Camping out in style at Yellowstone

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 2-8, 1998
Choosing an adventurous vacation
River-rafting trips in October
Hiking to Canada's highest waterfall
Camping out in style at Yellowstone

Camping out in style at Yellowstone
Question: We will be flying into Billings, Montana, renting a car, and driving to Yellowstone. We want to travel light. Are there camping outfitters, or cabin campgrounds in or near Yellowstone where two adults and two medium-sized kids could camp without hauling everything along?

Barbara Kuhlengl
Hershey, Pennsylvania

Try Yellowstone's Old Faithful
Lodge for comfortable lodgings

Adventure Adviser: That's a tough quest for a camping trip to Yellowstone. The park's 12 campgrounds are scenic, clean, and well-located but most only offer the bare basics, like pit toilets. And both a park ranger and a friendly woman at a neighboring chamber of commerce informed me that no outfitters will rent just camping gear.

The bottom line is that although a few of the campgrounds have laundry facilities (Canyon Village for one), which will help on the clothes front, you'll need to arrive with all your own equipment. The five Amfac Parks and Resorts-run campgrounds accept reservations, while the seven operated by the National Park Service are on a first-come basis. If you want to camp, I would suggest booking a site through Amfac (307-344-7311) to save yourself the headache of winging it this summer.

If traveling light is your main priority, one option is to reserve a cabin through one of the park's nine lodges. Although none have kitchens per se, guests are welcome to bring coolers and set-up barbecues. Prices range from $30 to $100/per night, depending on the lodge and the type of cabin; the budget or "rustic" cabins do not have bathrooms or running water. At Old Faithful Lodge, the four of you could share a cabin with two double beds, a sink, and wood stove for $52.92/night. Not quite the wilderness experience you may have in mind, but you could get by with less gear. Since you're arriving via Yellowstone's northeast entrance, Canyon Village or Mammoth Hot Springs would be the most convenient, and both offer campsites and cabins. Call the Amfac number above for more information.

You could also solve the gear issue by signing up for an organized park excursion and ditching your rental car for a horse. Bear Tooth Plateau Outfitters (1-800-253-8545) offers a five-day horseback riding trip for $220/ day per person, including horses, meals, sleeping bags, and tents. Call the Cooke City Chamber of Commerce at 406-838-2272 for information on other seasonal outfitters.

Although there are a few additional camping options in Yellowstone's outskirts, I would really suggest staying in the park — that's why you're going, after all. You might also want to pick up a copy of David and Kay Scott's just-published Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges (Globe Pequot Press).

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