The Best Summer Campsites in Southwest Montana (According to longtime residents and native Montanans)

Jelt belts hanging from a bungee clothes line with two Jelt branded hats.

It’s finally summertime in Montana! Summer in Bozeman for the Jelt staff means getting outdoors to enjoy some of our favorite activities that we are unable to do during the long winter months.

Our fearless leader, Jen, loves water skiing around the lake, while Jessie spends her free time fly-fishing on the rivers of Montana. Mary is our Class 5 river rat and then there’s me, Amanda, I’m the hiking fanatic. Okay, so we are all a little obsessed about being outdoors, especially during the most beautiful time of year.

The Jelt team never leaves home without our favorite belts. Jen is partial to The USA Stripe Elastic Belt on her cutoffs, while I clip my bear spray onto my Khaki Tan Elastic Belt. Mary sports her low-profile Black Granite Elastic Belt and Jessie wears the Black JeltX Adjustable Elastic Belt on her waders.  Waterproof and ready for big adventures, Jelt can be worn with your favorite pair of jeans (or cutoffs), biking and hiking pants, golf shorts and even waders.

Woman wearing JeltX Adjustable belt on her pants while fishing in a lake

Man wearing a JeltX Adjustable belt on pants while mountain biking

What’s seriously the best thing about the summer – CAMPING of course! Although there are a number of amazing places to camp around southwest Montana, here are some of Team Jelt’s favorite camp spots.

#1. Cliff and Wade Lakes

Cliff and Wade Lakes are unbelievably pristine. About 2 hours from Bozeman and right outside Yellowstone Park, you will find these spring-fed lakes that sit on a geologic fault, formed a rock bottom chasm, making the lakes a clear blue-green color. The lakes are perfect for swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing and great for bird watching. Located not far from Yellowstone National Park and about 40 miles south of Ennis, Montana the Wade Lake Campground surrounds the lake and offers 27 campsites, available only on a first-come first-serve basis. With no reservations, it’s recommended arriving mid-week for a guaranteed spot.

Cliff Lake at Cliff and Wade Lakes in Montana.

#2. Pine Creek Campground

Located in the heart of Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, Montana and in route to Yellowstone National Park, is Pine Creek Campground. This is an easily accessible, family-friendly campground with good access to many local trailheads, including Pine Creek Falls a popular 2.5 mile hike or horseback ride. The campground is close to local entertainment and dining at Pine Creek Lodge and fishing on the Yellowstone and area streams. Only 25 minutes away is Chico Hot Springs, a natural hot springs and vacation resort.

Pine Creek Campground in Montana

#3. Chisholm Campground

Only 20 miles from Bozeman in Hyalite Canyon is Chisholm Campground, located on Hyalite Reservoir. This site is our favorite because it’s literally in our backyard and one of the most beautiful places on earth. Reservations are required in all camp areas in Hyalite Canyon. It is smart to plan ahead and book early, as there are only 10 campsites available in Chisholm and they are in high demand. Enjoy swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding and fishing in Hyalite Reservoir, as well as access to a number of hiking and mountain biking trails in the area.

Chisholm Campground in Hyalite Canyon, Montana

#4. Swan Creek Campground

Located in Gallatin Canyon and only 31 miles from Bozeman is this quaint campground. The location of the campground is perfect for great hiking, fishing, rafting and tons of wildlife. The Swan Creek Campground is located in a dense forest of beautiful fir and spruce trees with Swan Creek, a tributary of Gallatin River, flowing through the campground.  This is the perfect location between Bozeman and Big Sky, especially for those in route to Yellowstone Park.

Swan Creek Campground in Gallatin Canyon, Montana

#5. Branham Lakes Campground

In the heart of the Tobacco Root Mountains are Branham Lakes. From Sheridan, Montana, the two mountain lakes are located 13 miles up a super gnarly Mill Creek Road. Once you arrive at the mountain top, there are only six overnight sites and a picnic area. These lakes are perfect for canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing and swimming. There’s also great hiking access and walking trails that go around each lake. The horse flies can be fierce in late summer, so bring plenty of bug spray.

Branham Lake in Montana

So now that we’ve told you our local campsite secrets, you need to explore, enjoy, but most importantly, keep them to yourself! Hahaha! You’re about to discover why Montana is the Last Best Place. Shhhh….