Backcountry Camping

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 and over 300 designated backcountry campsites facilitate travel throughout the park, and 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. It’s hard to tell from a map whether a stream will be a raging torrent or merely a swollen creek.

Permits

Permits are required for all overnight stays and must be obtained in person no more than 48 hours in advance of a trip. From June through August, permits are available seven days a week from 8 am to 4:30 pm at the following locations:

Bechler Ranger Station
Bridge Bay Ranger Station
Canyon Visitor Center
Grant Village Visitor Center
Mammoth Visitor Center
Old Faithful Ranger Station
South Entrance Ranger Station
Tower Backcountry Office
West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center


To obtain the best information on trail conditions, pick up your permit at the office closest to where your trip begins. Backcountry permits for boating trips must be obtained at the Bridge Bay, Grant Village, or South Entrance backcountry offices.

During spring, fall, and winter, ranger stations and visitor centers do not have set hours. Contact the Central Backcountry Office (see below) for details on where to obtain a permit during these seasons.

Fees

The following nightly 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 you pick up your permit. Nightly fees are not charged for trips beginning outside of these dates. Nightly fees only apply for group members age 9 and older.

Annual Backcountry Pass
For individuals taking several or extended overnight trips in Yellowstone's backcountry, we offer an Annual Backcountry Pass for $25. Valid for one season (Memorial Day to September 10), the Annual Backcountry pass exempts individuals from the per-person per-night fee. You must present both the pass and photo ID for permit fees to be waived. The pass does not cover advanced reservations.

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 random order starting April 1. Reservations received on or after April 1 will be processed in the order they’re received after the random lottery is complete.

We strongly encourage you to develop a second itinerary that may explore some less popular areas, in the event your first choice is not available. If you are camping with stock or requesting sites in one of our more popular areas such as Slough Creek or Yellowstone and Shoshone lakes, your chances of getting your first choices are best if you submit your request by April 1. Please submit only one request per party per trip. Duplicate applications slow down the reservation process and may result in duplicate charges, overlapping itineraries, and unused 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) 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.

A flat, nonrefundable fee of $25 is charged for each reservation. To make a reservation, download the Backcountry Permit Reservation Application or write to:

Backcountry Office
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
307-344-2166 (fax)

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 is provided at every campsite so that food and attractants may be secured from bears. Some sites have fire pits.

Guided Trips

Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided overnight backpacking trips into Yellowstone's backcountry. These businesses obtain the necesssary permits for trips they provide.

Contact Us

Central Backcountry Office staff can assist with trip planning and other questions at:

Backcountry Office
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
307-344-2160 (phone)
307-344-2166 (fax)

Additional Resources

 
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Beyond Roads End

 

Last updated: November 17, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381

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