Top-10 Car-Camping Spots

Southwest Montana's most convenient gems.

1. Canyon Ferry Lake, south of Helena
Pull up your pop-up and break out the folding chairs. Canyon Ferry is a multifaceted recreational destination. Set your spinner rods up in your boat, break out a cold PBR, and daydream about your walleye dinner. The lake sees year-round use, from ice fisherman and ice boaters in the winter months to sailors, walleye-hunters, and even a random paraglider pilot or two in the summer.

2. Fairy Lake Campground, northern Bridgers
Take a hike up Sacajewea, ski the Great One in the early summer, or chill on the shores of the lake with a good book, your favorite companion (four-legged or otherwise), and some afternoon tea. BYOB; it’s a long drive to the Filler.

3. Squaw Creek, Gallatin Canyon
The Gallatin Canyon is a mecca for car-camping enthusiasts. Just a short hike from your truck, car, or tent provides amazing vistas from atop Castle Mountain and Garnet Peak. Scorched Earth crag is within a five-minute amble and offers excellent limestone sport routes. The best motivation: the Gourmet Gas Station is an easy ten-minute drive away. Hola Mexicana!

4. Madison River, Ennis/Norris
Climbing at Neat Rock, tubing with a six-pack, perfecting your casting technique, snake wrestling, hiking the Bear Trap, and bluegrass at Norris Hot Springs. Enough said.

5. Greek Creek, Gallatin Canyon
Pack the hibachi and kick back for a weekend listening to the Gallatin slide its way down the canyon. Fish in the Park for the day, catch an IMAX movie in West, or partake in some onion rings from the Corral. Mmm mmm good.

6. Yellowstone National Park
The first of its kind never ceases to amaze. Soak in the Boiling River, commune with the buffalo in the Lamar Valley, or take your fly rod for a hike in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

7. Yankee Jim Canyon, Gardiner
A cheeseburger in Paradise never tasted so good. Throw up your tent and head to Helen’s in Gardiner to work on your fat intake. Head back to camp, lie on the picnic bench, and digest away as the rapids of the Yellowstone churn. Take your boat and fly rod just in case.

8. Pine Creek, Livingston
Catch some live music at the Pine Creek Café and awake snuggled in your sleeping bag, ready to take in a hike to the picturesque Pine Creek Lake. Take your skis or board early in the summer or your fishing rod after the ice breaks.

9. Colter, Cooke City
Want to see the Beartooth Wilderness but not hoist a 50-pound pack? Car-camp it at the Colter campground and rise with the sun to get a jump start on a day hike into this rugged alpine environment. Leave the whiskey at home; these mountains deserve to be seen without the hangover haze.

10. Hyalite Recreation Area, Bozeman
A hop, skip, and a jump from town lands you in this pristine paradise. Choose from three campgrounds to call your own and head out and up from there. Mountain bike to the impressive Emerald Lake, trail run up Hyalite Peak, or paddle around the reservoir. This is car-camping at its finest. Casual, midday starts are expected and Town & Country is only a 20-minute drive away in case you run out of beer.