Aspens are turning gold and umber, nights are longer, and days feel crisper. Summer is over—but don’t put away your tent and sleeping bag just yet. The warm days and cool nights of autumn are just right for a camping trip. When you’re planning your fall outing, you have to think about who else is out there. I don’t mean bears (although in their hyperphagic state, it’s best to be prepared for them, too)—I’m talking about hunters. We love our friends in the bright orange hats, but it’s more fun to go camping without worrying about getting shot. Here are a few of the best campsites for nonhunters.
Lewis Lake Campground, Yellowstone
Hunting isn’t allowed in Yellowstone National Park, but most of the Park’s campgrounds close for the season in September. Lewis Lake Campground, however, stays open until November 3, and is situated off the beaten path adjacent to Lewis Lake. Pack your down jacket, because at 7,800 feet, it gets colder than lower campgrounds. Bring your kayak, fishing rod, and Yellowstone National Park fishing permit to take advantage of the proximity to the big lake. Try to get a site in Loop C to be near the lake. $12/night, no reservations. nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit and search for Lewis Lake Campground.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
Camp where Lewis and Clark stayed in 1805. This park encompasses the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers. It’s just a half-hour drive from Bozeman to enjoy fishing, bird watching, and cultural sites. Campsites are $12 for Montana residents and the tipi rental is $22; no reservations during off-season. stateparks.mt.gov/missouri-headwaters.
Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing Area
If you’d rather shoot elk with a camera than a gun, Slippery Ann is the place to be during the rut. You can watch from the sidelines on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Reserve; hundreds of elk are visible around dawn and dusk displaying typical behavior of the rutting season. The Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing Area is along an excellent 20-mile, self-guided tour. Camping is allowed above the viewing area along the road. There are no amenities, and no reservations, but there isn’t a fee, either. Further info here.