3 Beautiful Boondocking Sites Outside Yellowstone

 3 Beautiful Boondocking Sites Outside Yellowstone

Looking for some boondocking sites outside Yellowstone National Park?

Any RV’er who has spent one or more nights in a campground inside Yellowstone National Park knows just why the park is so popular. Its magnificent geysers, colorful hot springs, glorious waterfalls, rolling meadows, and gorgeous landscapes provide an awe-inspiring experience for all visitors. 

Add to all of that beauty a safari-like bounty of wildlife, and the truth is, Yellowstone is downright magical. We've written about it for years!

There is no more intimate way to experience that magic than to overnight INSIDE the park in one or more of the park’s numerous campgrounds. But securing a campsite in the park usually requires either booking months in advance or arriving at a first-come-first-served campground at a brutal, predawn hour. 

However, the magic of Yellowstone country does not exist only inside the park boundary.

yellowstone map
Think outside Yellowstone

Indeed, RV’ers looking to boondock near to but not inside Yellowstone can find delightful campgrounds and dispersed camping opportunities if they are willing to travel off the beaten path a little.

Many of these spots are too far away from a park entrance to act as a home-base for daily trips to the park.

What they offer instead is the chance to slow down, spread out, and soak up the beauty of Yellowstone country without the congestion of the park’s interior.

Here are three gems to consider, two just northeast and another just northwest of Yellowstone: 

1. Lily Lake Camping Area, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

lily lake
Lily Lake camping area

Located just northeast of Yellowstone National Park along Highway 212, the Lily Lake camping area offers a small, traditional campground as well as a variety of undesignated, dispersed sites. 

Between Cooke City and Beartooth Pass, the turnoff for this camping area is very near to the junction with Highway 296, which connects Cody, Wyoming to the Beartooth Highway.

The campground, which has a boat launch and is located by the lake, has a handful of designated camping spots and a ‘22 length limit. 

Many of the dispersed sites, while farther from the lake,  can handle larger rigs and offer sweeping views of the surrounding terrain.

From the highway, take the Lily Lake gravel road 1 ½ miles to the top of the hill where the dispersed sites begin. These sites have no services but are free with a 16-day limit.

This camping area is likely inaccessible in spring without 4-wheel drive as the winter snows melt off. But starting in the middle of summer, Lily Lake can be a great stopping point for travelers either planning to spend just a night or hoping to land in one spot for a while.

August and September, in particular, are wonderful months for this area. With the coming of autumn, summer bugs are replaced with aspen-filled meadows of gold, brilliant star-filled night skies, crisp, clear frosty mornings, and perhaps the sound of bugling elk in the distance. 

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Turn off from highway 212 to the Lily Lake camping area. 

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One of many dispersed campsites in the Lily Lake camping area. Pilot and Index mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. 

2. North Crandall Trailhead, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

North Crandall Trailhead, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming
North Crandall Trailhead, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

The famous Beartooth Highway, which brings travelers up and over 10,000 feet to a breathtaking, alpine mountain pass, is well known for good reason.

The endless switchbacks and tight, harrowing curves can be both thrilling and terrifying at the exact same time.

It also provides a convenient connection between Red Lodge and Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. But the nearby and the lesser-known Chief Joseph Highway (Hwy 296) also provides a similar, albeit less-frightening experience.

Passing through the aptly-named Sunlight Basin, with wide-open Wyoming skies, rolling sage meadows, and glorious mountain scenery, this well-maintained and beautiful route joins with Cody, Wyoming for access to the park’s east entrance. 

Those looking to boondock along this lovely stretch of highway might consider an overnight at the North Crandall Trailhead, located just west of the Crandall Ranger Station, in the Shoshone National Forest.

The North Crandall Road is suitable for all vehicles and extends less than one mile before arriving at the camping area, making for a convenient overnight for those on the move.

In truth, this camping area seems more designed for parking horse trailers than setting up camp for multiple nights. But the scenery is outstanding and camping is free.

There is a vault toilet and a few undesignated fire rings but no other services.

Some stunning hiking is available nearby for those wanting to stretch their legs a bit.

Of interest, next to the trailhead is a beautifully made memorial set in a heart-shaped boulder for Edward L. Hutton, a Wyoming firefighter who was killed in October of 1988 while fighting the Clover-Mist fire. He was just 26 years old and the only firefighter to die while fighting Yellowstone-area fires during that so very memorable summer. 

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Dispersed camping at the North Crandall Trailhead, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

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Heart-shaped memorial for firefighter Edward L. Hutton

Boondocking Sites Outside Yellowstone – Northwest Corner

3. Taylor Fork designated dispersed camping, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

Taylor Fork
Taylor Fork

When people talk about visiting Yellowstone, they often forget to include the park's scenic northwest corner.

This region often gets overlooked because it is not part of what is considered the park’s “interior.” But between West Yellowstone and Big Sky, patient travelers can enjoy this short stretch of Highway 191, which parallels pristine open meadows and clear-watered mountain streams.

Indeed, most set their cruise control and fly through this lovely stretch of highway, hardly realizing they are inside of Yellowstone National Park.  But those willing to slow down and spend quality time here can take advantage of the many roadside pullouts to enjoy the views without the crowds and congestion of the park’s interior. 

And yes, one can find boondocking spots!

Not within the national park, of course. But just north of the park boundary on Highway 191, about ten miles south of Big Sky, is a turnoff for Taylor Fork, FS Road 134.

Here, along about 11 picturesque miles of gravel, exist a couple dozen designated, dispersed campsites in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Starting at the two or three-mile mark, most sites are well-spaced for privacy and can be found on both sides of the road.

All sites are well placed, with some tucked away quaintly in the forest and others right on the banks of the lovely, free-flowing stream.

Open year-round weather dependent, Taylor Fork Road does not require four-wheel drive and is accessible for large and small RV’s. No fees. No facilities. 14 day limit. 

Camping is allowed only at designated, marked sites. Arrive early in the day or plan for mid-week as the locals know about this area and weekends can fill up.

It is wonderful for fishing, hiking, biking, or to just relax and soak up the scenery for a few days.

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One of a couple dozen designated dispersed campsites on Taylor Fork Road.

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Biking along Taylor Fork Road.

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Hiking Teepee Creek, near Taylor Fork and the northwest boundary of Yellowstone

A link to a map of Taylor Fork’s designated dispersed campsites is right here.

Something handy to have with you if you are thinking of boondocking…

We created a PRINT version of our most popular guide to help you with the most common boondocking problems. We get a ton of questions from our subscribers about how to get started boondocking that range from where to go and wild animals to water conservation to what equipment to use and more. 

3 Beautiful Boondocking Sites Outside Yellowstone 8

Throw off the shackles of traditional RV Parks and campgrounds, stop paying high fees every night that you spend in your RV, and experience the boundless amounts of nature while boondocking.

You’re done with the noisy RV parks, the 3.5 feet of room you have squished in between two other RVs, and other people’s kids running through your campsite?

You’ve ditched the hookups, the concrete blocks and have replaced them with self-leveling and Navy showers?

This is the book for you.

Our Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide

At the top of every RVers bucket list, it is a place so majestic, so wild, and so big that it calls us to return, to explore, to get to know the diversity of its land and animals over and over again.

Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodgepole pines, all framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless sky.

It’s spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and personal with it. Enjoy Yellowstone for RV travel.

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3 Beautiful Boondocking Sites Outside Yellowstone

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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