Beyond the developed areas, Yellowstone offers a diverse, mountainous landscape that invites exploration by foot, pack stock, and boat. Hundreds of miles of trails and over 300 designated backcountry campsites 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 6 feet deep, extremely cold, and swiftly running during our late spring runoff.
A Backcountry Permit is required for all overnight trips in the Backcountry. The permit is valid only for the dates, locations and party size specified on the Backcountry Permit. Please reference our Winter Backcountry Camping page for information on camping during the months of November through April.
Advanced Backcountry Reservations:
A portion of the park’s 300+ backcountry campsites may be reserved in advance. Reservation are accepted from January 1 to October 31 of each calendar year. Reservations received by March 31 will be processed in a lottery (randomly ordered list of all applications received by 8 a.m. on April 1). Reservations received after 8:00 a.m. on April 1 or on later dates throughout the summer will be processed in the order they’re received after the lottery requests have been reserved.
Reservation applications are accepted by mail or fax only. A flat, nonrefundable fee of $25 is charged for each reservation. Complete the Backcountry Reservation Application and submit by fax or mail (e-mail is not encrypted enough for credit card information). A confirmation notice, not a permit will be emailed to you. This confirmation notice must be converted to the actual permit not more than 48 hours in advance of the first date on your itinerary.
The following nightly permit fees are charged for trips between Memorial Day and September 10:
Backpackers/Boaters: $3/person/night (with a max of $15/night)
Permit fees are collected when your permit is issued. Nightly fees are not charged for trips beginning outside of these dates. Nightly fees only apply for group members age 9 and older.
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 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). Some campsites have fire pits. A list and map of campsites can be found in the Backcountry Trip Planner .
Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided overnight backpacking trips into Yellowstone's backcountry. These businesses obtain the necessary permits for trips they provide.
Central Backcountry Office staff can assist with trip planning and other questions at:
Central Backcountry Office
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Last updated: December 18, 2020