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West Yellowstone, Montana

West Yellowstone was incorporated in 1966 and has been considered something of a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park since the beginning of the early 20th century. Although the community is quite small, visitor numbers every year are in the millions.

The entire region of West Yellowstone is a veritable wonderland of outdoor recreation and is in fact surrounded by three national forests. It is also permeated with blue-ribbon trout streams and pristine alpine lakes.

West Yellowstone contains the kind of landscape that epitomizes what many have come to expect from the Montana experience.

Locals and visitors alike make good use of the plentiful hiking and biking trails and routes that stretch for miles. The well-developed town is surrounded by wide-open spaces, and Yellowstone National Park is even open to cyclists alone around the time of early April—long before any cars can even get close.

The West Yellowstone is an attractive option for sightseeing and recreation whether you are coming with the expectation of hiking some decent trails or catching a few spring rainbow or brown trout.

The best thing about coming to West Yellowstone is taking advantage of the many recreation opportunities that rarely disappoint, although never being too far from a few home comforts if necessary.

west yellowstone, montana

Attractions in West Yellowstone

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

The Grizzly Discovery Center as it was first known opened its gates in 1993 with the intention of providing visitors to Yellowstone with deeper insights into the behavior of grizzlies.

This non-profit Wildlife Park and Educational Facility has turned into a haven for bears who for some reason have to be taken out of the wild due to the influence of humans.

It was decided that this was a more common occurrence as more people venture into wild areas and that the humane thing to do would be to bring the bears to a sanctuary such as this rather than adopting any other tactics.

Visitors can see the bears forage for food, play in their ponds, and with each other. The facility is also home to a wide range of other animals such as wolves and otters.

The intricacies and complexities of the Yellowstone ecosystem become more apparent to visitors who get to see it more up-close than they normally might.

The facility runs various educational programs such as the Safety in Bear Country Programs, and regular Yellowstone Ranger talks.

Activities and viewing the animals are possible both inside and out while you view the grizzly bears, gray wolves, river otters, and much more.

Museum of the Yellowstone

Explore the local heritage by way of the Museum of the Yellowstone, a non-profit, Yellowstone Historic Center facility dedicated to presenting stories of travel to and through the local regions.

The museum’s major focus is on the Park’s influence on West Yellowstone and the Hebgen Lake Basin area.  

The community of West Yellowstone was first established in 1908 in connection with the arrival of rail service to the area. The museum highlights and exhibits the tales of the expansion and change that went on in and around the town as it developed into a proper community. The railroad facilities belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad in West Yellowstone and encompassed the Oregon Short Line Terminus Historic District. The buildings and structures in the Historic District all tell a few stories along with their historic photos of them.

Transportation in the area has obviously seen some drastic changes since the days of horses and stagecoaches. This evolution is well-documented in the museum which features exhibits, films and walking tours of the historic district and is open year-round.

Yellowstone Giant Screen

The Yellowstone Giant Screen Theater is another must-do if you are in the West Yellowstone region.

Close to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theater is quite a bit more than just another theater and provides rare educational opportunities related to the area.

Whether by way of the impressive “Yellowstone” film or the many displays in the lobby, the giant screen facility gives visitors a taste of what the true Yellowstone is today—compared to what it was a hundred and 100,000 years ago.

The history and geological wonders of the area are all revealed through the many facets of the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theater, which is open year-round.

Recreation Activities in West Yellowstone

Hiking

hiking

West Yellowstone’s surrounding national forests and mountain ranges make it something of a dream terrain for hikers.

There is an abundance of options across literally millions of acres of public land with trails stretching far and wide past aspen and pine, through scenic and tranquil meadows, and in the vicinity of some impressive peaks.

The Rendezvous Trail System is a highly popular cross-country ski trail system in the winter months, and the warmer months see it open to hikers and bikers. 

The Boundary Trail is another popular year-round route accessed the northeast of town and follows the Yellowstone National Park boundary.

Inside the park itself, there are over 1,000 miles of hiking trails to suit all levels and distances. The Riverside Trail is another easy route that starts out in West Yellowstone and follows a steady path along the river.

Biking

biking

Mountain biking and road cycling are also popular pursuits in and around West Yellowstone.

As this spot is quite close to the Continental Divide Trail, and as the TransAmerica Trail goes directly through the town, it’s not hard to see why so many cyclists throughout the whole year find it an ideal stop-off.

Skiing

skiing

You can’t go far wrong skiing-wise with over 50 km of groomed trails that can easily be accessed from the edge of West Yellowstone.

The town is in a central location so it is also within a couple of hours of other great ski areas like the Bridger Bowl and Big Sky Resort.

The Rendezvous Ski Trails are ideal scenic trails for skiers of all levels. The location features a biathlon course, and the pet-friendly Boundary Ski and Snowshoe Trail offer just under 8 km of trail similar to that on Yellowstone Park’s western border.

You can even ski straight into the national park on the Riverside Trail, which glides along the Madison River where you can catch a glimpse of bald eagles soaring, frosty bison grazing, or trumpeter swans swimming by.

Fishing

fishing

Some of the best trout fishing rivers around can be found within quick and easy access of West Yellowstone, which also has unparalleled year-round fishing.

Top blue-ribbon trout streams surround the entire town making it a point of attraction for fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains.

The nearby Hebgen Lake is also known as one of Montana’s premier still-water and dry fly fisheries, and it contains a couple of marinas that offer boating and fishing supplies which includes rentals.

Spring is when fishermen test their skills to catch rainbow and brown trout, although there are plenty who can be seen wading waist deep in the icy waters of the Gallatin and Madison Rivers when it comes to ice fishing season on the lakes.

Camping

camping

The Fox Den RV and Campground is a charming, family-run operation with tent and RV sites surrounded by pine trees. Amenities include hot showers and this facility is close to both the west entrance of the national park and one of its main attractions—Old Faithful

The Hideaway RV Park is on Electric Street in West Yellowstone and offers a comfortable campground with all the amenities you might need.

The Buffalo Crossing RV Park is one of the more recent additions to the long list of tent and RV campgrounds in the West Yellowstone area and offers the closest camping available to the west entrance of the national park. Each RV site has pull-through and back-in options.

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park is just four blocks from the west entrance of the national park and is close to both the historic and natural outdoor aspects of the vicinity. RV sites and cabins are available with all the local amenities you might need to call on close at hand.

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