Many will argue that it doesn't get any better than camping in a national park. In Yellowstone, your choices are great, with a dozen campgrounds and hundreds of backcountry sites. Yellowstone has a dozen campgrounds, but reservations are accepted for just five campgrounds:
This is a sprawling campground set in a lodgepole forest at the intersection of the West Entrance road and the Grand Loop, one that feels like a small community with nearly 300 campsites. Set beneath National Park Mountain (7,500') and near the confluence of the Gibbon and the Firehole rivers, which then form the Madison River, this campground has some history, as the national park "creation myth" has it that America's national park movement was spawned in the early fall of 1870 during talk around a campfire near the confluence.
Once upon a time there was a large campground here at Fishing Bridge, but its setting in habitat preferred by grizzly bears made it a bit too dangerous for tent campers. While they were moved in the 1980s, the RV campground -- hard-shelled rigs only, thank you -- remained, with 346 sites where you can plug in to electricity and water and avail yourself of showers and laundry facilities and a dump station.
Set across from Yellowstone Lake, this is a great location for anglers and boaters. There are more than 400 campsites here, some that can handle RVs. Flush toilets and a dump station also can be found at this site, as well as a boat launch.
The nearly 300 campsites here, some for RVs, are set in a nice lodgepole forest. Though perhaps exhibiting a crowded feel at the height of summer, you're a short walk from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Showers and laundry are available, and Canyon Lodge with its restaurants and stores are nearby.
This is where the campsites removed from Fishing Bridge showed up. This location is slightly better than Bridge Bay if you like boating, as it's on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Along with the campground, you'll find a restaurant, grocery, visitor center, post office, gas station, showers, and laundry here.
The other seven -- Mammoth, Norris, Tower Fall, Slough Creek, Pebble Creek, Indian Creek and Lewis Lake -- run on a first-come, first-served basis.
* Mammoth, which offers 85 campsites, is the only campground open year-round. It's next to park headquarters, just inside the park's North Entrance. Benefits of being here are the restaurants and stores at Mammoth. Most sites are pull-through.
* Norris has about 100 sites set near the hottest and most colorful thermal basin in the park. The campground offers flush toilets and allows RVs with generators. The Museum of the National Park Ranger is nearby. Some sites can accommodate RVS up to 50 feet.
* Tower Fall has only 31 sites, but it is close to Roosevelt Lodge with its restaurant and service station, and there's a camp store across the road from the campground. It has some sites that can handle RVs up to 30'.
* Slough Creek is the park's smallest campground, with just 28 sites, but its location near wolf territories in the northeast corner of the park makes it much in demand. It can handle RVs up to 30'.
* Pebble Creek has about 30 sites, some that can handle RVs. East of Slough Creek in the Lamar Valley, this campground also offers the chance of hearing wolves howl, or even spotting them early in the morning or in the evenings.
* Indian Creek is a moderately sized campground, with 75 sites, a bit south of Mammoth and across from Sheepeater Cliff. It has vault toilets. Some sites can handle RVs up to 40' in lenght.
* Lewis Lake is on the southern shores of its namesake lake, not far from the park's South Entrance. There are 85 sites here, some that can accommodate RVs up to 25'. There's also a boat launch, but no camp store.
To check availability in the five where reservations are accepted, you can call 307-344-7311 for same-day reservations, or 866-439-7375 for future dates.
Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight stays. Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night.
The maximum stay per campsite varies from 1 to 3 nights per trip. Campfires are permitted only in established fire pits. Wood fires are not allowed in some backcountry campsites. A food storage pole is provided at most designated campsites so that food and attractants may be secured from bears.
For details on arranging a backcountry trip, reserving campsites, and obtaining the requisite permits, visit the park's backcountry page.