Beartooth Pass Camping & Campgrounds Red Lodge Area Yellowstone Area Hikes and Attractions

Colter Campground near Cooke City, MT

Named for the famous mountain man John Colter, this campground is right on the Beartooth Scenic Byway and is just a few miles from Cooke City, MT and Yellowstone National Park. This is prime grizzly bear country so the Colter Campground only allows camping in hard-sided campers – No Tents Allowed! The campground is in the Gardiner District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Colter Campground
SeasonJuly – September
Number of sites18 sites – Hard Sided Campers only
AmenitiesWater, Vault Toilets, Picnic tables, Fire pits, Food storage boxes
AttractionsClose to Yellowstone Park
Nearest CityCooke City – 3 miles

Colter Campground Information

Colter Campground has 18 campsites which are open only to hard sided campers (trailers, motorhomes, truck campers, etc.). Because of bear danger no tent camping is allowed. Bears are a serious concern here and each site is equipped with a steel bear-proof food storage locker. Each campsite also has a picnic table and a fire pit. Water and vault toilets are centrally located in the campground. The toilets and campsites are handicap accessible. Maximum vehicle length is 48ft.

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Typical campsite at Colter Campground
This is a typical campsite at the Colter Campground. Each site has a picnic table, a fire ring and a steel food storage locker. Many of the campsites offer dramatic views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

The campground doesn’t have a reservation system so all sites are available on a first-come first-served basis. The campground commonly fills so it’s best to arrive as early as possible to secure a site. If you find the campground full you can try the Soda Butte Campground which is about a mile away. There are more options in our guide to Camping and Campgrounds on the Beartooth Highway.

The campground is open for a short season during the summer months. It usually opens in mid July and closes in September. The exact season is weather dependent so be sure to check with the Gardiner ranger office if you are early or late in the season.

Map of Colter Campground
In addition to showing the layout of the Colter Campground, this map tells some of the history of John Colter. Colter was a legendary “Mountain Man” who is believed to be the first white man to visit the Yellowstone area.

Who Was John Colter?

John Colter was a famous “mountain man” who is believed to be the first white person to pass through Yellowstone Park and the surrounding area. In fact, Colter’s accounts of the boiling hot springs and descriptions of water shooting high into the sky were considered “tall tales” at the time.

Colter first came to Montana as a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1805. After reaching the Pacific Ocean the expedition returned to report on their findings. However, Colter had fallen in love with the wild country and he stayed behind as a beaver trapper.

What Was Colter’s Run

John Colter became famous for his legendary escape from the Blackfeet Indians in 1809. This escape took place near the location of the current Missouri Headwaters State Park. The sign below is erected at the state park and tells the remarkable story of Colter’s Run.

Sign telling the story of "Colter's Run"
This sign from the Missouri Headwaters State Park tells the story of John Colter’s famous run from the Blackfeet Indians. Colter is perhaps the most famous mountain man of all time and we can only guess about all of the places he explored.

Colter stayed in the west and in 1812 he joined with the Volunteer Mounted Rangers to fight in the War of 1812. John Colter died of illness later that year and has left behind a remarkable legacy.

For more information about the Colter Campground, including specific opening and closing dates contact:
Custer Gallatin National Forest
Gardiner Office
P.O. Box 5; 805 Scott St.
Gardiner, MT 59030
(406) 848-7375