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A Guide to Hiking at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park: Frontcountry Hiking and Camping
Beware of the Bear.
Beware of the Bear.

In Yellowstone-speak, there is the frontcountry -- car and RV accessible camping areas with well-traveled hiking trails as well as hotels and gift shops - and the backcountry, which refers to areas further off the grid that are accessible only by foot, horseback or boat. Both feature a number of individual campsites [source: National Park Service].

All 12 of Yellowstone's campgrounds, as well as more than 2,000 individual campsites are located in the frontcountry. Some take reservations, while others operate on a first come, first served basis. The layout and amenities offered in each campground run a wide gamut. The campground at Bridge Bay, for example, offers a full-service marina, while Tower Fall campground is nestled near a convenience store, restaurant and gas station. In the Park's remote northeast corner, lies the "primitive" Slough Creek campground. In order to maintain its all natural aesthetic, the campground doesn't allow visitors to use power generators. Its location means smaller crowds, as well as good fishing and the opportunity for wolf sightings [source: National Park Service].

No matter where you decide to plop down your gear and pitch a tent (or park an RV), campers should always remember that they're not alone. "Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards at times. There is no guarantee of your safety," the National Park Service (NPS) warns visitors. Wild animals abound in Yellowstone and certain precautions should be taken to ensure that the land is shared and enjoyed safely [source: National Park Service].

Bears pose one of the biggest natural threats to visitors. Yellowstone averages one bear attack per year and in 2011 two visitors were mauled and killed by bears in two separate incidents (However in the 140-year history of the park, only seven people have been killed by bears). The number one rule of camping in Yellowstone is to lock up food in order to keep bears away. Keep all food, plates, utensils and anything with the slightest scent of food on it away from your campsite. Lock these items in a car or in a designated bear box. For additional precaution, make like a boy scout and always be prepared. A can of bear spray is a good start [source: National Park Service].

If you're not bothered by lathering on a third coat of bear spray or locking everything in the nearest bear box, you may be ready for a trip to Yellowstone's backcountry. Read on for tips on this more rugged adventure.