Yellowstone National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Bridge Bay, Madison and More

by Amy Myers
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(Photo by: Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Pack your bags, Outsiders. We’re heading out west to spend a few days camping in Yellowstone National Park. But before we explore the park’s 12 campgrounds, 2,000 campsites, and nearly 3,500 square miles, there’s some serious planning that needs to happen in order to venture out into the world’s first national park.

With the right tools and gear, your trip to Yellowstone will be one that you talk about for years and remember for a lifetime. Home to countless waterfalls, geysers and wildlife, stepping into Yellowstone National Park is like escaping to a time before civilization made its way west. But when traveling to such a tranquil oasis of wilderness and wonder, you have to know and respect the risks that come with the trip.

The first crucial step in ensuring a successful camping trip to Yellowstone National Park is getting to know the park before even marking the dates on your calendar. Where you choose to set up camp in the park can greatly determine your experience, especially if you prefer complete seclusion or specific amenities.

Choosing the Right Campsite at Yellowstone National Park

Of the 12 campgrounds available at Yellowstone, five of them take reservations. The majority of these campgrounds are open from either May or June until September or October and are fairly spread out across the National Park. This excludes Mammoth, the only campground open year-round. Where you decide to stake your claim will depend on what kind of sights and activities you and your group are looking to do and whether you prefer camping or glamping.

Here are a few campgrounds that will give you a wide variety of experiences at Yellowstone National Park.

For Campers – Bridge Bay and Madison Campgrounds

Bridge Bay Campground

Those looking for a traditional camping experience might want to consider booking a reservation at either Bridge Bay or Madison campgrounds at Yellowstone National Park. Located near Yellowstone River, Bridge Bay gives its visitors optimal views of the water as well as the Absaroka Range stretching across the horizon.

Meanwhile, Madison is the ideal spot for Yellowstone visitors looking to spot some wildlife. In the spring, you can see bison grazing through the wildflowers. And in the fall, you can hear the hauntingly beautiful bugle of a distant elk.

Madison Campground

For Glampers – Grant Village and Canyon Village Campgrounds

Grant Village Campground

Sometimes you want the outdoor experience without giving up the luxuries of front-country life. If this sounds like you and your crew, book a stay at the Grant or Canyon campgrounds. You’ll still get all the great views that Yellowstone can provide, but here, you’ll be closer to restaurants, stores and the visitor center if you need a break from the backcountry. Canyon campground is located in the forest of Canyon Village, while Grant is in Grant Village. Also mentionable is the fact that Canyon and Grant campgrounds are wheelchair accessible. So, if you have any campers with disabilities, these campgrounds should be among your first picks.

Canyon Village Campground

For RVers – Fishing Bridge

If you’re planning on taking your RV to Yellowstone National Park, you’ll have no shortage of places to park. Many of the park’s campgrounds allow for campers, but there is one campground that is the perfect spot for these folks. Like Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge campground is near the Yellowstone River. Unlike the other campgrounds, Fishing Bridge is only accessible to RVs and campers – no tents and no tent campers. This is because the area more frequently sees grizzlies, so if one happens to wander too close to camp, you’ll want to wait it out in a sturdy vehicle. Fishing Bridge is also the only campground to offer water, sewer and electrical hook-ups.

Each one of Yellowstone’s campgrounds requires a nightly fee, as well as an additional charge for groups. Be sure to bring plenty of cash for the length of your stay, and consider packing a few extra bucks for souvenirs at the camp store.

Of course, you don’t have to use one of the intentional sites. If you’re looking for a true backcountry experience, you may just opt to get a backcountry camping permit and settle down away from the other groups. But in order to plan for this adventure, you’ll have to learn the lay of the land through trial by fire – figuratively speaking, of course. When backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park, it is paramount that you clean up any and all food scraps that you may make. Just as important is ensuring proper use of bear bags and proper food storage. Remember to keep any smell-able objects at least 100 yards from your campsite.

How to Pack for a Camping Trip at Yellowstone National Park

Must-Have Camping Gear

  • Wool socks
  • Mittens
  • Winter hat
  • Bug spray
  • First aid kit
  • Solar charger

If you don’t have your packing methods for camping down to a science, it can be overwhelming to choose what to bring and what to leave behind. There are tons of new gadgets and tools that hit the shelves of REI and Bass Pro Shops. So, what’s essential for camping at Yellowstone National Park?

First and foremost, you have to keep a close eye on the temperature. In the summer, highs can reach 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. In the spring and fall, peak temperatures tend to range from 30 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of the time of year, though, nights can be downright cold in Yellowstone. With low humidity, all of that heat from the day vanishes as soon as the sun sets. That’s why rule numero uno for packing is to bring lots of layers.

Don’t skimp out on the winter wear, either. If you’re a cold sleeper, you’ll definitely want a cozy pair of wool socks as well as a pair of mittens and beanie. Also important for prepping for Yellowstone nights is to have a decent sleeping bag that can withstand below-freezing temperatures. A 30-degree bag should be the minimum requirement. The safest bet, instead, is a zero-degree sleeping bag, just in case you get a bit of snow, too.

Lastly, be sure you stow these items in your pack: bug spray, first aid kit, bear spray and solar charger. You may not need any of these items, but it’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst.

As always when camping, use safe methods and keep informed of your surroundings and the risks of your situation. And remember, the best camping trips are always the ones you prepare for.

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