Yellowstone National Park Tips (Camping, Safety & Packing)

Yellowstone National Park Camping Tips

These Yellowstone National Park travel tips cover camping in Yellowstone, backpacking, safety tips, what to pack and more!


Yellowstone National Park Tips

In light of a recent unfortunate event at Yellowstone National Park where a man was killed by a Grizzly bear, and since we just returned from a stay in this park, we feel a post about how to stay safe in Yellowstone would come in handy for many travelers who are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Everything You Need to Know for Camping in Yellowstone National Park


Bear Safety in Yellowstone National Park

We visited Yellowstone in the springtime, when bear cubs are abundant, so we were advised to only hike in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, carry bells and make lots of noise in order to keep from surprising any bears.

Although bear attacks are extremely rare in Yellowstone National Park, it’s a good idea to keep these things in mind before hiking or camping in the area.

Up until this year, there had not been any bear-caused human deaths in Yellowstone since 1986. In the recent attack, park rangers have stated this mother bear behaved normally and was merely defending her cubs from a perceived threat and this is why it is wise to make noise in order to prevent bear encounters.

When camping in Yellowstone National Park, don’t leave any food, crumbs, eating utensils, pots, pans, cosmetics or lotion in your tent or at your campsite.

Basically anything with a scent is advised to be locked up when you are away from your site. I was surprised to learn that Yellowstone park rangers advise people to lock these items in their car. I know some places say everything has to go in the designated bear boxes, but we left our stuff in the car and it was fine.

We were told the bears generally don’t come into the campgrounds and if they do, they shoot them with rubber bullets. I guess they have trained them well.

Now, if you are backcountry camping that is a different story. I would say just starve yourself and don’t bring any food at all to be safe, but I guess that advice isn’t very helpful.

Read more: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary To East Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park Travel and Camping Tips


Tips for Backcountry Camping

1. Check with the ranger station before heading into the wilderness and make sure you are following all of the rules for that particular area.

2. Sleep at least 100 yards from where you cook and store your food. Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking food and keep your sleeping gear odor free.

3. Hang your food bags, clothes you wore while cooking and eating and any garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from any tree trunk.

4. Upon arrival of a new campsite, check it over carefully to make sure no garbage or food was left behind by previous campers. If you find anything left behind, it is wise to sleep at least 200 yards away from the cooking area.

5. Human waste and water waste should be disposed of properly.


How to Plan a Trip to Yellowstone National Park


Preparing for a Camping Trip to Yellowstone

If you are flying to Yellowstone and bringing camping gear with you, remember to leave the propane and butane tanks for your grills at home. You will have to purchase these on your way to the park since they will not allow them in carry on or checked bags.

Nights can get cold in Yellowstone, even in the summer. We were certainly not prepared since we had to take a flight and didn’t want to pay to check more than two bags. If I did it over again, I would have paid $23 more each way for one more checked bag so that we could bring our sleeping mats and maybe even another warm blanket. We ended up spending more than that buying a sleeping pad that we ended up having to just throw away before we hopped on our flight home.

If you do forget mats to sleep on, you can take Scott’s dirtbag advice and raid the cardboard recycling bin. By the third night we were so freezing and in need of cushion that we used flattened cardboard under our tent. It actually works pretty well.

Another option is to purchase really good backpacking gear, which is a good investment if you do a lot of backpacking or camping where you need to fly to your destination. We have been on dozens of camping and backpacking trips since our trip to Yellowstone, so we have finally come up with the perfect backpacking and camping packing list.

Yellowstone National Park Packing Tips


Yellowstone National Park Packing Tips

First Aid Kit: J&J sells an inexpensive mini first aid kit.

Mosquito Repellent: The mosquitoes can get pretty thick in the spring and summer. You will want a good insect repellent.  We brought this one because it was small enough to add to our pack.

Camping Stove: We have done extensive research on the best and lightest backpacking gear for these types of trips. This backpacking stove is tiny, weighs next to nothing and it heats stuff up fast.

Cookware: We just bought this tiny cookware set for backpacking trips and it’s extremely compact.

Sleeping Bags: This sleeping bag is great for backpacking and it gets excellent reviews.

Tent: We love this lightweight Marmot 2-person tent.

Sleeping Pads: These ones are amazing!

Backpacks: If you are looking for a durable, light, and inexpensive backpack, we recommend the Teton Scout.

Solar Charger: We carry this solar charger to charge our phones and camera batteries.

Dress in Layers: The weather can be fickle year-round. During the summer, night temperatures in Yellowstone average 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and during winter the temperature reaches negative numbers.

For more tips on planning a visit to Yellowstone, see the National Park Service’s website.

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What are your tips for camping and hiking in Yellowstone?


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  1. DixieAngel_76 says:

    So, more or less plan on having nothing to eat or drink, and no place to go to the bathroom, and you’re good. Do I have that right?

  2. Optimum RV says:

    We had a close experience in Kings Canyon while on an RV Trip in a 5th wheel. Luckily the fridge hid the smell of the food.

  3. disqus_wzvraD5Rr3 says:

    you don’t need a cushion for your tent, bring a hammock instead. there are plenty of trees to hang from.

  4. Escape Traveler says:


    Is it safe to tent camp in the larger campsite at yellostone? Grant Village or Norris? I am a bit concern about bear safety.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      If you are in any of the designated campsites, I wouldn’t worry. The Rangers patrol those pretty well and shoot the bears with rubber bullets if they see them in the campsites. Just make sure not to put anything with a scent in your tent! Enjoy!

  5. Jem Trueman says:

    Dude your blog is awesome. I am going to copy all these points for my next trip. Nice share.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks, Jem! We are happy the tips helped. Enjoy Yellowstone!

  6. Luizze Oliveira says:

    Before sometime I had gone US trip and I enjoyed hiking at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii and I must say that people must have to follow above hiking and camping trip for safety and security.

  7. Debra L. Pease says:

    We are going to Yellow Stone mid June and decided to pack our full size tent which fit easily in a large suitcase along with a double air mattress, a 9 volt air pump, down comforter and flannel sheets.  The other large suitcase has a small propane heater, single cooker, a mattress pad, one pot, one pan, other kitchen necessities, a collapsible cooler and towels.  We also packed sun creme and bug spray and a small whistle that is very loud and a compass.  I plan on buying bear spray when I arrive.  Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!  Will posts pics when I return!!

  8. Debra L. Pease says:

    We are going to Yellow Stone mid June and packed a full size tent, air mattress, down comforter and flannel sheets.  We also bought a propane heater for the tent.  I pack3ed a loud whistle and a compass.  I plan on buying the bear spray when I arrive.  Will post back when we return and also plan on taking a ton of pics!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Hi Debra. It sounds like you guys are set! I wish we had brought an air mattress. Do you also have sleeping bags? The only other thing I would suggest to pack is layers of clothing. The weather is very unpredictable. Hot one minute and cold the next. You guys are going to love it! You can always post photos on our Facebook page when you return. We would love to see them!

  9. summer camps says:

    I hope we won’t encounter any problem when we camp there on Thursday. My cousin, Perry, loves to go camping with his friends and me. On this coming Thursday, we are set to go there.

  10. Fred Ocampo says:

    Wow! Those places are really fit for family camping. I really love it. Thanks for sharing this post. I hope to see more of your post regarding ideal camping sites.

  11. Sunish Sebastian says:

    You have some wonderful tips here!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks! Glad you found them helpful!

  12. Sofia - As We Travel says:

    Great advice, scary thing being attacked by a bear! Good thing changing clothes and not leaving food out around your tent. 
    Reminds me of when we happened to leave some wine by our tent door once, and in the middle of the night we heard some noises outside. I was a little scared, until I looked outside and found…. a drunk hedgehog…

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Haha! That’s funny. Yea, we have had some scary wake ups while camping too. A shadow from a raccoon looks pretty big along the side of a tent! 🙂

  13. In Banff National Park there are certain trails where they make you travel in a group of at least 4 or more – not 3 – because there has never been a recorded attack with 4 people. Attacks are rare – but they get so much press that people avoid camping in bear country which is a shame.

    I did a post a while back on what to do if attacked by a bear -black bears & grizzlies behave differently so you have to know your bears. If you want to really freak yourself out read The Bear’s Embrace – a true story.

    Bring a head net (& they’re collapsible ones available) to make spring camping more tolerable.
    I boil hot water , add it do my water bottle & take it to bed with me.That can help a lot.
    I love your pictures and as usual they’re amazing.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Yea, I would definitely go with as many people as possible. That’s interesting that there has never been a reported attack on groups of 4 or more.

  14. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Incredible photos! 

    Unfortunately, as soon as I find out that I have to learn about bear safety, my desire to camp goes out the window 🙂

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      It’s unfortunate, but I feel the same way. I have to force myself and get past my fear.

  15. Geert @ Inspiring Travellers says:

    I have to admit, the thought of bears really scares me from wanting to hike for days in parts of the US and Canada – though it looks so gorgeous that I do want to go some day. But these are great tips and wise advice for those heading there!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I know. Backpacking for days sounds really cool, but then I think of all the stuff I have to do to prepare every night for bears and it makes it sound a little less cool.

  16. I don’t know why Yellowstone has eluded me still. I should really get down there, soon.  I had my first and only encounter with a bear near Mount Rainier. I remembered to stay in its line of sight and not to make any sudden movements. Thinking back on it in hindsight, I realize it wasn’t really that close to me, but had I ran, inevitably, it would have caught up. Lucky for me, it didn’t even bother and just ran the other way. Its definitely a scary moment and always good to prepare for it before going to the backcountry. Great tips.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      That must have been scary and exciting. Even a bear at a distance would spook me while hiking.

  17. lorna - the roamantics says:

    this is SUCH a GREAT and valuable post! i never went camping until i turned 30 believe it or not, and still haven’t really done hard-core camping where i have to cook food at a fire for days, etc. so i wouldn’t know the first thing about this! may surprise you knowing that i now live in a 45 sq ft RV, right? 😉 ha ha. i’m sure these are even safety measures i should apply sleeping in the chinook seeing it’s so tiny. who ever would have imagined cosmetics or clothes you cooked in to be a problem?? certainly not this camping rookie. thanks guys 🙂

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Haha.. glad you found it useful, Lorna! Wow.. that does surprise me that you didn’t go camping until age 30. I bet you love it now though, right? 😉

  18. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    I could relate to this post, having camped at Yellowstone last summer after a deadly grizzly attack just outside of the park’s border! Your advice is incredibly helpful for anyone planning a trip to the park. My favorite line– “If you do forget mats to sleep on, you can take Scott’s dirtbag advice and raid the cardboard recycling bin.” Yikes!

    1. When your sleep deprived you just get desperate. In a pinch, cardboard does provide extra padding. You do what you have to do. LOL!

  19. Andrew - The Unframed World says:

    when I read the title of this post I admit I got exciting for the photos I expected you to post since you guys always have great shots. You didn’t disappoint. You remember how long that tent shot was exposed for? Keep it!

    1. Thanks Andrew, I always value your opinion because I know you know great shots!

  20. Thanks for all the tips. I’m leaving in a week for YellowStone and want to stay safe. (1st time going to yellow stone)

  21. Jeremy Branham says:

    Stay away from bears! 🙂 

    I feel bad for the guy that got killed but don’t blame the bear.  In your opinion, is bear spray a good idea?  There are lots of bears in Tahoe (as you know) but at least they aren’t grizzlies.  In the case of this guy, I think I would have turned around after seeing a bear and cubs the first time.

    As for camping, good idea about changing your clothes after cooking! For me, I am curious about the best hiking tips for avoiding bears.  I’ve read a lot on it but I think that might be something good to focus on (as in the case with this guy who died).

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I think the bear spray is wise to get if you are going to be hiking and camping in Grizzly area. Scott and I forgot to get it before we headed to the park. We also didn’t have bells and there was only two of us, so we thankfully chose not to do any serious hiking (besides the areas where there were a lot of people around).

      The biggest thing I think you can do when hiking is to make sure you have all of the things mentioned at the beginning of this article. Bring bear spray, bells, don’t go into backcountry unless you are 3 or more and make noise so you don’t surprise any bears. If anybody has anymore hiking tips, please feel free to share. We are by no means bear experts. 😉 Except sloth bears. hehe

      I have never had a problem hiking in Tahoe area. I’m curious how often people see bears there.