From the Tobacco Roots to the Gallatin Range, the mountains around Bozeman hold stunning alpine lakes perfect for an overnight camping trip—but sometimes, you want to get outdoors without trying too hard. Maybe you got a late start, or you need a stationary base camp for your clan of young kids. Whatever the case may be, the good news is that southwest Montana also has plenty of drive-up camping options as well. Whether you’ve got an RV, a pop-up camper, or an ’86 Loyale with the seats down, here’s a look at how to get away from it all without going too far.
Head to the northern Bridgers and hike up Sacajawea, ski the Great One in the early summer, or chill on the shores of the lake with a good book. If you’re feeling frisky, hike around the far end of the lake and give the rope swing a whirl. Just remember to get there early, as this site tends to fill up fast.
The pristine waters of the Gallatin River make this place a mecca for car-camping enthusiasts. From just outside Gallatin Gateway all the way down to West Yellowstone, the Canyon is dotted with campsites in all shapes and sizes: Scorched Earth, Greek Creek, Red Cliff, et al. With a lifetime of climbing, fishing, paddling, and hiking options, your only limitation is free time.
With plenty of spots on both sides of the river, campers on the Maddy can climbing at Neat Rock, go tubing, perfect their fly-casting technique, hike up the Bear Trap, or enjoy soothing hot water and soulful acoustic jams up the road at Norris Hot Springs. Don’t forget the sunscreen—this desert-like locale gets hot in a hurry.
Hyalite Recreation Area
Hyalite is drive-up camping at its finest. In just 20 minutes from downtown Bozeman, you could be unpacking the car and stabilizing the RV at Langohr Campground. Once there, don’t forget your mountain bike to visit Emerald Lake, your trail shoes to run up Hyalite Peak, or your canoe to paddle around the reservoir.
If your out-of-town relatives are looking for hookups and an extended stay, send them to the Bear Canyon Campground, the Bozeman KOA at Four Corners, or Yellowstone’s Edge RV Par in Paradise Valley.