Gallatin National Forest Camping

Well, it’s getting to be that time again. After four and a half months of working in Yellowstone National Park; the nights are getting cooler, the aspen are losing their leaves, and visitation is (finally) slowing down. It won’t be long now.

Last light in the peaks around Bar N Ranch

Last light in the peaks around Bar N Ranch

Last Monday (the 21st) was the south district going away party, held at the Bar N Ranch about five miles west of West Yellowstone.

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

It’s a much fancier place than I would pay to eat at myself, but boy was it good. My stuffed herb chicken dish cost $25, the other two options (bison meatloaf and hazelnut trout) weren’t cheap either. The meal was paid for entirely by the Yellowstone Association which was really nice of them, and we all got gift cards too for a record breaking season.

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The bar

It’ll be the last time I see a lot of these people which is kind of sad, but I know I’ll be making new friends and meeting up with old ones when I get down to Amazon in a couple weeks. When your home is on wheels, goodbyes aren’t forever. Travel is cyclical and it’s amazing how often paths intersect.

Look at those sinks in the bathroom! They run like waterfalls

Look at those sinks in the bathroom! They run like waterfalls

On Friday (the 25th) I needed to make one last trip up to Bozeman, to take my drug test for Amazon. Not very exciting stuff, but on my way back I’m finally able to do something I’ve been hoping to do for months.

Fun rock formations between West Yellowstone and Bozeman

Fun rock formations between West Yellowstone and Bozeman

I’ve mentioned this in at least one previous post, but the drive between West Yellowstone and Bozeman is beautiful. Highway 191 cuts north to south through Gallatin National Forest, following the Gallatin River across broad meadows where brushy willow grow along the shore and through gorges where the mountains press in close. There are several small Forest Service campgrounds along the route and on this day I’m finally able to stop at two of them and check them out.

Fall color along 191

Fall color along 191

The first I stop at is called Moose Creek Flat campground, about eight miles north of the town of Big Sky, MT. This campground is the most open of the ones along 191, all 14 of the sites get full sun exposure most of the day. Because the valley the river runs through goes north to south, mountains block morning and evening light, but for solar powered RVers this would be an ideal campground so long as it doesn’t get too hot.

 Pull-through sites

Pull-through sites

Site separation is pretty good, but there isn’t much privacy between sites since it’s all grass. Pads are all gravel, the campground is shaped like a lollypop. The sites on the east side of the “stem” are pull-throughs, the ones on the west side are back-ins. According to the website the longest site is 60′ long, many can fit large rigs but the sites around the loop at the end aren’t as long and are more ideal for tenting. All sites have a picnic table and fire ring, and there are two pit toilets and dumpsters. The sites along the west side do have direct access to the river and if you have a rear facing window you should be able to see the water through the trees from your RV.

Back-in sites, the river is behind those trees

Back-in sites, the river is behind those trees

This campground is officially open from May 15 – September 15, but you can still camp in it when it’s “closed” it seems, you just need to pack your garbage out yourself. It’s $14 a night (less with senior pass) with a max stay of 16 days, there are water spigots, and I’m guessing generators are allowed since I heard one going.

View of Gallatin River behind site #3

View of Gallatin River behind site #3

This campground also has a large parking area for day use river access, and a small picnic area.

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The second campground is called Red Cliff, it’s about five miles south of Big Sky and named for the picturesque red cliffs on the eastern side of the valley.

At this campground the day use picnic area comes first when you make the turnoff, and the campground lies across a bridge beyond it which is kind of nice because it’s farther from the highway and the river helps obscure the noise. The bridge is wide and sturdy, even larger rigs wouldn’t have a problem crossing it.

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Once you cross the bridge the road splits left and right into two long lollipop loops for a total of 68 sites. Sites in general aren’t as big or level as at Moose Creek Flat, the longest spur is listed as 50′, but I did see some larger rigs squeezed into spots. None of the sites that I saw (I didn’t go to the end of the right (south) loop) were very close to the water and most won’t have a view, but the ones on the west side of both loops do have water access and you can hear the river from everywhere in the campground if it’s quiet enough. All the sites I saw were back-ins.

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More privacy than Moose Flats, but not as long. Do you see the grouse?

There is a lot more privacy to be had in this campground because there’s more underbrush, the left (north) loop does have a more open area near the end of its lollipop where tall grass grows. If I were to stay in this campground this is probably the area I’d pick to stay in.

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The south loop has 27 electric sites, which surprised me. I didn’t go as far down this loop because there were a lot of campers hanging around and I didn’t want to invade their privacy.

Electric sites

Electric sites hidden in the trees

Water spigots and dumpsters are located near the entrance. The cost was $14 a night for a standard site, $19 a night for an electric site and less for senior/access pass holders. Maximum stay was 16 days. When I arrived the northern loop was already closed for the season and was gated off, the south loop closes on the 28th and also has a gate so there’s no way to camp here during the off season.

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For more information on camping in Gallatin National Forest, the official forest service webpage is here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/custergallatin/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=5616&actid=29 Note that that is for Custer National Forest as well and it’s broken up into multiple regions. The campgrounds along 191 are considered part of the Bozeman unit.

At this site (#36) the picnic table and firepit are separate from the spur down a small hill

At this site (#36) the picnic table and firepit are separate from the spur down a small hill

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My dining buddy at the going away dinner, this little guy is going to be one of next year's thank you gifts for visitors who join the Yellowstone Association

My dining buddy at the going away dinner, this little guy is going to be one of next year’s “thank you” gifts for visitors who join the Yellowstone Association

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

16 Comments

  1. Jodee Gravel on September 29, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Beautiful fall colors! Can’t believe your time is wrapping up already! Very nice of the Association to send you all off with a nice dinner. Love those campgrounds and would really enjoy those sites along the river once we get our solar installed 🙂 16 days sounds about right!!! Safe travels.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Home on the RangeMy Profile



    • Becky on September 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Yeah Jodee, your motorhome would fit well in those Moose Creek Flat spots!

      Thanks and you take care as well.



  2. RGupnorth on September 29, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Another good post – you’ll probably have to cut back while your at Amazon.



    • Becky on September 30, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      If it goes like last year then yeah, but we’ll see. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this.



  3. Dawn from Camano Island on September 29, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Love your photo, Becky! Restaurant food is expensive even there! Thank you for the campground info–one of these days we’ll be taking the Grands to Yellowstone & it’s good to know about these options. We love the road between Bozeman & W. Yellowstone–such amazing scenery. If you have time, stop at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Awesome collection of dino bones. Take good care.



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Yes Dawn I highly recommend camping at one of those places between W. Yell and Bozeman if you can. I guess fancy dining is fancy dining no matter where in the country you are. Probably won’t be back to Bozeman for a while, but I’ll keep this in mind when I do!



  4. JanisP Not in Ecuador on September 29, 2015 at 7:31 am

    What gorgeous photos! Thanks for including the info on sunshine/solar prospects! It sure is beautiful out there.



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      You’re welcome Janis, I like your name, haha.

      Solar is something I’m thinking about more now that I’m planning on going boondocking in the desert this winter and will be investing in solar equipment myself.



  5. Terri on September 29, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I absolutely LOVE the new header shot on your blog – is that also from Gallatin? I can imagine your good byes to folks are bittersweet – you have made some good friends and hope to see them again, like you said. And I know it’s exciting to move to a new spot, of course, but I imagine there is some sadness involved.

    I love hearing about all these campgrounds from you. If I do become nomadic (I think a change in RV would be in order if I did), it’s great to know about all these various spots. And I wanted to say thank you for the comment you made about my writing – I so appreciate it. And yes, I do want to become a regular blogger-type, more like you do. I need to put myself on a schedule.

    Great post, as always.
    Terri recently posted..Simple Things I LoveMy Profile



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Nope I actually took that photo on that Friday I went down to Jackson in the Tetons, the mountains in Gallatin aren’t as rugged but they’re still beautiful.

      A schedule really does help for posting regularly! I update twice a week and have been writing long enough now that it’s become a habit. If you’re not sure about posting that often you can start with once a week and see how that goes. I’d love to hear more about what you do at your job and about the Kanab area.

      Take care!



  6. Loup Garou on September 29, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Sounds like you had a great summer. Travel safe!



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      I did Loup, thanks!



  7. GB in norcal on September 28, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Really pretty shots. I can feel that fall is coming from your photos & it’s nice to see what different campgrounds offer. Looks like a beautiful setting for your party/dinner,too. That’s my kind of ladies room!



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      It really was something else GB, I’d never pay to eat in a restaurant like that on my own but if someone else is footing the bill… 😉

      The other campgrounds along 191 are likely just as nice, I just didn’t have time to stop at all of them. There are trail heads along the highway too that go off into the forest, I’ll definitely want to explore more.



  8. Andy on September 28, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    That view of the river by site #3 is beautiful. I think I’d have to spend a day drowning worms there!
    Andy recently posted..Exploring Peanut IslandMy Profile



    • Becky on September 29, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Yes Andy, fishing is allowed in the Gallatin River and I saw several people fishing while I was driving. Just need a Montana fishing license I believe, it would be a great way to spend a day.



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