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.
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.
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
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!
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.
I highly recommend Gardiner as a base camp to explore YNP!
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
Hi Bill, I did a post on MVUMs in an earlier post. You can read it here:
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.
Thanks Bob I will try a MVUM on my cell phone. It’s 2hat I use because I have no computer o maybe it sill work.
I would guess it should, but it’s a big map and will mean a lot of scrolling and moving in and out.
Makes perfect sense that your van would be the treasure at the end of the rainbow.
It is to me Linda!
Good good sense.
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.
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.
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.
Sorry to hear that Calvin. I’d heard horror stories about that here but it just has not been an issue to me. We kept walking right through the season with no issues. Just lucky I guess.
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.
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!!!
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.
Thanks openspaceman! Cody is very entertaining, but I am an old fuddy-duddy!
“Life with Cody”…I’d watch it!
Cody thanks you tommy!
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.
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.
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
Thanks Tom!! I’m moving on very shortly so we probably can’t meet, but I’m looking forward to seeing you this winter!
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
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, 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.
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, what do you do about bears and bear boxes in that area?