Where do I camp in Gardiner? What should I know about camping in Yellowstone National Park? If you find yourself asking these questions you are not alone. With the increased interest in tent, dispersed, and RV camping, and too few campsites to keep up with this surge in demand, it is more critical than ever to plan ahead and do your research.
Whether you are scrambling to find a campsite at the moment, or planning out months in advance, in order to help us provide a safe and enjoyable guest experience we encourage you to read the following – you are essential in maintaining the pristine conditions that make this area special to travelers and locals alike.
To keep it simple, we have provided answers to some frequently asked questions, Do’s and Don’ts, critical tips, and resources to remember when camping inside and outside of Yellowstone National Park:
Where do I camp in Gardiner?
- DO: Camp only in designated areas. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest provides information for developed and dispersed camping outside Yellowstone. RV parks outside Yellowstone are few and far between and tend to fill quite quickly. If you plan to camp but have not yet made a reservation it will be difficult to find a site at the last minute.
- DON’T: Arrive without a plan to find a campsite. If all sites are full, be prepared to make lodging reservations if all campsites are unavailable. Please see “What are my lodging options?” below for more information on how to book a room.
- REMEMBER: It is illegal to camp in pullouts, parking lots, on the streets of Gardiner (or other towns), public parks, alleyways, trailheads, and fishing accesses. Camping is illegal in these areas and will result in the removal of your vehicle by law enforcement, park rangers and possibly result in being cited and fined.
Where do I camp in Yellowstone National Park?
Similar to Gardiner, if you plan to camp but have not yet made a reservation do not be surprised to see full campgrounds, even if that campground operates on a first-come first served basis. If all sites are full, you will need to make lodging reservations outside of Yellowstone.
Yellowstone offers 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 sites. Yellowstone National Park Lodges takes reservations for five of these campgrounds.
- Bridge Bay Campground
- Canyon Campground
- Fishing Bridge RV Park (Closed for 2021)
- Grant Village Campground
- Madison Campground
The National Park Service (NPS) manages the other seven campgrounds. Beginning in 2021, reservations for three of the campgrounds managed by the NPS can be done through Recreation.gov, see (Reservable) campgrounds below.
- Mammoth Campground (Reservable)
- Norris Campground (Closed for 2021)
- Slough Creek Campground (Reservable)
- Pebble Creek Campground (Sites 1-16 Reservable)
- Tower Fall Campground (Closed for 2021)
- Indian Creek Campground
- Lewis Lake Campground
Find more information on camping in Yellowstone National Park including a map, current status, and fill times by visiting: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm
- Yellowstone offers backcountry campsites for people who prefer to explore and camp along less traveled routes. When planning a backcountry trip, remember that many of Yellowstone’s trails are more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Most areas retain snow until late May or early June, and some (especially mountain passes) are snow-covered until late July. Also, many routes require fording rivers that can be 25 feet wide, 3 to 5 feet deep, extremely cold, and swift currents during the late spring runoff. You are responsible for your safety. Having knowledge of the area you are traveling through and being prepared with the proper camping gear and supplies is essential to your survival, as cell phone reception is little to none in the backcountry. Permits are required for all overnight stays. Find more information on backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park visit: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm
What is dispersed camping?
Dispersed camping is the term used for camping in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. It also means no services (such as trash removal), and little or no facilities (such as tables, fire pits or toilets) are provided. The Gardiner Ranger Station has created an essential guide for your reference on how to do dispersed camp right – to download a copy of the guide please visit here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd915000.pdf
How do I camp in Gardiner, Yellowstone, and the surrounding area?
- DO: Respect other visitors and wildlife by packing out garbage and waste. Some developed campgrounds provide trash cans, but many don’t. Properly dispose of rubbish, food waste, septic fluids, and solid human waste to keep campsites safe and pristine for future visitors. Proper disposal of your human waste is critical in keeping a safe environment. To dispose of feces, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet away from any water source. Never defecate or leave toilet paper on top of the ground. Remember your neighbors also enjoy quiet nights, dark skies, and trails and campsites free of trash, wastewater, and human waste.
- DON’T: Dump RV septic and grey water outside of designated dumping stations (it’s illegal). Don’t burn food waste in campfire rings (it attracts bears) or leave garbage at your campsite. There is a public RV dump station located at the Gardiner Sinclair, 375 US Hwy 89 Gardiner, MT 59030.
- DO: Remember you are camping in bear country. Keep all food, toiletries, trash, and other attractants in an enclosed vehicle, widows up, or in an approved bearproof storage container.
- DON’T: Keep a messy campsite and store food and other attractants improperly. This creates a safety hazard for both you and the bear you may draw to your tent and surrounding campsite.
- DO: Enjoy a campfire. Campfires offer light, warmth, comradery, and a fun way to cook outside. For everyone’s safety, use an existing or designated campfire ring and be sure to extinguish the fire completely when done. Ashes should be fully drenched and cool to touch.
- DON’T: Start a wildfire. Building new campfire rings is dangerous and damages soil and fragile plants. If you don’t completely extinguish ashes, you risk causing an out-of control wildfire that can hurt you, residents, and wildlife. Keep in mind you can be held financially liable for the cost of fighting the wildfire. Be sure to adhere to local fire restrictions.
What are my lodging options?
- Visit us online: If all sites are full you can find a comprehensive list of Gardiner, Yellowstone National Park, and the surrounding area options by visiting: https://www.visitgardinermt.com/plan-your-trip/tourism-directory/lodging
- Give us a call: The Gardiner Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Information Center keeps an up-to-date lodging availability list Monday – Friday. You can reach us at 406-848- 7971, Monday – Friday 9:00AM – 6:00PM, and Saturdays 10:00AM – 6:00PM. Please note that with the heighten visitation we are experiencing a higher call volume than ever before. If we are unable to answer, please leave a message and we will get back to you.
Resources for your trip to Gardiner, Yellowstone, and the surrounding area:
- To learn more about dispersed camping opportunities, current conditions, and developed campsites, regulations, and fees in the Custer Gallatin National Forest visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/custergallatin/recreation/camping-cabins
- For information on camping within Yellowstone National Park visit: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm
- For more information on lodging accommodations in Gardiner, MT and Yellowstone National Park visit: https://www.visitgardinermt.com/plan-your-trip/tourism directory/lodging
- To learn more on bear safety please visit: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearsafety.htm
Get in touch with us about any questions you might have about camping in Gardiner, Yellowstone, and the surrounding area.