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Dailey Lake sits about two-thirds of the way between Livingston and Gardiner – the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The Dailey Lake Campground is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to camping near the park. The campground is set up for dry camping, so don’t expect any hookups for your rental RV while you’re here. The only amenities Dailey Lake has to offer are some fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets – you must carry your own drinking water or filter it from the lake. Feel free to bring your four-legged friend, though, as this is one of the pet-friendly campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park.
You won’t need to worry about traffic when you’re camping at Dailey Lake; the campground is about 20 minutes' drive from Highway 89, so noise won’t be a problem. What you will get is an uncrowded lake with ample stocks of rainbow trout and walleye (be sure to get a state license if you’re going to fish for them though). While it might feel somewhat isolating to stay at such a rustic campground far from the highway and urban amenities, your doubts will evaporate as night falls, and you see the stars with perfect clarity.
Given its proximity, you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time in Yellowstone National Park when you get a rental motorhome near Dailey Lake Campground. Mammoth Hot Springs is only a short drive inside the park and is one of its most impressive geological features. The terraced hill spews superheated mineral water throughout the year (it’s particularly enchanting in the winter months), leaving behind vibrantly colored deposits that make it look like something from an alien planet. From there, you can head south to the geyser basin, home of Old Faithful, or east to Cooke City; both drives are sure to be filled with bison and elk spotting opportunities. Hiking opportunities abound in the park, so be sure to pick up a trail map from the visitors center near the park entrance; the rangers can help you plan a trip that’s suitable for your fitness and outdoor experience.
Thrillseekers should book a day of whitewater rafting with one of the companies in Gardiner. All of them run trips on the Yellowstone River, through Yankee Jim Canyon, which offers Class III, IV, and V rapids. While that might sound too intense for beginner paddlers, the rafting guides do an excellent job at keeping everyone safe; just be sure to alert them that you’re a novice.
If you’re searching for a place to relax in the evening when you book an RV in Park County, look no further than Chico Hot Springs. It’s about forty-five minutes north of Dailey Lake and one of the most popular hot spring complexes in the state. The water is naturally heated to spa temperatures deep in the earth below Chico and diverted into pools and hot tubs at the small vacation resort. Chico’s underground aquifer is unconnected to Yellowstone’s sulfur-rich waters, so there’s no need to worry about the rotten egg smell here.
The closest town with any sort of population is Gardiner, about 45 minutes' drive from Dailey Lake. It’s quite small, but with Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs just a short drive away, it serves millions of tourists each year. There’s a small grocery store on its western end, a couple of gas stations with facilities for your RV rental, and several restaurants with patios overlooking the Yellowstone River.
Those wanting a town with a good selection of restaurants, cultural attractions, and a semblance of nightlife should travel to Livingston. Several excellent steakhouses dot its main street, and the town boasts not one but two breweries. As a former railroad town, Livingston has a couple of interesting museums devoted to its history, including the Yellowstone Gateway Museum and Livingston Depot Center. Both chronicle the town’s role in shuttling tourists from the railways to Yellowstone Park before the invention of the automobile.
If you’re up for an all-day trip from the RV campground, Bozeman is just 20 minutes' drive west of Livingston. It is arguably the most cosmopolitan community in Montana. It’s home to Montana State University along with a number of internet and biotechnology startups, which means there’s everything from dive bars to haute cuisine to choose from when you’re RV camping nearby. A visit to the Museum of the Rockies is a must whenever you’re in Bozeman; there’s a rotating list of fascinating exhibits along with an exquisite permanent dinosaur display (multiple T-rex and triceratops skeletons) and a planetarium.