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The Best Free Camping Near Yellowstone

Beautiful, secret, and FREE camp spots around Yellowstone!

By: Lauren Blanchard + Save to a List

Have you ever found yourself stressing about where to find a place to camp for the night? Did you know you can find beautiful, scenic, private and FREE camping right outside of Yellowstone? You can! And the possibilities are almost ENDLESS. Sometimes finding a campsite can be difficult. Numerous things can taint the experience. Maybe campgrounds are  full. Maybe you want quiet and privacy. Maybe the nearest availability is too far away? Maybe you want to be free to make some noise after hours? Cost may also be a factor. You have more options! And I'm going to help you discover them.

I spent 3 summers working and living in Yellowstone. I know the place like the back of my hand. During that time, I started exploring off the beaten path, driving forest service roads outside of the park. What I found blew my mind! It excited me SO much that there were these hidden and SECRET camping spots that seemingly no one knew about! And FREE! 

During that time, I also interacted with people touring the park fairly often. Sometimes they didn't know to arrive early to secure camp spots. They'd ask if I knew some place they could stealth park overnight. While you can always roll the dice and take your chances, its actually against park regulations to park overnight in pullouts, parking lots, or trailheads (without an overnight backpacking permit displayed in your windshield). You can try, but you may get shooed away by a ranger in the middle of the night. And who really wants to be woken up at 3 a.m. to have to search for another spot? 

It should be noted that these FREE spots are dry camp spots. Meaning there are no services. You'll have a patch of dirt to park your car or pitch your tent, and you'll have a fire ring. But no picnic table, no pit toilets. No water spigot, no trash bins. Please camp responsibly and follow leave-no-trace ethics when using these free spots. Keep it beautiful and clean for the next person to discover! :)

If you're not already familiar with it, we have whats called BLM land and Forest Service roads. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is public land where free dispersed camping is allowed. Forest service roads are sprawling all throughout national forest land, and many of them will have pullouts with fire rings, much in the same way as BLM land does. If you come across a forest service road, why not try it out! You never know what you will discover! Camping time limits do apply, and are usually around 14 days. Caution: many roads will be bumpy and have lots of potholes. Use your best judgement if your vehicle can handle it and don't forget to take into account weather conditions. I personally have driven up roads in my 2 door Honda Civic, and my Subaru Crosstrek. Having the AWD is handy and the extra ground clearance is a perk, but not *always* a must. 

Ok here we go!

Outside of the North entrance to Yellowstone, you will find the town of Gardiner. And above the town of Gardiner, you will find forest service roads with numerous dispersed camping options. The further up you go, the more you will keep discovering! Up Jardine rd. is Eagle Creek campground. While this campground is nice, it can sometimes be crowded with very little privacy. If free and private is what you want, continue up Jardine rd for just a few minutes to the very next turn on your left, which is NF-3243. Continue driving up this road to claim your spot! Some of them with a beautiful view of Gardiner and Electric Peak! Some possibilities for an RV in the beginning. From here, you will have a quick 10 minute drive back into the park come morning. 

Next up is the Western entrance at West Yellowstone. In need of a free and quick spot to camp overnight and get right back in the park the next morning? I have spots for you. At the end of Yellowstone Ave, you will find roads called Old Airport Road, Jeep Trail, Whiskey Springs road, and FS6973. You may take any of these roads to find a pullout to park and camp in peace. It may not be as scenic, but it will be quiet and you'll have no fear of being chased off! Flat roads with flat areas to park make this an easy option for RV's as well. This place was recommended to me by a server at a local restaurant and pub. Only 5 minutes to the park entrance!

Outside of the parks Northeast entrance you will find the towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City. These quaint, picturesque towns are rich in history but we'll save that for another post. Continue past these towns to find some VERY scenic places to camp for free. Lulu Pass trail road is one that will offer a nice view of the mountains and wide open night skies. The co-ordinates for this spot are 45°02'09.8"N 109°54'39.9"W, but there are numerous spots to take before you get to this one. Further up Highway 212 is a patch of BLM land for dispersed camping. There are spots right next to a creek with beautiful panoramic views of Pilot Peak. GPS co-ordinates 44°57'27.6"N 109°48'41.4"W. RV's will have an easy time setting up here. Across the street from this spot is another small area with one or two camp spots and fire rings available, right next to a beautiful turquoise blue creek!  From here, you'll have a quick and scenic 20 minute drive back to the park entrance. There are innumerable other roads to explore in this region!

I hope I've given you a good jumping off point for how to explore and discover more free camping spots in the Yellowstone region! 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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