The Timber Camp and Bear Creek Campgrounds are about a mile apart at the end of Bear Creek Road 11 miles outside of Gardiner, MT. The Forest Service identifies each as a campground but they also call them dispersed camping areas and there is no camping fee at either. They provide a great base for exploring the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and visiting Yellowstone Park.
|Bear Creek and Timber Camp Dispersed Camping|
|Season||June 15 – Late October|
|Number of sites||Multiple dispersed campsites|
|Amenities||Vault Toilets, Picnic tables, Fire rings|
|Attractions||Hiking, Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Close to Yellowstone Park|
|Nearest City||Gardiner, MT – 10 to 11 miles|
Directions to Bear Creek and Timber Camp Campgrounds
The road to the campground leaves Gardiner right where the main road makes a sharp turn near the Yellowstone River bridge. This is the Jardine road and it immediately heads uphill from the junction. The road is paved but becomes gravel after a half-mile. Continue on for about 5 miles to the tiny site of Jardine where the road makes a hard right turn. Follow this main road for another 5 miles to Timber Camp and Bear Creek Campground a mile further. The road ends at Bear Creek Campground.
The road is generally in good condition and suitable for 2wd vehicles. However, when it is snow-covered or muddy it’s much tougher.
Timber Camp Campground
Timber Camp Campground is the first campground you reach and it is quite impressive as it sits along the edge of a large mountain meadow. There are only about 4 designated campsites with tables and fire rings. There is no food storage and no water but there is a vault toilet
All camping here is first-come, first-served. There is no reservation system and no camp host. While there are only a few designated sites, there is room for additional dispersed camping.
The campsites are in the trees along the northern edge of a 5-acre meadow. The views across the meadows are spectacular with the mountains in the distance. Timber Camp is at about 6,200 ft elevation and you can expect to have very clear skies and great stargazing.
Bear Creek Campground
Bear Creek Campground is about a mile past Timber Camp and is at the end of the road. This is a very different campground as it sits right on the edge of Bear Creek. Several campsites are right on the creek. This is another small campground with about 4 designated campsites. However, there is room for a few additional dispersed campers.
The designated campsites have tables and fire rings. There is a vault toilet but there is no water and no food storage. All campsites are first-come, first-served. The Forest Service warns that the campground may fill at popular times.
The campsites are right on Bear Creek. In fact, at high water, you might be concerned about flooding. The creek changes size a lot during the summer. When the snow is melting it’s a large rushing stream. However, by late summer the stream is very much smaller. The campsites here are in dense woods which can limit the stargazing.
Fees and Payments
Both campgrounds are free of charge!
Hiking and camping in the mountains are the main recreations. There are two trails that are accessed from the Bear Creek area. The North Fork Bear Creek Trail (#364) travels west of Bear Creek for about 4 miles to another trailhead. Along the way, it intersects with Forest Trail #60 which heads deep into the wilderness.
Just past the campground is the trailhead for the Knox Lake Trail (#64) which heads north and immediately enters the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. It’s about 4 miles to Knox Lake but hikers can turn around anywhere. If you are hiking here be sure to have a good map. I recommend Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness West National Geographic: Trails Illustrated Map. There are other trails in the Bear Creek drainage but none are accessed from the campground.
It’s possible to fly fish for native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout in Bear Creek but it’s not a popular fishery. Most fish are less than 7″ and the creek can be hard to fish.