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Taking a road trip to to Wyoming and finding the perfect campsite in Yellowstone National Park sounds like an ideal way to experience the beauty our state has to offer. But finding a place to camp in Wyoming’s most popular destinations, like Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, can be difficult if you don’t plan ahead.

Road trips are the ultimate impromptu adventure, but sometimes last-minute decisions can be a source of stress. If you aren’t able to book a campsite before hitting the open road, be prepared to discover the lesser-known parts of Wyoming near national parks. While many campgrounds require reservations,  you’ll still be able to find a place to pitch your tent (or hook up your RV) if you are open to staying a bit farther outside of the parks.

The importance of booking early

This year, for the first time, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are moving away from first-come-first-served campsites. All campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park are now be on a reservation system. Only a few campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park remain first-come-first-served, but you’ll need to arrive early to secure a spot. Learn more about camping in Grand Teton and camping in Yellowstone

So where does this toss-up leave you? While you may not be able to camp in the national parks without a reservation, you’ll have plenty of options for last-minute camping in state parks, national forests and nearby towns.

A note about dispersed camping

In most national forests, visitors can “dispersed camp”, which is staying outside of a developed campground without access to facilities, including toilets and trash services. If you’re self-sufficient and need a last-minute site, dispersed camping greatly increases your options.

Each national forest website (such as Bridger-Teton, Shoshone, and Caribou-Targhee) lists areas with pre-established dispersed sites. If you do choose to camp off these forest roads, please respect your surroundings, pack out your trash, and leave the wilderness as pristine as you found it.

Camping near Yellowstone National Park

Buffalo Bill State Park

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Only an hour from Yellowstone Lake, Buffalo Bill State Park is a worthwhile camping destination for travelers looking for both tent and RV sites. This serene state park lies along the edge of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, where you can swim, fish, or boat to your heart’s delight. Each night, sunsets cast pink and orange hues across the wide-open landscape.

While this state park also uses a reservation system for their campgrounds,  they are often less busy than Yellowstone. Plus, you can call the park at 1-877-996-7275 to snag your spot before you make the drive. This campground has all the amenities of national park sites, such as showers and running water.

National Forest Campgrounds

Campgrounds are sprinkled through national forests surrounding Yellowstone National Park. However, be prepared to rough it: these campgrounds are often more primitive than national and state park sites. Most do not offer RV hookups. Check the campground’s website for information about potable water and restrooms. And remember, even dispersed campsites in national forests can become full; you might still need to seek other options if no campsites are available.

We’ve rounded up a few options near park entrances, but this list is not comprehensive. Dozens of other campgrounds exist if you browse the Shoshone National Forest website.

East Entrance: Shoshone National Forest

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Photo Credit: @brooke_being

As you drive Highway 14 east out of Yellowstone National Park, you enter Shoshone National Forest. Numerous campgrounds line the road tucked in along the Shoshone River. Here are a few options:

Eagle Creek Campground: first-come, first-served, only hard-sided campers (no tents or pop-ups)

Elk Fork Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents (no water)

Northeast Entrance: Shoshone National Forest

The Northeast entrance is the closest to the Lamar Valley. Once you’re finished looking for wolves, drive east on Highway 212 to find some fantastic campsites, including:

Crazy Creek Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents (no water)

Beartooth Lake Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Island Lake Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Wapiti and Cody

Sitting less than an hour outside of the East Entrance to Yellowstone, Cody has everything travelers needs for an enjoyable stay. This small city has plenty to offer — from tours of the Old West to nightly rodeos. Whether you’re looking for comfortable amenities or primitive campgrounds, you can find a spot nearby:

Wapiti Campground: reservation-based, open to RVs and tents

Ponderosa Campground: reservation-based (call for 307-587-9203 day-of availability), open to RVs and tents, Wifi, showers, and convenience store

Camping near Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is surrounded by public lands and historic towns with Western charm. We’ve broken down your camping options by town and region, listing a few options for each place. Be sure to check the campground amenities before you go to make sure they suit your needs — some national forest sites are very basic.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

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A large section of the Bridger-Teton National Forest lies directly east of the national park and offers a multitude of camping options for adventurous travelers. While some campgrounds require long drives on rough dirt roads, you’ll find some spectacular sites to rest your head for the night. Keep in mind while RVs can access many forest service areas, most primitive sites do not have hookups. All of the sites in this region are first-come-first-served, including:

Turpin Meadows Campground: open to RVs and tents

Pacific Creek Campground: open to tents with one small RV site

Hatchet Campground: open to tents with one small RV site

Alpine

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Photo Credit: @dalefuego_photography

Located less than an hour outside of Grand Teton National Park, the small town of Alpine is a great basecamp to find last-minute camping. You’ll have access to a few restaurants and bars, a grocery store, a handful of gas stations, and vast expanses of forest lands. Some of our favorites in the area are:

Wolf Creek Campground: first-come-first-served (rarely fills up), open to RVs and tents

Greys River RV Park: reservation-based (call ), open to RVs and tents, amenities include laundry, showers, and on-site saloon

Murphy Creek Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Afton

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Afton is a charming town located an hour and a half south of Grand Teton National Park. As you enter town, you’ll drive under a large arch made entirely out of elk antlers. Public lands surround Afton, so you can find plenty of places to camp in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Or, enjoy the comforts of one of the town’s many RV parks.

Allred Flat Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Forest Park Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Kodiak Mountain Resort: reservation-based, RVs and cabins, Wifi and laundry facilities

Dubois

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Photo Credit: @jakeysforkwyoming

Part of the fun of searching for last-minute campsites is experiencing the small towns surrounding our national parks. And Dubois, an hour east of Grand Teton, does not disappoint. This unspoiled Western town, with country charm and modern amenities, sits in the Wind River Valley. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at fly fishing, this is one of the best places to do it. This town has so much to offer, you may find you booking your next vacation to Dubois instead of Grand Teton.

Pinnacles Campground: first-come-first-served, open to RVs and tents

Solitude RV Park: reservation-based (call 307 455 3189), RV only, Wifi available

Jackson

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Photo Credit: @j.plack

Jackson sits right outside of Grand Teton National Park, and for that reason, campgrounds in this area fill up more quickly than the other regions listed above. However, if you’re visiting during the shoulder season or mid-week, you may be able to find last-minute campsites.

Curtis Canyon Campground: first-come-first-served, open to small RVs and tents

Granite Creek Campground: first-come-first-served, open to small RVs and tents

Even if you’re a last-minute kind of traveler, you can still find beautiful campsites surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Often, these lesser-known campgrounds in Wyoming’s more quiet towns offer solitude that you won’t find in the parks. So, pack your car and prepare to enjoy the pristine wild landscapes and mountain towns of Wyoming.

Campsite in a meadow
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