Backcountry Camping & Hiking
National Park Service Photo
After reading this page, use our Online Backcountry Trip Planner to plan your outing.
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.
Permits may be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. Permits are available from backcountry offices located in most ranger stations or visitor centers. In order to obtain the best information on trail conditions, permits should be obtained from the ranger station or visitor center nearest to the area where your trip is to begin. The Backcountry Use Permit is valid only for the itinerary and dates specified. Backcountry travelers must have their permits in possession while in the backcountry.
Advance Reservations for Backcountry Campsites
Requests for reservations must be submitted by mail, fax, or in person. They cannot be made over the phone or by email. A confirmation notice, not a permit, is given or emailed to the camper. This confirmation notice must then be converted to the actual permit not more than 48 hours in advance of the first camping date. Details are provided on the confirmation notice. The reservation fee is $25.00 regardless of the number of nights out or the number of people involved. The fee is not refundable. Forms for making an advance reservation are available to download online at: Backcountry Trip Planner, or by writing to:
Email: e-mail us
Where to Get Your Permit
During the spring, fall, and winter seasons, ranger stations and visitor centers do not have set hours. Contact the Central Backcountry Office for information on where to obtain a Backcountry Use Permit during these seasons.
Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided overnight backpacking trips into Yellowstone's backcountry. These businesses would obtain the Backcountry Use Permits for trips that they provide.
Safety in Bear Country
Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odor. Don't sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating; hang clothing worn while cooking and eating in plastic bags.
Considering bears' highly developed sense of smell, it may seem logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with menstruation. Studies on this subject are few and inconclusive. If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.
If you are involved in a conflict with a bear, regardless of how minor, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Another's safety may depend on it. Exceptional combinations of food, shelter, and space draw grizzlies to some parts of Yellowstone more than others. In these Bear Management Areas, human access is restricted to reduce impacts on the bears and their habitat. Ask at ranger stations or visitor centers for more information.
General Safety Concerns
Don't take chances in backcountry thermal areas. Scalding water underlies thin, breakable crusts; pools are near or above boiling temperatures. Each year, visitors traveling off trail have been seriously burned, and people have died from the scalding water. No swimming or bathing is allowed in thermal pools.
Removing, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, or mineral is prohibited. Leave historical and archeological items in place.
Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.