Backcountry Rules in Yellowstone National Park

To preserve Yellowstone’s backcountry and enhance your wilderness experience, the National Park Service has established the following regulations and guidelines. Contact a park ranger before you begin a day hike or overnight trip.

Yellowstone National Park has a designated backcountry campsite system; permits are required for all overnight trips. Permits must be obtained at a ranger station no more than 48 hours before your camping date. Advance reservations for some backcountry campsites may be made in writing or in person for a $15 fee. To obtain the necessary forms, write the Backcountry Office, P.O. Box 168, YNP, WY 82190 or check at a ranger station.

You must also have a permit for fishing, boats, and float tubes.

Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite varies from I to 3 nights per trip. To protect resources and visitors, some hiking and camping restrictions may apply. Firearms, pets, motorized equipment, and any type of wheeled vehicle (except wheelchairs) are prohibited in the backcountry.

Campfires are permitted only in established fire pits. Burn only dead-and-down wood. Wood and ground fires are not allowed in some campsites. Your fire must be attended at all times and be completely extinguished before you leave.

Pack It In-Pack It Out
All refuse must be carried out of the backcountry. This includes items partly burned in fire pits (foil, tin, glass, etc).

Bury human waste 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) below the ground and a minimum of 100 feet (30 in) from water. Waste water should be disposed of at least 100 feet (30 in) from water or a campsite. Do not pollute lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams by washing yourself, clothing, or dishes in them.

Should You Drink the Water?
Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes or streams, boil it a minimum of two minutes to reduce the chance of infection or disease.

Yellowstone’s weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become fiercely stormy with wind, rain, sleet, and, sometimes snow. Lightning storms are common; get off water or beaches and stay away from ridges, exposed places, and isolated trees.

Without adequate clothing and gear, an easy day hike or boat trip can turn into a battle for survival. Exposure to wind, rain, or cold can result in hypothermia. This rapid loss of body heat can cause death if not treated. Early warning signs include shivering, slurred speech, memory lapses, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Cold water is a special hazard to anglers and boaters. Get into dry clothes and drink warm fluids at the first signs of hypothermia.

Stock Use
Overnight stock (horses, mules, burros, and llamas) use is not permitted prior to July 1, due to forage conditions and/or wet trail conditions. Horses are not allowed in frontcountry campgrounds.

Stream Crossings
Fording a stream can be hazardous, especially during spring snow melt or high water. Check at local ranger stations for current trail and stream conditions.

Yellowstone has more than 800 miles (1,280 km) of trails, allowing access to all major backcountry lakes, numerous waterfalls, mountain peaks, and thermal areas. Trails are minimally marked in keeping with the wilderness nature of the backcountry. Cross country travel is difficult because of the terrain and the amount of downed trees. Backcountry hikers should carry a map and compass, and know how to use both.

Information provided by the National Park Service

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