Wondering where to stay in Yellowstone National Park and ideas on what to see? Keep reading for my top recommendations and tips for camping in Yellowstone National Park!
Because let’s be honest, Yellowstone should be on EVERYONE’S bucket list!
There’s a reason people travel from all across the world to visit Yellowstone. It’s big, packed with wildlife, and one of the most diverse national parks I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve been to quite a few!)
Alright, let’s get into where you can camp in Yellowstone, our full two-day itinerary, and what you can expect while visiting!
Camping in Yellowstone National Park
Where did you camp in Yellowstone?
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We camped in Bridge Bay campground, right by Yellowstone lake. We went over Labor Day weekend 2020 and had amazing weather.
Bridge Bay is a great location because it’s pretty central in the park. If all the roads are open, you’ll have fairy quick access to the north, south, west, and east sections of the park.
Bridge Bay offers RV and tent camping, fire pits, bathrooms, drinkable water, and dishwashing stations. You may also meet some of the elk that call the area home. We didn’t get to see them, but a squirrel did wake us up one morning by throwing pine cones at our tent. (Seriously 😂)
We got lucky with our spot and were nestled back in the woods. It was pretty quiet and we had plenty of room and nice neighbors.
Generally speaking if you want to camp (or grab a hotel) within the park you need to do it pretty far in advance. We got lucky and booked in July for a Labor Day trip. Again, we got lucky but don’t be afraid to check for a last minute trip! Just don’t show up at the campground at 9pm asking for a spot. The staff may not be that helpful.
What did you do in Yellowstone National Park?
We had a full two days in the park and it was a perfect amount of time to dip our feet. We did some hiking, sightseeing, souvenir shopping, and plenty of stops to check out the wild life!
I planned the trip around the sights and hikes I wanted to do most, and we threw in some other sites along the way just for fun. We also made lots of stops for wildlife along the road because it’s truly incredible.
Here’s our full two day Yellowstone National Park itinerary:
Day one: Check out Grand Prismatic, Fairy Falls, and West Yellowstone
Head down south towards West Thumb to check out Grand Prismatic. Old Faithful is in the area as well, but we skipped it.
I highly recommend parking at Fairy Falls and doing the short hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. You’ll get a great view of the whole spring with potentially fewer crowds.
We decided to continue the hike to Fairy Falls and it was so worth it! A pretty easy flat hike that’s about three miles round trip.
After our hike, we stopped for lunch at one of the pull-offs for the Firehole River. It’s PERFECT for swimming and taking a quick dip because the water is so warm. We were expecting a cold, brisk mountain river but it was warm and lots of families were swimming and enjoying the sunshine.
We ended the first day in the city of West Yellowstone just outside the west entrance. We did some souvenir shopping, grabbed dinner, and stopped at the Grizzly & Wolf discovery center. It’s like a mini zoo with close views of grizzlies and a pack of wolves! This was not a planned part of our trip but we loved it.
Day Two: See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs
Our second day we headed north towards Canyon Village to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
I had NO idea this feature existed in the park until recently but WOW. It’s a must view for sure.
You can get the best views from Artist Point. Park at the parking lot or hike the rim trail from the Upper Falls View to get there. We hiked the south rim trail to get to it and we loved the views and exercise.
You can also get more up close and personal to the upper and lower falls by viewing the Brink of the Lower Falls or Brink of the Upper Falls. We decided to do the Upper Falls parking lot because it was less crowded.
After the canyon, we headed north to Mammoth Hot Springs and to see historic Roosevelt Arch just outside the north entrance. We walked on the boardwalk to see some of the springs and formations then a quick stop to the arch (and grabbed some ice cream in town).
On our way back to camp we made a quick stop to Mud Volcano and the Dragons Mouth (same parking lot/stop). Very interesting and cool to see but VERY stinky so plug your nose! 😉
What should I pack for camping in Yellowstone National Park?
This may depend on what time of year you go but here some basics to always pack for the warmer months (June-September)
- Bear spray & bear bells
- Layers for fast-changing weather
- Binoculars or a camera with killer zoom (for wildlife)
- Comfortable shoes
- Sunglasses or a hat
- Phone or camera (you’re gonna wanna take pics)
- Hand sanitizer (plenty of bathrooms in the park but most are porta-potty style)
- Camping gear
- Hiking backpack
- First aid kit
- Reusable water bottle
What should I keep in mind when visiting Yellowstone National Park?
- Be prepared to stop suddenly. For wildlife and for traffic.
Going over Labor Day weekend I expected the park to be busy. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all. Parking areas were usually packed, but it’s not impossible to find a spot. Popular sites were busy, but nothing crazy.
Some areas do experience slow downs and congestion, so just be aware and enjoy the ride. People also slow down and stop for wildlife viewings, so also be aware and expect that during the normal season.
We had some slow downs, but nothing that ruined our trip or took away too much time. We truly enjoyed just being in the park.
- Be prepared to drive. A lot.
Yellowstone is HUGE. I thought I understood that until we got there. For example, to get from the west entrance to Bridge Bay campground took about an hour. To get to the North entrance from Bridge Bay (with zero stops) would take you about an hour.
There’s lots of driving but also plenty of places to stop, get out, look around, and enjoy the scenery! There’s always something to look at.
- There are a few gas stations, stores, a medical clinic, and hotels within the park.
For some reason, it gave me comfort to know that there was access to groceries, gas, car repairs, and medical treatment within the park if we needed it. However, they are only open during the regular season (late May through Labor Day) so plan accordingly.
- Roads may close and open at any time.
During our visit, the main road from Canyon Village to Tower Roosevelt was closed. At one point they also had a section of another road closed, but then reopened the next day while a different section of another road closed. Check before you go and check with the people at the gates to get updates. You can also subscribe to text updates about the park which was pretty helpful.
- If you want premier wildlife viewing, wake up early and head to Lamar Valley.
Jonny and I are NOT morning people lol so we didn’t do this. Maybe next trip! My brother visited the month before us and got to see wolves in Lamar Valley at 7am. If you’re not a morning person, don’t worry. You’ll still see plenty of wildlife like bison, elk, swans, coyotes, and possibly bears.
Speaking of bears, you are 100000% in bear country so be sure to keep your food and anything with a scent in your locked car or in a bear safe container. You don’t want a bear to visit your campsite!
Wrapping It Up
Camping in Yellowstone was awesome. It kept us smiling and in awe the whole two days we were there and I look forward to going back someday!
I hope these tips help and if you’re planning a trip I hope you have the best time! It’s really got something for everyone. Hiking, sightseeing, wild life, food, outdoors, swimming, fishing, you name it!
Have questions? Drop them below and I’d be happy to help!