Yellowstone National Park offers 12 campgrounds for visitors who want to experience the park up close and personal, and that includes the wild animals.
What can be more thrilling than to have elk or antelope walk purposely through your campsite en route to another feeding ground! Yet that is a common occurrence at campgrounds within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
Campgrounds with more than 2,000 sites are scattered throughout the park. Seven are operated by the National Park Service while the others are operated by park concessionaire Xanterra Parks and Resorts. All campgrounds have sites that are accessible for disabled campers.
Park service, Xanterra operate the campgrounds
The parks service operates campgrounds at Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Tower Fall, Slough Creek, Pebble Creek, Indian Creek and Lewis Lake. All the sites are available on a first-come first-serve basis, and sites go quickly during the busy summer months.
Xanterra accepts reservations for the campgrounds it operates at Madison, Canyon Village, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village and Bridge Bay. It also has some spots available for those who just show up. Xanterra charges more for sites which are reserved in advance. On a recent trip to Yellowstone our reservations cost us $1 per night more than if we’d just shown up.
Staying at different campgrounds
Campers may want to consider staying at more than one campground while they’re visiting the park. This gives you time to thoroughly explore one area before moving on to another area of the park.
On our recent trip, we stayed at Mammoth Hot Springs for three nights where we toured the north end of the park, then moved down to Madison for another three nights. Madison was more centrally located to the south half of the park as well as West Yellowstone, Montana. It also is the closest campground to Old Faithful.
We much preferred Mammoth because it offered more privacy, with large sagebrush plants dividing each campsite and serving as a noise barrier. We also enjoyed the elk which came trooping through the campground on a nightly basis.
At Madison, recreational vehicles were almost bumper to bumper, though there was a median of trees and bare ground between the rows of vehicles. Still, you could hear what people were saying across the way.
Madison did have nicer bathrooms than Mammoth. Both restrooms had flush toilets with running water and both were lit up at night. Madison restrooms have a temperature-activated heater which made it nice on cold nights and early mornings. Madison also offered a special sink facility where tent campers could do their dishes.
The Xanterra campgrounds at Canyon and Grant Village also have showers and a laundry for overnight guests. All the campgrounds they operate also have dump stations for recreational vehicles.
Length of stay
Campers are limited to 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day, the park’s peak season for tourists. The rest of the year, campers can stay for 30 days; there is no limit on length of stay at Fishing Bridge.