Thirty years ago, I doubt I’d have camped at Conestoga Campground & RV Park. Not because the campground is poor or stuffy or any other negative, I just loved driving back then. Far more than I seem to now. An ten-hour drive was just a warmup in my twenties. Today, with a family in tow, not to mention a travel trailer, I’m looking to chop that trip up.
When flooding both delayed and rerouted our epic Yellowstone adventure, I was even more grateful for having chopped up the first leg of our trip. Not only did we save ourselves from driving-induced exhaustion right out of the gate, but our slower pace allowed us a little extra time to take in the beauty of west-central Montana.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the options for campgrounds along our travel route were limited. State parks and federal lands offer several rustic camping options, but for genuine RV parks the selection was sparse in the distance from home range for which we were aiming. Thankfully, a viable option presented itself in the town of White Sulphur Springs south of the Little Belt Mountains.
Ironically, our progress that first day was a bit slower than expected. As highway 89 heads south into Lewis & Clark National Forest, curvy roads and construction projects retarded our progress though thankfully offering some lovely views for our troubles.
We would finally arrive at Conestoga Campground in White Sulphur Springs at 4:30 which, unbeknownst to me, was just in the nick of time for a proper check-in. Campground office hours are a bit odd. They open at 9:00 and close at 5:00, much like the banks of yesteryear. If you arrive after closing, your reservation will be posted in a glass encased bulletin board next to the front door. Ours had already been placed there in anticipation of a late arrival on our part.
The campground itself is located in the SW corner of town. And I do mean in town. After turning west from the main road, you’ll pass through a couple blocks of run down residential and commercial development before reaching the campground entrance.
I’ll be honest, it’s not the greatest location. It’s convenient for passersby looking for a stopover spot, but not what I’d consider a destination.
To the west and south is agricultural land which is better viewing than what’s in the sightlines to the east and north. Ironically, the prettiest landscape is to the east/southeast of town. It’s unfortunate a perfect view of those hills/mountains isn’t available from Conestoga Campground but if you walk over the southernmost boundary of the campground you’ll get a nice look, powerlines notwithstanding.
According to their official website, Conestoga Campground & RV Park has 47 pull-through campsites and 5 back-in campsites. Satellite imagery clearly shows those 47 pull-through sites, but I can’t for the life of me see more than 2 back-in sites. And both of those are being used by campground hosts.
Suffice it to say this campground is almost exclusively pull-through, which is ideal for large RVs and/or newbies who aren’t fully comfortable with backing in trailers or large motorhomes. The website states most sites allow a max length of 42’ with a few capable of 45’. That should easily accommodate all but the most gargantuan rigs.
Each pull-through site consists of a level, gravel pad on which to park with a modest strip of grass between each pad. The sites are a bit too narrow for my tastes, but this being a single night stopover for us, it wasn’t a deal breaker.
The grass was quite green on the final day of June, but I suspect it burns out through the summer unless watering occurs. To enhance an otherwise bland or barren appearance, each site is adorned with either a shrub, small tree, or large bucket of potted plants. I suspect these are somewhat newer additions to the campground and will hopefully improve the landscape with time. Climate is perhaps a limitation, but trees would go a long way to making Conestoga Campground more visually appealing.
Power and water are available at each site. Amperage is 30/50 at the pull-through sites. Perhaps half the sites (I’m guessing) have sewer hookups as well.
The water is tasty, but I found the pressure a bit spurty. Again, we were only there one night so take my first impressions with a grain of salt.
All sites come with an upgraded metal and wood topped picnic table or an older, traditional wood version. The upgraded tables are quite nice and further evidence of investment in the campground.
There are, however, no firepits. The weather was quite warm and windy during our stay at the end of June, so I suspect that is the reason for no campfires. Coupled with the narrow sites, bonfires at Conestoga Campground are likely too dangerous. Not a problem with a layover, but a bit disappointing if you’re staying there a couple of days.
As mentioned, the only back-in sites I saw were the host site next to the main office and bathroom building. I assume the park host is also operating the office, when open, and keeping the campground tidy. It’s an assumption because I didn’t actually meet the park host in that official capacity. After our check-in, the office was closed and we kept to ourselves.
Next to the park host site are two rental cabins. These too are newer looking additions. They’re modern, log cabin style structures and look quite spiffy from the exterior. Unfortunately, I was unable to see inside either of them. The reservation website states that they have neither power, water, nor heat.
A grassy area behind the host site, cabins, and office is reserved for tent camping. It’s an un-serviced field with some young trees, picnic tables, and what appears to be a stone, communal firepit.
A couple of additional tent sites are located at the end of two campsite rows within triangular, partially fenced plots of grass.
As I was walking to our site in the evening, I was asked by a late arrival if I knew where the tenting area was located. I showed them what I inferred to be the tent zone and after they perused it a few times, they eventually left. Longer office hours might have been helpful in this situation.
The lone structure at Conestoga Campground & RV Park is an all-inclusive office, gift shop, laundry, recreation room, bathroom, and shower house. It’s a great resource or would be if it was open for longer.
You needn’t worry about the bathrooms and showers being inaccessible. Those are available to campers at all hours. They’re older but generally clean and functional.
In the same large room are three individual shower stalls. Each comes with a wooden bench in a changing area ahead of the tiled shower. A curtain separates the two areas. I did take a shower, but it appears to be free and presumably has hot water you can adjust to your liking.
A small laundry room, accessible from outside, exists at the backside of the building. It has two coin-operated washers and four coin-operated dryers. For what is not an exceptionally large campground, this is a terrific amenity to offer.
Oddly, the bathrooms offer access to the recreation room. This rec room is also accessible via the laundry room. Open until 9:00 p.m., both entrances to the rec room are limited by a coded door lock which you can only obtain from the office. You know, the one that closes at 5:00 sharp each night.
So, if you arrive late or don’t know enough ahead of time, you’ll be locked out of the rec room. I would be one such person. I never did get to see inside it to know what is offered in the recreation room. The official website states that a big screen TV, book swap, free DVD/VCR checkout, and puzzles/games all lie hidden within. Another cool amenity for guests. Too bad it’s not more easily reachable.
The office portion of the building combines a typical registration desk with a small gift shop. The gift shop mostly sells branded knickknacks, shirts, and hats alongside some ice cream treats in a cooler. Once again, the 5:00 closing time foiled my attempts to snoop around as I was locked out of the office and gift shop not long after our arrival.
If you’re using your onboard bathroom facilities and do not have sewer service at your site, a lone dump station exists in the parking lot out front of the office. I have a feeling this is a newer addition to the campground as the concrete looks fresh as does the wood guard rail.
North of the office, parking lot, and host sites are two playgrounds, one for your hairless children and the other for your fur babies.
The dog run isn’t much more than a plot of grass surrounded by chain-link fencing. Inside are a couple benches and a waste disposal bin. A very simple setup that’s nonetheless a welcome perk for dog owners. It’s surprising how rarely we encounter such an area in campgrounds.
Next to the dog run, and unfenced, is a small playground for the littles. It too is modest, comprised of a wooden climbing/swinging/sliding structure not unlike the one we used to have in our own backyard plus an old-school metal climbing dome. A nice little spot for the kids to burn off some energy while you set up the trailer or prepare a meal.
Conestoga Campground & RV Park offers two more quaint accessories worth mentioning.
Immediately north of the registration office is a lovely water feature welcoming campers. A stand of aspen along with an old pioneer wagon and some flowering plants make an attractive rock waterfall display.
At the other end of the campground, in the southwest corner, is a turtle pond. There’s a bit of a trail along one side and a bridge to a small island with another water feature. This water feature has a hand pump that theoretically provides water to the small cascading pathway returning it to the pond but we were never able to get it to work.
Along with the turtle are some goldfish. They’re much less persnickety about intrusive humans and swam blissfully around while we tried desperately to see the turtle again.
I liked the pond and it’s in a good location with an unobstructed view to the west. Using the benches provided, or bringing your own lawn chair, it offers a peaceful spot to relax and look at the hills and maybe even catch a gorgeous sunset.
Turtles weren’t the only wildlife making Conestoga Campground their home, thanks to a friendly fellow camper who made us aware of a nesting killdeer alongside the circumference road of the campground.
It was a precarious spot to put a nest! Perhaps a novice mother? Whatever the case, she was busy distracting nosey humans from her precious eggs. Quite effectively, I might add, since I was unable to get a quality photo of them.
In the morning, nearby roosters greeted us with raucous crowing. The campground may be on the edge of town but it’s equally on the edge of the country. This was an unexpected wake-up call. Thankfully we were hitting the road early anyway, but it certainly could get annoying over the span of a week.
As for us humans, you’ll be happy to know there is free WiFi available. It’s slow and diminishes the further you get from the office. I found that quality improved slightly into the evening but no matter the time of day, you won’t be using this service for streaming movies. Still, a nice convenience for checking emails or looking up local services.
We, for example, did our first shopping run of our trip at the grocery store in White Sulphur Springs. It was a bit tricky to find and is a harbinger of generations past where stores were adapted to existing buildings. It reminded me of the hardware store I worked in as a kid.
I should likely mention that Conestoga Campground & RV Park is part of two membership camping groups. They still accept non-member reservations, obviously, but I’m guessing the members will get preferential treatment during peak season.
All in all, I was happy with our stay. It was the first stop of our trip and nothing more than a place to sleep as we made our way to Cody, Wyoming and then Yellowstone. In that sense, it did what we wanted. Nothing more, nothing less.
I was disappointed with the lack of office (and thus rec room) access after five o’clock. That seems much too early for a campground office to close. Being so close to town was a bit unappealing, though admittedly convenient.
I did like the attempts to beautify the campground. Hopefully the young trees survive and grow into glorious shade-providers. The water feature and pond are nice and the playground and dog run will be appreciated by families on summer trips.
I’ll grant Conestoga Campground & RV Park 3.25 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. It’s a suitable overnight spot but not a campground I’d choose for an extended stay. I suspect most visitors to this campground use it as we did or as a basecamp for sleep while exploring the region. If you need a place to stop on your way through Montana, you could certainly do worse.