Entrances to Yellowstone NP: Gardiner, MT at North Entrance

Our Gardiner, MT camp looking south. All the mountains  in the picture are in Yellowstone NP. The town is in the valley to the right of us.

Our Gardiner, MT camp looking south. All the mountains in the picture are in Yellowstone NP. The town is in the valley to the right of us. Natural beauty, very little traffic, an abundance of wildlife and a great 4g signal made it one of my favorite camps. 

After three days of the nightmare of dealing with the crowds and traffic at Yellowstone, I needed a break! Next up on my agenda was to drive the Beartooth Scenic Byway from the northeast entrance into Yellowstone up to Red Lodge, Montana. I’ve heard all my life that this was the most beautiful and amazing drive in the whole country so I was really looking forward to it. I needed to spend a few days catching up on website work so I wanted to find a campsite along the way where I could get internet in camp. The most likely looking place was at Gardiner, MT which is at the north entrance into Yellowstone in the Gallatin NF. So I downloaded the MVUM for the Gallatin NF, and sure enough it listed lots of dispersed camping very near town. That’s where I was going next!

The climb up Travertine Rd. to my campsite.

The climb up Travetine Rd. to my campsite.

Gardner Camp

Gathering storm at my Gardiner Camp

Rainbow at Gardiner camp.

Rainbow at Gardiner camp.

After another drive through Yellowstone I arrived in the small but very nice town of Gardiner. Like nearly everything associated with the National Parks it is primarily a tourist trap, and like most northern states, they can’t do much road work in the winter so they double-up in the summer. The main road into Yellowstone through Gardiner was all torn up so getting around was more difficult. It’s a typical small-town tourist-trap, lots of tourist stuff with many restaurants and gas stations and one small grocery store. As is usual, it was overpriced but not as much as most. I was able to shop without paying too much more than national store prices.

You follow the Gardner River from Mammoth Hot Springs in YNP to the town of Gardiner. It's well worth th time to stop and explore the beautiful creek!

You follow the Gardner River from Mammoth Hot Springs in YNP to the town of Gardiner. It’s well worth the time to stop and explore the beautiful creek!

It also had a National Forest Ranger office so I stopped in. My experience in Rangers office is pretty spotty, when you ask them about camping they universally want to send you to a pay campground, but if you then ask about dispersed camping some are helpful and some are not. I get the impression a lot of these Rangers in the offices either don’t drive around so they don’t know the area, or they simply don’t want to help you. I got lucky this time and she was very knowledgeable and helpful about where to camp. One question I ask now is “Where can I get cell/data signal for my Smartphone?” Most Rangers will try to guess, but she knew for sure! So I headed up to the area she told me about. She was right, I got 4g signal the whole way and soon found a nice campsite to settle into for a few days.

This beautiful mountain dominated the skyline to the west of  my camp at Gardiner, MT

This beautiful mountain dominated the skyline to the west of my camp at Gardiner, MT. The town is in the valley below it.

It was a very nice camp with big mountains on both sides of me and a nice walk for Cody and I. There were no other campers and only occasional traffic on the road. Elk are everywhere in this area so we had elk very close to camp. It’s a perfect base-camp to stay at and make day-trips into Yellowstone. It’s only about 5 miles to Mammoth Spring and another 30 miles to the LaMarr Valley which is one of the best places for wildlife with tons of buffalo, elk, antelope and even its own wolf pack. It’s also one of the prettiest drives in the park

Elk within 75 feet of our camp at Gardiner.

Elk within 75 feet of our camp at Gardiner, MT.

One other thing we did while we were there was to drive just south of town slightly into Yellowstone and stop and walk along the Gardener River. It’s a beautiful little river in a valley full of big trees. Cody loves splashing around in the water and I enjoyed the cool shade and the nice breeze that blows along it. A very pleasant few hours!

Looking north from the Gardner River. We were camped part way up the side of the mountain in the distance.

Looking north from the Gardner River. We were camped part way up the side of the mountain in the distance.

One more thing for this post. The three entrances into Yellowstone from Montana are all in the Gallatin NF. So while I was in the Gallatin NF Rangers office in Gardiner I got a copy of the MVUM for each area. There is an abundance of dispersed camping in the Forest around each, and where you can dispersed camp is clearly marked on the maps. In fact I’m typing this in a dispersed campsite in the Gallatin NF literally looing down at West Yellowstone, MT just about a mile from Yellowstone NP which is at the West entrance. I used the MVUM I picked up at Gardiner to find it. The same thing with Cooke City, MT which is at the northeastern entrance into Yellowstone NP.

This is the MVUM of Gallatin NF with Gardiner in it. I've highlighted the road to my campsite. All the roads with dots alongside of them are open to dispersed camping, but the Ranger thought this one was most likely to have internet and not so steep to make finding a camp hard to find. She was right.

This is the MVUM of Gallatin NF with Gardiner in it. I’ve highlighted the road to my campsite. All the roads with dots alongside of them are open to dispersed camping, but the Ranger thought this one was most likely to have internet and not so steep to make finding a camp hard to find. She was right.

A map to the camp.

A map to the camp.

 

I highly recommend Gardiner as a base camp to explore YNP!

Looking down at the town of Gardiner, MT

Looking down at the town of Gardiner, MT

Another shot of the Gardner River.

Another shot of the Gardner River.

Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

28 comments on “Entrances to Yellowstone NP: Gardiner, MT at North Entrance
  1. Avatar Bill says:

    I honestly think that is the bestest, mostest, nicest post of a camping boondocking spot I have ever seen Bob! Seclusion, ease of access, town with shoppping, wildlife, wild rivers, fantastic scenery, great photos and on and on….. You just hit a Babe Ruth sky busting shot into the stratusphere with this one Bob. I read about MVUM maps on one of your earlier posts. I didn’t quite get it then and still am having trouble. But now that I am out there half the time wandering around I really would appreciate you revisiting the subject?

    Bill n Sadie plus Mic
    Bill recently posted…Its Mic, The Hangin Tree StockdogMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Bill, I did a post on MVUMs in an earlier post. You can read it here:
      https://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/finding-campsite-part-2-understanding-and-using-the-mvum/

      Here is a paragraph from that post basically explaining what a MVUM is:

      The Forest Service has started a new program to gain more control over where and how we use the National Forests. At first that sounds like a very bad thing, but I don’t think so! I can’t tell you how many places I have seen torn up by ATVs and Jeeps and covered with their trash. They love to wait till it rains and run around in the mud creating deep ruts and destroying the land. On a regular basis both the Forest Service and BLM have to do “Emergency Closures” to keep out all motorized vehicles so the land can heal itself. The new MVUM is an effort to prevent the damage before it happens by creating a map of every road under their control which clearly marks them as open or closed to vehicle travel. Appropriately it is named the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). By having a map that lists if every road is closed or open that is easily available at every Ranger office, if they catch you on roads that are closed, they can fine you and you can NOT say “But I didn’t know it was closed!”

      They are easy to find, you can get them for free in every local Ranger office or you can download it with a simple Google search. For example, I searched on “MVUM Gallatin National Forest” and found the one I needed. They come as PDF files so you can download and print them.

      I’ll do another post on it sometime soon to make it clearer.
      Bob

  2. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    Makes perfect sense that your van would be the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

  3. Avatar Zman says:

    Good good sense.

  4. Avatar hotrod says:

    Just caught up with ur post. Love it. Love the pics. Prepareing for my first dispersed camping trip this coming winter in Louisiana. Researching it I was hit with a hugh brick in the face. HUNTING SEASON. Thats right its from oct 1 to the end of April. Your guide book might want to inclued what you do to avoid damn hunters shooting up the place for 6 months like they own it. So I guess there is very little winter campjng in Louisiana. Hope every one like ticks, chiggers and snakes cause the hunters own the forest for 6 months. Pls share some knowledge of camping during hunting season at national forest and blm land. Thank you.

    • Bob Bob says:

      hotrod, it has never been an issue to me. My life doesn’t change because of it. I’ve spent 7 years in the National Forest during hunting season in the Colorado Rockies and the Sierra NF and I’ve seen moose, bear and deer taken and hundreds of hunters, but never had a problem. I always have an orange or red collar on Cody and I have thought about wearing orange myself, but I never have.

      It has just never been an issue to me.
      Bob

      • Avatar Calvin R says:

        I have spent much of my life in white-tail hunting country here in Ohio. Hunting season (deer-gun season) here is usually one week and it’s a good time to take a vacation if you live in or near woods. The city hunters shoot cattle, horses, barns, houses, local people, each other and occasional deer. Too many of them hunt and drink at the same time. Other kinds of hunting involve mostly local people. They usually know what they are doing.

      • Avatar hotrod says:

        I guess it depends on how much influx of hunters per sq. Mile of NF your in. I seek serenity and nature experiences not fear of getting shoot. I think once again its about the money they milk from people. Wld like to see hunting season reduced so people can enjoy the NF in the winter with out billyEd n bobbyjoe stomping around like the own the place. Will consider your approch to the issue. Thank you.

        • Bob Bob says:

          hotrod, where I was at in the Sierras and Rockies, they close in the winter because they don’t plow the roads. So it’s fall only. Lot’s of hunters!!!
          Bob

  5. Avatar Openspaceman says:

    Bob_

    I gave up TV a few years before I started vandwelling…except for the occasional ballgame at a friends. But I would much rather watch a show featuring you playing with Cody in that river than all the explosions and crime and reality bullsh*t that the decent people are ending their evenings with. Thanks again for the pics.

  6. Avatar Sameer says:

    Your adventures this Summer are so exciting and have inspired me. Such elegant photographs…like checking out a National Geographic. I look forward to reading about every adventure. Thank you!

    Colorado…August and September for Mr. Pico and I.
    Sameer recently posted…Entrances to Yellowstone NP: Gardiner, MT at North EntranceMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Sameer, I’m planning on being in Colorado starting sometime in August, I’ll check with you later and stop by. I’ll be starting near the Rocky Mountain NP area and working southwest toward you.
      Bob

  7. Avatar Tom Kalis with dog Teka says:

    Hey Bob, we met at the last 2 RTR’s. I am from Alaska, now living in Bozeman, MT. My girlfriend and I are going to Yellowstone, through Gardiner, tomorrow, (7/23), for the weekend. I am so glad you posted where to camp near there. We will check it out, and the campsite at he southern entrance also. I am glad to hear things turned out with Cody, I am of the same mindset as you are about how to let dogs live in freedom…….how else will they be able to teach us,……If you care to meet up, it may be possible, if not thanks for the info. If you need anything, being in the area, let me know. Take care, I plan to be at RTR this winter. Tom and Teka

  8. Avatar Tom says:

    I tried out your Gardiner campsite, and am now am at the one south of Grand Teton Nat Park; off Antelope Flats Rd. They are great spots. Thanks for the info, Bob

    • Bob Bob says:

      You’re welcome Tom! Are you at the one on the top of the mountain in the meadow or one of the many others? They are all great but the one on the meadow is amazing!

      I was surprised who many people were just their overnight so if you got there early in the day they would all be empty. Worked good for me!
      Bob

  9. Avatar Jeff says:

    Bob, Thanks for the postings about dispersed camping near Yellowstone. I spent some time in that area 30 years ago and loved it. I am now retired and in the process of selling it all and buying a travel trailer to tow with my 2012 Tundra 4WD Pickup. Is the condition of access to that sweet spot outside of Gardiner good enough for a pickup towing a 23 foot travel trailer to get in without getting into trouble? Anyone want to buy a house in Florida? Thanks for all you write about Bob. Can’t wait to get started.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jeff, you won’t have any trouble with your trailer. I wouldn’t drive it during the Spring after the snow melt but after that it will be fine.

      Good luck on your house!
      Bob

  10. Avatar Brian Wilson says:

    Bob, what do you do about bears and bear boxes in that area?

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