A state of staggering variety, Montana is truly one of the nation’s best camping destinations. The eastern part of the state characterized by badlands and prairie, the west is where most of the fun is found. Camping in Montana means sleeping in some of the most sensational landscapes anywhere in the USA.
With no fewer than 50 state parks and two of the greatest national parks in America, Montana is an adventurer’s paradise. The brightest star in Montana’s firmament is Glacier National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is blessed with magnificent mountainscapes. If you’re looking to go camping in Montana, Glacier should be at the top of your list.
Many explorers look for camping in Montana’s Yellowstone National Park, a sliver of which lies along the state’s southwestern border. Few people know this, but Montana is a superb access point to the world’s very first national park. If a visit to Yellowstone is on your itinerary, make sure to enter the park via the scenic Beartooth Highway.
Another great camping destination in Montana is gorgeous Flathead Lake, located within the Kootenai Tribes Flathead Reservation and the contiguous USA’s largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Numerous recreation areas surround Flathead Lake, offering excellent picnicking, fishing and camping. More adventure-minded travelers might want to attempt an ascent of Granite Peak, the highest mountain in the state.
If you’re looking to travel off the beaten path, Montana offers you plenty of opportunities to do so. With more than 70 different mountain ranges belonging to the giant Rocky Mountains chain, it is easy to unplug and get closer to nature while camping in Montana. Pick a lesser-known campground and explore Montana “behind the scenes”.
In addition to fishing, rock climbing, and camping in Montana, there are myriad other ways to enjoy the state’s glorious natural scenery. Go mountain biking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, backpacking…the list of choices is never-ending!
Big Nelson Campground is anything but big. This is a tiny cramped campground. I found 6 campsites, but the Forest Service website list this campground as having four. With the exception of site three, all the other sites require you to park in a parking area. Site 3 was the first site I noticed on arriving at the campground and was located to the left of the parking area. Sites 4, 5 and 6 require parking in the parking area and walking down a set of stairs to access. Sites 4, 5, and 6 can only be accessed from the stairs, driving down the road to the boat launch will only get you to the boat launch. Site 4 is on the left at the bottom of the stairs. Site 4 is tiny, it is a picnic table next to a metal fire ring, if you want to pitch a tent at site four you would need to do it next to the fire ring and skip making a fire or pitch it in a small flat area above the picnic table near the parking area on the opposite side of the fence. Site four really doesn't have much room for a tent. Sites 5 and 6 are fairly roomy, especially when compared to site 4. Site 5 is on the right side of the stairs, plenty of room for a tent, nice view of the lake and has a metal fire ring and picnic table. Site 6 can be reached by walking through site 5 or from the boat launch road. You could unload your gear at site 6 right from your car, but would can not park next to site 6, you will need to drive back up to the camping area. Site 6 has plenty of room for a tent and also has a picnic table and metal fire ring. The campground has one small vault toilet and is at the beginning of the road to the boat ramp. The boat ramp isn't really a ramp, but the shore of the lake with a gradual entrance in to the water. Campsite 2 I found as I was leaving the area, it is just past the vault toilet as you leave. Campsite 2 requires a walk down a few stairs. It is a tight campsite with just enough room for a small tent next to the picnic table. A metal fire ring is on the opposite side of the picnic table. What I guess would be campsite 1 is further down the road and down below the road, I would not suggest using this site as it is a bit of a walk from the parking area, the road is two narrow to park here. Site 1 does not have a picnic table but does have a fire ring, odds are you won't even notice the site coming in or out. During my stay the campground did not have a fee, but the information sign indicates a fee may be coming next year. This is a dry campground, your only source of water is the lake so come prepared, this is also a trash-in trash-out site.
Blackfoot Canyon campground is a little secrete Forest Service campground west of Lincoln Montana on the Blackfoot river. Secrete in that you will not find this campground on the Forest Service's web site, no signage along highway 200 to indicate that it is their. You can't find this on a map unless you look at an old map. Old maps list this as Blackfoot Canyon Campground but you will not find that name on the sign for the campground when you reach it, the campground sign says“Moose Creek Campground” but this is not Moose Creek Campground, that campground is an hour away from this location and on the other side of the continental divide. This campground has 8 sites with concrete Forest Service picnic tables, fire rings are made of rocks. Other pull outs are through out the campground area but with out tables or rings. A small vault toilet is available and was very well stocked with toilet paper and was clean. The campground does have one garbage can, it is located in the vault toilet, so be sure to close the door to keep the animals out. Campground is on the Blackfoot river, and if you like to fish there is a great fishing hole with nice large trout in it. I caught a 14½ inch Brown trout and spotted many more. You will need to bring your own water or a filter to get it from the river. The best thing is that this secrete campground is free. Campground was located 1/10 of a mile off of Highway 200, but the tree cover is so thick you can barely hear the traffi
Canyon campground located in a canyon just across the highway from the Yellowstone River is a pleasant campground with plenty of boulders for kids and adults to climb. The boulders are what really make this campground interesting, many of the campsites are tucked in between these large boulders. Canyon is a good jumping off point for the north end of Yellowstone National Park, located 16 miles from the north entrance town of Gardiner. This is a cheep campground at only$7 per night,$3 more for a 2nd vehicle, but you trade a low cost campground for lack of water. You will need to bring your own water for your stay so come prepared, this is also a trash-in trash-out campground. Bear food storage rules are in affect so leave the food in your car or use the bear lockers. Campground has vault toilets and each site has a picnic table and metal fire ring. The one negative about this campground is the proximity to the highway, lots of road noise during the day, a little quieter during the night but for some reason a lot of drivers seen to hit the rumble strip as they drive by making things a little loud at night. Our Scouts used this campground as a jumping off point for a multi day backpacking trip, close to the park so we could get to the back country office early to get a permit before sites filled up.
We stayed here on a trip out to Glacier NP. If you are just passing through to get from point A-B and don't want to get out into the back country, this campsite really fits the bill.
It's clean, maintained and relatively quiet. As others noted, it's essentially free, donations accepted.
Honestly, I probably will not stay on this side of the park when I return to Glacier. The campsites were very rocky and uneven. There were pads for tents but unless you have a very small tent, it's not going to fit. Add to that, the area is very exposed to winds and dramatic weather changes. The entire time we were there (early July), it never got out of the upper 40's whereas the west side of the park was in the 70's.
The bathrooms were just okay, could use an update.
We spent 9 days here (8/25-9/2) to work in nearby Billings (40 miles east) before heading to Washington State. The park was quiet and clean and we had no issues with neighbors at all. This is a city park that runs on donations. A nice guy from the local government stopped by once to give us a sheet with the rules and city ordinances.
Completely dry camping, although we were able to fill our tank at the spigot on the side of the restroom building. Grass or gravel sites with fire rings and picnic tables, with a mix of back in and pull-through spaces. A lot of space for big rigs and tenters alike. Firewood was available near the dumpsters in the middle of the park.
The nearest grocery store is a few miles away in town and the laundromat was small but clean. A farmer’s market was set up in the park by the railroad tracks on Thursdays (4:00-6:30) that had everything from fresh veggies and homemade goodies, as well as blankets and jewelry and a couple food trucks.
There is no dump station in the park, but there is one at the nearby Cenex station for a $5 charge during business hours. Otherwise the folks at Mountain View RV Park on the other side of the interstate will let you dump and fill water for $5.
Full Verizon signal allowed me to work from our rig for a couple days when I didn’t need to be in Billings.
Sprague Creek is one of my favorite campgrounds in the world. Small, but pretty private. Bring you canoe or kayak and launch on to Lake McDonald when the stars come out. The Milky Way is within gasp.
I have now been to Norris Hot Springs two years in a row on the last weekend in September. I love the small number of camping spaces and the rules that all campers actually follow (no loose dogs, no generators). The camp bathroom/showers are super helpful and it is awesome to just walk across the parking lot to the spring.
The food is amazing and the staff are all super friendly. Both years I've been, it has snowed either a dusting or an inch-ish. The camp spots do not become a muddy mess and the drive is still easy to navigate on foot or by small vehicle.
We might make an annual trip here if we can budget in the time off. It is the perfect spot to setup camp and then go explore the area.
Lake Mcdonald is absolutely gorgeous! Camping along its edges is something you don't want to pass up. This campsite is also super close to all amenities. From June-September this campsite will be super busy. But if you go in the offseason it is wonderful. Just come prepared for winter camping (even in May).
My husband and I often camp there in April, and we will be the only ones there. We take our snowshoes to go exploring the higher elevations.
I'm only giving this area 3 stars because I have never seen anyone camp here before, and I'm not sure you can camp here. It is one of my favorite places to have a picnic though. A quick drive from Missoula. Nice and quiet, despite the frisbee golf course. And if you're into frisbee golf then that is a major plus!
This was my 2nd favorite spot that we visited other than the place we stayed at for the wedding. First reason it was so great was because of the seclusion due to it being on the south side of Lake Ft. Peck and away from any city. Be warned though you are pretty much on your own out here so be sure you have a full tank of gas before exploring. The 2nd and arguable more important reason I loved this spot so much was due to it being surrounded by the Hell Creek Geologic Formation which has some of the highest concentration of vertebrate fossils in the world! While it is illegal to take any vertebrate fossils you can get cool imprints of leaves and other invertebrate animals that lived right alongside the dinosaurs!
This is a similar spot to other areas located around the reservoir in that it is wide open giving you that fantastic Montana Big Sky feeling. During the week there's hardly anyone up here so there's a good chance you won't have any neighbors. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table. There are also vault toilets nearby and a fish cleaning station!
We made a reservation here by calling them a couple weeks before we left for Yellowstone National Park. We were driving from the Seattle, WA area and figured this was about half way. There are several mountain passes to cross and we did not want to fill our water and propane tanks before leaving and carry a bunch of extra weight. This place offered full hook ups and propane sales on site.
We arrived almost too late for in person check in. Since we were hoping to leave early the next morning, we didn't want to wait for the office to open again in the morning. We called ahead and the really nice lady in the office stayed a few minutes to wait for us. They have a nice office with some local items for sale that make cute little gifts.
Sites are typical for an RV campground. Everyone is very close together. Picnic tables and full hook ups are available. There are also tent sites. The bathrooms are great. many stalls and several private showers. The grounds are beautiful. Green and watered. Covered picnic shelters are available.
Campers were quiet for a Saturday night. Lots of folks out and about, everyone was so friendly! The only downside is it's right next to the freeway. Even in the middle of the night, it was loud.
This campground has 3 separate loops. The loop we stayed at did not allow generators. This was campground is walking distance to the Ranger Station, Camp Store and best of all the lake. The sites are very roomy and included fire pits and picnic tables. The rangers do patrol the campground often to ensure guests are practicing best bear safe practices. You will see and possibly encounter wildlife. This is a great campground that allows you to visit some of the“less” busy parts of the park with ease.
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Ennis fishing access site is located on the Madison River just on the south edge of town. This is a First come, First serve campground that is walking distance to the town of Ennis. Some sites sit along the river, some spots are more private toward the back of the campground. It appears not much effort was placed in making this site a campground, sites are unlevel and parking pads vary from gravel, to dirt or grass. This is a dry campground like most FAS sites. A small vault toilet serves the area, site are numbered and have a picnic table and appear to all have rock fire rings. Fishing must be good here as this site always appears full when I drive by. Several spots appeared to have nice grassy areas for tents. If you have a large RV you might want to park at a parking area at the entrance and walk in to make sure there is a place big enough for you as the layout of the campground might get a bit tight for a larger RV. The fishing access site is closed to camping from December 1st through April 31st every year.
Minutes away from Glacier National Park, this camp ground has it all. From cabins to RV sites to tent camping, there is something for everyone. We stayed in a tent. The bathroom's we're not too far away. It was nice to have a restaurant on site (that doubles as a coffee bar). The play structure is great for kids. We did not use the pools, but they looked nice from a distance.
Forested campground 30 minutes from Yellowstone National Park
Beaver Creek Campground is the good spot for a Yellowstone National Park jumping off point. Located 30 minutes form the park the distance improves your chances of finding a campsite in the busy season. The campground sits above Quake Lake, if you enjoy fishing there is a steep trail leading to the lake from the“A” loop, however there is no boat launch at the campground, you will need to drive a½ mile down the highway to find a boat launch for the lake. The campground features paved roads with gravel parking pads, vault toilets, picnic tables and metal fire rings at each site, and their are bear proof food storage if you need it, but you might need to share space with another spot. Campsite can be reserved. The campground has 62 sites spreed apart in 3 loops. Two fully ADA sites are available. Drinking water is available at three locations in each loop. The camp hosts are very friendly and helpful, they also have firewood for sale if needed for$6 A word of caution about the road driving in. The road is paved but narrow, so drive slow and watch out for cars.
Ranger review Outdoor Element's Woolly Mammoth Survival Braid
Got my wife the Woolly Mammoth Survival Braid and have to say that this is a nice survival bracelet. We did wonder if the Jute it is made with would be a little itchy when put on, but found it to be quiet comfortable. We like the idea to place the ferro rod and striker in in the bracelets buckle. It sparks up very nicely making our charred cloth and cotton balls with Vaseline easy to get started. We then tried to start a fire with the sample piece of jute, made a little nest and gave the striker a try and after a few attempts got a spark to take hold and had a fire. Nice to now that we now have a wrist full of fire starting material if we ever need it. Might just want to take this off when starting fires as it didn't take much to get the sample burning. All in all a great survival tool to have around.
This is a well loved for family owned campground. We stayed in the tent camping area and felt like it gave great privacy vs. the typical rows of RVs. There is tons of shade in the tent camping areas were as the RVs were more in the open but have the opportunity to have gorgeous distant lake views. We would stay here again as the location is perfect for getting into the park while being family owned and responsible priced.
Check out our blog at www.unnamedadventures.com and follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram or on our YouTube Channel at Unnamed Adventures.
ED McGivern Memorial Park Campground sits on the west shore of the East Fork Reservoir. This is a small nice 10 site campground right on the reservoir. The campground is located just past the day use area on a loop at the end of the road. The 10 sites are nicely spread apart giving campers plenty of room to spread out their tents. Each site has a picnic table, metal fire ring and BBQ grill. Two vault toilers serve the area, one in the day use area and one at the south end of the campground. Water is available at a faucet near the campground vault toilet. Easy access to the reservoir all along the campground for those wishing to fish. A boat launch can be found a the beginning of the day use area. This is a small reservoir and their entire reservoir is a no wake area. Camping is$5 for tents,$10 for trailers/campers/motorhomes. Stay is limited to 14 nights. A nice quiet location to camp, but only a short 15-20 minute drive to Lewistown for any supplies you might need.
Atkinson Park Campground at the north west corner of Cascade offers free camping at the north end of the park. Camping at the park appears to most suited to RV camping as they don't want any camping outside of the parking pads due to not wanting damage to their sprinkler system. That being said it appears that you should have room for your vehicle and a tent as long as you did not have a trailer with you. The park has a pavilion with running water, and BBQ grills. Flushing toilets are also available. The individual camp sites do not have tables or fire rings. Camping is limited to three nights. It appears that the campground has 4 sites, sites 2, 3 and 6 are marked, another spot which I assume is site 1 looks the same as 2& 3, could not find any place that might be sites 4 and 5. Additional recreational activities are available during your stay. The park has a nice sized playground, tennis courts, horseshoe pits and a skate park. For the RV crowd there is a free RV dump at the entrance to the campground. The campground sits along side the interstate so you will have plenty of road noise throughout the night. While this would not be my choice for a location to camp, it is a free camp ground that would be a good spot to stay the night for a tired traveler