Yellowstone Reports

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Camping in Yellowstone?

Please Read This!
by Editor of Yellowstone Reports

Aug. 3, 2020

Many of you are planning to camp this summer in or around Yellowstone.  I wanted to make you aware of some issues with camping outside the park that have been increasing in previous years, and which are especially problematic this year.

Currently, only the concessioner-run campgrounds are open in the park (Bridge Bay, Canyon, Madison, and Grant), where it’s very unlikely to get a spot without a reservation. The NPS-run campgrounds are still closed, with no announced opening date. That means that many folks are left looking for camping spots outside the park in gateway communities.  

While there is an abundance of public land outside the park, we are finding that hordes of people are camping right on the outskirts of town (at least in Gardiner where I live, but I suspect in other towns too). The sheer numbers of people camping in undesignated sites are creating all kinds of negative, unsafe, gross and often illegal impacts such as ignoring no camping signs, parking in roadways, creating new fire rings, leaving fires unattended, and leaving human poop and toilet paper out in the open for kids, dogs, and other campers to discover.  While it may seem like a large wilderness surrounding the park, the road corridors where most people travel are getting a lot of negative impact. The cumulative effects are significant.

Please plan ahead for the possibility that you may not have a designated campsite, and learn the ethical ways to camp in an undesignated spot. These include:

Find out where dispersed camping is allowed by asking at local Chambers of Commerce, Forest Service offices, and outdoor stores. Adhere to ALL no camping signs - local management agencies put them there for a variety of reasons, such as protecting fragile resources, protecting local water sources, and avoiding unsafe situations. 

Camp in an already impacted site if at all possible (where someone has camped before).  Help protect our fragile public lands by refraining from creating new campsites, fire rings, etc. Be sure that you are completely out of the roadway and travel corridors.

Please please please dispose of your waste properly. This is a HUGE problem. This not only means pack out all your trash, but also burying your human waste 6” deep and 200 feet from roads, trails, and water sources. Pack out or bury your toilet paper. Trust me: no one wants to encounter anyone else’s poop or toilet paper, not to mention the diseases and water contamination human feces can cause. 

Do not wash in streams, lakes, or rivers. There are no public showers in the park this summer, although there are some in the gateway communities. It is NEVER okay to use soap or shampoo or to clean your laundry and dishes in a water source. It is completely fine to collect water from a natural source and wash in the woods away from the shore. It’s also amazing how much cleaner you’ll feel after a simple dip or swim- soap free.

Avoid building fires. The fire danger out here is real, particularly in late summer. If you absolutely have to build a fire, use an existing fire ring and be sure to extinguish the fire completely. If you don’t have access to water to put out your fire, you shouldn’t build one.

Properly store your food, cooking gear, toiletries and trash in your vehicle to avoid creating a problem with local bears.

I’m sure many of you know these responsible camping practices already, but we are seeing many folks who do not. Please help spread the word! It’s tough out there for everyone right now- many of us want to be out there camping and away from crowds, but there are more limitations on available sites. I truly believe many people just aren’t aware of methods to reduce their camping impact. We can help each other protect the lands we all love. 

Thanks so much! Please only supportive and educational comments. If you have links to campgrounds, camping info, shower facilities, etc. please share them.


Camping in Yellowstone