Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the united states. Despite the pandemic, last year was the busiest year in Yellowstone's recent history. In 2021, the park managed to attract nearly 4.9 million visitors, a 28% increase compared to the year before.
With such an influx of people, you might be wondering if boondocking is allowed in Yellowstone. The answer is yes! You can go dispersed camping in Yellowstone National Park, as long as you follow the park's rules and regulations.
Can You Boondock in Yellowstone?
Boondocking is allowed in Yellowstone, however, there are a few things you need to know before you head out. First, boondocking is only allowed in certain areas of the park. Second, you must follow all of the park's rules and regulations. Third, you're only permitted to camp in tents. If you were thinking about RV boondocking in Yellowstone, think again.
There are over 300 designated campsites in the park. The campsites are usually used as single-use sites, meaning, they're intended for a single party of campers. Since these are single-use sites, they typically fill up quickly. The best way to ensure you get a campsite is to make a reservation in advance.
The time you can spend on a campsite is usually limited to 3 days. After that, you must move to a new location. Of course, the campsites are not completely free. In order to camp on one of these sites, you need to obtain a “backcountry camping permit.” The permit will cost you around $25 and will cover the entire length of the time you're roaming through the backcountry.
What is Dispersed Camping in Yellowstone National Park?
Dispersed camping is when you camp outside of established campgrounds. When dispersed camping in Yellowstone, you're not allowed to camp within 100 feet of any road, trail, or water source. You're also not allowed to camp in the meadows or thermal areas.
Does Yellowstone Allow Motor Vehicles at Their Campsites?
No, you are not allowed to drive motor vehicles into the campsites. All of the campsites require you not only to hike in but also to carry your gear with you. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule:
- Some campsites are situated along the banks of rivers and may be approached by canoes and rafts
- Other campsites can be reached on pack mules and horseback
- If you're disabled and have a disability permit, you may be able to drive to certain campsites
Other than that, motorized vehicles are off-limits. If you want to boondock in your car, van, or most obviously RV, you'll be restricted to developed campgrounds.
Boondocking Near Yellowstone
When boondocking near Yellowstone, you need to be aware of the park's rules and regulations. You're not allowed to camp within 100 feet of any road, trail, or water source. Camping in the meadows or thermal areas is also prohibited by the Yellowstone officials.
The best way to find a dispersed camping spot is to hike or bike off the beaten path. Once you find a spot you like, make sure you're not disturbing any sensitive areas, such as meadows or thermal features. You should also camp at least 200 feet away from any water source.
When dispersed camping near Yellowstone, it's important to be aware of the wildlife. Bears, wolves, and other predators are known to roam the area. Make sure you take all necessary precautions, such as hanging your food and keeping your campsite clean.
History of the Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. It was the first national park in the United States and is also one of the largest national parks in the world. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and bison.
The park is also home to a number of geothermal features, such as geysers and hot springs. In fact, Yellowstone is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Despite its size, Yellowstone National Park only has a few developed campgrounds. The rest of the park is designated as backcountry, which means you can only camp in certain areas.
How to Get to the Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwestern United States. The closest major city is Cody, Wyoming.
The best way to get to Yellowstone is by car. There are a few different routes you can take, depending on where you're coming from.
If you're coming from the east, the best route is through South Dakota. If you're coming from the west, the best route is through Montana.
Backcountry Permits for Yellowstone Boondocking
Permits are required all year long for all overnight stays in the backcountry. You can obtain a permit by visiting one of the visitor centers or ranger stations. Of course, you can also apply for a permit online.
- Winter Season Permit: The winter season lasts from the start of December until the end of March. You can visit the Winter Backcountry Camping page for more details on obtaining a winter season permit.
- Spring Season Permit: Starts on April 1st and ends on May 14th. You need to obtain this permit at least three days before your trip. If you want to obtain a spring season permit, feel free to email Yellowstone park.
- Peak Season Permit: During the peak season – which lasts from May 15th to November 5th – permits are available online in the advanced period and in-person during the walk period. You can obtain this permit two days before the trip.
Closing Thoughts Boondocking in Yellowstone
There you have it! Everything you need to know about boondocking in Yellowstone National Park. If you're looking for more information on dispersed camping in Yellowstone National Park, feel free to check out the following resources:
- The National Park Service's Backcountry Situation Report
- The Yellowstone National Park's Backcountry Regulations
- The Yellowstone Association's Backcountry Campsite Map
These are just a few of the many great resources available for those interested in dispersed camping in Yellowstone. With a little planning and preparation, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.