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.

Campsites

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 in the Backcountry Trip Planner and the online Backcountry Trails and Campsites map.

Backcountry Permits

Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Backcountry Permit Offices will be closed for in person permits in 2021. Backcountry permits are issued via phone and email only.

Permits are available daily from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Permits are available no earlier than 3-days prior to the start of a trip.

Please read through all the information below prior to contacting our office.

To obtain a backcountry permit via phone:

  • Call 307-344-2860 to speak with a ranger (no earlier than 3-days prior to start of trip). If no answer, leave a message requesting a permit and include a call back number.
  • Provide the information requested on the Backcountry Permit Application as well as credit card payment information for the backcountry permit fee.
  • While speaking with you a ranger will review backcountry safety, regulations, and answer any questions you may have.
  • After speaking with a ranger the permit will be emailed to you. You can either print a hard copy of the permit or store it electronically on a phone or other device.

To obtain a backcountry permit via email:

  • Complete the Backcountry Permit Application and email it to yell_bcpermits@nps.gov (no earlier than 3-days prior to start of trip). Include a call back number.
  • A ranger will call you at the number provided to issue the permit and obtain credit card payment information for the backcountry permit fee.
  • While speaking with you a ranger will review backcountry safety, regulations, and answer any questions you may have.
  • After speaking with a ranger the permit will be emailed to you. You can either print a hard copy of the permit or store it electronically on a phone or other device.

Rangers will make every effort to contact you in a timely manner, however due to a high volume of permit requests and limited staffing calls may not be returned immediately.

Submitting an application does not guarantee your requested campsites will be available.

Important information:

  • Backcountry permits are available no earlier than 3-days prior to the start of your trip. Do not send in applications earlier than 3-days before your trip.
  • Permits are available from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm daily. Permits will not be issued after 4:00 pm.
  • Check backcountry campsite availability prior to submitting an application and requesting a backcountry permit.
  • Submit only one trip per application. A trip is defined as a contiguous itinerary of campsites along a trail/waterway from an entry trailhead to an exit trailhead. If you return to the road and travel to another trailhead or area of the park by vehicle it constitutes a separate trip and requires a separate application.
  • Check backcountry conditions for the area you plan to visit before your trip.
  • Watch the Beyond Roads End video and review backcountry regulations prior to submitting the permit application.

Advanced Backcountry Reservations

Is your trip start date more than 7-days away? If yes, then consider making an Advanced Backcountry Reservation for the backcountry permit. Advanced reservations offer a way to guarantee specific campsites well in advance of your trip however only a portion of the park's backcountry campsites may be reserved in advance.

Advanced reservation applications are accepted by mail or fax only. A flat, non-refundable fee of $25 is charged for each reservation.

Fees

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)
Stock Parties (horses/mules/llamas): $5/person/night (no max/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.

Advanced Reservation Fee: $25 per trip, non-refundable. An additional nightly permit fee (above) will be collected when the reservation is converted to a backcountry permit.

Annual Backcountry Pass: $25. For individuals taking several or extended overnight trips in Yellowstone's backcountry, we offer an Annual Backcountry Pass. Valid for one season (Memorial Day to September 10), the Annual Backcountry Pass exempts the pass holder from the per-person, per-night fee. The Annual Backcountry Pass only covers the per-person fee of the pass holder. The pass does not cover the advanced reservation fee or park entrance fees. The Annual Backcountry Pass is available when obtaining a backcountry permit.

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 can assist with trip planning and other questions at:

e-mail us
307-344-2160 (general backcountry & trip planning questions)
307-344-2860 (backcountry permits 3-days prior to start of trip)

Additional Resources

 
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Beyond Roads End

 
 

Last updated: May 12, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

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