YNP camping

Yellowstone campers enjoy some grub in this undated photo from the National Park Service. The national park has announced that it is converting some of its campgrounds to reservation-only for 2021, leaving only 166 park-wide sites that will remain first-come, first-served.

Yellowstone National Park has announced that it is following in its southern neighbor’s footsteps and converting some campgrounds to reservation-only for the coming summer.

Earlier this year, Grand Teton National Park announced it was doing away with all first-come, first-served camping, and had converted its 800-plus sites spread throughout seven campgrounds to reservation-only.

The same shift in Yellowstone applies to the Mammoth and Slough Creek campgrounds and a portion of the Pebble Creek campground. Yellowstone concessionaire Xanterra already operated five of the park’s 12 campgrounds as reservation-only, and that leaves just five campgrounds with first-come, first-served sites — but two, Norris and Tower Falls campgrounds, will be closed in 2021.

Impromptu roadtrippers who roll into Northwest Wyoming’s two flagship national parks in summer 2021 are down to three spots where unplanned camping will be in the cards: Lewis Lake Campground, the Indian Creek Campground and a portion of Pebble Creek. Collectively, they offer 166 campsites that will be available without a reservation. With 30,000-plus visitors passing through Yellowstone during each peak summer day, there promises to be hearty competition.

According to Yellowstone’s public affairs office, the changes were made at the request of visitors.

“The ability to make reservations will enable visitors to plan their trips ahead of time and provide assurance that they will have a campsite upon arrival,” park officials wrote. “It will enrich the visitor experience by reducing traffic congestion at campgrounds, improving safety, and eliminate uncertainty and frustration.”

Bookings for Yellowstone’s newly reservable campsites will go live on Recreation.gov starting at 8 a.m. March 24. Visitors will be able to book campsites up to six months in advance, so through late September. They’re expected to go quickly.

Outside the peak season, Yellowstone is also keeping the Mammoth Campground’s 85 sites first-come, first-served. It’ll convert to reservation only come May 1, then revert Oct. 16.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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