Discover a world's worth of attractions: geysers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and some of the best wildlife-watching anywhere
Visiting Yellowstone is like touring adifferent planet. At 3,472 square miles, it's bigger than RhodeIsland and Delaware combined. And it contains a world's worth ofattractions: geysers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and someof the best wildlife-watching anywhere. The park has 12campgrounds, and most visitors choose to bunk near the headlinerattractions: Canyon Campground near Yellowstone Canyon, or BridgeBay and Grant Village Campgrounds alongside Yellowstone Lake. Butif you're looking for solitude and wildlife, consider farther-flunggems like Pebble Creek and Slough Creek, where the grizzlies andbuffalo play.
• Slough Creek. Tucked into the park's northeast corner,Slough Creek is a full two hours from Old Faithful, at the far endof a 2½-mile gravel road. But look what awaits: creeksidebeauty, cutthroat trout, and some of the park's bestwildlife-watching (bison and the occasional grizzly). 29 sites May26-late Oct; $12. 307/344-7381.
• Lewis Lake. Near Yellowstone's southern entrance, Lewis Laketends to fill up more slowly than other park campgrounds ―which is strange, because it's lovely, with trout fishing and goodhiking. 85 sites Jun 16-Nov 6; $12. 307/344-7381.
• Pebble Creek. A bit east of Slough Creek, Pebble Creek alsooffers excellent wildlife-watching and fishing, plus gorgeoushiking along the 12-mile Pebble Creek Trail. 32 sites Jun 9-Sep 25;$12. 307/344-7381.
Outside the park
The scenery doesn't stop at Yellowstone's boundaries.Adjacent Beaverhead-Deerlodge(406/683-3900), Caribou-Targhee(208/524-7500), Gallatin(406/587-6701), and Shoshone (307/578-1200)National Forests are nearly as spectacular as the park, and alloffer camping.
• Island Lake and Beartooth Lake. Full disclosure: Located inthe Shoshone National Forest, 25 miles east of Yellowstone'snortheast entrance, Island Lake and neighboring Beartooth Lake arenot incredibly convenient for day-tripping in and out of the park.But they're two of the most beautiful campgrounds anywhere in theWest, each set on a glistening lake high in the BeartoothMountains. Trust us ― camping doesn't get more spectacularthan this. 21 sites at Beartooth Jul 1-Oct 1, 20 sites at IslandLake Jul 1-Oct 1; $10. 307/578-1200.
• Lonesomehurst. On the South Fork of Hebgen Lake, within theGallatin National Forest, the campground offers incredible lake andwater views and easy access to the town of West Yellowstone and thepark's northwest entrance, both about a 20-minute drive away. 26sites May 15-Sep 15; $14. 406/823-6961.
What camp hosts say
• Five of the park's campgrounds are reservable. If youcan be flexible about dates and sites at the campgrounds(307/344-7311), you'll be at an advantage.
• There are 7 first-come, first-served campgrounds. Showup early in the day ― preferably midweek.
• Be bear aware. Don't leave food or any other scenteditem in your tent or unattended at your site. Store everything inyour car or in a bear box if the campground offers one.
Get ready to go
Yellowstone is so big, you need to plan out what you mostwant to see and when. (That's especially true if the park roads areclosed for summer maintenance; call 307/344-7381 for updates.) Lookinto the excellent programs offered by the nonprofit YellowstoneAssociation Institute (307/344-2293).
Info: Seven-day pass $25 per vehicle. www.nps.gov/yell or307/344-7381.