Travel Ideas: Camping Adventures Out West (preferably with your dog)

Another month or so and fall arrives in many parts of the U.S., another school year begins, and summer vacations come to an end. Fortunately, there is still time for the family and the family pet to enjoy a camping adventure at a dog friendly national park somewhere out West. The weather is ideal for being outdoors in the exhilarating air of the high elevations (5,000′ to 11,000′ at Eagle Peak) at Yellowstone National Park. Average daytime temperatures are in the 70’s and much cooler in the 40’s at night.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in the U.S., covering more than 2,000,000 acres in Wyoming and into Idaho and Montana. Famous for geysers (Old Faithful), mountain herds of bison and elk, forests, petrified trees, and waterfalls, the scenery and diversity of plant and animal life are simply breathtaking.

Campers can choose from 12 different campgrounds located throughout the park; five have more conveniences and require reservations. The other seven have more than 400 campsites which require no reservations. Although there are five different entrances to Yellowstone, this article will focus on campgrounds with tent sites near the South Entrance. Campsites are limited to six people, and your dog or dogs (usually limited to 2), for a maximum of 14 days in July – Labor Day. Drinking water is available and wood and charcoal campfires are allowed, subject to wildfire restrictions, quite common in Yellowstone. Your dog must not be left unattended and kept in a carrier or on a leash, 6′ or less, at all times. Owners are responsible for their pet’s behavior on the trails and in the campground. Be aware of wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife which roam freely through the park and can be a threat to yourself and your dog(s).

Grant Village campground at Yellowstone Lake is about 22 miles north of the South Entrance of the park. The campground offers 430 campsites with flush toilets, dump station, pay showers, and laundry. Visitor Center (open 8am-7pm), post office, gas station, campground store, and other facilities nearby.
Campsite cost – $26/night (two showers a night included). Reservations required (307-344-7311).

Bridge Bay is another popular campground with 432 beautiful sites by the lake, about 30 miles from the East Entrance. Dump station & flush toilets; pay showers and laundry about 4 miles away. Boat launch and store at the marina. Campsite cost – $21.50/night.

Lewis Lake campground, only 8 miles from the South Entrance, is a good, inexpensive choice, especially if fishing is part of your travel plans. This is a very basic campground with vault toilets, but you will enjoy the peaceful setting and still have the facilities of Grant Village, a short distance away. Campsite cost – $15/night, reservations not required. There are only 85 campsites, so arrive early. Fishing permits – $18/3 days, $25/7 days.
(Notes: There are eight visitor centers and a museum located within the park. See nps.gov/yell for detailed information on Yellowstone.)
Park Entrance fee – $25/vehicle (for seven days)

Grand Teton National Park, about 10 miles from the South Entrance of Yellowstone on the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, can be easily included in your camping adventure. The 310,000 acres of the park are much less than Yellowstone, but just as beautiful on a smaller scale. Known for stunning views of the Teton Range in the Rocky Mountains, more than 100 lakes, and wildlife, the high elevations provide wonderful camping weather during the summer. Grand Teton is a dog friendly park, but they are not allowed in certain areas such as on pathways or inside park facilities. The basic rule is they can go wherever a car can go. Be aware this is bear country, and always carefully store food, cosmetics, and any items carrying a scent to avoid attracting them. Be sure and Include bear spray in your camping gear.

The seven campgrounds, Colter Bay, Gros Ventre, Jenny Lake, Headwaters, Lizard Creek, and Signal Mountain, charge $22/night per campsite for a maximum of 14 days. Jenny Lake campground is the one exception with a 7-day maximum stay. Reservations are not required for campsites, but they fill up quickly. The same rules apply for your dog(s) in Grand Teton as in other national parks. Primarily, dogs must not be left unattended and kept on a leash or in a carrier, with their owners responsible for the cleanup and behavior of their pet.

Colter Bay, 25 miles north of Moose, has 350 large, wooded sites with dump station, laundry, and showers nearby. Gros Ventre, just south of Moose, also has 350 campsites by the river. Jenny Lake, only 8 miles north of Moose, has 49 campsites for tents only. This is a very popular campground, so arrive before 10am.

Headwaters campground at the Flagg Ranch on the John D. Rockefeller Parkway is an ideal choice and the most convenient for campers visiting both Yellowstone and Grand Teton. There are 36 tent campsites with flush toilets, laundry, and 24-hour showers on the campground. Fishing is great at the Snake River, 1/4 mile away. Store, restaurant, and gift shop nearby. Rates: $35/night for 1-2 adults, $5 more for each additional adult. Call 1-800-443-2311 for reservations.

The 60 sites in the forest at Lizard Creek, further north from Moose, are not as well developed as the other campgrounds and not as popular. Campsites are usually available even in late afternoon. Signal Mountain, not far from Jenny Lake, is probably the more scenic campground with views of the mountains, lake, and forest. The 81 campsites are somewhat smaller than at other campgrounds, and there are no showers or laundry on the campground. Store, gas station, two restaurants, and gift shop nearby.

Entrance to Grand Teton – included in the $25 Yellowstone fee. Pathway permits – $12/pp (7days)
(Note: Five visitor centers – Craig Thomas (Moose), open 8am-7pm; Colter Bay, 25 miles north of Moose, 8am-7pm; Jenny Lake, 8am-5pm; Lawrence S. Rockefeller, 9am-5pm, and Flagg Ranch, 9am-3:30pm.)
(Note: See nps.gov/grte for more information.)

The popularity of camping has grown rapidly in America since the early 1900’s with more families discovering the freedom and enjoyment it provides. We live in a hectic world where many of us feel “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Camping is educational and healthy family recreation where everyone, and your dog(s), can share the adventure and excitement of being close to nature. Forget the hassle of airline travel, avoid the traffic and the crowds, and have fun for less money on a camping trip.

Sharon L Slayton

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