Camp Among the Bears in Yellowstone

How do you get up close and personal with all that Yellowstone has to offer? Camp!

How do you get up close and personal with all that Yellowstone has to offer? Camp!

You and your children will spend less time looking out the window of a car, tour bus or lodge room and really immerse yourself in the flora, fauna and endless natural surprises that have earned Yellowstone the nickname “Wonderland.”

Most Important: Plan Ahead

If you’ll be setting up a tent, make reservations in advance at one of the four campgrounds that can be reserved through Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the firm that manages Yellowstone services (Yellowstone Reservation Center, tel. 866-GEYSERLAND [866-439-7375] or 307-344-7311).

The remaining seven campgrounds are available through the National Park Service on a first-come, first-served basis. If you choose a Park Service site, be the early bird, as during the busy summer months, these spots fill by late morning.

If you have more than a few days to explore the park, consider making several reservations at different campgrounds. That way you can create “regional” itineraries, originating from each campsite. Thus, more time in nature, less time on the road.

You can reserve these four campgrounds in advance:

  1. Bridge Bay Campground. Near Yellowstone Lake, and 30 miles from the East Entrance to Yellowstone.
  2. Canyon Campground. Near the center of the park, a good vantage point from which to explore the stunning Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.         
  3. Grant Campground. With plenty of trees for cover, you’ll sleep at the southwestern edge of Yellowstone Lake and 22 miles north of the South Entrance.
  4. Madison Campground. A central location, just 14 miles east of the West Yellowstone entrance and 16 miles north of Old Faithful.

Also available with a reservation:

Fishing Bridge RV Park. Near Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake, this RV Park features sites with full hook-ups (30 amp electricity, water and sewer).

Note: Backcountry campsites may also be reserved in advance through the National Park Service. Requests for reservations may be submitted by mail or in person. Write: National Park Service, Attention: Backcountry Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. Or you may call 307-344-2160 or 307-344-2163 to request forms.

Check-out time for all campgrounds is 10:00 a.m.

Other Planning Tips

Prepare well. Include every member of the family in planning for your camping trip. It’s good practice for the kids to learn how to manage an outing that requires detailed planning. Encourage them to think through the itinerary and make suggestions. That way, if something is left behind, everyone can learn from it. (Or share in the blame!) My boys always think of something that has slipped my mind.

Bring the right gear. Here’s a starter list of what to bring or consider:

Know the fire restrictions. If you love toasting marshmallows or telling ghost stories over the fire, note that wood and charcoal fires are permitted only in locations with fire grates. Special fire restrictions are not uncommon. If your heart is set on the fireside chats, inquire when you arrive or check here just prior to your visit.

Stay warm and dry. The weather can be unpredictable in Yellowstone. I have seen snow in the park in June and September. A cold and wet camper is a cranky camper. Be sure to have rain gear and plenty of layers for every member of the family. Make sure clothes and gear are stowed when you are off exploring. Get your tent up and the rain fly in place at the first sign of rain. Keep your sleeping bags away from the tent walls. Even a light rain or condensation overnight can leave sleeping bags wet. Use your waterproof gear bags to line the inside perimeter of your tent.   

Destinations: Yellowstone National Park

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Camping

User Comments

Pepper Spray! The hubby and I are traveling to Yellowstone later this month and plan to do some back country hiking. I mentioned to him that I was planning to get some pepper spray, and he scoffed at the idea, telling me that as long as I stayed away from sows and cubs, I'd be fine. I'd like to personally thank Ms. O'Rourke Hayes for mentioning in the article that she never travels in grizzly country without the spray. I'm heading to REI to get a can of the spray. Maybe I'll get my husband some, too.