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Great America Road Trip Days 10 & 11: Boondocking Near Yellowstone

Last updated Jul 21, 2020 | Published on Jul 17, 2020

Wednesday July 15

Good-bye, Cattle Ranch

I awoke this morning to answer the call of nature and went in search of the composting toilet. It was located behind some bales of hay which had been arranged to form a privacy screen. The toilet was a simple affair – just a toilet seat on a bucket in the open air. The location couldn’t be beat, though, and I quite enjoyed the view if I do say so myself.

Daniel and I reluctantly broke camp and bid goodbye to the ranch around noon. We really liked our visit here would happily have stayed longer if we didn’t already have plans.

The loo

The loo view

View from our camp site

Another view from our camp site

Good-bye, cattle ranch!

Hunting for a Camp site

Our destination for the day was the town of Gardiner, located near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. As all the campgrounds in the park are currently closed or full, I booked us a spot at an RV park for a couple of nights.

Upon arrival in Gardiner, we checked out the RV park and weren’t very impressed. The campground was utterly lacking in character and the sites were packed together like sardines. I guess this is to be expected in an RV park but it was still a bit of a depressing prospect.

So we drove out of town for a bit to assess other options. Daniel and I found a nice Forest Service campground nestled on a hill, but it was full so we kept going. We read about some dispersed camping options on nearby Forest Service land and decided to check it out.

Driving on the Forest Service road to the dispersed camping area

Views from the drive to the dispersed camping area

Boondocking on Forest Service Land

And that is how we found ourselves camped on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. We have no neighbors nearby and the views are fabulous. Wildflowers are abundant and elk wandered across the road on our way up.

To get here, we followed a bumpy gravel road for about 5 miles as it wound up and around a hill overlooking Gardiner. Our rig doesn’t handle rough road very well so we had to take it extremely slow. Like 5 miles an hour slow.

Once we found a spot, we agreed to stay here for a couple of nights. Getting here was too much work turn around and leave the very next day.

Plus we are self-sufficient and can easily run off-grid for a couple of nights. Our refrigerator is fully stocked and we have a full tank of propane. The only thing we are low on is fresh water, but that problem was easily solved by filtering water from a nearby creek.

I’m looking forward to our first proper zero day. (For those not familiar with the phrase, a “zero” day is one in which a person does not travel any miles. This term is borrowed from the through-hiking community but it applies here as well).

Flowers along the road next to our campsite

A fire pit and tent camping area are just down the hill from our parking spot

Evening glow bathes the nearby hills

Filtering water from a nearby stream

Thursday, July 16

Refrigerator Woes

I awoke this morning to discover that we had a problem. Our refrigerator was not working. This was especially problematic because we went grocery shopping yesterday and loaded up the fridge with a ton of fresh food.

The refrigerator unit which comes standard in Rialtas is notoriously troublesome. We’ve heard about this issue from other Rialta owners but have yet to experience it for ourselves.

We did some troubleshooting, including re-leveling the Rialta so that it was parked at less of an incline. The refrigerator uses an old-style cooling mechanism which has to be somewhat level for it to function. Then we turned it back on and it started back up again. Five hours later the fridge stopped working again.

So we are not yet sure what the problem is. Our food isn’t spoiled, yet, but probably will be soon if we don’t figure something out. I guess we should eat up all the meat before it goes bad.

Daniel sets up to take some night photos

A Relaxed but Buggy Day

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and trying to avoid the bugs. Biting flies and mosquitoes are especially prevalent up here. They kept managing to find their way into both the Rialta and our screened-in canopy with impunity.

But it is really lovely up here. We couldn’t help but enjoy the stunning views, even despite the bugs.

Tomorrow… we visit Yellowstone National Park! Squee!


Hiding from the bugs under the canopy

Eating dinner in the Rialta. Steelhead and brussel sprouts! Yum!

Where are we now?


We are boondocking just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park!

Date: July 15 & 16
Great American Road Trip Status: Days 10 & 11

Starting Location: Harrison, MT
Ending Location: Gardiner, MT
Miles Today: 138.4
Total Trip Mileage: 1347.7

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

Day 9: Garnet Ghost Town
Day 8: Going-to-the-Sun Road
Day 7: Avalanche Lake Trail and Polebridge
Day 6: Rocky Point Nature Trail
Day 5: Welcome to Glacier National Park

Archive of Previous Posts

Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!


  1. Linda Chase

    Wow, I like! But do the Feds know about the composting toilet? I want something like that here in the camping spot we are developing down by the goat barn, but I think it is illegal?

    • Unicorn

      Hi Aunt Linda! You know, I have no idea. Maybe there are different rules in Montana? Our host provided a bucket of compost with a shovel and we put in a layer of compost each time we were done using it. It worked pretty well!


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