Fishing Bridge Campground
Yellowstone National Park
Dates of Stay: May 31, 2017-June 6, 2017
Traveling to Yellowstone National Park to camp with a thirty-five foot camper can be tricky but we went with three of them! There are approximately twelve campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park; only four have sites large enough for our campers, and only one has full hookups. The options for large campers are:
- camp without hookups and use a generator, public baths, and dump stations;
- camp with full hookups at the Fishing Bridge Campground
- or staying outside the park.
The decision for our vacation group came down to three points: we valued full service hookups (which means no public baths), we valued staying in one location the entire visit, and we valued our time in the park. We elected to spend a week camping at the Fishing Bridge Campground.
Yellowstone National Park is a huge place which requires a lot of driving. You will find nearly 200 miles of roadway in the park (142 in the the grand loop alone). We found Fishing Bridge Campground was fairly centrally located and allowed us to access all parts of the park. We did have longer drives to reach Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs but because we were centrally located, we made it to every single part of the park during our week visit.
We made our reservations at Fishing Bridge about 11 months in advance via the online reservation system. When we made them there were no sites larger than 40 feet long available, so this is a place where the early bird does get the worm and the last minute planner will find themselves outside the park. Traveling in a group of three, we did request to be close to each other but our exact sites were not guaranteed until we got there.
We left Cody Wyoming mid morning after another failed attempted at trout fishing on Monster Lake. Heading west on Highway 20 out of Cody, you travel through a series of tunnels before reaching Buffalo Bill Dam. I do wonder, are we the only people that honk their horns and flash their lights when going through tunnels? The Buffalo Bill Dam is a National Historic Site, so we stopped by and stamped our National Passport. The scenery around the dam is breathtaking and is a teaser of the sites to come.
We passed by the old house on the hill that looks more like the entrance to a mine than it does a house. I remember passing this house when I was a child coming to Yellowstone National Park for the first time. The entire trip from Cody to the East Entrance is beautiful. The Shoshone River runs the entire way, you pass by Buffalo Bill State Park, and plenty of rock formations. Fifty miles after leaving Cody, we arrived at the East Entrance to the park. A single bison greeted us to the park just past the entrance.
The East Gate to Fishing Bridge Campground:
Entrance fees for a private vehicle are $30 or if you plan to visit both Yellowstone and Grand Teton the price is $50. The pass is good for 7 full days. I am not sure what part of that I found confusing but the Park Ranger and I were not speaking the same language on the day we checked in. (I think my barrier came from the fact that I have never paid to get into Grand Teton National Park. I know realize the error of my thinking but at the moment we were entering Yellowstone, I was not aware of my thinking error.) I just wanted this Park Ranger to take my $30, send me on my way and let me start my Yellowstone Adventure.
Upon leaving the East Gate, you immediately start climbing altitude to pass over Sylvan Pass. Wayne’s fishing guide at Monster Lake had told us to look for the 105 mm Howitzer Cannons (large guns) on the side of the road as we went through the pass. The Howitzer Cannons are used to create controlled avalanches through the pass. There was still plenty of snow in the higher elevations but I think the threat of avalanche had diminished by the time we had arrived the end of May.
26 miles west of the East Gate is Fishing Bridge Campground. The campground staff were waiting for us in the parking lot to direct traffic and parking. After parking we went in to register. There were four or five employees ready to help us with registration. Although we reserved together and specified on our reservations that we wanted to be together that was not a guarantee until we arrived. The Todd’s and the Taylor’s were placed next to each other but the Master’s were not placed close to us. With a little luck, a lot of patience, the Xanterra employees were able to re-place the Master’s family right behind the Todd’s.
We proceeded to our sites and at first glance they look decent sized; until you try and get into them. Once you park that camper it becomes apparent that there is very little room for any extra space. We all had trees in our spots. In order to put the slides out, we had to move closer to the trees; then we could not open the outdoor kitchens. Then we had very little space to park our trucks. There was no room left to set up chairs outside for any type of outdoor enjoyment. Of course, if we had smaller campers the sites would have had more room.
Fishing Bridge is a hard sided camper area only because we were in bear country. They are really strict about not leaving anything outside of the camper. Things like; coolers, cook stoves/grills/ trash/pet food containers, must all be put inside or in a vehicle at night. A few nights the campground host even came by and reminded us as people in the campground had left things out. We were all anxious about what was lurking outside after we went inside at night.so we took trail cameras with us to set up. Three trail cameras doing all night surveillance for a week and all we found lurking was: trucks, early morning dog walkers, and one lone four legged animal that we think was a fox or coyote. What we know for sure is it wasn’t a bear. We have posted his photo here, what do you think?
Fishing Bridge does not allow campfires of any type. We knew that going in so we did not plan any campfire meals but we also found it a little too chilly to sit outside with our friends and talk about our day without a fire to keep us warm. I am not sure it was the fire we missed the most but we missed the social aspect that we have come to love about group camping. Recapping and story telling is a big part of our camping experience and at the end of the night, alone in your camper, it just felt like something was missing. For us anyway.
The last thing I can say about the actual sites at Fishing Bridge, and I suspect this is true of all Yellowstone Campgrounds, the sites turnover quickly. I think we went through four or five new neighbors during our week long stay. If you like meeting and chatting with new people, you really don’t have to look very far to talk about your Yellowstone experience with. We found camping neighbors to be a great source of information: some have been coming every year for decades, while others are on their first trip. Everyone is excited to talk about their day, if you can catch them outside to ask about it.
There are a few amenities to point out. We did have wifi at the campground. But, it was painfully slow every time I went to do something. It became even slower during high peak times. I found if I woke at 3:00 a.m. I could access wifi with little problems.
Each reservation at Fishing Bridge is given 2 free showers per day. The shower house and laundry facilities are located at the main check-in building. Wayne and The Boy used the showers frequently and other than waiting in line for a shower they did not have any complaints. The Taylor’s and The Todd’s both did laundry during their stay at Fishing Bridge. We both endured long lines for machines and rude people who did not care if you had been waiting longer for a machine than them. Our best advice is to do laundry before or after your time at Fishing Bridge.
Down the street, less than a 1/4 mile, is a general store and gas station. The general store is stocked with souvenirs as well as allergy medicine, bread, peanut butter, beer and wine. We did notice that diesel fuel was no more expensive inside the park than it was outside the park.
We did not come to Yellowstone National Park to camp. We came to experience the thermal features, to see wild animals, and to hike. We camped while at Yellowstone National Park using our camper as a base camp to be close to the action. We would have loved to have a campfire at night but not as much as we enjoyed having full hookups. We were crowded in our spot; there was no way we could access the outside storage bin with the truck parked at the spot, but we were only at that spot a short time during the waking moments.
I asked each family that went on this vacation with us if they would stay here again and 2 out of the 3 said yes without hesitation. The one family that said no, said no, because they feel like they have done that and now they would like to do something different.
We had mostly the same impressions of Fishing Bridge….not a great place to hang out by the camper, but you can’t beat the location! Sounds like this is one time when not having slides worked to our advantage….we didn’t have any trouble fitting in and parking the van next to our trailer, but I can definitely see that it might have been tricky with our old trailer with its big slide.