Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight stays. Yellowstone maintains 293 designated backcountry campsites. 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. Neither hunting nor firearms are allowed in Yellowstone’s backcountry.
Beginning spring 2022, visitors will be able to make advance online reservations for backcountry permits at Recreation.gov.
The new system is a direct response to public requests for an online backcountry permit reservation system and prompted a collaborative effort between the National Park Service (NPS) and Recreation.gov. Moving to an online system allows backcountry users to check availability in real time and receive instant confirmation when reserving a trip.
The ability to make advance reservations will enable visitors to plan their trips ahead of time and provide assurance they will have a permit for their chosen itinerary upon arrival. It will enrich the visitor experience by eliminating uncertainty and frustration and improve safety.
The three options for obtaining a backcountry permit include:
- Early Access Lottery. The Early Access Lottery application period will go live on Recreation.gov March 1, 2022, and will end March 20, 2022. This lottery is based on a fair and randomized process to provide an equal opportunity for each applicant to be selected. If selected, successful lottery applicants will be assigned a date and time to book their proposed reservation online during the Early Access Period from April 1 through April 24. Participants are limited to a single reservation during the Early Access Period but may create additional reservations beginning April 26.
- General Permits. On April 26, remaining permits for open campsites will be available on Recreation.gov.
- Walk-up Permits. These permits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis up to 48 hours in advance. Walk-up Permits cannot be reserved online in advance or through the Recreation.gov Call Center.
Early Access Lottery and General Permits will account for approximately 75% of permits issued for the season. The remaining permits will be available as Walk-up Permits.
Backcountry permit fees
Backcountry permit fees will increase beginning March 1, 2022. This will be the first increase since fees were implemented in 2015.
- There will be a $10 application fee for the Early Access Lottery. This fee is charged for all applications to the lottery regardless of success. Successful applicants will pay a $5 per-person, per-night permit fee.
- For General Permits and Walk-up Permits, the cost will be $5 per person, per night plus a $10 reservation fee.
- The Yellowstone Annual Backcountry Pass will be available through Recreation.gov for $50. The pass exempts the individual pass holder from the $5 per-person, per-night permit fee.
This website is a tool to plan your next trip, figure out details, and reserve experiences at over 4,200 facilities and 110,000 individual sites across the country. The Recreation.gov mobile app puts adventure at your fingertips. From booking a weekend getaway to planning a cross-country road trip, the Recreation.gov app helps you find and reserve campsites, review location details, and quickly access information on past and upcoming reservations.
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.
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.