Most visitors look for private or national forest campgrounds when they visit the Gardiner, Livingston, Paradise Valley area in Montana. However, there are a few opportunities for free camping in this area just north of Yellowstone Park. Keep reading for our guide to free camping in Paradise Valley and along the Upper Yellowstone River.
Pine Creek rushes out of the Absaroka mountains just south of Livingston, MT in Paradise Valley. Pine Creek Campground is at the end of a 3-mile paved road leading into the national forest. The campground has 27 sites set in the forest near the creek. The Pine Creek trailhead is adjacent to the campground and leads to Pine Creek Falls and Pine Creek Lake.
The Beartooth Highway (US Hwy 212), also known as the Beartooth All American Highway is one of the most spectacular routes in the continental United States. The highway travels through high-altitude wilderness terrain for 63 miles between Red Lodge, MT and the North East Entrance to Yellowstone Park at Silver Gate, MT. This guide travels the road beginning in Red Lodge and ending in Yellowstone Park but it can easily be driven in reverse
2022 Floods and Campground Closures
In mid-June, 2022 historic floods hit Montana in the Yellowstone Park region. Washed-out roads and bridges have left many campgrounds and trails closed. The table below is mostly accurate but you should always check to make sure your intended campground is open! Call the Beartooth Ranger District at 406-446-2103
There are many public campgrounds along the Beartooth Highway. Which one is best for you will depend on a number of factors. To help you choose we’ve prepared this guide to the public campgrounds along the route. There is a page of additional information about each of these campgrounds – just click on the campground name to learn more
Rock Creek runs through Red Lodge, MT and the Beartooth Highway (US 212) follows the creek as it heads toward the switchbacks that climb steeply to the Beartooth Pass. Rock Creek is popular with campers who enjoy the area’s many recreation opportunities and also by travelers on the Beartooth Highway.
Beartooth Lake is a spectacular high-mountain lake located along the famous Beartooth Highway (U.S. Hwy 212). The lake is a popular destination that offers fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and backpacking in a pristine alpine setting. Beartooth Lake is immediately adjacent to Hwy 212 which is both good and bad because it makes access very easy but it also promotes heavy use.
2022 Flooding and Road Closures
In mid-June, 2022 massive flooding hit the Rock Creek drainage resulting in significant damage to roads and bridges. As of mid-July, the West Fork Rock Creek Road is closed from the Basin Campground (mile 7.2) to the end of the road. For current information contact the Beartooth Ranger District at 406-446-2103.
Rock Creek drains the Beartooth Mountains south and west of Red Lodge MT. and the West Fork Rock Creek is its longest and largest tributary. The two branches join just outside of Red Lodge. The West Fork offers opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing, and enjoying a wilderness setting.
Island Lake is a beautiful high-mountain lake on the Beartooth Plateau in Wyoming. It’s easily accessed from the Beartooth Highway (US 212) and is just a few miles west of the Beartooth Pass. Sitting at 9,518′ elevation, Island Lake covers 146 acres to a maximum depth of about 100ft. Island Lake is a very popular recreation area with a US Forest Service campground, a boat ramp and beach area, and a trailhead that is popular with hikers and backpackers.
Cascade Creek Campground is located on the West Fork Rock Creek about 11 miles west of Red Lodge, MT. Nestled in the Beartooth Mountains at 7,600 ft, Cascade Creek Campground features great hiking, fishing, and mountain biking opportunities.
The Basin Campground is on the West Fork Rock Creek at 6,800 ft elevation. The 30 campsites are enjoyed by hikers, anglers, and mountain bikers. The campground is in the Custer Gallatin National Forest and is close to the Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge, MT making it a popular destination.