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Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Page



This page contains information and links to Yellowstone National Park Backcountry trip planning. This information will help in planning a backcountry camping trip and has links to the reservation form for requesting a backcountry campsite.


Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight stays. Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite varies from 1 to 3 nights per trip. Campfires are permitted only in established fire pits. Wood fires are not allowed in some backcountry campsites. A food storage pole is provided at most designated campsites so that food and attractants may be secured from bears.




A new "firearms in parks" law is in effect as of Feb. 22, 2010. See Laws and Policies for more information.


Permits may be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. Permits are available from most ranger stations and visitor centers. In order to obtain the best information on trail conditions, permits should be obtained from the ranger station or visitor center nearest to the area where your trip is to begin. The Backcountry Use Permit is valid only for the itinerary and dates specified. Backcountry travelers must have their permits in possession while in the backcountry.




Advance Reservations for Backcountry Campsites


Although permits must be obtained in person no more than 48 hours in advance, backcountry campsites may be reserved in advance. Requests for reservations must be submitted by mail or in person. They cannot be made over the phone or by fax. Reservations are booked on a first come, first served basis. A confirmation notice, not a permit, is given or mailed to the camper. This confirmation notice must then be converted to the actual permit not more than 48 hours in advance of the first camping date. Details are provided on the confirmation notice. The reservation fee is $ 20.00 regardless of the number of nights out or the number of people involved. The fee is not refundable. Forms for making an advance reservation are available to download online at: Backcountry Trip Planner, or by writing to:


Backcountry Office
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Phone: 307-344-2160
Contact: Email




Permits and Reservations Made Less Than 48 Hours in Advance


Because only a portion of the approximately 300 backcountry campsites are available for advance reservations, you may choose to wait until you arrive in the park to reserve your site(s) and obtain your permit. The $ 20.00 fee applies only to reservations made more than 48 hours in advance of the start of your trip.




Where to Get Your Permit


During the summer season (June - August), permits are available 7 days a week between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the following locations:


Bullet Bechler Ranger Station
Bullet Canyon Visitor Center
Bullet Grant Village Visitor Center
Bullet Bridge Bay Ranger Station
Bullet Mammoth Visitor Center
Bullet Old Faithful Ranger Station
Bullet South Entrance Ranger Station
Bullet Tower Ranger Station
Bullet West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center

In addition, permits may sometimes be obtained from rangers on duty at the East Entrance. However, these rangers have other duties and may not be available to provide assistance at all times.


During the spring, fall, and winter seasons, ranger stations and visitor centers do not have set hours. To obtain a Backcountry Use Permit during these seasons, check the office hours posted at the nearest ranger station or visitor center.


Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided overnight (Backpacking) trips into Yellowstone's backcountry. These businesses would obtain the Backcountry Use Permits for trips that they provide.




Backcountry Permit Fees


Visitors obtaining a backcountry permit with trip dates between Memorial Day and September 10 will be charged per person, per night permit fee. Backcountry permit fees apply for group members that are 9 years or older. Backcountry permit fees will be collected when you pick up your permit.


Backpackers / Boaters: $3 per-person per-night. The group per night fee will be capped at $15 dollars per night.


Stock Parties (Horses/Mules/Llamas): $5 per person per night. There is no cap on the group per night fee.


Annual Backcountry Pass: For individuals taking several or extended overnight trips in Yellowstone's backcountry there is an Annual Backcountry Pass available for $25 dollars. The Annual Backcountry pass is valid for one season (Memorial Day - September 10) and will exempt the individual from the per-person per night fee. You will need to present both the Annual Backcountry Pass and photo identification when using the Annual Backcountry Pass in order for the Backcountry permit fees to be waived. The Annual Backcountry Pass does not cover advanced reservations.




Safety in Bear Country


Hiking and camping restrictions are occasionally in effect as a result of bear activity. Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, or scat. Odors attract bears, so avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods. Keep a clean camp; do not cook or store food in your tent. All food, garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food must be secured from bears. Most backcountry campsites have food poles from which all food, cooking gear, and scented articles must be suspended when not being used. Treat all odorous products such as soap, deodorant, or other toiletries in the same manner as food. Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes. Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat to human safety and eventually must be destroyed or removed from the park. Please obey the law and do not allow bears or other wildlife to obtain human food.


Sleep a minimum of 100 yards / 91 meters from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odor. Don't sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating; hang clothing worn while cooking and eating in plastic bags.


Considering bears' highly developed sense of smell, it may seem logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with menstruation. Studies on this subject are few and inconclusive. If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.


If you are involved in a conflict with a bear, regardless of how minor, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Another's safety may depend on it. Exceptional combinations of food, shelter, and space draw grizzlies to some parts of Yellowstone more than others. In these Bear Management Areas, human access is restricted to reduce impacts on the bears and their habitat. Ask at ranger stations or visitor centers for more information.




Handling Refuse


All refuse must be carried out of the backcountry. Human waste must be buried 6 to 8 inches / 15 - 20 centimeters below the ground and a minimum of 100 feet / 30 meters from a watercourse. Waste water should be disposed of at least 100 feet / 30 meters from a watercourse or campsite. Do not pollute lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams by washing yourself, clothing, or dishes in them.




General Safety Concerns


Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil to reduce the chance of infection.


Don't take chances in backcountry thermal areas. Scalding water underlies thin, breakable crusts; pools are near or above boiling temperatures. Each year, visitors traveling off trail have been seriously burned, and people have died from the scalding water. No swimming or bathing is allowed in thermal pools.


Removing, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, or mineral is prohibited. Leave historical and archeological items in place.


Information provided by the National Park Service.



Backcountry Campsite Map of Yellowstone National Park

Backcountry Campsite Information of Yellowstone National Park

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