Yellowstone Backcountry Camping

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Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping in Yellowstone is the perfect way to experience the most popular national park in America, with plenty of trails to take you into this wonderland of Mother Nature.

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  • Get your backcountry camping permit at a visitor center or ranger station
  • Be Bear Aware – don’t attract bears to your campsite
  • Pack out what you pack in
  • Leave the thermal areas undisturbed for your safety and the park’s preservation
  • Take Heart Lake Trail for the perfect overnight backpacking experience

One of the most spectacular ways to see Yellowstone is in the backcountry of the park. Here you will encounter wonderful features that would otherwise be missed. Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system that you can take advantage of on your vacation. Download the Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner.

Most Popular Overnight Trails

  • Heart Lake: Start at Heart Lake Trailhead, just south of Grant Village, and hike 7.5 miles to Heart Lake. There are a handful of popular campsites around the lake. Enjoy a nice day hike to Mount Sheridan on a layover day.
  • Black Canyon of the Yellowstone: This is a great 2 day hike from the confluence of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers through the Black Canyon to Blacktail Creek. You can either do an out and back or shuttle a car and go one way.
  • Agate Creek: This nice out and back overnight trail starts and ends at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area near Tower.

Backcountry Permits

You will need a permit for backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park. Each campsite in the backcountry has a limited number of people and stock, as well as the number of nights you can stay in one place. Permits must be picked up in person (no more than 48 hours before your trip).

You can reserve some of your planned backcountry campsites ahead of time by mail or in person, if you so desire. Call (307) 344-2160 for details on reserving backcountry campsites.

Bear Safety

Many bears call Yellowstone their home. It’s important to take precautions for their safety and yours.

  • Camping: Avoid camping in areas that have obvious signs of recent bear activity. Evidence of this will be tracks on the ground, signs of digging or scat. Be sure to sleep at least 100 yards from where you do any cooking or store food.
  • Food: Store food, cooking utensils and other items that have odors (like soap, toothpaste, etc.) properly as these odors attract bears. Keep your campsite clean. Never store foodstuff or items with odors in your tent. Most backcountry campsites are equipped with food storage poles.
  • Backpacks: Backpacks containing food and odorous items should never be left unattended.
  • A fed bear is a dead bear: If bears obtain human food it can result in them becoming aggressive in other situations to obtain more food. If a bear presents a threat to human safety, the bear is either removed from the park or killed.

Rules & Regulations

  • Trash must be carried out of the backcountry
  • Human waste must be buried at least 100 feet from water and at least 6 inches below the ground
  • Make sure to filter, boil or treat any drinking or cooking water that is used from lakes or streams
  • Remain on designated trails
  • Thermal areas are fenced off for your safety. Do not swim or bathe in thermal pools
  • Campfires are restricted and permitted only in established fire pits in campgrounds.
  • Leave No Trace: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

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