The Ultimate RV Guide to Yellowstone National Park

The Ultimate RV Guide to Yellowstone National Park
on Jul 31, 2018

The Yellowstone National Park: Your Ultimate RV Guide

The Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and has since become one of the most highly visited destinations in the world. It’s one of the largest national parks in the entire national park system, offers a human history that dates back over 10,000 years and promises countless vistas, geysers, and marvels across its 3,500 square miles.

There is no doubt that renting a motorhome to explore Yellowstone is one of the best and easiest ways to get the most out of your experience. You’ll be able to stay in the park itself, wake up to phenomenal views every morning, and drive or hike to new sights every day.

Check out our ultimate RV guide to Yellowstone National Park to learn about a few of the must-see locations, where you can camp with your motorhome, and some basic tips on exploring with your RV.

Things to see with your campervan in Yellowstone

While you could practically drive in any direction and enjoy the views and treasures of the park, there are some places in the Yellowstone that simply can’t be passed by:

Old Faithful: Old Faithful is arguably the most famous geyser in the world. It is by no means the biggest, but the fact that it is more or less continually going off (hence the name) every 90 minutes with jets reaching up to 130 metres high makes it a top attraction in the park. Stop at the rim or take a hike out to the viewing platform to watch it blow, and be sure to arrive early for a good view.

The Old Faithful geyser blows up over the landscape of Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs: The Mammoth Hot Springs is where scalding hot water consistently bubbles out of the ground and - as it has done for centuries - created a natural sculpture park from calcium carbonate. You can walk up to the upper terraces or take a longer hiking trail around the springs. Plus, keep your eyes open for the elk that frequent the area!

The Mammoth Hot Springs of Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring: Undoubtedly one of the most eye-catching natural attractions on the planet, the Grand Prismatic Spring is a rainbow in a pool. This spring is the largest in the United States at 370 feet wide and over 120 feet deep, but with pigmented bacteria to colour the pool depending on temperature, it’s the arrays of sky-blue, bright green, and fiery orange-red that make it such a popular spot. Fun fact: The centre of the pool is too hot to support life at all, which is why it is such a bright blue colour.

Steam rises off of the rainbow-coloured Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park

Norris Geyser Basin: It might not be as well-known as Old Faithful, but the Norris Geyser Basin is often a favourite for visitors. It’s a large area you can explore on boardwalks to get a closer look at the hottest and tallest geysers in the Yellowstone National Park, but note that it can get busy, so aim to arrive early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the rush - and potentially catch this otherworldly view at sunrise or sunset.

Where to camp with a motorhome in Yellowstone National Park

There are more than 2,000 campsites throughout Yellowstone National Park across 12 campgrounds. Some are better suited to motorhomes than others, so you’ll need to know what each one offers before you book. Five of the twelve campgrounds require reservations, while the rest are offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

Campgrounds you can book in advance:

The five campgrounds that you must book in advance are Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant, Madison, and Fishing Bridge RV. You can reserve your spot online, and it is best to do this as soon as you have confirmed dates during the busy summer season as the most popular dates and locations can sell out at least six months in advance.

Fishing Bridge is the only campground in the park with full hookups and a dump station, so is often highly sought after. This site is near the East Entrance and has a maximum RV length of 40 feet. This site is also for hard-sided campers only (no tents) due to local grizzly populations.

A tree-lined road curves alongside a mountain in Yellowstone National Park

Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant, and Madison all allow for vehicles of up to 40 feet in length, and none of them offer hookups.

Should you arrive after hours to take your reserved space, you can get your information from an envelope posted on the Registration Building window, and you’ll need to return the next morning to complete your check-in.

Campgrounds that do not accept bookings:

If you didn’t manage to book in advance, you could take your pick of seven campgrounds that operate on a first-come-first-served basis.

These are:

● Indian Creek

● Lewis Lake

● Mammoth

● Norris (only offers seven RV sites)

● Pebble Creek

● Slough Creek

● Tower Fall

Most of these non-reservation campgrounds have smaller length maximums of around 30 feet, so be sure to check before arriving. Only Mammoth Campground is open year-round, while the others are open throughout spring, summer, and autumn.

Cold water rushes along snow-covered mountains in Yellowstone National Park

Tent-only campsites:

There are also roughly 300 backcountry campsites in the park for tents only. There are maximum nightly stays of one to three nights, maximum person limits, and you would need to purchase a pass in advance if you plan to camp in one of these spots.

As a final note on where to stay in Yellowstone with your motorhome, note that there are some campgrounds outside the park if you get stuck. While staying outside the park is certainly an option, it would mean driving in and out every day and cutting into your exploration time, so do your best to book a space in advance or arrive quickly to nab an unreserved site.

Important Yellowstone RV notes

● Research your driving route before you arrive and know what your campervan is capable of. Some roads in Yellowstone are steep, potholed, and/or rocky, so you’ll need to avoid these in most RVs. For example, the Bighorn Mountains by the East Entrance and the Beartooth Highway in the north are not ideal for campervans.

● Know the size of your campervan in order to reserve spaces at campgrounds, and if possible, rent a small motorhome for Yellowstone National Park as most sites will not accept RVs over 40 feet.

● The best entrances to Yellowstone for RV trippers are the West and North Entrances. These two are close to major attractions such as the Mammoth Hot Springs, as well as multiple motorhome parks.

● Never leave food out. Bears and other local wildlife can smell traces of food, so clean barbecues and cooking utensils after use, and store all food inside your campervan or in the provided bear-safe boxes in your campground.

A mama bear and her cub walk through the forest in Yellowstone National Park

● If you are bringing pets with you, note that they must be on a leash at all times when outside. The pet cannot be outside by themselves, you must clean up after them, you cannot leave their food outside unattended, and they can only be left alone in your motorhome so long as they are quiet. Pets cannot be left alone in tents.

● It is best to rent a self-contained motorhome so you don’t have to worry about sticking to campsites with full facilities, which gives you more freedom in your movements.