Yellowstone National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Bustling with over two million acres of gorgeous waterfalls, bursting geysers, and enchanting hot springs, Yellowstone National Park captures the majesty and wonder of America’s great outdoors. Famous for being the world’s first national park, it is so vast it sprawls across three states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Yellowstone is the ultimate RV adventure since it is home to some of the most famous natural wonders like Old Faithful, a spectacular geyser that explodes every hour, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a colorful canyon that towers above the Yellowstone River.

You will be in store for a world of limitless adventure during your RV trip to Yellowstone, from hiking and horseback riding to snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. You can boat or fish in the largest lake in the park, Lake Yellowstone. There is no shortage of great spots for photography and wildlife viewing like Artist’s Point or Lamar Valley. You can even walk amongst magical hot springs and geysers that delight with color at Mammoth Hot Springs or the Norris Geyser Basin. You will want to bring your binoculars because you will be greeted by roaming wildlife from bison and bears to elk and moose.

The summer is the peak season for RVers and other visitors since the temperature typically reaches a pleasant 70 to 80 degrees. The late spring and early fall are a nice time of year to visit too, with mild temperatures and less crowded roads. In the colder months, Yellowstone National Park turns into a winter wonderland. While heavy snowfall closes most roads, there are still many ways to explore this breathtaking setting in the winter from snowcoach tours to snowshoeing. No matter what time of year you take your RV road trip to Yellowstone, you will be in for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you will never forget.

Park Alerts (1)

[Caution] Most park roads close to automobiles for the season [+ Info]

Most park roads closed to automobiles November 4 and will begin reopening April 17, 2020. The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through the park to Cooke City, Montana is open year-round.

RV Rentals in Yellowstone National Park

Transportation in Yellowstone National Park

Driving

You can access Yellowstone through five entrances, which are all doable for RVs. However, the east and northeast entrances are the most mountainous routes and might be difficult with some RVs due to the Bighorn and Beartooth Mountains. From November to April, driving in Yellowstone is difficult or impossible since many roads are closed due to harsh winter conditions. Most of the roads are suited for RVs inside Yellowstone, although some, such as the route from Tower Falls and Canyon, may be difficult for large vehicles due to winding and narrow road conditions. The maximum length of RVs allowed on these roads is 75 feet.

Parking

You can park your RV or vehicle at campgrounds and parking lots by the park’s visitor centers and major attractions, such as Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, or Grand Prismatic Spring. Parking may be more limited for RVs during the peak season in the summer. In the winter, you may have to find parking outside of the park as many of the roads inside the park are closed.

Public Transport

Although public transportation is not offered inside the park, it is possible to get bus service to the nearby towns of West Yellowstone, MT, Gardiner, MT, and Jackson, WY. Once inside the park, alternate ways to get around include biking, horseback riding, and on foot. There are a number of private companies that offer tour and shuttle services in the park. During the winter, you can even hire a private company to take a snowcoach tour.

Campgrounds and parking in Yellowstone National Park

Campsites in Yellowstone National Park

Reservations camping

Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA

Home to one of the most popular entry points into Yellowstone, West Yellowstone, Montana is also one of the most popular locations to set up your base camp when visiting the region. Yellowstone Park/West Gate KOA is nestled among high pines that provide shade and keep you surrounded with 360-degree views of the Rockies. Just six miles from the campground is the West Gate of Yellowstone National Park where you can take in some of the best natural landscapes America has to offer. Other local activities include classic car shows, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and reenactments of the 1830s Mountain Man Rendezvous.

There is no shortage of amenities at the campground either. Soak in the indoor pool or rent a bike for a sunset ride to remember. Breakfast and dinner, including ‘Almost Famous’ ribs, are served daily during the summer months. RV sites vary, with most offering full hookups, cable TV, and Wi-Fi. Fifty-amp max electric service, along with large max pull-through sites of 90 feet, make this location perfect for even the largest of rigs and travel trailers. The campground conveniently keeps propane and firewood on-site for purchase or you can pick up some last-minute snacks at the snack bar.

Red Lodge KOA

The award-winning Red Lodge KOA campground is situated near the mouth of the Beartooth Highway, which Charles Kuralt recognized as "the most beautiful drive in America." Golf, trout fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and river rafting are also available nearby. Guests can rent banana bikes and fun cycles or arrange tours on-site. The family-friendly campground also features restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, a heated pool, fishing, sports and recreation, a snack bar, a pavilion, a dumpster and dump station, planned activities, and all-you-can-eat Sunday pancake breakfasts.

Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA

When it comes to majestic views and amazing vacations, you cannot find much that compares to a visit to Yellowstone Park. Stay at Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA and you will be just 7.5 miles from one of the most gorgeous national parks in the United States. After days packed with Yellowstone adventures, return to Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA and enjoy amenities like Wi-Fi, cable TV, fishing, a snack bar, a tour shuttle, and more. Scenic campsites can accommodate rigs up to 110 feet long and offer hookups with 50-amp service.

Canyon

Open from May to September, Canyon Campground offers 273 sites open to tents and RVs or trailers up to 40 feet long. This campground features back-in and pull-through sites, restrooms, pay showers, laundry facilities, a camp store, and restaurants on site. Canyon is a popular campground since it is located just a mile from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There are also several hiking trails nearby including Canyon Rim, Mount Washburn, and Cascade Lake.

Bridge Bay

You can enjoy scenic lakefront views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains at Bridge Bay Campground. Amenities include a store, marina, boat rentals, picnic tables, and a dump station. Open from May to September, Bridge Bay has 432 sites for RVs and tents. This campground can accommodate RVs and trailers in pull-through and back-in sites up to 40 feet long.

Grant Village

Grant Village is open from June to September with 430 sites available for tents and RVs or trailers up to 40 feet in length. This campground is in a beautiful forest location within a few miles of West Thumb Geyser Basin. Amenities include showers, flush toilets, potable water pumps, and dishwashing stations. Plus, this campground is just a mile from a camp store and gas station.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

This is the only campground in the park that offers electric, sewer, and water hookups. Open from July to September, Fishing Bridge RV Park offers 340 sites open to RVs or trailers up to 40 feet long. These are back-in and pull-through sites with modern restrooms, laundry facilities, pay showers, a camp store, and access to the Yellowstone River. Tents are not allowed because grizzly bears are often seen here.

Madison

Madison Campground offers 278 sites for tents and RVs or trailers up to 40 feet long. Open from April to October, this campground is in a beautiful location near wildflowers and bison, close to Old Faithful and West Yellowstone. Amenities include restrooms, dishwashing stations, picnic tables, and fire grates. The Firehole and Gibbon Rivers join to form the Madison River nearby for some great fishing.

First-come first-served

Tower Fall

Open from May to September, Tower Fall Campground has 31 sites open to tents and RVs up to 30 feet in length. This campground is known for its close access to the beautiful Lamar Valley. It is also on the north side of the road to Dunraven Pass and near the Tower General Store. The popular Tower Fall is also nearby, where you can see the Tower Creek plunge 130 feet down into the Yellowstone River. Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits.

Mammoth Hot Springs

This is the only campground that is open year-round. Mammoth Hot Springs Campground offers 85 sites for tents and RVs or trailers up to 30 feet long. Five miles from Gardiner, this lovely campground is surrounded by high sagebrush steppe with fir trees and juniper for shade. You will have easy access to the landmark Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and great fishing and hiking spots. Amenities include bathrooms, picnic tables, and fire grates.

Norris

Open from May to September, Norris Campground has 111 campsites open to RVs up to 30 feet long and several sites that can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet long. Generator use is permitted from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. This campground is centrally located near the majestic Norris Geyser Basin and offers restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits. It is a popular campground because of its central location at the park.

Lewis Lake

Just eight miles from the south entrance to the park, Lewis Lake Campground is open from June to November with 85 sites that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 25 feet long. Located in a shady forest, you will be close to fishing, boating, and beautiful views of Lewis Lake. You will also have access to restrooms, picnic tables, fire pits, and food storage lockers.

Slough Creek

Slough Creek Campground is open from June to October with 16 sites open to RVs up to 30 feet long. Located in Lamar Valley, which is a grassy meadow surrounded by lush forest and mountain views. It is also secluded at the end of a two-mile dirt road. Each site has a picnic table and a fire pit with a grill. You will also have access to great fishing and hiking spots, a restroom, and potable water spigots.

Pebble Creek

Pebble Creek Campground is open from June to September, offering 27 sites for tents, some of which provide pull-through access for RVs. This is a serene, quiet campground featuring beautiful views of the Absaroka Mountains. Amenities include fire pits and picnic tables. You can also enjoy hiking at Pebble Creek Trailhead and several other trailheads nearby. If you want to fish, Soda Butte Creek is a popular spot.

Indian Creek

Open from June to September, this campground offers 70 sites that are available to RVs up to 35 feet long. This is a quiet, beautiful campground close to Mammoth Hot Springs with scenic views of the Gallatin Mountains and Electric Peak. This campground has vault toilets and potable water spigots, plus it is close to great fishing and hiking spots.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

If you prefer to stay outside of the park, there are plenty of private campgrounds in nearby towns such as West Yellowstone to the west, Jackson to the south, and Gardiner to the north. These private campgrounds and RV Parks may offer a range of modern amenities from wireless internet and cable TV to swimming pools and recreation rooms.

Backcountry Camping

If you are up for an adventure, Yellowstone offers a great opportunity to go backcountry camping. You can explore the over two million acres of rugged wilderness and stay at more than 300 backcountry campsites located around the park. Remember that many of the higher elevations have snow up until July and can be extremely cold even when it is summertime down below. Permits are required for overnight stays, at least 48 hours in advance.

Seasonal activities in Yellowstone National Park

Spring

Geocaching

Even though you cannot take things from any national park, geocaching is allowed. If you are not familiar with this fun treasure hunting activity, it involves following a GPS on your phone to the coordinates you can find on certain geocaching websites. What you will find is typically a waterproof container with a notebook and pencil inside for you to put your name and the date you found it. Sometimes there is a trinket inside like a small toy or token. You can take it and replace it with something of your own if you want, but then make sure you put it all back where you found it so others can find it too.

Scenic Flight Tour

One of the most unique ways to see the vast majesty of Yellowstone is from the sky. Since the harsh spring climate can make it a difficult time to drive an RV around Yellowstone, why not take a plane or helicopter tour? You can hire a private company to get a bird’s eye view of the jaw-dropping peaks of the Grand Tetons and the natural wonder of Yellowstone’s waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs.

Guided Hiking Tours

The spring is a great time of year to hire a private company to take a guided hiking tour due to the harsher weather conditions until the weather warms up. Whether you want to take a half-day or multi-day hike you can be led by experts while you wander by gorgeous waterfalls, geysers, lakes, rivers, and wildflower meadows. If you want to get out of your camper and into the wild during the spring, a guided hiking tour is one of the best ways to explore this breathtaking setting.

Geysers & Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park is filled with spectacular geysers and hot springs that are must-see during your RV trip. While Old Faithful is a top hit, there are loads of other stunning geysers and hot spring attractions that are great to explore during the less crowded season. The Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest hot spring in the country, is a wondrous sight filled with rainbow colors. The Norris Geyser Basin is another beautiful natural landmark where you can walk on boardwalks over rare acid geysers and geothermal hot spots.

Wildlife & Bird Watching

A spring RV getaway to Yellowstone is an incredible time for wildlife viewing, when bears come out of hibernation and snow melts into blooming wildflower meadows. If you get your binoculars out of the trailer you can spot moose, pronghorns, bison, and wolves in Lamar Valley or elk at Mammoth Hot Springs. The spring is also a great time to spot bird migrations from raptors to waterfowl.

Biking

If you want to explore areas of the park closed to RVs and vehicles in the spring, hop on your bike. Starting in April you can enjoy scenic cycling on open roads such as those near Mammoth Hot Springs, the east side of Sylvan Pass, and the south entrance to West Thumb. Biking to Mammoth Hot Springs would be a highlight of your trip to Yellowstone, where you will see majestic, colorful hot springs bubbling on a hill of travertine.

Summer

Rockhounding

Montana is actually known as the treasure state because 150 years ago the hills were crawling with treasure hunters looking for gold. The state is still a fantastic place for treasure hunting because you can still find some awesome gems of your own just digging through the rocks just outside Yellowstone National Park. However, be careful how you search for rocks because you are not allowed to take anything from a national park. However, you can just go a few feet away and search all you want without worry.

Fishing

Whether you are a novice or seasoned angler, Yellowstone is a top fishing destination. The summer is a perfect time of year to get your fishing gear out and bait your hook. You can catch native species such as trout, Arctic grayling, and mountain whitefish. Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone River, and Madison River are popular fishing spots. The Firehole River is a hidden gem for fishing since is flows through three of the biggest geyser basins in the world. If you are looking for a serene, quiet spot to fish, Heart Lake is a perfect location in the backcountry.

Stargazing

Your RV road trip to Yellowstone National Park offers a rare chance to see the most incredible starry night sky. You can experience the wonder of the Milky Way, star clusters, and planets above by taking advantage of the astronomy programs held during the summer. These ranger-led programs allow you to stargaze with telescopes, find constellations, and learn about the thrilling night sky above you.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding offers a one-of-a-kind way to experience the splendor of Yellowstone. You can hire a private company to take a guided horseback riding tour through wildflower meadows and enchanting forests. These guided tours can last anywhere from two hours to several days. If you are ready to get out of the camper and saddle up, Yellowstone is a prime destination to enjoy a horseback ride in one of the country’s most picturesque landscapes.

Hiking

With over two million acres of raw wilderness and 900 miles of hiking trails to explore, Yellowstone is a hiker’s haven during the summer. You can experience it all, from towering snow-capped mountains to enchanting hot springs. If you want to see some amazing lakefront views of majestic peaks and wildflower prairies, you would enjoy the five-mile Riddle Lake Trail. Another amazing adventure is the 10-mile hike along the rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone called the Seven Mile Hole Trail, where you can get a bird’s eye views of the cascading river and rugged, tree-lined canyon walls.

Aquatic Activities

The summer is the best time of year to beat the heat by getting out onto the water at Yellowstone. With beautiful rivers and lakes that abound, Yellowstone offers limitless opportunities for aquatic activities including boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Yellowstone Lake is one of the best places for fun on the water since it is the largest lake in the park. If you are up for an incredible adventure during your RV vacation to Yellowstone, you can hire a private company to take a guided rafting or paddling tour.

Fall

Climbing

There are a lot of places to climb in Yellowstone National Park. Some of the most popular are the Carcass Crag, which has 20 different routes ranging from a V3 to a V10 or the Mid-Mountain climbing spot with boulders of all shapes and sizes to climb. These range from V0 to V6, so this one is good for beginners and those with some experience. Chicken Out Ridge, Face Value, and 7-mm Hole are also good climbs, which can all be found in east Yellowstone on the glacial boulders. Whether you are an active sport climber or a newbie who is just starting out, make sure you pack your climbing gear in the camper before heading to the park.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

You will not want to miss the chance to explore the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone during your fall RV trip to the nation’s oldest national park. The canyon is a fantastic sight as the Yellowstone River rushes through the colorful jagged rocks of the canyon walls. You can take a scenic auto tour by driving along the North or South Rim. You can also explore this amazing canyon on foot at several different scenic hikes on the North and South Rim.

Old Faithful

If you want to check an item off your bucket list during your RV vacation to Yellowstone, a visit to Old Faithful is a must. As the most famous of the park’s 500 geysers, Old Faithful erupts every one to two hours, shooting as much as 8,400 gallons of water up to 185 feet in the air. The fall is a perfect time of year to see this incredible spectacle with your own eyes when the park is less crowded.

Ranger-Led Boat Tour

In the early fall you can hop out of your RV and take a ranger-led boat tour on the tranquil waters of Lake Yellowstone. On this relaxing lake cruise, you can soak in enchanting views of the Absaroka Mountains and lush pine forests. During this one-hour cruise you will learn about the natural history and wildlife of the country’s oldest national park.

Ranger-Led Walks

Offered throughout the autumn season, ranger-led walks are a perfect way to get out of the camper and learn about the incredible natural history of Yellowstone amid a picturesque backdrop. You can take a guided stroll of ancient hot springs at Mammoth Hot Springs or learn about the magical secrets of Norris Geyser Basin.

Photography

Every inch of Yellowstone National Park is filled with spectacular natural beauty to photograph, but the fall is one of the most picturesque times of year as the trees and grasses burst into color. If you pack your camera in your motorhome, there are some key spots to take unforgettable photos. Lamar Valley is a beautiful spot for autumn photos since the tall grasses turn into fields of gold. Pictures of the Lewis River will capture the authentic serenity of a flowing river, ancient evergreens, and bustling geysers.

Winter

Sledding

Pack the sled or tube in the RV before heading to Yellowstone because there are plenty of opportunities to do some sledding here. If you do not want to do solo sledding or you have some canine kids that need to play too, try dog sledding. Mushing through the snow-packed terrain of Yellowstone National Park with your four-legged friends can be even more fun than sledding down a hill on your own.

Snowcoach Tours

If you want to explore Yellowstone during the winter in the comfort of a heated vehicle you can hire a private company to take a snowcoach tour. These high-powered buses with special snow tires can take you all over Yellowstone, whether you want to see Old Faithful or explore Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. This is a great way to experience magic of winter during your RV escape to Yellowstone National Park.

Snowshoeing

Another great way to explore the serenity of nature during your winter RV trip to Yellowstone is by snowshoeing. You can snowshoe along groomed trails or the untamed backcountry. If you want to snowshoe amidst scenic views of frozen rivers and forest-lined hills, you might enjoy the eight-mile Garnet Hill Loop. If you are looking for an easy, short snowshoe hike you will love Indian Creek Loop Ski Trail near Mammoth Hot Springs. For those looking for a challenge, Avalanche Peak Trail is a strenuous trek, which features stunning panoramic views on the summit.

Ranger-Led Evening Programs

If you want to learn about the magical natural wonders and cultural history of Yellowstone, you can attend one of the park’s ranger-led evening programs. Regularly scheduled during the winter, you can hear exciting tales of adventure and fascinating facts about Yellowstone from the experts. You can park your trailer and head to the Yellowstone Forever building or the visitor center at Old Faithful to get the inside scoop from the rangers.

Snowmobiling

One of the best modes of transportation during the winter at Yellowstone is on a snowmobile. In fact, the only way to get close to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone during the winter when the roads are closed is by snowmobile. You can bring your own machine, rent one from a private company, or take a guided tour. Once you park your camper and hit the trail, you can cruise around this winter wonderland with ease.

Cross-Country Skiing

One of the best ways to explore the winter wonderland at Yellowstone is to grab your skis out of your camper. Whether you want to head out on your own or hire a private company for a guided tour, cross-country skiing allows you to glide across freshly fallen snow amidst frozen lakes and snow-capped mountains. Popular trails include the Roller Coaster Ski Trails, Fern Cascades Trail, and Yellowstone Canyon Rim Trail. You are welcome to ski along groomed trails and unplowed roads and trails in the backcountry.

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