Yellowstone -summer scramble for campsites? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-10-2014, 12:00 AM   #1
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Yellowstone -summer scramble for campsites?

Hello All

Long time lurker, first time poster. I (finally!) just got my first egg -a 1983 16' Scamp. We've been taking it out locally, but I want to plan a road trip next summer that ideally will include Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier NPs (coming out from San Francisco area). I know some CGs are reservation, some are 1st/1st; I'm very apprehensive about driving all the way out from California and not having a spot. On the other hand, I would like to try to stay in 2-3 areas of the park and not be beholden to a strict schedule. I've heard the stories about 1st/1st filling up fast, people waiting outside your campsite at 6:30 a.m. waiting for you to leave, etc. etc., so I'm just wondering how others have handled this. Should I try to make a reservation the whole time? Make a reservation just for the first few nights and then take my chances on another spot? (We don't need hookups, so don't know if this matters.) Forget about staying in Yellowstone and focus on Grand Teton and Glacier instead? (I have far less anxiety about first come/first serve sites in those places.) Any and all advice appreciated. Thank you!

Kim
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Old 09-10-2014, 06:38 AM   #2
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We were just at the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in late July. We always make reservations and stayed at the Colter Bay RV campground and West Yellowstone KOA. We then explored out from these spots. We don't boondock, so reservations are essential for us. I know both campgrounds were booked solid, but I can't speak for the grounds with primitive set ups. Finding sites without reservations may mean you are spending time driving around rather than having fun in the parks. Hopefully folks who boondock will jump in here, too.
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Old 09-10-2014, 08:44 AM   #3
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Unfortunately the demand for space in the more popular NP's in the summer usually locks a lot of peeps into what they are (hopefully) able to reserve up to 3 months in advance. (check on recreation.gov for reservation windows).

If I have to go in high season I just reserve what will work and go with that. You can't imagine the stress of driving 300 miles, not knowing where you will spend that night at, brings on a person, basically it sux....

BTW: Most check out times are noon and check in's are at 2 PM. More than once I have asked a ranger/camp host to ask an early morning vulture camper to leave until I was gone. In most cases they can just pay for and tag the site they are waiting for and leave it at that. Tell them to check with the host.
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Old 09-13-2014, 05:06 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice! Sounds like having a reservation is the way to go. I will check out Colter Bay and West Yellowstone KOA too. If anyone else has experience with the more primitive sites, please let me know. We used to do these kinds of things in the off season (love Yosemite in early May and late October), but now that I have a daughter in school we've gotta move with the summer crowds. Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted!
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Old 09-13-2014, 06:50 PM   #5
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I have hit Grand Teton without reservations in late July and found probable the nicest camping spot I have stayed at in the Yellowstone/Tetons area. Its the Gros Ventre Campround about 9 mile out of Jackson Hole. When I was there there was no power or water at the sites (I understand that about 30 of the 300 sites there now have power) there are washrooms with running water but no showers - you can get those up the road at another area campground if you don't have your own shower in the trailer or a solar shower bag to get you by.

Loved it there as it was very quite and there is a loop where no generators are allowed. The wildlife roamed through the campground often.
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Old 09-13-2014, 07:14 PM   #6
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Was up there all last week. Here's my

Grand Tetons/Yellowstone Trip report

Just completed road trip, took scenic route up from central New Mexico through western Colorado, Durango, Silverton, ending at the Grand Tetons. Entire trip 8 days. Two days for the drive up, 856 miles.

First night, stay at Grand Junction, CO WalMart. Signs read no overnight parking but WalMart customer service rep said not to worry. Second night, arrive at Gros Ventre Campground (first come, first serve) 9+ miles north of Jackson Hole, no hookups $11.50 with Senior Pass. I highly recommend. Toured the Tetons. The Rockefeller Nature Preserve is wonderful.

Second night, had reservations for 3 pleasant nights at Grand Teton RV Resort Park near Moran, WY, east of Tetons. Full hookups, WiFi. Came to $43.50 per day. Too much! Heated showers but a tad scruffy.

Spent a day in Jackson, WY enjoying the arts and crafts, checked out the galleries, bought trout and Prosciutto at Jackson Whole Foods for a Barbie supper back at site #43. The next day drove 70 miles to Yellowstone. Saw no griz, no moose, and no buffalo until late afternoon drive back. Also no snow. No matter. Nice geysers. Fourth night was back again at Gros Ventre, a favorite stop, prepped for early morning slug for home. Still no moose.

Gross Total miles, 2,653. Total gas, (five stops) 118.7 gallons. I’m guessing 454 miles were driven when not towing our 19 footer. 2014 Silverado tow did well. Best gas price, $3.34/gal, at the Ute Mountain Mobil station on CO route 160 south of Cortez. Worst? Everywhere else.

That long drive up from Durango to Grand Junction (route 550) was much fun, very scenic, but a major gas mileage killer. Steep hills, switchbacks, etc. Our not towing round trip drive through Yellowstone was merely 204 miles. The shortcut road to Old Faithful is closed. At dusk I was in a hurry to get back for supper and got pulled over for speeding. Kindly ranger gave me a warning. Next 50 miles I then kept it at 46 mph and onboard Silverado computers declared an astounding 32 mpg! I still don't believe that.

On way home we went through Moab, UT. Stopped off to tour the area. Near Arches NP, a drive into the Castle Rock Valley reveals great boondock camping sites along the Colorado River. The Gold Bar rec. site, in Canyonlands, is another excellent spot. We drove south of Moab to the turnoff for Needles Point and found Windwhistle campground (BLM). $7.50 with your Senior Pass. No hookups but has a water spigot. These 3 sites are all beautiful, secluded, and very convenient when Arches’ sites fill up early, which is very often.
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Tetons03.jpg   GrosVentreC.jpg  

Tetons05.jpg   Ye-04.jpg  

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Old 09-22-2014, 02:18 PM   #7
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We went to Yellowstone and Glacier last year, you definitely want reservations for your campsites in the summer months. We also headed further up north to Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta after Glacier, it's not that far away and was really nice.
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Old 09-22-2014, 07:15 PM   #8
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I hate being tied to a schedule when on vacation, so you can see why I don't like reservations.

I disagree with most of the above posts about needing reservations. I hope to camp in the Tetons next summer, with perhaps a night or three in Yellowstone, and I will not have reservations; I have every confidence that I will obtain campsites without trouble.

I've camped in Many Glacier CG without reservations at the height of the tourist season... simply drove up and got a spot at 4:30 pm on a weekday. Ok, I really should have played it safe and gotten there more like noon or 1 pm, but it goes to show.

Yosemite, impossible to get a spot without reservations, right? Nope. I drove up to Bridalveil Creek around 10:30 am on a July Sunday and there were plenty of open sites. While I was there they tended not to fill until 3 or 4 pm. Now, the Yosemite Valley CGs are admittedly a different story... I made reservations there for 2 consecutive nights, one obtained 2 weeks before leaving home and the other one just 1 week prior to departure.

In the Tetons, I plan on staying at Lizard Creek for a while. It's small, so it should be quiet and less likely to feel like RV City. It's right on the lake shore, too, so it should be scenic. I suspect that I will have a nice view from my campsite of the mountains across the lake. And if I want to get away from everything, I'll go boondock for free in the national forest land a few miles east.

The best way to get a First-Come site is to show up before noon on a Sunday or early in the week. Have a nearby backup location just in case the primary CG is actually full, but chances are you will score a spot if you get there by the above time. Skip the reservation hassle and be carefree.
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Old 09-22-2014, 08:27 PM   #9
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I agree, if you are willing to take that chance of there being no spaces available, you will hit on an open site in popular campgrounds on occasion. But when you don't, where do you go?

But finding an opening late in the day at Bridalveil Creek is really an exception to the rule as is attested to in a number of reviews.
Bridalveil Creek Campground - Yosemite Natl Pk, CA | Yelp
It is the Only no-reservations campground even close to the Valley and is very popular, especially in mid season. But that said, Sunday night is always the softest because peeps will pay for all day on Sunday so they don't have to pack and leave early, then they come back in the late afternoon and pack up and head back to the Bay Area or L.A., leaving the site empty at 4:30. This is especially common at N.P.'s like Joshua Tree NP that has no reserved campsites inside the park itself.

I have seen lines forming at 10am for space available sites at campground entrances at any number of the most popular National Parks such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone & Zion. Each time a vehicle came out the ranger would check with the driver and, if a space was available, they would let one car in. That's not my kind of camping/vacation.

If I want to go to a popular location I sit on the reservation sites 2-3 nights before I need a reservation. Then as last second cancellations come in, sites become available.

And as mentioned, non-reserved sites are usually at locations some distance from the main areas of the park, such as Yellowstone.

But again, prefer tyop remain mello and know where I will be
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Old 09-22-2014, 08:30 PM   #10
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ooops, that last post went out before I finished it. If there are any boo-boos I will fix them after it's posted.
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Old 09-24-2014, 08:38 AM   #11
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There are also some nice NP campgrounds on the east side of Yellowstone. We stayed in 3-mile campground (3 miles from the entrance) last summer. No services, but it was one of the nicest places we have stayed.

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Old 09-24-2014, 09:09 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Magee View Post
I hate being tied to a schedule when on vacation, so you can see why I don't like reservations.

I disagree with most of the above posts about needing reservations. I hope to camp in the Tetons next summer, with perhaps a night or three in Yellowstone, and I will not have reservations; I have every confidence that I will obtain campsites without trouble.

I've camped in Many Glacier CG without reservations at the height of the tourist season... simply drove up and got a spot at 4:30 pm on a weekday. Ok, I really should have played it safe and gotten there more like noon or 1 pm, but it goes to show.

Yosemite, impossible to get a spot without reservations, right? Nope. I drove up to Bridalveil Creek around 10:30 am on a July Sunday and there were plenty of open sites. While I was there they tended not to fill until 3 or 4 pm. Now, the Yosemite Valley CGs are admittedly a different story... I made reservations there for 2 consecutive nights, one obtained 2 weeks before leaving home and the other one just 1 week prior to departure.

In the Tetons, I plan on staying at Lizard Creek for a while. It's small, so it should be quiet and less likely to feel like RV City. It's right on the lake shore, too, so it should be scenic. I suspect that I will have a nice view from my campsite of the mountains across the lake. And if I want to get away from everything, I'll go boondock for free in the national forest land a few miles east.

The best way to get a First-Come site is to show up before noon on a Sunday or early in the week. Have a nearby backup location just in case the primary CG is actually full, but chances are you will score a spot if you get there by the above time. Skip the reservation hassle and be carefree.
While I agree with you on not making reservations, you were lucky with Many Glacier. It often has a line waiting to get in and is usually filled by early morning. Check the fill times posted at the Glacier Website.

I tried for 2 Medicine at Glacier this July (my favorite Glacier campground), and couldn't get in - had to spend one night at the St Mary KOA (Expensive, and crowded) before I could get a couple of days at St Mary Campground in the park. I guess my point is there is usually some alternative in the area so going without reservations is not impossible.

Other than Yosemite valley campgrounds, the only other place I have had difficulty finding a site was Dead Horse Point State Park in UT. As long as you arrive in the morning & on a Sunday (for some reason, Wednesdays is better at Dead Horse Point) the chances are you are going to find a place. For me, far less tension not having your schedule tied down than making a months worth of reservations, and then trying to hit each location on the right day.
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Old 09-24-2014, 06:32 PM   #13
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Yeah, I was at Many Glacier in July 2011... several days that month, Many Glacier didn't fill until 4 or 5 pm. If it had been July 2012, different story... it tended to fill by 9 or 10 am on many days that month.

Does the NPS have a similar 'fill time' calendar for Yellowstone CGs, or for CGs in any NP besides Glacier? I did use that calendar view when deciding that it would be safe to try for Many Glacier the year I went. It would be really useful if they did this everywhere.
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Old 09-24-2014, 09:11 PM   #14
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Reservation NO.. NO...

I think the reservation system promotes some less than desirable behavior, sometimes very dangerous behavior. There's an attitude that says something like "I planned on going to xxx and by gosh I'm going to xxx." This attitude has killed a number of people, the Episcopal School disaster on Mt. Hood, Oregon several years ago is a good example of this attitude. For that and other cases I don't like set plans. Going to Yellowstone or any other National Park for that matter is NOT in our case going to XXX NP. It's going to XXX NP area. Now should answer the question of what do you do if the campgrounds are full. You simply go someplace else. You change your plans and move on. That's what we did before reservations and that's what some us do now. If a campground if full when I get there it too crowded for me anyway.

Another point like Mike made, know when the campgrounds are likely to be full and to fill up and avoid those times. The best time to come into any campground any place is Sunday before noon. All the weekenders have to get home, get unpacked and ready to go to work on Monday so they leave Sunday morning.

We've been traveling extensively for the past 4 years plus a couple 3 week trips before that, reservation are very rarely part of the program.
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