In Wyoming, you can find the perfect campsite to suit your style. Whether you prefer the comfort of amenities like showers and campfire rings or the solitude of the backroads, we have plenty of destinations to explore. 

To make the most of your camping experience, you’ll need to know what to expect at each type of campground. We’ll break down the differences between developed campgrounds and dispersed camping so you’ll know what kind of adventure to expect.

Camping in Developed Campgrounds or RV Parks

dispersed camping in Wyoming
Photo Credit: @livin2getlost

If you’re the type of traveler who loves to camp but wants access to amenities, you’ll want to stay in developed campgrounds or RV parks. These campgrounds usually have bathrooms, fire rings and picnic tables to enhance your stay. Some destinations, like RV parks and Wyoming’s state parks, even have showers available.

Commercial campgrounds

Privately-run campgrounds like RV parks are great for families or big groups. They often have convenient amenities like convenience stores, showers, flush toilets and sinks, laundry facilities and even swimming pools. However, they’re usually less scenic than other options and much more pricey.

State park & national park campgrounds

Campgrounds in Wyoming’s state parks and national parks provide the perfect balance for travelers looking to get close to nature without giving up the basics. You’ll have access to simple bathrooms, trash facilities and a campground host to answer any questions. Often, you’ll have a store nearby to stock up on firewood, fuel, snacks and ice. Most state park and national park campgrounds also have potable water, but check before you go. In Wyoming, most state park and national park campgrounds require advanced reservations and fill up quickly. Be sure to book a site well before your trip.

National Forest Service & Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds

Forest Service and BLM campgrounds are comparable to national park campgrounds but usually less popular. Many sites are first-come, first-served and do not require reservations. Please note that staying at a designated campground on these lands is different from dispersed camping. You can check the land agency website for a list of campgrounds. When you click on a specific campground, you will find information on the reservation system, amenities, fees, and road accessibility. Find more information.

These campsites are often cheaper, but the amenities vary significantly between campgrounds. More remote campgrounds don’t get serviced regularly, so bring toilet paper for the pit toilets. While many Forest Service and BLM campgrounds have potable water and trash services available, you should always check ahead of time. If there is no water, be sure to bring enough with you for cooking, cleaning, fire maintenance and drinking for the duration of your trip!

Dispersed Camping

dispersed camping
Photo Credit: @vail_colorado_travelers

Dispersed camping is a style of camping where you stay outside of a designated campsite on undeveloped land. Usually, you camp along the side of Forest Service roads or on BLM land. As you drive along these roads, look for dispersed campsites scattered along the road and off of less-traveled side roads. Keep an eye out for existing campfire rings to designate sites, and use these spots instead of creating your own.

You can dispersed camp on most federally-run land, except in national parks and monuments. However, check the website of the land management agency for the destination you are visiting. Just like developed campgrounds, dispersed camping areas can fill up, especially during holiday weekends. If you’re traveling during busy times, avoid searching for a camp spot in the evening. Arrive early for the best chance to secure a spot.

Dispersed camping can be difficult because you are often trying to find a campsite based on very little information. You’ll need to use maps of the area — either printed or downloaded on a mobile device. These maps will help you determine where the public land starts and ends, as well as which roads might offer camping opportunities. Rangers can often offer insight into great places to camp, but many times, you’ll be driving a dirt road seeking out your best options. Therefore, you should allow yourself extra time to find a camp spot.

With dispersed campsites, you will need to be entirely self-sufficient. You won’t have access to bathrooms or other amenities (except in extremely popular areas.) If the region has a fire ban in effect, you won’t be able to have a campfire.

While this style of camping certainly involves more preparation and knowledge, it is rewarding. You can escape the crowds and visit less popular destinations. You may stay farther from the national parks, but you’ll experience some of the glories of our public lands that many don’t see. Plus, it’s great for the budget traveler — dispersed camping is completely free!

How to prepare for dispersed camping

If you plan to dispersed camp, you’ll need to bring a few “extras” so you’re prepared for any adventure. Stock up your car with:

  • -Enough water to drink, cook, clean, put out your campfire, and for emergencies
  • -A small trowel and toilet paper for proper disposal of human waste
  • -A foldable shovel and other safety items for an emergency car kit
  • -Extra garbage bags, as you won’t find trash services at dispersed sites
  • -A paper atlas of the area or downloaded map — cell phone service can be spotty or non-existent
  • -A stove for cooking (you may not be able to find a fire ring, or a fire ban may be in effect)

Best practices for a successful camping experience 

dispersed camping experience

No matter where you set up camp, you should follow a few best practices to enjoy your trip and protect the beautiful public lands of Wyoming. Here are a few tips for a successful camping experience:

Plan ahead

Park visitation increases every year, and with that comes filled campgrounds. Check campsite availability before you arrive at your destination. For commercial and national park reservation-based sites, you can check this information online before your trip.

However, for first-come, first-served sites, you won’t be able to check online. So, be sure to arrive early to secure a spot (particularly on weekends or holidays). Even in national forests and on BLM land, spots fill up — especially for sites near popular destinations like Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Between July 1st and Labor Day, available sites generally fill before noon!

If you’re dispersed camping, you should call the ranger station to get up-to-date information on potential sites and road conditions.

Follow campfire protocol

As fire seasons continue to ravage the Western United States, it’s essential to stay fire aware when you’re camping. Check fire restrictions for each region before you go. If you’re staying in a national park, you can ask a campground host for updated fire restrictions. During high fire danger, fires are often only allowed in established fire pits at developed campgrounds. If a fire ban is in effect, please avoid having a campfire when dispersed camping.

When you can safely have a campfire, keep your fires small and manageable. Each night before you go to bed, drown your fire completely. (You shouldn’t see any embers still burning — this takes a lot of water!) If you’re dispersed camping, be sure to bring extra water to put the fire out! Learn more about fire safety.

Bear country safety

Western Wyoming is grizzly bear country, and nearly all of the state is home to black bears. When you’re camping, you should follow protocol to keep your camp safe and free of food scents. In national parks, you’ll have access to bear storage boxes. Each night, you should put all your scented items in these boxes (including toiletries).

If you’re dispersed camping, you’ll need to take safety precautions by traveling with bear-resistant containers and coolers and using proper food storage methods. Practice proper storage by keeping food and other scented items in a vehicle, hard-sided camper, bear canister, or bear box. You need to store your food correctly whenever you leave it unattended, even if you’re going for a hike during the day.

Additionally, when you’re camping or hiking in bear territory, you should carry bear spray and know how to use it. This is especially important when you’re in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Wind River Range. This area is grizzly bear habitat. 

If you encounter wildlife like bears or wolves, stay at least 100 yards away and do not attempt to interact with the animal. (For other wildlife encounters, give the animal at least 25 yards of space.) By learning bear safety protocol and respecting their distance, you’re protecting both yourself and the wildlife that live on our public lands.

Properly disposing of human and pet waste

When you’re dispersed camping, you won’t have access to pit toilets. Therefore, you’ll need to know the Leave No Trace protocol for disposing of human waste.

In most places, you’ll need to bury all human waste. Bring a small trowel and dig a 6-8” deep cat hole in organic soil. (In more vulnerable destinations, you may need to pack out waste. Check the local policies on the Forest Service or BLM website before you visit.)

You must bury your waste at least 200 feet from any water source, trails, or campsites. If you bring toilet paper, you’ll have to either thoroughly bury it or pack it out.

If you’re traveling with the pups, be sure to pick up any pet waste and pack it out.

Stay on designated routes only

When you’re driving, stay on designated routes only. To minimize your impact, research the trail conditions before you go. Know the difference between 2WD, high-clearance, and 4×4 roads and only travel within your vehicle’s limits.

Know the stay limit

Each land management area has different stay limits for campers, but the standard maximum length is 14 days. After you’ve reached the stay limit, you must move at least five miles from your previous camping area. Learn more.

In the Jackson Ranger District, the stay limit is five days from May 1st through Labor Day due to the area’s popularity.

Camping is a great way to enjoy Wyoming’s stunning public lands. Whether you’re headed for a developed campground in Yellowstone or a dispersed site in Bighorn National Forest, follow these simple principles to maximize your trip!

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