So you starting thinking about planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and you want to travel via RV or Van. This is a must read guide for your epic trip into Yellowstone National Park. How do we know? We’ve spent 10 months right outside of the Northeast Entrance and drove know every nook and cranny of Yellowstone. Including where to get the best Cell Service which we will explain in this Guide. We will also share some tricks to finding a campsite at the last minute and where the best wildlife and trails are.
IN THIS GUIDE
- YELLOWSTONE IN A NUT SHELL
- WHICH IS THE BEST ENTRANCE TO YELLOWSTONE FOR RV TRAVEL
- NATIONAL FOREST CAMPING VS NATIONAL PARK CAMPING
- HOW TO FIND A CAMPGROUND
- WHICH CAMPGROUNDS ARE THE BEST FOR LARGE RV’S
- WHICH CAMPGROUNDS ARE THE BEST FOR VAN LIFERS
- WICH CAMPGROUNDS ARE THE BEST FOR WILDFILE VIEWING
- WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF DAY TO EXPLORE YELLOWSTONE
- WHICH PART OF YELLOWSTONE IS THE BEST
- HOW TO HACK PARKING
- PRO TIPS ON HOW TO EXPERIENCE YELLOWSTONE
Yellowstone National Park is a vast wilderness the encompasses 3,500 square mile wilderness,(which is why it can take up to 5 hours to drive from one end of the park to another) It sits on a volcanic caldera and is active. At 45 miles long and 28 miles wide, the Yellowstone Caldera is a sort-of reverse mountain. In some places you can see the distinct drop off from the Caldera rim into the basin that makes up most of Yellowstone. The park is located largely in Wyoming, but it does enter Montana and Idaho, as well. Depending on which entrance you choose, it’s very possible that you will travel from Montana into Wyoming back into Montana and then back into Wyoming.
In 2021 Yellowstone National Park had a record breaking year with well over a million visitors coming into the park. Because Yellowstone is so busy during peak season it’s important to go with a plan of attack. This is what this guide will show you. For the obvious reason first: Here is a PRO TRAVEL TIP right off the start. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE YOU TO DRIVE THROUGH THE PARK. Two words you will get to know very fast in Yellowstone. BISON JAMS. And the Bison don’t care about your vacation travel plans. They move slowly and sometimes not at all in the middle of the road.
CHOOSING AN ENTRANCE:
There are 5 Entrances to Yellowstone to choose from. And some of them are more strategic than the others for RVers. Each entrance is going to be unique. There are no two the same. So the first decision to make is a honest assessment of your RIG, and your driving ability. Yellowstone is around 6,500 feet in elevation and is surrounded by Mountains. The Beartooth Mountain Range and the The Gallatin Mountain Range. Therefore you will be driving or towing up a mountain then back down a mountain. The choices you have are:
North Entrance – thru Gardiner, Montana. Original entrance to the park, has the Roosevelt Arch entryway
Northeast Entrance – thru the Beartooth Mountains
East Entrance – thru Cody, Wyoming
South Entrance – thru Grand Teton National Park via the John Rockfeller Memorial Highway
West Entrance – thru the town of West Yellowstone
Each Entrance has a strategic value as to HOW you see Yellowstone. For example. It took us from the EAST Entrance (from Cody WY) to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City, MT) which took us through 2 valley’s, volcano mud, geysers, over the Yellowstone River ,Bison Jams and through Mamath Hot Springs. But it took us 5 hours to do it with zero stops.
- North Entrance – Highway 89 from Bozman, MT to Gardiner, MT. Is the original entrance into the park
- Northeast Entrance – Highway 212 from Red Lodge, MT. or Billings, MT or the Chief Joseph Hwy (296) from Cody, WY. Arguably the most dramatic route to enter the park with steep mountain grades and switchbacks through the Beartooth Mountains. Incredible views going through Beartooth Pass. Each of these routes has a 40 foot regulation that prohibits these routes if your rig is larger than 40 feet. Also both of these routes are Closed in the Winter. (actually as of October 10th)
- East Entrance – Highway 80 from Cody, WY (which is 53 miles to the entrance). Fairly flat, follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River through canyons and cliffs. Once in the park you cross the mountain ridge through Sylvan Pass (8,350ft) which is RV-friendly. This entrance road is closed in winter.
- South Entrance – John D. Rockefeller Jr. Highway from Jackson, WY. Incredible views of the Grand Teton mountains. Gentle upslope as you enter Yellowstone along the Lewis River. This road is Closed in Winter.
- West Entrance – Either via US 20/287 from the west or US 191 from the north out of Bozeman. US 191 passes Big Sky and some big mountains, with some winding and grades but doable with an RV. This was the route we took to get up to the Northeast Entrance and to Cooke City, MT
Listen to BEST ROUTES and Entrances into Yellowstone National Park on the Podcast
NATIONAL FOREST VS NATIONAL PARK CAMPING
We won’t beat around the bush here. Camping in Yellowstone can be a challenge. However, Yellowstone is surrounded by two large and vast National Forest’s. There are plenty of National Forest Campgrounds very close to Yellowstone Entrances. Keep in mind, most of these National Forest Campgrounds do NOT ALLOW Tents. This is Grizzly Bear County, so for Tent Campers do your research. For Van Lifers this really is the way to go. National Forest’s campgrounds all over bathrooms and some even offer hookups. We have personally drove through every National Forest Campgrounds in both National Forests.
- Shoshone National Forest
- Galatian National Forest
Because some of the National Forest Camping areas are so close to Yellowstone, It might be a strategic plan to camp (and park) at a National Forest Campground to explore a specific section of Yellowstone….and it could be cheaper. Most National Forest Campgrounds are very close to the park entrance.
BEST CAMPGROUND FOR INTERNET AND VAN LIFE
The best place to find Data or Internet is Slough Creek Rd, or Slough Creek Campground. It’s in Lamar Valley and only 30 minutes from the NE Entrance. The data speeds are off the charts and locals drive here to upload content such as video or audio. It’s also our pick for BEST Secluded Campground. It’s the ONLY campground that you can actually stream a movie.
BEST TIME TO EXPERIENCE YELLOWSTONE
We have been here all 4 seasons. The best time to experience Yellowstone is in May or September. Why? The weather is awesome (chilly nights) but mild days. AND if your goal is to experience the abundance of Wildlife, then these two months will most assuredly offer that.