Seven Great Campsites in Yellowstone

Photo: NPS/D. Renkin

Define your goals and then find your ideal camping spot within the sprawling acreage of this iconic national park.

Yellowstone is massive. Spanning 3,741 square miles and 2.2 million acres, the national park has five entrances and offers a wide variety of focal points, from geysers to grizzlies.

The South Entrance borders Grand Teton National Park and is the most convenient entrance from Jackson, Wyoming, and major airports at southern points beyond (Salt Lake City being the closest). The West Entrance rolls alongside the Madison River and offers the quickest access to the park’s most famous geysers—including Old Faithful—and geothermal features, like Grand Prismatic. Coming in from the north leads visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs and farther down toward the center of the park. The Northeast Entrance allows great access to the Lamar Valley, known as the ‘Serengeti of the United States’ for its diverse and abundant mammal population. And the East Entrance provides the quickest access to the shores of Yellowstone Lake, at 7,773 feet, the largest high-elevation lake in the country. Roads from each entrance head toward a center circular route—the 142-mile-long Grand Loop Road—creating a five-legged, spider-like road map of this massive park.

With all that distance to cover and all that Yellowstone has to offer—including 12 front-country and almost 300 backcountry campgrounds—seven campgrounds stand out as the best for particular types of camping experiences. To select what’s best for you, start by asking yourself some basics to help determine what campsite factors are personally most important: Are you looking for great access to geysers and colorful geothermal pools? Seeking for peace and quiet? Is your main goal spotting elk and moose from your campsite? Read on.

Camper parked at Norris Campground Photo: NPS/D. Renkin

Car Camping Best Bets

Best for Quiet Camping: Indian Creek Campground

This peaceful campground is nestled in a forest on the north end of the park, 8 miles south of the busy Mammoth Hot Springs area. From the campground, enjoy views of the Gallatin Mountains, including 10,969-foot Electric Peak. Access the area’s hiking trails, like the Bighorn Pass Trail, and fish on the nearby Gardner River and multiple creeks. This is a quiet campground in contrast to many of the park’s large, bustling tent and RV campgrounds. It’s first-come, first-served here, with 70 sites available. More info:

Great for Fishing, Families, and Old Faithful: Madison Campground

This large campground near the West Yellowstone entrance lies along the Madison River and near the junction of the Gibbon, Firehole, and Madison rivers, offering options aplenty for outstanding fishing that will make you feel like you’re casting line in the 1992 classic A River Runs Through It. Meadows teeming with wildflowers in the spring and bugling elk in the fall, wide and flat campground roads where kids like to ride bikes, and close access to Old Faithful, just 16 miles south: There are more than enough reasons to choose this campground as your park-adventure basecamp. Its 278 sites are reservable through Yellowstone National Park Lodges. More info:

Best for Canyon and Hiking Access: Canyon Village Campground

The southeast part of Grand Loop Road offers access to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the 1,200-foot-deep, 20-mile-long canyon with Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, plus the overlooked 129-foot Crystal Falls in between. This campground offers the best access to the canyon and all its great hiking trails, as well as convenient proximity to Canyon Village, with laundry and shower facilities, a large general store, and a Visitor Education Center. Its 273 sites are reservable through Yellowstone National Park Lodges. More info:

Best for Peace and Quiet (Plus Wildlife Sightings): Slough Creek Campground

This campsite sits at the end of a 2-mile dirt road in the northeast corner of the park, making it much more quiet than some of the busier campgrounds. (It also doesn’t allow generators.) It’s a small campground situated in a sage meadow along Slough Creek, just north of the Lamar Valley, which is famous for its abundant wildlife, including bison, bears, and wolves. Due to its remote location, stargazing at this quiet site is fantastic on a clear night. Its 23 sites are reservable through More info:

Best Basecamp for Geyser-viewing: Norris Campground

Norris is located in the central/northwest region of the park, which has thermal activity dating back 115,000 years, plus bison that regularly roam about. This campground offers quick and easy access to the Norris Geyser Basin and its steaming pools and features, including the Echinus Geyser and the Steamboat Geyser, which spurts to 400 feet, making it the tallest geyser in the world. The campground is mostly set within a lodgepole pine forest, with the Gibbon River flowing nearby. From here, you’re walking distance from the Museum of the National Park Ranger and can enjoy nightly ranger talks throughout the summer. Its 112 sites are reservable through More info:

Backpacking Best Bets

Best Easy Hike-In: Grebe Lake Campsite

There are 293 backcountry campsites in Yellowstone, including the four spots on picturesque Grebe Lake. Access these primo lakeside sites via a 3-mile hike with little elevation gain from the Grebe Lake Trailhead near the Canyon Junction on the Norris-Canyon Road. From your basecamp, you’ll be able to explore Cascade Lake 1.9 miles away, or make a big day out of summiting Observation Peak—it’s an 8.8-mile hike with 1,400 feet of elevation gain. Backcountry permit required. More info:

Best for Lake Lovers: Shoshone  

The park’s second-largest body of water (behind Lake Yellowstone), Shoshone Lake and its black-sand shores offer a secluded dream for water lovers. There are multiple campsites around the lake, including North Narrows and South Grizzly Beach. Swim, fish, or boat (if you can carry your inflatable or packable paddlecraft there) after hiking 3 miles in from the Delacy Creek Trailhead, 4 miles via the Shoshone Dogshead Trailhead, or 8.5 miles from the Howard Eaton Trailhead. Backcountry permit required:

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.