Saturday, December 9, 2023


RVers crowded out in Yellowstone. What to do?

Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkWe are in Yellowstone and we don’t have a reservation. We had no idea that half the world would be here visiting the same time we arrived. We cannot find a place to camp and have no choice but to leave the park and pay commercial rates on the fringes.

I want to stay and fight the crowds, but my husband wants to leave and try again sometime in the future with reservations. I say we will run into the same problem everywhere else — let’s stay and fight.

Is this what we have to look forward to as we begin our grand retirement adventure? —Crowd Control in Gardiner

Dear Crowd Control:
I feel your pain. Last year more than 4 million people from all over the world visited Yellowstone. The park superintendent was quoted in the May issue of National Geographic. He basically said numbers of visitors would have to be limited or plan on irreparable damage to the resource. Even off-season it is hard to explore Yellowstone. Getting a camping site is only the beginning. You then have to fight for a parking space at every attraction trailhead.

You will eventually learn to time your visits to some of the most popular attractions in America. Off-season will be better, but not trouble-free. Spring and fall find many campgrounds not open or already closed for the season. This leaves fewer sites for all those lucky enough to travel during those seasons.

Even though I hate making reservations, I always do at Yosemite and Yellowstone. It has almost become a necessity. Many parks in Utah are the same way spring and fall. People from around the world fly into Vegas, rent some type of RV and balloon the visitation numbers to Utah’s many natural wonders.

It is not as bad as it sounds. It can be managed, but when people first start traveling with an RV, often they have never considered this situation. You will learn to deal with it.

We seldom move on busy weekend days like Friday and Saturday. On Sunday many people are heading home after a weekend of camping, and numerous spots open up early. We find Sunday a great day to snag sites in busy areas.

Yellowstone is so large you almost have to stay in several different geographical areas to tour the park. Border towns do have commercial parks, but it is not as enjoyable as staying in park campgrounds and getting the real feel of incredible Yellowstone.

Leaving or playing campground bingo on the computer, trying to snag a site, is your option. Just don’t give up visiting this special place. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink



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Native Montanan (@guest_1898)
7 years ago

We used to camp in Yellowstone for 2 weeks in August. Even then, 20 +- years ago, it was too crowded. We live 90 miles away and will only go in early spring or later in September. Tourists are so stupid about wildlife. My mother, who worked at Old Faithful, said people would ask where did they put the animals at night. Locals love tourists money but dislike their ignorance. The ignorance costs people their lives but, even worse, the animals die!

Gene Bjerke (@guest_1656)
7 years ago

Seeking reservations do not always work out either. This spring we gave up trying to get reservations at a couple of Florida State Parks. We found that going on the reservation web site at the earliest moment (8:00 am exactly eleven months to the day before the day we wanted) all sites were already booked. Most discouraging.
In Yellowstone four years ago we found that if we hit the campground office at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning we could sometimes snag a site that was being vacated. Good luck.

James (@guest_1643)
7 years ago

When we visited Yellowstone we stayed at an RV park on the road in from Cody WY. The scenery was beautiful and I could hear the horses in the field next to our RV. I do not want to drive my RV around in the park so this was very convenient to drive our toad into the park each day. It was a full service hookup with WIFI and no problems with satellite reception. We have been to most of the national parks in our 8 years RVing and generally prefer to stay outside the park rather than inside the park. But then we are RVers not campers.

Ellen (@guest_1642)
7 years ago

To answer the question about whether this is what the couple can expect — the answer is, sadly, yes. We started full-timing in the spring of 2009 and didn’t make reservations for years. Now we do when we visit popular spots if we want any control over where we’re going to stay. Off-season helps, but in some places that means weather can be an issue (we opted for the Grand Canyon South Rim last year in May and it snowed most of the time we were there). While it’s nice to see places like Yellowstone — especially if you’ve never been there — there are a great number of less popular spots that are amazing. I’d mention them, but I don’t want them to get crowded too! Good luck and know that you’ll be able to see our incredible country, reservations or not 🙂

Ed Price (@guest_1623)
7 years ago

I did Yellowstone two years ago. I picked up a rental car in Idaho Falls and drove that and my rig to Victor, Idaho. I left the rig in a nice campground in Victor, and drove into Yellowstone over several days, returning to the rig in Victor each night. In effect, I stayed at a nice, quiet rural campground and didn’t have to fight the crowds in Yellowstone in my big rig. The cost of the rental car was less than the cost of the gas that I would have needed to push my rig through Yellowstone.

Jim Blake (@guest_1614)
7 years ago

Yellow Stone camping! Drive out of the South entrance of Yellowstone about 5 miles to Grand Teton National Park to camp, FREE. Yes there are about 12 campsites (primitive) along a beautiful River and all you have to do is pull in and park.
They have Bear Trash Cans only and no other facilities. But, Hey, it is free.

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