock, geological attractions

If you remember using Bunsen burners in high school science class, you know the man the park named this trail after. Bunsen Peak covers more than four miles and is the best way to get to Cathedral Rock.

When you reach the highest point on the trail, you'll see some of the best panoramic views in the park, which look over the areas damaged during past wildfires. Some of the paths have quite a bit of grass and can be hard to see.

9. Harlequin Lake Trail

  • Distance: Less than one mile
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Clear trail that anyone can follow, soft hill, easy to follow
  • What you’ll see: Harlequin Lake, some wooded areas, a few animals

Not everyone can spend hours hiking through Yellowstone, but no matter how much time you have, you can easily complete the Harlequin Lake Trail.

It measures less than one mile and begins at the Madison Road Junction, which you can find via the West Entrance Road. This trail moves uphill towards the lake and lets you come down the same hill at the end.

Even if you stop to take photos of the lake, you can complete the entire trail in just one hour.

10. Howard Eaton Trail

  • Distance: 6.3 miles
  • Skill level: Moderate
  • Features: Trailhead marker, same start/stop spot, open in the winter, summer and fall
  • What you’ll see: Old Faithful, wooded areas, wild animals, plants

One of the top trails for hikers who want to get close to Old Faithful is the Howard Eaton Trail, which covers more than six miles.

It has a trailhead south of that geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin area. This trail uses a circular design that winds around Old Faithful and then brings you back to where you started.

You should keep an eye out for orange markers hanging on trees and located on signs stuck in the ground. Those markers let you know that you're on the right path.

Watch on YouTube

Yellowstone hikes

Yellowstone Weather: Best Time to Visit

Visitors regularly head to Yellowstone National Park during every season and on every day of the year.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that the park shuts down all but its north entrance for several months. This can make getting to the park difficult because you need to follow roads that wrap around Wyoming and through Montana to get to the north entrance rather than taking a short cut to one of the other gates.

The best time to visit Yellowstone can depend on what you want to do while in the park and how comfortable you feel in cooler weather. It's possible for snow and ice to fall during the winter.

Best time to visit Yellowstone

The best time to visit Yellowstone is often during the off-season and when parents are home with their kids.

April and May are popular times to visit for singles and groups, but some also enjoy visiting in September, October and November.

During the spring, temperatures in Yellowstone can range from 26 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 to 1 degree Celsius) at night and 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 21 degrees Celsius) during the day.

Temperatures range from 9 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -6 degrees Celsius) in the winter and 45 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (7 to 32 degrees Celsius) in the summer. Fall temperatures are usually somewhere in the middle.

Avoid the crowds in Yellowstone

One way to avoid the Yellowstone crowds is with a visit during the off-season. You'll find far fewer people visiting in the winter because they don't like the ice and cold. It's also helpful to camp for the night.

You can get up early in the morning and hit the popular attractions before the crowds line up at the gates. But keep in mind that some of the trails close in the winter and that only backcountry camping is available inside the park in the winter (more on this below).

Many of the park's top attractions are open 24/7, which means that you can visit them whenever you want. You may want to avoid the areas with parking lots too. Those just passing through the park often use those lots to get in and out and to take photos quickly before hitting the road again.

When to see wildlife in Yellowstone

Tourists have a tendency to forget that Yellowstone is a park and that many animals call the park home.

You might hear stories about the couple who tried to put a baby animal in the backseat of their car or the people who died because they approached the wild animals that they saw.

If you want to stay safe in Yellowstone, it's helpful to bring bear spray with you. One spray of this liquid will incapacitate one of the grizzly bears in the park and give you time to get away. Here are some tips for correct bear spray use.

Here's a popular brand with holster.

The best places to see wild animals on your trip are in some of the valleys in Yellowstone.

Black bears commonly live in Hayden Valley, while grizzly bears prefer the Pelican Valley. You'll find other wild animals too, including bison, wolves, elk, moose and bald eagles.

Yellowstone Wildlife

You might just see wildlife (like this elk) at your campsite in Yellowstone

The best time to see those animals is usually in the spring, which is when many come out of hibernation. You'll also see bears in the early summer, especially in June. That is when the fish begin spawning and the bears come out to feed on the fish.

Most Trails Open

Some of the trails in Yellowstone shut down during the late fall and open again in the early spring. Those trails are often quite treacherous and can cause less experienced hikers to suffer injuries.

Most of the trails open in the middle of May, though some do not open until the beginning of June. Yellowstone often shuts down those trails near the beginning to the middle of September.

Winter Camping in Yellowstone

Before you decide to grab your RV or pop-up camper and head to Yellowstone this winter, keep in mind that the campgrounds in the park close for the season.

The last dates you can camp are usually around the end of September, and some campgrounds close even earlier in the year.

Winter backcountry camping is available though. You can pick up a permit between the hours of 9 am and 4:30 pm on weekdays up to 48 hours before your trip. The park sells permits through the Albright Visitors Center, West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center, Old Faithful Ranger Station and the Snake River On-Call Ranger Station near the south entrance.

If you plan to go winter camping, don't forget to bring a heater. A campfire is great for cooking, but you'll probably need more during the night. Here are some great winter camping tents for backcountry.

Backcountry camping permits let you camp in groups of up to 12 people. You can stay in the same location for up to three days before you need to move. If you want to use a snowmobile or any other motorized vehicle while camping, you need a permit to operate that vehicle.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park FAQ

Where is Yellowstone National Park?

Yellowstone is located in the United States, in 3 states: Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Why is Yellowstone called Yellowstone?

The National Park Service named Yellowstone National Park after the Yellowstone River that sits at its head.

This river got its name from French fur trappers who gave it a name in their native language that stands for Yellow Rock River. The river had a number of yellow rocks that you can see from the shore.

What is Yellowstone known for?

Some of the attractions known for visiting in the park include Yellowstone Lake and Grand Prismatic Spring.

Yellowstone Lake offers fishing and other activities. Many also know the Yellowstone Caldera, which is an active volcano and Old Faithful.

Though Old Faithful once erupted more often, its eruption rate has slowed down.

Which part of Yellowstone is the best?

The best part of Yellowstone really depends on what you hope to do during your visit.

With more than two million acres of land to explore, nearly every part of the park offers a different experience.

There are five entrances to the park that will take you to Geyser Paradise, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake and other sites.

How many days should I spend in Yellowstone?

You can see some of the best attractions in the park during a single day, but you can also spend just a few hours driving through the park.

Experts generally recommend spending at least four days in the park. You may want to spend up to five days in the park or head to Yellowstone after visiting the Grand Tetons.

What is there to do in Yellowstone with kids?

Yellowstone offers just as many things for adults as the park does for kids.

The Junior Ranger Program is open to kids between the ages of four and 13. You can pick up an activity book for just a few dollars that shows the fun things your kids can do.

Kids might enjoy seeing Old Faithful go off and whitewater rafting through the park's rapids.

Where should I stay when visiting Yellowstone?

You can stay in Yellowstone in either a modern lodge with contemporary amenities or a rural campsite that lets you sleep under the stars.

There are multiple cabins that you can rent for a night or more. The west side of the park is home to more than 60 campsites, but the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is closer to the east side.

What makes Yellowstone unique?

The main feature that makes Yellowstone so unique is its sheer size. This park is so big that you can spend days hiking and camping without coming across a single person.

It also offers guided tours that let you learn more about the region from park rangers. You can explore to your heart's content.

Can you drive through Yellowstone?

Yes. You absolutely can drive through Yellowstone in a car, truck or camper.

The Grand Loop lets you take a long drive around the inside of the park and can take anywhere from four to seven hours to complete. This road allows you to get in and out of the park through multiple entrances and exits.

What time does Yellowstone park close?

Yellowstone National Park is unique because it never closes. The entrances to the park are always open, though if you visit late at night, you may find that there aren't any park rangers on hand to answer your questions.

Some of the attractions and sites inside the park close at sunset or earlier.

The North Entrance is open year round. The other 4 entrances are open seasonally.

What is the closest major airport to Yellowstone National Park?

The closest airport to the park is the Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD), which is roughly 50 miles away. Though you can also come in through the Yellowstone Airport (WYS) in Montana, this airport is only open a few months every year.

Other airports close to Yellowstone include:

  1. Billings Logan International Airport (BIL)
  2. Jackson Hole Airport (JAC)
  3. Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA)
  4. Bozeman Yellowstone International (BZN)

Where do I enter Yellowstone?

Yellowstone National Park has five entrances: north, northeast, south, west and east.

The north entrance is in Montana and is the only entrance to the park that is open every day.

Other entrances close during the cooler seasons. Most of the other entrances open towards the end of April and close in the fall.

How many entrances does Yellowstone National Park have?

Yellowstone has 5 entrances.

Both the north and the northeast entrances let you approach the park from Montana. If you're driving from another state, you can use one of the entrances bordering a different state. The south entrance straddles Yellowstone and Teton National Park.

Which Yellowstone entrance is best?

The best entrance to the park is the north entrance.

No matter when you visit, you don't need to worry about finding it closed. This entrance also places you directly on the Grand Loop, which you can use to find Old Faithful and other attractions.

Is there cell service in Yellowstone?

You will likely have issues using your cell phone while in the park. Though more than 50% of Yellowstone has cell service, reception is spotty at best.

While you can purchase a package that provides you with WiFi in some resorts and restaurants, that service is only good in a few places.

Can you drive through Yellowstone National Park?

Yes. The Grand Loop offers tourists a convenient way to drive through Yellowstone National Park.

You can hop on this paved road from any entrance and exit the loop when you reach your exit or another destination. You'll find signs on the side of the Grand Loop that mark campgrounds and popular attractions.

What should you not miss in Yellowstone?

If you only have time to do one thing while in Yellowstone, make sure that it's a trip to Old Faithful.

This geyser got its name because it erupts on a regular basis. Though it once went off at the same times daily, you'll now find that it can go off up to 30 minutes after the scheduled time.

Where can I hike in Yellowstone?

Many of the hiking trails in Yellowstone are suitable for those who want to spend a few hours up to a full day in the park.

The Elephant Back Loop Trail is one of the best for beginners because it runs for less than three miles and offers nice views.

At eight miles, the Lava Creek Trail is one of the park's longest and most difficult hiking trails.

How cold does it get in Yellowstone?

Temperatures in Yellowstone can range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. It can drop down to 40 or lower at night.

The average temperature reported during the winter is 33 degrees, but it can occasionally drop into the low 20s. Yellowstone also experiences some snowfall in the winter.

Can you fish in Yellowstone Lake?

Both fly fishing and trout fishing are popular activities in Yellowstone.

The fishing season begins during Memorial Day weekend and ends during the first weekend in November. You can buy a fishing permit for the season for $40 or purchase a three-day or seven-day permit. Only those 16 or older need a permit.

Does Yellowstone Lake freeze over?

The freezing temperatures that the park experiences in winter can cause the lake to freeze over.

Up to three feet of ice can completely cover the lake and block boat accessible. The only spots you won't see ice is where the water flows over the park's natural hot springs.

Can you go in hot springs in Yellowstone?

Yellowstone prohibits access to its hot springs because the high temperature of the water can cause injuries.

You'll find the hot springs you can visit clearly marked on the maps available at each entrance and in shops and resorts in the park. There was a case a few years ago where a man fell into a hot spring and died before help arrived.

How hot are the hot springs in Yellowstone?

The Scotts is the hottest area of the park. It's home to hot springs that can reach temperatures of more than 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the hot springs provide heat to other bodies of water that causes those areas to reach temperatures similar to those you would find in your bathtub.

What causes hot springs in Yellowstone?

Hot springs exist in Yellowstone because the entire park sits on top of a supervolcano.

This active volcano produces magma, which rises from the core of the earth and moves to the surface. That magma causes a significant change in the temperature of any nearby ground or water.

What types of bacteria are present in the hot springs at Yellowstone Park?

Yellowstone National Park officials warn against pregnant women and those with other medical conditions using the hot springs because of the bacteria found in those waters.

The most common type of bacteria in those springs is Thermophilic bacteria, which thrives in high temperatures. Some of the ranger stations let you view samples of the bacteria.

Can you swim in Yellowstone Lake?

Can you swim in Yellowstone caldera?

The only places in Yellowstone set aside for swimming are the Boiling River Swim Area and the Firehole Swim Area.

Though you can swim in the lake or caldera, the park recommends that you use caution and avoid swallowing any water. None of the lakes or rivers have lifeguards on duty.

How many geothermal features does Yellowstone have?

There are five types of geothermal features found in Yellowstone:

  1. fumaroles
  2. geysers
  3. hot springs
  4. mud pots
  5. travertine terraces

It is home to nine geyser basins that let you see the hot geysers as they erupt, including the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the Upper Geyser Basin. Some of those basins are in the backcountry area of the park.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Hiking near Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone

Where are the hot springs in Yellowstone?

Emerald Pool is just one of the hot springs located in Yellowstone National Park.

This and other hot springs are in both popular and well-traveled areas of the park and in the backcountry. Those that you cannot get close to will have warning signs up that let you know you should keep your distance.

How many hot springs are in Yellowstone?

Even officials working for the park aren't sure exactly how many hot springs Yellowstone has.

As temperatures change and the earth shifts, more hot springs can appear. The park has roughly 500 geysers and reportedly more than 10,000 other geothermal features.

Some of the more popular features appear on official Yellowstone maps.

Can you swim in the Grand Prismatic Spring?

No. The water is hot enough that it can injure and even kill you.

The Grand Prismatic Spring is beautiful and features different shades of colors such as yellow and blue.

No matter how pretty it looks though, you do not want to swim in the spring. Those colors come from the bacteria living in the water.

What is there to do at Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone?

When visiting Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone, stop by the Albright Visitors Center to sign your kids up as Junior Rangers and to get a park map.

Some of the things you can do while in this area include touring the historic Fort Yellowstone that dates back to the 1880s and getting close to the hot springs via the park's terraces.

Yellowstone Attractions

Camping at Yellowstone National Park

Can you camp at Yellowstone?

You absolutely can camp at Yellowstone. There are five campgrounds that let you reserve your spot in advance and seven campgrounds that have limited space available.

Most of these campgrounds have quiet hours that prohibit guests from listening to loud music or making noise after dark to ensure that everyone can enjoy some peace and quiet.

How much does it cost to camp at Yellowstone?

The cost of camping at Yellowstone ranges from $26 to $50 a night.

This cost often varies based on the amenities available in the campground such as running water or power hookups. The campgrounds that do not accept reservations charge between $6 and $18 per night. It costs at least $15 to get into the park too.

Private campgrounds tend to charge higher rates per night.

What is the best Yellowstone campground?

Some travelers think that the best campground in Yellowstone is the Norris Hot Springs Campground.

It has a small restroom with flush toilets and is within walking distance of both the Museum of the National Park Ranger and the Norris Geyser Basin. You can meet up with a ranger to tour that basin.

Do you need a permit to camp in Yellowstone?

Though you can reserve a campsite in advance or look for one when you arrive, you generally only need a permit for backcountry camping in Yellowstone.

The park charges individuals $3 per night and charges $15 per night for groups that include at least five people. Other campgrounds in the park let you pay when you check in and set up.

Does Yellowstone allow dogs?

Yes. Though Yellowstone does allow dogs, you can only bring pets to certain areas.

You cannot have your dog within 100 feet of any road, and you must keep your dog on a leash of no more than six feet in length. There are only a few cabins and trails where you can take your pets too.

Does Yellowstone have potable water?

Water treatment facilities within the park treat all water and label it as safe for drinking.

You will find both water fountains and spigots that let you fill up your canteens with potable water. Some of the shops and restaurants in the park also sell bottled water that you can take with you.

More reading: How much water do I need while hiking?

What is the best time to go to Yellowstone?

The best times to visit Yellowstone include the late spring and early summer and then the late summer and early fall.

You'll find fewer families heading to the park as kids go back to school. Though the temperature and weather are still nice, you can avoid some of the big crowds.

What can you do in Yellowstone National Park?

You will never run out of things to do in Yellowstone National Park because of attractions and features such as the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful.

The park offers trails for bikers, hikers and walkers and lets you go horseback riding and fishing. You'll also find guided tours that you can sign up for in the ranger stations.

Guide to Yellowstone Camping

Hungry for more? Check out our guide to the best places to camp in the United States.

Your Turn

Have you been here? What was your favorite attraction? Have a question or tip? Join me in the comments!

About the author: Bryan Haines is co-editor of GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outside gear. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

You might also enjoy:

Recent posts:

0 comments… add one

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

shares