Slough Creek Campground

Best Campgrounds in Yellowstone for Tent Camping

by Kaisa
tent camper's guide to yellowstone national park

Once upon a time, I sat at my laptop feverishly over-planning my upcoming camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. Having never been there, I was searching for answers about the best campground for tent camping in Yellowstone.

Surprisingly, I found useful information a bit sparse. Every campground guide seemed to repeat the same basic stats you can find on the NPS site: how many sites, what kind of toilets, etc. but not much about the nitty-gritty details, the quality of each campground’s tent camping, or the vibe of each campground. As difficult and subjective as it is to rank National Park campgrounds, which are all gems in their own ways, I was looking for some kind of, well, ranking. I wanted someone who knew their stuff, who had been to every dang campground in Yellowstone National Park, to give me the honest-to-goodness scoop.

So began my quest to find the best campground for tent camping in Yellowstone National Park.

To figure out just which campground we’d aim for, I read the NPS site, message boards, Tripadvisor reviews, r/yellowstone, Facebook groups, and more. I went down a rabbit hole deeper than the Yellowstone super volcano. Were there campgrounds in central locations for seeing the rest of the park, without being surrounded by hundreds of humming RV generators? Is there such a thing as a beautiful, quiet, non-backcountry tent site in Yellowstone? If so, how the heck do I get one, seeing as they all seemed to fill up at the crack of dawn?

Yellowstone is a popular place; I knew the biggest hurdle would be getting a first-come first-served campsite. For weeks leading up to the camping trip, I would check the NPS’s daily campground fill time spreadsheet in an attempt to determine how early we’d need to arrive (by this point I’d ruled out the campgrounds you can make reservations at, for reasons I’ll go into later in the post). This obviously complicates matters, as even the best-laid plans could fall apart simply because I arrived 15 minutes too late!

Spoiler alert: it turned out fine. The best tent camping in Yellowstone is most tent camping in Yellowstone.

We didn’t get there in time to get a spot at our first choice (Slough Creek), but the campground we ended up at (Tower Fall) was absolutely perfect in a lot of ways. After visiting all but one of Yellowstone’s 12 campgrounds, I genuinely think it’d be hard to go wrong here. I promise.

That’s why I will use the word “best”, but I will absolutely not use the word “worst”.

Yes, there are the annoyingly massive, 400-something site hubs… but even there, you can find charming walk-in tent spots tucked away in the trees.

Psst! Check out my 4 Day Yellowstone Itinerary here!

Disclaimers: 1) I did not visit Lewis Lake campground. I’ll still write a little bit about it here, since I did a solid amount of research outside of my own picky-park-ranger-high standards. We had to be back up to our campsite on the Northeast end of the park by sunset, and Lewis Lake is far South of the main road. 2)  I am not going to go into Fishing Bridge, because that campground doesn’t allow tents at all. THANKS, GRIZZLY BEARS. 3) I’m also not going into backcountry camping in Yellowstone, as this post focuses on campgrounds specifically, but I’m sure it’s super rad. Here is a good resource on backcountry camping.


How does one determine the best tent camping in Yellowstone?

I realize “best” is a tricky word, because it means different things for different people, but the general vibe of a Yellowstone National Park (or any National Park) campground tends to fit the needs of tent campers when it has the following credentials:

  • Small, quiet campground
  • Hiking trails from campground
  • Good chance of wildlife sightings
  • Surrounding scenic beauty
  • Quality/attractiveness of individual sites
  • Remote or far from main park road (ideally without sacrificing convenience to highlights such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lamar Valley, etc.)
  • Fewer RVs/camper trailers
  • Educational Ranger campfire talks
  • Proximity to a camp store for firewood, supplies, etc.
  • Highly rated/reviewed (on Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor, etc. etc.)

Some of these you can get an idea of from online research, while some are far less quantifiable and require seeing for yourself. Well, I did both.

And the winners are…

Getting right to the point, here is my incredibly subjective list that I will absolutely elaborate on below. If you just came to this post for a brief, cursory ranking, well, here it is! If you want to read further, I’ve written a bit to a lot on each campground below:

  1. Slough Creek
  2. Tower Fall
  3. Pebble Creek
  4. Indian Creek
  5. Canyon
  6. Norris
  7. Lewis Lake
  8. Madison
  9. Grant Village
  10. Mammoth
  11. Bridge Bay

Slough Creek

Recommended sites: Pretty much any of them, though 23 and 24 are particularly nice, private, and next to the creek

An absolute darling of the Yellowstone tent camper scene, Slough Creek really is something special. It was our first choice campground going into the Yellowstone trip, but alas, every one of its 16 sites were totally full by 8 AM in mid-June. It had been totally full for a while, the campground hosts said. In fact, people had lined up the night before, presumably sleeping in their cars…? The campground is rad, but dang, I’d take our cozy B&B in Cooke City over a night in the truck (pro-tip: stay in one of the cute little mountain towns bordering Yellowstone to get a site as early as possible in the morning)!

Best Tent Camping in Yellowstone, Slough Creek Campground
Stunning site by Slough Creek, in the Slough Creek Campground

As you can see, the campground is spread out in a valley abutting Slough Creek, which I imagine makes for a very soothing babbling brook soundtrack. Technically “slough” (pronounced “sloo”) means swamp, but it wasn’t particularly swampy, despite the rain. It was just slightly muddy in the parking areas. There are lovely views of the mountains all around, with a decent amount of tree cover—but not so much you feel you’re in a forest. A lot of these little details will really depend on your taste, if they’re good or bad things. I personally prefer generous tree cover when I’m camping; I’d pop my tent in a juniper bush if I could.

The sites at Slough Creek campground are pretty spread out, but I got the sense its small campground size still allowed for a nice community feeling if you so choose. Despite that small size, I wouldn’t call Slough Creek “cozy” as much as it is “rugged”, in a wide open spaces way. I definitely felt like Grizzly Bears were perched on the surrounding mountains, leering down at the whole campground, deciding who to eat for dinner.

Big caveat: you have to drive 2.3 miles down a dirt road to get here. This took about 15 minutes without stopping. Luckily, the whole area is just spectacular for wildlife viewing, especially bears and wolves; Slough Creek is just off the famous Lamar Valley. You’ll likely see some wildlife on the road to the campground. That’s part of why Slough Creek is the campground of choice for all those wolf watchers who line up along the park road with spotting scopes. Some years the wolves den quite close to the campground and you can hear them howling. I KNOW, DUDE. I KNOW. We saw a golden eagle nest along the road on the way to the campground, and a black bear literally across the creek from the campground. I don’t think I’d camp here without bear spray… especially if I’m venturing out onto the Slough Creek Trail, which leaves from the campground.

Black bear in Slough Creek Campground
Taking stalker shots of lazy black bears near Slough Creek Campground.

There aren’t Ranger Programs at Slough Creek Campground, and it’s rather inconvenient for exploring the rest of Yellowstone (getting to the main North Loop took almost half an hour, and from there you’re still over an hour from a lot of Yellowstone’s main attractions). It is in the far Northeast corner of the park.

Like I mentioned, try staying in Cooke City or even a nearby campground like Pebble Creek or Tower Fall the night before so you can get there early. Slough Creek is infamously difficult to get a spot at. I doubt sleeping in your car is typically allowed, and have a feeling people only got away with it when we were there because it was the first day the campground was open for the season.

Slough Creek Campground
A picture-perfect campsite!
Slough Creek Yellowstone National Park
Pretty little pond on the dirt road to Slough Creek campground

If you want a gorgeous, isolated, small campground with great odds of wildlife sightings (and hearing wolves howl), Slough Creek Campground is your best bet. This is especially true if you plan on sticking to the North end of the park or Lamar Valley for much of your trip. You’ll sacrifice some convenience for the experience, but us tent campers always find adventure off the beaten path! I’m glad I didn’t stay here for my first Yellowstone trip, when I was determined to see everything and spent a lot of time driving, In the future, though, I truly hope I’ll be one of those lucky souls who gets to pitch a tent here.

Tower Fall

Recommended sites: 15-20 are towards the back, and fairly spread out

Let me just say, I was tempted to put Tower Fall in first place for best tent campground in Yellowstone. Still in the Northeast corner of the park, it is basically on the main North Loop road. You wouldn’t know that from the privacy and general serenity, though! Yes, I’m heinously biased. Tower Fall is the campground we ended up in after failing to get a site at Slough Creek, and it treated us super well.

Like all Yellowstone campgrounds, Tower Fall will absolutely fill up in the summer, but we easily got a spot at 9 AM on a mid-June Friday. The smallest campground (just 31 sites!) on Yellowstone’s main road, Tower Fall is a moderate-to-heavily forested campground on a hill. There’s some elevation change as you drive around the sites, so pay attention when you’re picking a site; we happened to get one exactly where water puddles in a rainstorm. This also means campsites higher on the hill get glimpses of the mountains beyond the trees.

The nearby waterfall seemed to drown out any sounds of traffic below; it’s hard to believe the main Yellowstone road was just past some trees down the hill. Also just past some trees down the hill? The Tower store/gift shop. When I started coming down with a cold as the weekend got progressively colder and rainier, every over-the-counter remedy a girl could want was within walking distance. I know, I know, pretty lush for a tent camper.

I was worried we’d sacrifice some wildlife viewing opportunities being slightly farther from Lamar Valley (though still the closest campground, save Slough and Pebble Creeks), but there was a ton of black bear and fox activity here. There was probably more activity than the Rangers would like, in fact, as bears and foxes actually ran through the campsites a couple times! We kept everything in the bear box and had no issues, other than looky loos lingering at the campground entrance when bears hung out there.

Black bear and cub at Yellowstone
A sow and her cub romping around on the hill opposite Tower Fall Campground!
Red Fox in Yellowstone National Park
We spotted this fox (or several who looked just like this one) multiple times in the Tower Fall area, including our campsite!
Tower Fall Campground, Yellowstone National Park
Cold beer and hot food (and hangry boyfriend ready to fight any bear that tries to steal either).

Another huge plus for Tower Fall Campground is the Ranger Program. I freakin’ love Ranger programs. Having literally done them for a living, I love watching other Park Rangers’ techniques for captivating a crowd of campers. I was pleasantly surprised by how small the Tower Fall amphitheater was. I was expecting seating for a hundred—this is Yellowstone, after all! But it was actually even smaller and cozier than the one at our Park, which has a tiny fraction of Yellowstone’s annual visitation. Another perk of a 31-site campground, I suppose.

Best tent camping in Yellowstone at Tower Fall Campground
Happy campers in Tower Fall Campground!

All in all, I loved Tower Fall Campground. All the sites around us were filled with tent campers—always a good sign. The Ranger program was AWESOME, as such a small, cozy amphitheater allowed for a lot of audience participation, if you’re into that. Once night fell and the program ended we walked back to our campsite, flashlights in hand, having learned a ton about bear safety in Grizzly country.

The location of Tower Fall Campground was just about as convenient as you could get without sacrificing peace and quiet. It’s the only “small” campground on Yellowstone’s main road; the next smallest is Indian Creek with 70 sites! Yowza. If I may nitpick, I wish there was better hiking at the campground. There’s apparently a trail leaving from the campground… but neither we nor our neighbors could find it! Thankfully there was plenty of good hiking a short drive away.

Pebble Creek

Recommended sites: 21-28 are the tent sites. Otherwise, sites 9, 19, and 20 seem nice.

I am so conflicted about Pebble Creek Campground. I think it’s aesthetically the most stunning campground in Yellowstone, almost no contest. Driving along its 27 little sites on a blustery, gray Friday morning, everywhere we looked was magical. The beauty of Pebble Creek helped me forget how unpleasant it was to get out of the truck in that weather, so eager was I to capture it with my camera.

Pebble Creek Campground
I mean, I wouldn’t mind opening my tent to this view every morning!
Pebble Creek Campground, Yellowstone National Park
Or this one. Hi, Pebble Creek!

That all said, man, is it out of the way. It’s easily the most inconvenient campground in Yellowstone, over a half hour from the park’s main North Loop.

It is also pretty close to the road (compared to Slough Creek or Tower Fall, which have zero sites in view of the main road), so I don’t know if that’d be annoying with how many people drive through Lamar Valley every day.  If I had already seen most of Yellowstone and really just wanted to focus on Lamar Valley and the Northern end of the park, Pebble Creek would be absolutely magical. And even though you have to drive a half hour to get to the North Loop of Yellowstone, at least that drive is largely through Lamar Valley (some of the best wildlife viewing in Yellowstone, arguably the best wildlife viewing in Yellowstone). Anyway, besides the lack of Ranger programs, that’s the main drawback. I wish I could’ve done more hiking in the Lamar Valley area, which we probably would have done if we stayed here, as Pebble Creek Trailhead leaves from the campground.

If the location doesn’t bother you, I’m serious, this was one of the prettiest campgrounds I have ever seen. My boyfriend also pointed out how convenient it would be to get to Cooke City from your campground, if you wanted to go out for a draft beer or dinner after a day of hiking (which we did once, at the Old Faithful Lodge, when cooking at the campground in pouring rain sounded brutal).

Indian Creek

Recommended sites: 43-57 at the far end of the campground’s South loop

For a bigger campground, (70 sites), Indian Creek seemed really peaceful and private for a tent camper. This is definitely due to its distance off the main park road! It was less than a five minute drive, but long enough we were wondering if we’d somehow gone down the wrong road. If you can’t see (or hear) a campground from the main road, that’s a massive plus in my book.

Yellowstone's Indian Creek
This is the view along the short drive into the campground, which crosses Obsidian creek.

There’s a good mix of sites that feel very forested, shaded, and secluded, and some that are closer to the bordering Gardner River and valley. I can definitely imagine a herd of bison grazing in said valley, or even wandering into the campsites! You can see mountains right from your campsite depending on which one you choose. The campground is pretty flat, but enough trees to provide privacy in most sites. The Bighorn Pass Trailhead is located near the first few campsites.

Again, I just loved how quiet it was here, as we drove through the campground. It had the feel of a smaller campground, without the sites being squished together or anything. There were more RVs and camper trailers here than in the top three campgrounds, though.

Also, I bet the Ranger Programs are a lot of fun, if with a slightly bigger crowd than my beloved Tower Fall. All in all, I was surprised how much I enjoyed exploring Indian Creek Campground, and would definitely stay here! It’s on the main North Loop, a short drive to the Mammoth Hot Springs complex. You could enter the park from the West or North to get here and claim your tent spot.

Canyon

Recommended sites: Any tent-only sites, which you choose during online reservation. Loop L is farthest from the main road.

Canyon Campground is the first option on this list that allows you to make reservations! At a busy park like Yellowstone, where campgrounds fill up every day, this can be a huge incentive to stay here. Perhaps your trip is short, and you don’t want to spend one of your precious nights in a neighboring city to pack up and get a first-come first-served site in the morning. If that’s the case, Canyon Campground would be a fine place to stay for your whole Yellowstone trip. It has excellent reviews I came across many times in my research, even though its size (273 sites spread across 10 loops) is a little scary for a tent camper in search of privacy and seclusion.

Canyon Campground Yellowstone National Park
Canyon Campground

I was sorely tempted to stay at Canyon Campground, despite its size. Why? The location is virtually unbeatable for a first timer to Yellowstone, if you want to try to see absolutely everything. The only other campground with an almost perfectly central location is Norris. Yellowstone’s North and South Loops are like a figure-8, with Canyon and Norris right in the middle. I know, there’s absolutely no guarantee the pros of this location would outweigh the cons—can you say “elk jam”?! Traffic? Every tour bus in Yellowstone passing by your site?! Happily, the serenity of Canyon Campground didn’t seem too disturbed by its location, particularly if you get a site on Loop L (farthest from the main road).

Canyon Campground, Yellowstone
Canyon Campground

Even though Canyon is beautiful, has awesome reviews, and a baller location, its size still makes me… uncomfortable! Therefor, I really don’t think I’d stay here unless I could get a tent-only site (warning: this will be a common theme in all the ginormous campgrounds). The Ranger campfire programs start to get pretty crowded once campgrounds house this many people, and the amphitheater is located at the entrance to the campground. If you’re lucky to be camping far away from the main road, it’s gonna be a good hike just to see the program, then a good hike back to your campsite after dark.

To make things a little more helpful, you can make reservations for Canyon Campground here. I’m not super familiar with the reservation system, as it’s run by a company and not the NPS, but those who have used it generally say it’s a user-friendly process and well-organized when you arrive at the campground.

Norris

Recommended sites: Walk-in sites all the way! Site 4 is particularly nice.

Norris is a first-come first-served campground of just over 100 sites, right smack dab in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. Norris should theoretically tie with its neighbor Canyon for several reasons: it’s smaller, it has a centralized Ranger Program amphitheater, an awesome trail leaves from the campground, and the Museum of the Park Ranger is right at your front door. When I visited and explored, I personally preferred Canyon over Norris from a tent camper perspective. From what I’ve read online, I am not totally alone in this impression. I think a lot of that comes down to campground layout, and the trees… or in Norris’ case, the lack of trees? A lack of trees with a campground this big and sites this close together, results in a lack of solitude.

Tent site at Norris Campground, Yellowstone National Park
A tent site on the edge of the wide open valley at Norris Campground.

It’s not that Norris was in the middle of a field or anything; there was some tree cover, especially once you really drove around looking for it, but the word “sparse” comes to mind. If you love that feeling of being at the edge of a valley, you would love Norris. There’s definitely a special vibe to camping beside a beautiful open space like that. Move farther into the campground, and you’ll get a few more trees separating the sites.

Norris campground Solfatara Creek Yellowstone
A beautiful Norris campsite overlooking Solfatara Creek that runs alongside the campground.

The location of Norris is wonderful; so convenient to exploring some of the quintessential sights of Yellowstone. It’s not huge compared to many of Yellowstone’s campgrounds, either, and there’s a convenient trail just past the Ranger Program amphitheater at the campground’s Northern end. If geysers are a priority for you, you couldn’t be in a more exciting location. There was nothing wrong with Norris besides the lack of isolation in much of the campground, so I would absolutely camp here if I could guarantee a walk-in tent site for myself (therein lies the challenge… no guarantees with Yellowstone first-come first-served camping)!

Lewis Lake

Recommended sites: The first Loop on your right is all Walk-In sites (W); the higher numbered sites are farthest from the entrance

I wish I had gotten the chance to visit Lewis Lake for myself, because I kind of don’t know what to make of it from my online research, but I think I’d love it. Weirdly, it isn’t raved about online in the same way some much larger campgrounds are. Is this because it’s more of a hidden gem, since it’s relatively out of the way (about 15 minutes one way from the main South Loop)? But it’s still Yellowstone we’re talking about, is there such thing as a hidden gem?! At only 85 sites, with some GORGEOUS tent only sites, Lewis Lake Campground sure seems like a winner! If you’ve camped here and have thoughts, please sound off in the comments!

I’ve reached the following hopefully somewhat accurate conclusion: Lewis Lake’s out-of-the-way location is difficult to swallow and is still big enough to get a bit loud, however it has some great, private walk-in tent sites and if water activities are a priority for you, it’s an excellent choice! 

Lewis Lake Campground tent site Yellowstone
A walk-in tent site at Lewis Lake Campground.

I know 15 minutes (or 30 round trip) doesn’t seem crazy, but with Yellowstone you’re already driving a bunch. It adds up. Especially if you can’t reserve your site here, which means you could be going out of your way to be turned away. So, if I was gonna stay in a campground away from the Grand Loop, it’d have to be Slough Creek. UNLESS (and this is a big unless) fishing and boating were important to me. In that case, Lewis Lake would be really cool! Hey, man, I’m a born-and-raised Michigan girl; I love a good lake. Lewis Lake itself tends to score higher on the various online review sites than Lewis Lake Campground.

Yellowstone Lewis Lake
If you are into water activities, Lewis Lake may be the place for you.

Another interesting consideration is Lewis Lake’s proximity to Grand Tetons. It’s closer to Grand Tetons National Park than it is parts of Yellowstone National Park! I don’t know what your road trip looks like, but if you’re hitting up both parks it could be a stop in between the two. I suppose you could even use it as a home base for your whole trip, though prepare for a veritable sh*t ton of driving. It’s 80 miles (a bit over 2 hours, and that’s without bison jams) to either Mammoth Hot Springs or Lamar Valley in the far North of the park.

If you are into the water activities at Lewis Lake, you can read about Yellowstone’s general fishing rules here, and boating regulations here.

Madison

Recommended sites: Loop G or Loop H

For such a huge campground, I love Madison. It’s actually only just slightly bigger than Canyon Campground, with two awesome tent only loops! If I really needed to stay in a campground where I could make a reservation, and Canyon was already full, I’d be perfectly happy to stay in Madison. The trees are just a little too sparse, and the campsites a little too close together.

Madison campground Yellowstone
Main road leading into Madison campground. There weren’t many campers yet, though it would completely fill up by the end of the day.

Even in the tent-only loops, you are sacrificing a bit staying in such a massive campground at the end of the day. There’s gonna be ruckus, less of a feeling of isolation, traffic at the campground entrance, etc. I feel like a broken record at this point, but the Ranger Programs at the Madison amphitheater are likely quite busy. It’s all less personal, less pure connection with nature.

Madison’s location is really good for geyser viewing, though uncomfortably close to the hellscape that is the traffic around Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic. That said, the best time to see these highlights is first thing in the morning before crowds go berserk, and staying at Madison will let you get there bright at early!

Grant Village

Recommended sites: Any tent-only site, which you can request when reserving your spot

Grant is the second largest campground in Yellowstone at over 430 sites. I’m sorry, but campgrounds in the triple digits make me nauseous. 430?! COME ON. There’s literally a boat launch, big picnic area, and RV dump station. In nearby Grant Village, there’s even a post office and a gas station. It’s… a lot.

Grant Campground Yellowstone
Campground: FULL. Something you’ll get used to seeing in Yellowstone!

Now that I’ve finished that bottle of haterade, let’s talk about why Grant Campground isn’t so bad. First of all, you can reserve a site here! Also, it’s right on Yellowstone Lake. I’m serious, you could throw a stone into the lake from some of the campsites. The tent-only sites are really pretty and some are far enough away you’ll barely hear the RV traffic. My absolute favorite thing about Grant Village is the little hiking trail along the lake, starting from the campgrounds on the far North side and ending at the amphitheater on the Southeast end. I think that’d be so fun to walk every night to the Ranger Program!

Grant Campground Yellowstone
A eerily quiet, rainy morning at Grant Campground. Ah, the tapping of raindrops against RVs…
Grant Campground tent camper Yellowstone
A tent nestled between the trees and glampers.

Of course, even if the tent-only sites are taken for your chosen dates, Grant Village much like the other campgrounds has some tent/camper sites that allow both. If there were no tent-only sites left here, though, I probably wouldn’t stay in Grant Village Campground. It’s pretty, next to the lake, and it’s still Yellowstone so there’s always the chance a bison or elk or bear will scamper through your site… but once campgrounds get this big, I would sooner tent camp in a USFS campground outside the park.

Mammoth

Recommended sites: 40s, 70s, 80s

You may have noticed a general trend in these rankings: the fewer sites in the campground, the higher it ranks for tent campers. Mammoth is an exception to this rule. Mammoth Campground is actually tied with Lewis Lake for the fifth smallest campground in the park, but frankly you wouldn’t know it. To quote a Park Ranger mentor of mine with 30+ years of service and many trips to Yellowstone under his belt: “Mammoth is a f*cking zoo”. That is the mildest quote from him (if you are equally sickened by traffic and simply need your privacy, my curmudgeonly friend recommends the National Forest campground of Eagle Creek).

I certainly don’t have that degree of derision for Mammoth; some of the sites were fine. However, if you like the several features of ideal tent campsites I listed at the top of this post, I don’t think Mammoth will be your all-time favorite Yellowstone campground. Let me explain.

Mammoth Hot Springs is essentially a small town, and the campground is super close to it (see my Google Earth image below). There are blocks and blocks of employee housing, a huge visitor center, the Hot Springs and parking areas themselves, stores, a post office, even a medical clinic. You can see some of this from the campground. I don’t particularly like headlights or street lamps a stone’s throw from my campsite. The sound of traffic will be inevitable here, save for maybe in the dead of winter. Herein lies the strongest argument for Mammoth Campground, by the way; it’s the only one open year-round. I bet as the high season dies down Mammoth becomes a calmer, quieter place to stay, especially if you take a higher-numbered campsite.

Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone National Park | Tent Camping
A typical view from the lower sites of Mammoth Campground.

Besides the lack of privacy from its location, there’s also a lack of privacy in the campground itself. The sites seemed painfully close together with little tree cover, and a lot of RVs and trailers. The sites are on a hill, so the lack of tree cover does allow for beautiful views of the mountains and valleys. I will say, as you climb that hill the views get better and better, and you feel more and more isolated, plus elk were all over the place. Definitely get yourself a site on the far end of the campground, share it with some elk, and you’ll still have an awesome time!

Google Earth View of Yellowstone's Mammoth Campground and Mammoth Hot Springs complex
To give you an idea of the proximity of Mammoth Campground to all the hubbub of Mammoth Hot Springs complex (above the campground) and park employee housing (below the campground).

All in all, part of what I enjoy in a calm, quiet campsite in a bustling park like Yellowstone, is the ability to seek refuge at my site during the busiest part of the day. I like to wake up hella early, go for a hike/see some sights, eat lunch, and retire to the safe haven of our campsite for a beer and a nap during the height of the day when Yellowstone’s roads are busiest. At Mammoth, I’d pretty much only want to be at the site early in the morning or after dark, because one of Yellowstone’s busiest areas is right around the corner.

Bridge Bay

Recommended sites: Loop J is designated for hikers and bikers.

We round out Yellowstone’s best tent campgrounds with last but not least (because nobody is “least” here, they’re all beautiful babies, etc. etc.), Bridge Bay. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Bridge Bay… it’s just HUGE. Bridge Bay Campground is the largest in Yellowstone National Park, with a whopping 432 sites. Its map looks like a blueprint of an ant colony, with loops and side roads and parking lots… there wasn’t a single point in my brief exploration of Bridge Bay when I couldn’t see a dozen RVs.

Bridge Bay Campground, Yellowstone National Park
This is the general vibe of Bridge Bay, in one pic. Wide open, plenty of RVs.

I have to hand it to Bridge Bay, though. However massive the place is, you can still find cozy little sites to pitch your tent (plus, they’re reservable). Yeah, the commotion from nearby RVs and passing traffic may make those sites less cozy, but at least your site itself is cute? It’s not going to be the most tent camper friendly campground in Yellowstone, and I don’t think it’s really intended to be. Fun Fact: Bridge Bay is so popular with those mega RVs, that many of them actually erected signposts around their sites, along the lines of “Smith Family Vacation!” or “Home Sweet Home”.

Tent site at Bridge Bay Campground, Yellowstone National Park
One of the nicer little sites at the edge of Bridge Bay’s hustle and bustle, where I’d most likely pitch a tent.

Bridge Bay may not be “Home Sweet Home” for many tent campers, but if your priorities lie in exploring Yellowstone Lake then it could actually be a good choice for you. It’s so close to Bridge Bay marina, where there’s a small camp store and boat rentals! While there’s no hiking from the campground itself, you can and should explore the lake if you end up here. Some sites also have lovely views of the Absaroka mountains beyond the small town that is your campground. It’s mostly the size, noise, and lack of privacy that count Bridge Bay out as an ideal tent camper spot. Much like its massive cousin, Grant Village, I’d sooner opt for a Forest Service campground if possible; the inconvenience would be worth the solitude.

It will be an amazing Yellowstone adventure wherever you camp

Every camping trip is what you make of it! We got rained on day after day, I got a gross cold, and the traffic and crowds almost made my boyfriend’s head explode. For me, a tent in a campsite in a campground I truly loved coming home to helped make the experience great. All of these campgrounds are that special refuge to someone out there, so I am not trying to hate on a single one of them.

Let me know what your favorite Yellowstone Campground is, or if there’s some crucial details I’m omitting from my descriptions! If you use this guide for your next camping trip, I’d love to hear if it served you well. Also, shout out to my aforementioned boyfriend who patiently stopped at every single one of Yellowstone’s campgrounds we passed. It was raining A LOT, and Yellowstone is VERY big. It was not super duper fun for him to pull into campground number six in a chilling drizzle, still a good hour away from the warmth of our tent, just so I could wander around and snap some pictures.

In conclusion: finding the best tent camping in Yellowstone is like finding the best pizza in Italy. Yeah, some will absolutely blow your mind. At the end of the day, though, you’re camping in Yellowstone, you lucky duck! Doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Guide to tent camping in Yellowstone Campgrounds
Tent Camping Guide to Yellowstone National Park Campgrounds
Best Campgrounds In Yellowstone for Tent Camping

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