Camp in the Backcountry

Backpackers hit the trail in Lamar Valley.
Backpackers hit the trail in Lamar Valley.

NPS / Neal Herbert



Beyond the developed areas, Yellowstone offers a diverse, mountainous landscape that invites exploration by foot, pack stock, and boat. Hundreds of miles of trails facilitate travel throughout the park. Permits are required for all overnight stays.

When planning a backcountry trip, remember that many of Yellowstone’s trails are more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Most areas retain snow until late May or early June, and some (especially mountain passes) are snow-covered until late July. Also, many routes require fording rivers that can be 25 feet wide, 3 to 5 feet deep, extremely cold, and swiftly running during our late spring runoff.


Yellowstone maintains 293 designated backcountry campsites. 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. Group size limits range from 4 to 12 people. With the exception of four campsites, we allow only one group at each campsite. If your group size exceeds the campsite limit, you’ll need to obtain a second permit and cook and sleep as separate groups. A food storage pole or box is provided at every campsite so that food and attractants may be secured from bears. You will need to provide your own rope (35 feet in length or greater) at sites with food poles. A list and map of campsites can be found Backcountry Trails and Campsites map.

Backcountry Permits

Permits are required year-round for all overnight stays in Yellowstone's backcountry. A backcountry permit allows the permit holder and group members to camp in a designated location. Permits are not required for day hiking.

  • Peak Season (May 15 - October 31) - during the peak season, backcountry permits are available online in advance or in person during the walk-up period. Advance reservations are available at during the Early Access Lottery and General On-Sale period. Walk-up permits are available in person at a backcountry office up to 2 days prior to start of trip.
  • Non Peak Season (November 1- May 14) - backcountry permits for the non peak season are available online at starting October 6, or in person no more than two days prior to your trip at the South Entrance (mid-December to mid-March). After reserving a permit on, contact the Central Backcountry Office to have your permit issued. Permits may be printed or downloaded at home within 5 days of the trip start date after receiving a backcountry orientation from the backcountry office staff. Visit the Winter Backcountry Camping page for more information regarding obtaining a backcountry permit during the winter season.
For a list of Backcountry Office locations and hours refer to the Backcountry Conditions page.


Reservations are encouraged but not required. Approximately three quarters of backcountry campsites are made available for advance reservation. Reservations must be made at least 3 days in advance of the trip start date. Remaining campsites are available in-person at a park Backcountry Office on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be requested a maximum of two days before the trip start date. Permits are date specific, so if you dates are not set, we do not recommend making a reservation.

Early Access Lottery

Because demand for backcountry campsites in many areas of the park exceeds capacity during peak periods, an optional early access lottery is available. This lottery is based on a fair and randomized process to provide an equal opportunity for each applicant to be selected. Successful applicants are granted early access to reservations, with the earliest access having more options to secure a reservation for popular areas.

The application period for the 2024 Early Access Lottery is March 1-20. When applying for the early access lottery you will need to provide basic contact information, not an trip itinerary.

Successful applicants are provided a date and time that their individual access window opens, falling between April 1 and April 24. Applicants may create a reservation at any time after their access window opens.Lottery participants with later access may not have access to their preferred itinerary but can create an alternate trip using available campsites. Participants are limited to a single reservation during the early access period but may create additional reservations beginning April 26, during the General-On Sale Period.

Groups needing multiple campsites each night will need to submit separate applications with unique trip leaders.

Applications to enter the 2024 Early Access Lottery are accepted on March 1 - 20.

Have questions about the Early Access Lottery? Please review the Backcountry Permit Frequently Asked Questions.

General On-Sale

On April 26, remaining permits for open campsites will be available on Reservations must be made at least 3-days prior to the start date of a trip.

Walk-up Permits

Walk-up backcountry permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis in person at a Yellowstone Backcountry Office and are payable by debit or credit card. Hikers can obtain these permits up to 2 days prior to the start date of your trip. Walk-up Permits cannot be issued over the phone or online through

For a list of Backcountry Office locations and hours refer to the Backcountry Conditons Page (updated May-October).

Have questions about obtaining a backcountry permit? Please review the Backcountry Permit Frequently Asked Questions.

Backcountry Permit Fees

Early Access Lottery Application Fee: $10 non-refundable. The application fee is charged for all applications to the Early Access Lottery regardless of success.

Recreation Fee: $5 per person, per night plus a $10 reservation fee. The recreation fee and the reservation fee is charged year-round for permits secured through or in-person at a backcountry office (fees are payable by debit or credit card). The $10 reservation fee is charged for all permits except those acquired during the Early Access Lottery.

Guided Trips

Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided overnight backpacking, boating, llama packing, and horseback trips into Yellowstone's backcountry. These businesses obtain the necessary permits for trips they provide.

Contact Us

Central Backcountry Office staff is available to assist with trip planning and answer questions at:

e-mail us

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Last updated: June 3, 2024

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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