Where to Backcountry Camp in Yellowstone National Park
There are 2.2 million acres to be seen in Yellowstone National Park — which is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined! So that means there’s more to discover beyond Old Faithful, Mammoth and the North Geyser Basin. Find some solitude away with one of these three off-the-beaten-path backcountry camping trips in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Lake Area
Dozens of backcountry campsites dot Yellowstone Lake’s 110 miles of shoreline; it’s one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes at above 7,000 feet elevation. Most sites have space for up to 12 people, and many of them are accessible only by boat. There are two hiking trails near the lake, so you can walk to some of the sites: the Thorofare Trail along the east, and the southern Trail Creek Trail. From Grant Village, it’s eight leisurely miles along shoreline to the nearest campsite. There are several backcountry sites even closer to the Sedge Bay dock (the closest is 3.8 miles). This is a good place to spot native wildlife like grizzly bears and moose.
Canyon Village Area
Atop the Solfatara Plateau, with an average elevation of 8,000 feet, sit Cascade, Grebe, Wolf and Ice lakes. Between the four lakes, which are scattered between three different trailheads, there are a dozen campsites. If you can grunt the three miles and 1,400 vertical feet to the top of Observation Peak, 4P1 — right on the summit — offers superb views of three states. Site 4D3, on the shore of Ice Lake, is designed specifically for campers with special needs. Only a half-mile from the trailhead, it can be reached by wheelchair (with assistance) and has an accessible pit toilet.
Yellowstone River/Hellroaring Creek Area
In an area that sees average annual snowfall in the hundreds of inches, summer hiking trails and campsites aren’t always snow-free as early as you would like. But Hellroaring Creek is one of the first areas in the park to dry out (usually by mid-May). Not all of the area’s 25 campsites will be camper-ready by then, but enough sites will be open to keep you busy for more nights than you have vacation days. Every campsite in this area comes with a waterfront view of either the Yellowstone River or the smaller Hellroaring Creek. If you’ve ever dreamed of fishing from your tent, here’s your chance.
Information for Required Permit
A backcountry use permit is required, and it’s free unless a reservation is made; then the cost is $20. Reservations in Yellowstone are accepted after April 1 of each year, in person or by mail. Once the money and request are received, you’ll be sent a confirmation notice with instructions for picking up your permit. The National Parks Service offers an excellent backcountry trip planner to help you get started — that’s where you find the request form in PDF format.
Ready to get out there and camp in Wyoming’s magnificent backcountry? Check out our full list of campsites in Wyoming.