Welcome to West Yellowstone, Montana!
Below you will find a partial list of weekly activities and events happening in West Yellowstone. There is also a printable one page guide to family activities, local events and scenic drives.
On our home page look under “play” for our calendar of events along with other useful and interesting information about our unique area.
Please be cautious of wildlife along and on the highways as they migrate thru our area!
At a Glance:
- Yellowstone Over-the-Snow Winter Season Begins: Dec. 15
- Hebgen Lake NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament: Jan. 18 – 20
- Kids ‘n’ Snow Weekend: Jan. 19 – 20
- US Biathlon Western Championship: Jan. 23 – 27
- Kids ‘n’ Snow Weekend: Feb. 2 – 3
- Taste of the Trails: Feb. 17
- Rendezvous Ski Race: Mar. 2
- Kids ‘n’ Snow Weekend: Mar. 2 – 3
- Skijoring Championships: Mar. 9 – 10
- Snowmobile EXPO: Mar. 15 – 17
- Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center: Open Everyday 8:30am to 4:00pm. They are a not-for-profit wildlife park accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Call 406-646-7001 or visit them online.
- Yellowstone Giant Screen: Open Daily. Call 406.646.4100
Showing Daily: “Yellowstone” and a Hollywood movie each evening.
- Infant/Toddler/Pre-School Story Hour: Tuesdays, 10:30am, Library
- Women’s Weekly Ski: Tuesdays, Noon, Freeheel & Wheel
- Historic Walking Tour: Self-guided, daily
- Adult Co-ed Volleyball: Thursdays, 7:00pm at the WY School Gym
- Co-ed Ultimate Frisbee: Tuesday, 6:30 at the WY School Gym
- Yoga for Everyone: Classes are being offered every Thursday at 5:30pm at the Povah Community Center
- Martial Arts: Classes are being offered every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 6:30pm at the Povah Community Center
- Knit Nights: Thursdays, 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Chamber
- Game Night: Fridays, 6:00pm, Bullwinkles
- Live Poker: Wed. & Fri. evenings at 7:00pm, Buffalo Bar
- West Yellowstone Chess Club: Fridays, 4:00pm, West Yellowstone Public Library
For a printable version of activities and details please view the links below
West Yellowstone Weather and Roads (Jan. 19, 2019 – Jan. 24, 2019):
- Saturday: Snow accumulations of 1-3 inches. Overcast with a high near 28F. Low around 21F.
- Sunday: Snow accumulations of 1-2 inches. Overcast with a high near 31F. Low around 18F.
- Monday: Snow accumulations of 1-2 inches. Overcast with a high near 25F. Low around 2F.
- Tuesday: Chance of snow. Partly sunny with a high near 18F. Low around 7F.
- Wednesday: Chance of snow. Mostly cloudy with a high near 23F. Low around 6F.
- Thursday: Chance of snow. Cloudy with a high near 24F. Low around 7F.
Changing weather conditions exist. Be prepared when traveling through Yellowstone Country.
2018-2019 Winter Opening Dates:
Roads are open to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach:
- West Entrance to Old Faithful, Mammoth to Old Faithful, Canyon to Norris, Canyon to Lake, Old Faithful to West Thumb, South Entrance to Lake, Lake to East Entrance.
YELLOWSTONE PARK ROADS
- OPEN: Gardiner to Mammoth, Mammoth to Tower, Tower to the Northeast Entrance.
- CLOSED: West Entrance to Madison, Mammoth to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon.
- CLOSED: Canyon Junction to Lake. East Entrance to Fishing Bridge (Sylvan Pass).
- CLOSED: South Entrance to West Thumb, Lake to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass), Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
- CLOSED: Tower Fall to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass) except in inclement weather.
- CLOSED: Beartooth Highway
November 5: All roads close at 8 am except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast Entrance.
- Norris to Mammoth (Roaring Mountain to Apollinaris Spring area)
- June 1 to October 8: additional nightly closures from 10 pm to 7 am (excluding Friday and Saturday nights and holiday weekends*).
- Canyon Village Area
- 2018 season: some destinations unavailable as part of the Canyon Overlooks and Trails Restoration Project.
- Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond (East Entrance Road)
- 2018 season: expect delays along the East Entrance Road between Fishing Bridge and Indian Pond (excluding holiday weekends*).
- October 15 to November 5: full closure of Fishing Bridge over the Yellowstone River. East Entrance Road will remain open to the point of construction on the east side of the bridge. However, people needing to travel through Yellowstone to Cody, Wyoming and beyond will need to use the Northeast Entrance during this closure.
- Mount Washburn
- Mount Washburn trails and trailheads are closed for the 2018 season due to construction projects.
Beartooth Highway (US-212)
- A construction zone between “Top of the World Store” and Long Lake includes sections of unpaved road: expect minor delays. Full night closures (10 pm to 8 am, Monday through Thursday night) begin August 6 for the remainder of the 2018 season.
*Holidays include Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends.
Check travel conditions:
- Montana travel conditions (1-800-226-7623)
- Wyoming travel conditions (1-888-996-7623)
- Idaho – 511.idaho.gov or dial 5-1-1.
2018 Fall Closing Dates:
- October 9: Beartooth Highway (US 212 to Red Lodge, Montana).
- November 5: All roads close at 8 am except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast Entrance.
- NO WHEELED VEHICLES ARE PERMITTED FROM NOV. 5-MID APRIL (except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast entrance by permit only)
Check travel conditions:
By Amy Freed
There are many things that come to mind when you hear the word “winter” – chillier temperatures, warm drinks, and cozying up next to a fireplace. Winter can be very fierce at times, and yet gentle with fluffy, cotton-like snowflakes that you can catch on your tongue.
Winter is all about making the most out of each day. One of the best ways to make the most out of your winter days is to take a snowshoe walk on nearby trails in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Snowshoeing is a great activity for the whole family, or just to enjoy some bonding time in nature with your canine companion. When you go snowshoeing, you can take time to really enjoy your surroundings and go at your own pace. One of the most scenic local trails is Refuge Point. It’s an easy to moderate 2.3 mile loop along the Madison River.
Refuge Point History
Refuge Point gets its name from the 1959 earthquake. There was a landslide at the Madison River Canyon that caused people to go up to the ridge, which is the trail’s namesake. From here, they were rescued by US Forest Service Smokejumpers.
When snowshoeing along the trail, you can read more about the 1959 earthquake and stop by the Visitor Center, which is conveniently located right down the road from the Refuge Point trailhead. (The visitor center is open daily May-Sept.)
From West Yellowstone, head north on US Highway 191 for 10 miles. Turn west on US HWY 287 and keep going for 13 more miles. The trailhead is clearly marked as Refuge Point.
What to Expect
You can expect pure beauty! The trees are covered with snow, mountains surround you in every direction, and you can even spot the Madison River. This river is notoriously known for its wonderful fly fishing around June and July, but also provides spectacular views in the winter months.
Be prepared to climb over some snow piles at the start of the trail. This un-groomed trail is very well marked with blue diamond symbols displayed along the route. There are gentle rolling hills for the first half, which makes it easy for beginner-level snowshoers. If you go off of the snow-packed trail, expect to come upon very deep snow that you could fall through up to your hip (or if you are a dog completely over your head like the dog pictured, Seeley.)
The second half of the trail is a bit hillier and has a larger climb at the end to get back to the parking lot, so be sure to save up some energy to climb the last hill. You should expect to take about two hours to complete the trail.
One of the most important things to remember is to dress like it is 10 degrees warmer outside than what it actually is. This will help you from getting overheated and sweating, which can be dangerous in colder temperatures. Here’s what you will need for gear:
- Snow pants
- Light puffy jacket
- Non-cotton base layers
You want to wear something that will be wicking,
- Light mittens
- Waterproof snow boots
- Snowshoes and poles
This trail does not require very aggressive snowshoes, but proper fit is very important. For this particular trail you would want Hiking/Recreational snowshoes with tubular framing, but flat stock frames would work as well. When measuring place the snowshoe heel on the floor and stand it against your calf. The toe portion should hit your knee or right below it.
Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone can rent out the proper gear for your snowshoe hike and help supply any winter gear you may have forgotten at home.
If you have a furry friend accompanying you on your hike you must pay attention to the breed of your dog and do some research to make sure your pet stays safe and warm. The Seeley is a short-haired mixed breed and weighs about 50 pounds. This is what Seeley wore on her snowshoeing adventure:
- Ruffwear Powder Hybrid jacket
- Ruffwear Front Range Harness
- Musher Booties with vet wrap
She does not have much fur on her pads so to keep them from cracking and getting ice in them she wears booties with vet wrap around the velcro up to her carpal pad to keep it from slipping off when she would dive into deep snow.
Doggy Den Pet Supply in West Yellowstone has all of this gear to make sure your dog is well taken care of for winter activities.
When you are going on your adventure be sure to take a small backpack packed with plenty of food and water for humans and dogs alike, and any emergency first aid supplies to be prepared for an emergency. Another item to bring in the beginning and towards the end of the winter months is bear spray just in case some stubborn bears decide to be awake when there is snow.
With wonderful views of mountains, the river and snow-covered trees along with plenty of new history facts to learn, Refuge Point is one of the most beautiful snowshoe hikes around the West Yellowstone area. Winter is about making the most out of the short days, so go out and enjoy the snow with your human and four-legged friends.
As its name suggests, West Yellowstone, Montana, is best known as gateway to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Come winter, an abundance of snow transforms the region into a postcard-worthy playground, featuring three national forests and two national parks to explore. And the best way to see it all is by snowmobile. You’ll find rugged mountains, open meadows, alpine lakes, and plenty of wildlife easily accessible from the more than 1,000 miles of wintertime trails winding through what is arguably some of the most stunning scenery in the lower 48 states.
“West Yellowstone offers something for everyone,” says Chad Reichensperger, owner of HiCountry Snowmobile Rentals. “Novices to the advanced riders will enjoy everything from park tours, trail riding to backcountry riding.”
HiCountry is one of nearly a dozen outfitters that can help visitors explore the plethora of trails near West Yellowstone—and the equipment has never been better. “The industry has put more focus in recent years of building better sleds for more advanced riders to ride deeper into the mountains,” Reichensperger says. “(You can now) enjoy deep, fresh, untouched powder.”
You’ll find everything from flat, mellow terrain to powdery steeps in the backcountry of the Custer-Gallatin, Beaverhead, and Targhee National Forests, plus lots of options in close by in Yellowstone. With so many choices, where do you start? Here are seven of the local’s favorite trails to explore—although you really can’t go wherever you end up.
1. Yellowstone National Park
With Yellowstone National Park right next door, it’s hard to plan a visit to West Yellowstone without stepping into the nation’s first national park. While no car traffic is allowed through the Park’s west entrance in the wintertime, more than 200 miles of groomed trails welcome snowmobilers. Experienced riders can pack up and ride from West to the famed Grand Lower Loop, passing Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin and the Fountain Paint Pots. Daily guided tours to Canyon and Old Faithful are available throughout the season.
2. Madison Arm Loop
Tucked just northwest of West Yellowstone, the Madison Arm Loop is where many resident snowmobilers took their first solo rides. Thanks to the flat, winding nature of the trail, it’s a comfortable ride for families or beginners. Twenty miles long, the west edge of the trail meanders along the South Fork of the Madison River (offering stunning scenic views) while the northern edge skirts along the edge of Hebgen Lake (do not ride on the ice along the edge of the lake).
3. South Plateau Trail
Readily accessible from Electric Street in West Yellowstone, the South Plateau Trail offers 13 miles of scenic riding southward, eventually meeting the Black Bear Cutoff (leading to Idaho) or, at 16.2 miles, to the Black Canyon Trail. Feel free to ride off-trail and explore, but don’t cross into Yellowstone National Park—the trail skirts along the western edge of the Park.
4. Two Top Trail
Famed for its “snow ghosts,” Two Top Trail is one of the most storied snowmobiling trails in North America. Pack the camera—thanks to routinely windy conditions, ice crystals are driven onto trees at the top of the mountain, creating eerie snow ghosts that are worth a stop and a photograph. Offering a variety of terrain amidst its 2,000-foot elevation gain, the upper sections of the groomed trail feature remarkable views of local mountain ranges, including Wyoming’s renowned Tetons, Yellowstone National Park and the Centennial Mountains of Idaho.
5. Horse Butte Loop
Hebgen Lake is a staple of the West Yellowstone lifestyle, regardless of the season, and in wintertime the lake’s shores are home to a variety of trails. Horse Butte Loop (accessible from the 4.8-mile Horse Butte Trail) travels along the shoreline, winding through thick pine cover before breaking open along the lake. Enjoy off-trail riding along the way, but keep an eye open for restricted areas (denoted by posted signs).
6. Lionhead Trail
Looking for a bit of adrenaline? Lionhead Trail, tracking along the east side of the Continental Divide, climbs for an impressive 10,000 feet over the course of its relatively short 10-mile length. Experienced riders can look forward to steep terrain, impressive snow depth and startlingly beautiful views. Guides are recommended for the Lionhead Trail, as it’s only for experienced riders, who are required to undertake avalanche training.
7. Big Sky Trail
Home to some of Montana’s best backcountry snowmobiling, the Big Sky Trail’s 110-mile route begins just north of West Yellowstone. Riders can enjoy a few miles of groomed trails before the pathway changes into a world of ungroomed powder. Enjoy impressive hill-climbing opportunities, deep fields brimming with snow and the wild, rugged scenery typical of southwestern Montana. Best for experienced, aggressive riders looking for an authentic backcountry experience, the Big Sky Trail is one of the region’s most well-known wintertime trails.
In addition to spectacular trails, visitors to West Yellowstone will find the area’s snowmobiling community is like a family, welcoming visiting riders warmly. While the town is filled with places to rest, dine, and relax before the next day’s adventures. Winter brings a certain stillness to the Yellowstone region, with the impressive snowfall chasing away many of summer’s tourists and creating an uniquely intimate experience. Regardless of riding level, there’s adventure to be had on a snowmobile.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Yellowstone National Park
During the summer, West Yellowstone, Montana, serves as the main gateway to the western entrance to one of the county’s most popular national parks. With far fewer crowds, it’s sometimes easy to overlook that winter is an amazing time to visit West Yellowstone. A thick layer of powdery snow transforms the terrain around town into an intimate winter wonderland, and it’s easy to spend a day simply cuddled up next to a roaring fireplace, watching snow fall in the woods. But for those more adventure-inclined, wintertime in West Yellowstone delivers as well, with plenty of on-snow activities to enjoy.
Yellowstone National Park is a completely different experience in the winter season. The busy roadways are transformed into snow-laden pathways trekked only occasionally by snowcoaches and snowmobiles. Forget the crowds and experience a uniquely profound look at Yellowstone. Guided tours, either by snowmobile or snowcoach, offer a new view of the nation’s first national park. The sight of Old Faithful erupting against a background of snow-laden pines—with bison meandering in the background—is a quintessential scene during the “quiet season” at the park.
One of the most peaceful ways to explore West Yellowstone is on cross-country skies, and the town is home to a thriving community of skiers. Thanks to local outdoor stores such as Freeheel and Wheel, gear rentals are accessible and reasonable. The town is rightly proud of its Rendezvous Ski Trails, which features 35 kilometers of well-groomed trails that wind through stands of lodgepole pines and across open meadows. The gently rolling trails have something for every level of skier, and you’ll find races and festivals held here throughout the season. You can access the trails dotted throughout Yellowstone National park via snowcoach, while additional cross-country options closer to town are easily accessible by car. The Boundary Trail, at the end of Boundary Street on the northern edge of town, is groomed once or twice a week and welcomes dogs. The Riverside Trail, also accessible off Boundary Street, enters Yellowstone National Park and is a favorite for skiers seeking glimpses of the area’s bountiful wildlife.
Snowshoeing slows the pace down even more, offering opportunities to soak in the landscape and keep an eagle eye open for elk, bison, and even wolves. Rentals are available at several shops in West Yellowstone, and thanks to the inherent ease of the sport—if you can walk, you can snowshoe—this wintertime sport is ideal for those who don’t want to learn a new skill but want to take advantage this unique way to explore the snow-covered terrain.
While West Yellowstone is known around the world for its blue-ribbon fly fishing, the angling doesn’t stop in the winter. Nearby Hebgen Lake is a popular ice fishing destination—productive enough to be home to a North American Ice Fishing Circuit tournament in January. Shops are open throughout the winter and can offer friendly local advice on fishing conditions and equipment needed.
For a bit more excitement, hop on a snowmobile. West Yellowstone has become a regional hub for snowmobiling, with close to a dozen different outfitters. The more than 400-mile trail system starts in town, where snowmobilers can share city streets, and expand outward into the Custer-Gallatin, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. Take to the groomed trails for an easy ride, or hit the backcountry to access the pristine power meadows and alpine excitement. Guided tours are available for those looking to learn how to use the machines and learn more about the region on an unforgettable trip.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, located on Canyon Street, is a local treasure, offering visitors the opportunities to see wolves and grizzly bears up-close in close to their natural habitat. The seven grizzlies all came to reside here were either nuisance bears or cubs of a nuisance bear. When bears obtain food from people, damage property, and act aggressively toward people, they are usually killed. The center rescues bears in this condition and provides them with a large outdoor habitat and a stimulating environment (and they don’t hibernate, so winter is still a great time to visit). The six wolves were born in captivity and unable to live in the wild, allowing visitors to see these secretive creatures up close in their natural environment. An array of kid-friendly activities keeps the little ones entertained, and informational presentations help educate about the region’s wildlife and history.
Regardless of your wintertime adventures in West Yellowstone, common-sense rules apply, and winter travel requires a bit of preparation. As with any outdoor undertaking, brief someone outside your party about the day’s plans and what time you hope to return. Dress in warm layers—sweat comes surprisingly fast with physical effort, even in frigid temperatures—and it’s important to be able to shed layers and then add them back on once activity level slows. With a bit of preparation, your focus will be on the glorious Western landscape to explore. And thanks to a variety of in-town coffeehouses and restaurants, you won’t have any trouble refueling after a day in the snow. Winter may be the quieter time in West Yellowstone, but you’ll have lots of ways to keep busy.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development
Snowmobiling is a fun and family-oriented activity.
A vast amount of National Forest land is open for winter travel. In some areas those traveling by skis, snowshoes, dog sled teams and snowmobiles must share the same routes and areas. Common sense and courtesy will provide a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.
Be respectful of the Trail Groomers
The groomers run between dusk and dawn. Because the trail grooming is a State of Montana program (which owns and insures many of the machines), there are requirements set forth that the drivers must abide by. These rules and regulations are put in place for the safety of all parties involved. What to know when you encounter a groomer on the trails:
- The drivers are not allowed to move over. They are required to stop and let traffic pass, therefore you (the user) must go around the groomer.
- The drivers are not allowed to pull public vehicles out of the snow – if you drive on the groomed trails and get stuck, you must call local authorities to be towed.
- If, by some chance, you have an accident or come in contact with the groomer or the attached equipment, you must remain at the scene while the driver calls in to dispatch and fills out a report.
Represent the sport well
- Be a savvy sports enthusiast. Recognize that people judge all snowmobile owners by your actions.
- Use your influence with other snowmobile owners to promote good conduct.
- Promote proper snowmobile education and training.
Care for the environment
- Do not litter trails or camping areas. Do not pollute lakes or streams.
- Snowmobile only when there is sufficient snow so you will not damage the land.
- Do not damage living trees, shrubs, or other natural features.
- Do not harass wildlife. Avoid areas posted for the protection or feeding of wildlife.
Be considerate of others
- Respect other people’s property and rights.
- Do not interfere with hikers, skiers, snowshoers, ice fishermen, or other winter sports enthusiasts. Operate at minimum speeds near other recreationists and do not accelerate until well beyond those on foot. Stop and yield the trail to dogsleds. Skiers and snowshoers should yield the track to oncoming and overtaking snowmobilers, unless the track is wide enough for safe passage.
- Lend a helping hand when you see someone in need.
- Make yourself and your vehicle available to assist search and rescue parties.
All winter recreationists should be aware that they have an impact on wintering wild animals, most notably that disturbing or displacing them causes them to burn more energy. Minimize your impact on wintering animals by following these guidelines:
- Avoid winter range whenever possible.
- Do not linger in the presence of animals, move along in a steady, deliberate fashion.
- It is unlawful to chase, harass, herd, or rally wild animals.
- Keep your machine in well-tuned condition to minimize noise and pollution.
- Avoid areas designated as “closed” for wildlife protection.
Snowmobiling is a fun and exciting sport the whole family can enjoy. However, winter offers certain challenges that require snowmobilers to take precautions.
- Ride smart, be prepared, and stay in control.
- Check ice and weather conditions before riding. Dress appropriately.
- Practice Zero Tolerance with respect to impaired riding.
- Never travel alone. Let others know where you are going.
Perform a pre-ride inspection
The performance of a pre-ride inspection is paramount to a safe, stress-free ride. Most equipment failures can be avoided by periodic maintenance and inspection. [Learn more]
Safety on ice: know the rules
The safest snowmobiling rule is never to cross lakes or rivers. Besides the danger of plunging through the ice, you have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice than on snow.
Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of accidents. Don’t hold the attitude that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction, without boundaries, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.
If you do snowmobile on the ice, make absolutely sure the ice is safely frozen. Don’t trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. You are responsible for your own safety. Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities. Know what to do if you go through the ice. [Learn more]
Be Avalanche Aware
Learn to recognize avalanche areas and avoid them. Carry avalanche rescue equipment including a transceiver, probe pole and shovel, and know how to use them. Review the local avalanche advisory when available.
It is your responsibility to know and follow established rules and regulations. The following is a summary of those rules, but you should also review additional information available from your county treasurer’s office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Forest Service offices and ranger stations, and other state and county government sources. (Montana Snowmobiling Handbook)
General Snowmobiling Laws
MCA 23-2-6 defines the rules for operating a snowmobile in Montana.
- Operation at night — When operating during the hours between dusk and dawn a snowmobile must use a lighted headlight and taillight.
- Accidents — The owner or operator of a snowmobile that is involved in any accident, collision, or upset in which personal injury or fatality occurs to any person shall report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency immediately.
- Firearms — A person may not discharge a firearm from or upon a snowmobile.
Laws for Road Riding
MCA 23-2-631 states that snowmobiles may operate on maintained streets, roads, or highways only if:
- the roadway is drifted or covered by snow to such an extent that travel is impossible by other motor vehicles;
- the local government allows snowmobiles to travel on plowed roads with wheeled vehicles;
- the snowmobile operator possesses a motor vehicle driver’s license or a snowmobile safety certificate and travels under the visual supervision of an adult.
Resident Trail Pass – NEW
As of October 1, 2015 residents are required purchase a trail pass to ride on any of the 4000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Trail Passes are valid for three seasons and are $18. Trail Passes apply to all “mechanized equipment” including; snowmobiles, motorized snow bikes, and fat tire pedal bikes.
- 2015 Resident Trail Pass FAQs ( 375 KB)
We ask that anyone using groomed snowmobile trails for recreation—please contribute and purchase the Trail Pass. The revenues go directly to grooming the trails.
The Montana Snowmobile Program provides grant funding to support snowmobile trail grooming and education so enthusiasts can ride safely in Montana. Montana State Parks administers the snowmobile program and its 4,000 miles of trails.
Nonresidents who plan to ride their snowmobiles and motorized snow bikes in Montana must purchase a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit for $25 per machine
Source: Montana State Parks
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park’s backcountry is ILLEGAL
The use of snowmobiles in the backcountry, on trails and off road in Yellowstone is, and has always been, prohibited. Violators face a fine of up to $5,000 per operator and up to six months in jail as well as forfeiture of their snowmobiles. They can also be responsible to pay restitution for damages to natural resources.
- The boundary of Yellowstone is patrolled by both snowmobile and aircraft, and the regulations are strictly enforced.
- It is YOUR responsibility to know where the park boundary is.
- Yellowstone boundary markers and signs are not always visible. Don’t rely on signage only or tracks made by other groups.
For more information and maps:
- Yellowstone National Park: 307-344-7381, www.nps.gov/yell
- West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce: 406-646-7701
- Gallatin National Forest/Hebgen Basin District: 406-823-6961
West Yellowstone, Montana is not only brimming with heart-pumping winter recreation, but also unique entertainment for the entire family. Start your adventure with a sled dog tour, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing through our picturesque corner of Montana. After a day of snow-filled fun, catch a guaranteed sighting of grizzlies and wolves at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Wrap it all up with the monthly Kids’N’Snow event, sure to bring happy smiles to everyone in the family.
This list will make winter in West Yellowstone your favorite season!
7. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: Experience the park in a whole new way with a guided snowcoach or snowmobile tour to see popular park destinations, like Old Faithful.
6. ICE FISHING: In winter, Hebgen Lake becomes an ice fishing paradise. Visit the local marina to get a fishing report and then head out for a day on the ice. Don’t miss out on the NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament in January.
5. SLED DOG TOURS: For a truly unique family experience, make this the year you enjoy the thrill of dogsledding! Sled dog tours are available daily with sleds that can handle up to a family of four. Experience the excitement at the Rodeo Run Sled Dog Race in December.
4. SNOWMOBILING: A 400-mile groomed trail system winds through the southern reaches of Montana and into Idaho. There are perfect trails for both first-timer and the experienced snowmobiler; groomed trails lead to backcountry adventures.
3. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: West Yellowstone is a cross-country ski mecca with over 50km of varied terrain, from gently rolling hills to more challenging climbs, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Annual events happen throughout the winter season.
2. FAMILY FUN: Kids’N’Snow takes place one weekend each month in West Yellowstone, and offers an assortment of options to introduce families to winter activities including ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, and winter learning programs. Saturday night S’mores & Skatin’ & Sleddin’ is everyone’s favorite way to wrap up the day!
1. SEE GRIZZLIES AND WOLVES: The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center gives you guaranteed opportunities to see the animals and offers kid-friendly activities and presentations. December is Christmas for the Critters – donate food for reduced admission and discounts in the gift shop.
For a listing of all West Yellowstone events click here
West Yellowstone offers a full range of lodging options, from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large, full- service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience the winter wonderland of West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park.
Courtesy of West Yellowstone TBID
The town of West Yellowstone, Montana, is – to say the least – unique. How did this town come about? In 1905 E. H. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad and Frank J. Haynes, president of Monida & Yellowstone Stage Line, made a trip to tour Yellowstone National Park. It was because of this visit the town of West Yellowstone came into being.
After their trip through Yellowstone, Mr. Harriman made the decision to construct a branch of the railroad from St. Anthony, Idaho to the west entrance of Yellowstone. He let no grass grow under his feet and by late November of 1907 the tracks had been laid. By June of 1908 the winter snows had cleared and the first “Yellowstone Special” steamed into what would become West Yellowstone. The “Yellowstone Special” made trips once a day from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone.
Our town was first named Riverside but in 1910 the name was changed to Yellowstone. As you can imagine, this created some confusion with the town having the same name as the National Park. In 1920 the name of the town was changed to West Yellowstone and remains that to this day.
Since the land was owned by the Forest Service, it was necessary for those wanting to reside or establish a business in the area to get permission from the Forest Service. Research shows that the first permits were granted to Charles Arnet, Sam Eagle and L. A. Murray. The original town consisted of 6 blocks. Once the land was removed from the Forest Service jurisdiction the town was enlarged to 22 blocks.
In 1907-1908 Charles Arnet built the Yellowstone Store and this was the first business in town. It was around this same time that Sam Eagle and Alex Stuart opened a general store. Later Alex Stuart bought the Yellowstone Store from Arnet and Sam Eagle and his wife continued to operate the general store. In 1920 they built a new “Eagle Store” which remains in operation today.
In 1912 the Madison Hotel, consisting of 6 rooms upstairs and a lobby on the main floor was constructed. In 1921 14 rooms and a card room were added to the structure. A gift shop was added in 1959 and the business continues to be in operation during the summer months. When you are in town, be sure to stop by this establishment to get a little trip back into history.
The Union Pacific Dining Lodge was built in 1925. The dining room has 45 foot ceilings and a fireplace large enough for a man to stand in. It continues in operation to this day and can be rented for special occasions. It is a magnificent building and worth taking the time to walk in and look around. One can almost imagine having dinner here after a day of touring the park and boarding your train for the return trip.
In 1925 the Union Pacific Depot replaced the previous structure which was referred to as “the beanery” with the stone structure that today houses the West Yellowstone Historic Center. It is certainly worth you time to visit this historic building and get a sense of what the early train travelers experienced on their arrival to Yellowstone National Park. Train service to town was permanently discontinued in 1960.
Other buildings and businesses continued to appear as the town began to grow. A few of the first establishments would include Stuart’s Garage in 1917. Travel by auto, or ‘horseless carriage’ was becoming more and more popular with Yellowstone National Park as a destination. It was apparent that these travelers would need to purchase gas, oil and other automotive supplies and so Stuart’s Garage was established.
The need to provide opportunities to visit Yellowstone was apparent. Not all people traveled by car. Some were pilots desiring to visit the area. So, in 1935 on Forest Service land at the west edge of town the first airport was constructed. Some of the first planes to use this facility were privately owned snow planes. I would love to have seen one of them land during the winter. The construction of a new airport in 1963-1964 allowed for larger planes to service the area.
The train would cease operation for the winter generally in mid-September. Many of the residents would close up and leave town but for those that decided to “winter” in West Yellowstone they would stock up on food and firewood knowing that their only means of travel out of town was either by dog sled or by skis. However, in 1936 that all changed when the road to Bozeman was opened and kept plowed during the winter months. This made year-round travel in and out of town much easier. It is not known, but is assumed, that this enticed more and more residents to become year around “locals.”
Winters in our town continues to be harsh but this does not stop the snowmobilers taking advantage of the hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the national forest surrounding the town. You cannot beat a snowmobile trip to Two Top on a sunny Montana winter day. The scenery is amazing and be sure to take your camera and plenty of film with you. Snowmobiles are allowed in the national park, but they must be the new less polluting variety and you must have a guide in order to go into the park. However, there are no restrictions on snowmobiling in the national forest.
Our town also boasts world class cross country skiing on the Rendezvous Trails at the edge of town. In November each year we host the West Yellowstone Ski Festival as well as other ski races throughout the winter season. Mid March brings the Annual Snowmobile Expo to town.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is open year around with live grizzly bears and wolf packs available for your viewing pleasure. The I-Max theatre is also open during the winter showing feature films as well as documentary films on Yellowstone.
The “Kids ’N Snow” weekends, ice fishing on Hebgen Lake outside of town and the construction of a permanent ice skating rink at the city park have all been welcome additions that attract visitors to our town during the winter months.
Summer season brings the opening of the Playmill Theatre where college students produce and present broadway style plays. It sees business that have been closed for the winter open their doors with extended hours for the convenience of our summer visitors. It brings the opportunity to drive your personal vehicle into the park for a day of “geyser gazing” and animal sightings. The Earthquake Lake Visitors Center is open where you can learn about the devastating 1959 7.5 earthquake which unfortunately took several lives. The Smoking Waters Mountain Man Rendezvous takes up residence at the old airport on the west end of town for a couple of weeks in August featuring frontier time tents with lots of neat items to purchase as well as tomahawk throwing and flint lock contests.
There is so much to do here, both inside and outside the National Park.
Our town is literally “land locked” as it is surrounded on all sides by either Forest Service or National Park land. Those of us who choose to live here year-round appreciate our small town and both the summer and winter season.
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
West Yellowstone, Montana, receives more than 150 inches of powdery snow each year, making it a veritable paradise for cross-country skiers. Take the opportunity to explore seemingly endless landscapes and the quiet of a mountain winter under Montana’s Big Sky—cross-country skiing near West Yellowstone is an unforgettable experience suitable for skiers of all levels.
More than 50 kilometers of groomed tails can be accessed from the edge of town; easy access provides plenty of opportunity for those who prefer to get off the trail at the end of the day and head right to a cozy local pub. Don’t worry about packing your skis—several local businesses offers rentals and trail local knowledge. Everyone from beginners to race enthusiasts will find something to love in West Yellowstone. Here are four of your best options:
1. Rendezvous Ski Trails
Once termed a “Nordic Skier’s Dream,” the Rendezvous Ski Trails are easily accessible from West Yellowstone. More than 35 kilometers of gently rolling, well-groomed trails (for both classic and skate skiing) wind through robust lodgepole pine forests and sprawling open meadows. Skiers of all abilities will find something to their liking on the Rendezvous Trails, and don’t be surprised if your study of the stunning scenery is interrupted by some of the local wildlife. Beginners will find flat, two-kilometer loop that’s perfect for those just starting out.
The Rendezvous Ski Trails are also home to a biathlon course, and host a variety of events throughout the winter season. From the Yellowstone Ski Festival, held each November, to the early-spring Yellowstone Rendezvous Race, there are opportunities to test your mettle against other skiers. Local cross-country ski races and biathlon races are held monthly, offering travelers an opportunity to participate or simply kick back and watch.
2. Boundary Ski and Snowshoe Trail
This dog-friendly trail winds 7.9 kilometers from the northern edge of West Yellowstone to the Baker’s Hole Campground. groomed periodically, it’s a popular afternoon jaunt for locals and their four-legged friends—be sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife. The trail parallels Yellowstone National Park’s western border, and elk, bison and deer frequently are found in the area.
3. Riverside Trail
Popular with both cross-country skiers and snowshoers, the Riverside Trail is easily accessible off West Yellowstone’s Boundary Street and follows the Madison River into Yellowstone National Park. A favorite of wildlife watchers, the trail features two loops—an “upriver” loop and a “downriver” loop—which, combined, offer nearly 10 kilometers of scenic skiing. Be sure to look up from the trail and watch the river; bald eagles can often be seen winding high above the river, trumpeter swans drift in the current, and frost-laden bison frequent the trail. This is a favorite spot for a scenic picnic after a relaxed ski session.
4. Yellowstone National Park
Many local guide services offer cross-country excursions into Yellowstone National Park, and exploring the wintertime silence of the park on skis is a once-in-a-lifetime way to observe wildlife, see the area’s impressive geothermal features, and to simply observe the stunning silence of wintertime in the mountains. See Yellowstone/Alpen Guides, Yellowstone Expeditions, and Yellowstone Tour Guides all offer trips into the park. Freeheel and Wheel, West Yellowstone’s go-to ski shop, is a wealth of knowledge for trail conditions, wildlife sighting reports and more. There are a variety of trails within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park that belong on cross-country enthusiast’s to-do lists: Mammoth Area Ski Trails, Canyon Area Ski Trails, and the Old Faithful Area Ski Trails.
For a truly magical winter experience, take the snowcoach into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Open mid-December through early March, the lodge offers a comfortable respite after a long day exploring the park via snowcoach or cross-country skis, and boasts a team of savvy, knowledgeable guides ready to tailor your Yellowstone experience to the unique challenges—and sizable opportunities—of winter in Yellowstone country.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Destination Yellowstone
The animal that most Americans call a buffalo is actually a bison. There are only 2 buffalo types in the world, and those are the Water Buffalo (found in Asia) and the Cape Buffalo (found in Africa). Early American settlers called bison “bufello” due to the similar appearance between the two animals, and the name “buffalo” stuck for the American variety.
The American bison sports a large shoulder hump, massive head, and thicker fur. Buffalo have larger horns and less hair.
You may think that Old Faithful is the number one thing that visitors want to see when they come to Yellowstone National Park, but Bison have actually taken over that designation. For many, it is once in a lifetime experience to see such a magnificent animal or get caught in a “bison jam.”
Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison (Bison bison) have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Yellowstone bison are exceptional because they comprise the nation’s largest bison population on public land and are among the few bison herds that have not been hybridized through interbreeding with cattle. Unlike most other herds, this population has thousands of individuals that are allowed to roam relatively freely over the expansive landscape of Yellowstone National Park and some nearby areas of Montana. Part of the herd migrates out of Yellowstone to a nearby “nursery” are just north of West Yellowstone in the spring. Once the calves are born, the herd migrates back to the Park.
Bison are the largest land-dwelling mammal in North America. Males (2,000 lbs/900 kg) are larger than females (1,100 lbs/500 kg) and both are generally dark chocolate-brown in color, with long hair on their forelegs, head, and shoulders, but short, dense hair (1 in/3 cm) on their flanks and hindquarters. Both sexes have relatively short horns that curve upward, with male’s averaging slightly longer than those of adult females. All bison have a protruding shoulder hump.
Calves of the year are born after 9 to 9½ months of gestation. They are reddish-tan at birth and begin turning brown after 2½ months. Bison may live 12–15 years, and a few live as long as 20 years.
Bison are agile, strong swimmers, and can run 35 miles per hour (55 kph). They can jump over objects about 5 feet (1.5 m) high and have excellent hearing, vision, and sense of smell.
They are social animals that often form herds, which appear to be directed by older females. Group sizes average about 20 bison during winter, but increase in summer to an average of about 200, with a maximum of about 1,000 during the breeding season (known as the rut) in July and August.
Yellowstone bison feed primarily on grasses and other grass-like plants (more than 90% of their diets) in open grassland and meadow communities throughout the year. They typically forage for 9 to 11 hours daily. Bison are ruminants with a multiple-chambered stomach that includes microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa to enable them to effectively digest plant material.
Number in Yellowstone – Estimated at 5,500 in August 2016.
WILDLIFE REGULATIONS (Inside and outside of Yellowstone National Park):
- Stay at least 25 yards (23m) from bison and other wildlife and 100 yards (91m) from bears and wolves.
- Do not feed or approach wildlife. You are not safe just because there is a small creek or hill between you – they move quicker than you think and are unpredictable.
- All animals in the Yellowstone Ecosystem are wild and should be given respect – this is their home – you are only visiting.
Sources: Yellowstone National Park (nps.gov/yell), livescience.com, diffen.com
For other wildlife and bird watching ideas click here.
For more than 30 years, Nordic skiers from across the country and around the world have descended on West Yellowstone, Montana in November to take part in the Yellowstone Ski Festival. The Thanksgiving tradition has grown from a fall training camp for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team to a full-on celebration featuring ski clinics, races, on-snow demonstrations, an indoor expo, and presentations from renowned Olympic athletes and international competitors. West Yellowstone’s early-season snow makes the town’s expansive system of Nordic ski trails the ultimate destination to kick off the ski season.
Nordic skiers haven’t always converged on West Yellowstone in November. Tourists originally flocked to the area to explore Yellowstone National Park during the summer months. Once the winter snow paralyzed train travel and shut down the mountain passes, only the hardy locals remained to ride out the winter season.
The invention of the modern snowmobile in the 1960s breathed new life into the area’s winter tourism and West Yellowstone became a premier snowmobile destination. During the 1970s, Neal Swanson and his sons Kent and Carl, owners of the town’s Rendezvous Ski Shop, set out to attract Nordic skiers to West Yellowstone as well. The Swanson family worked with the U.S. Forest Service to create the Rendezvous Ski Trails on old logging roads near the south side of town—packing down the trails by pulling bed springs behind a snowmobile. Carl later won the 1978 Junior Nationals and the Swanson family helped to convince the U.S. Nordic Ski Team to hold its month-long November training camp in West Yellowstone.
In the years that followed, more ski enthusiasts began to discover West Yellowstone’s excellent early-season snow. In the 1980s, a group of locals led by Drew Barney and Doug Edgerton established Fall Camp, the predecessor to the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Barney began holding clinics for Nordic skiers of different levels and recruited coaches from around the country to join. Meanwhile, Edgerton developed a new tracksetter in 1983 that could be pulled behind a snowmobile or Pisten Bully and groom trails varying snow conditions. Edgerton’s improved technology revolutionized trail maintenance and quickly spread around the world. In 1985, a joint effort between Edgerton, the Montana National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Biathlon Association, and the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce established a firing range adjacent to the Rendezvous Ski Trails. As word spread about the new early-season biathlon offerings in West Yellowstone, Fall Camp attendance eventually tripled.
By the 1990s, between 300-400 skiers attended the annual Fall Camp. As the number of skiers increased, manufacturers began to show up and highlight their new equipment. The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce took note of the growing November tourism and saw the opportunity to market West Yellowstone as a Nordic ski destination. The Chamber aimed to boost the area’s economy by hosting an event during a typically slow season for the town’s business owners—between the end of Yellowstone National Park’s summer season in October and before the beginning of the park’s winter season in December.
The Chamber’s Cross Country Ski Committee worked to maximize the Fall Camp experience by formalizing a Thanksgiving-week celebration to ring in the ski season. The number of vendors in attendance continued to grow and the Indoor Expo was eventually created as a venue to showcase new equipment to festival-goers. During the years that followed, manufacturers began highlighting new gear through on-snow demonstrations, new races were organized during Thanksgiving week, world-class coaches began offering clinics and trainings, and the annual gathering was officially renamed the Yellowstone Ski Festival.
A variety of ski teams ranging from junior athletes to national competitors attend the festival each year, but citizen skiers and families have also created new traditions around the Thanksgiving event. Encompassing roughly one square mile, West Yellowstone is a safe and convenient family destination that visitors can navigate on foot to easily access ski trails, restaurants, and hotels. The festival has also grown to include evening events and entertainment for skiers of all levels and ages. Visitors can attend inspiring presentations from Olympic athletes, view one-of-a-kind films, or unwind with friends during the Apres Ski & S’mores. Unique sessions, such as “Women, Wine, and Wax” and “Whiskers, Whiskey, and Wax,” aim to improve attendees’ skill sets while making the festival a truly memorable experience.
Between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees have descend on West Yellowstone to attend the festival in recent years, including 300-400 racers. The festival is currently organized by the Chamber in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation. Together, these groups also work to manage the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Revenue from the festival supports the management of the trail system, provides matching funds for grants, compensates the festival’s director, and helps to market West Yellowstone for the remainder of the season.
The Yellowstone Ski Festival has become a Thanksgiving tradition for competitive athletes, novice skiers, and families from around the world. Come join us this year and make West Yellowstone your Nordic ski destination!
For a full schedule of events visit SkiRunBikeMT.com
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
Fall brings spectacular scenery and the annual elk mating season (rut) where huge bull elk battle for their harems with eerie echoing bugles across wide valleys. Cooler fall temperatures create spectacular photo opportunities at Old Faithful and other geysers in Yellowstone Park. It’s the best time of the year for mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, and photography in Yellowstone and the surrounding National Forests.
TOP REASONS TO VISIT WEST YELLOWSTONE THIS FALL:
- Fabulous and colorful scenery
- Wildlife – the annual elk mating season (rut) where huge bull elk battle for their harems with eerie echoing bugles across wide valleys.
- Spectacular photo opportunities at Old Faithful and other geysers in Yellowstone Park.
- Biking and Hiking in the surrounding National Forests.
- Heart of Fly-Fishing (or any fishing for that matter). Spawning runs of big brown and battling rainbow trout from Hebgen Lake up the Madison, Gallatin, and Firehole Rivers make West Yellowstone the prime fishing destination each fall earning the title as one of the “Top 10 Trout Towns in America” by Forbes Magazine.
- Rainy day fun with a visit to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Meet the two wolf packs or different resident grizzly bears, observe the raptors, talk to a Naturalist, and check out the “Keeper Kids Program.” Next door is the movie, “Yellowstone,” playing daily at the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theater with a six story movie screen.
Whether you are looking to stay in a historic hotel, intimate bed & breakfast, cabin, or guest ranch West Yellowstone offers a wide variety of lodging options.
There are so many restaurants in the West Yellowstone area, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your every craving. Whether you are looking for good ‘ol home cookin’ from the Old West, or regional specialties, like elk, bison, and trout, the possibilities are endless.
- Yellowstone Park Fee Free Day/ Public Lands Day – Sept. 22
- Junior Smokejumpers Kid’s program (Yellowstone Nature Connection) – thru Sept. 30
- West Yellowstone-Old Faithful Cycle Tour – Sept. 29
Whether you’re embarking on a romantic getaway abroad, a cross country trip to beautiful Yellowstone, or heading over the river and through the woods to your grandmother’s house, you’ll have a more enjoyable time if you learn to expect the unexpected.
The truth is, traveling can come with complications. The other truth is, complications don’t have to ruin your holiday. Take a few precautions to lessen your risk, and be prepared with solutions when a holiday traveling hiccup catches up to you.
If you’re planning to be one of the three quarters of Americans that travel by car during the holidays, there are some easy and important steps to take to make sure you’re not stranded alongside the road in a 10 foot drift of cold snow.
- Check The Battery Dead batteries are one of the leading causes of roadside breakdowns, and they’re easily preventable. Remember, if you’re operating a vehicle with keyless ignition, make sure to store your keys away from your ignition; storing them too close drains the battery.
- Check Your Tires Tires are another leading cause of breakdown. Make sure to do a monthly tire check, and one last check before you depart.
- Stick To The Maintenance Schedule By adhering to your manufacturer’s carefully established routine maintenance schedule, you’ll be lessening your chance for huge wallet-busting breakdowns.
- Have A Roadside Service Plan If you do breakdown, have the peace of mind in knowing you can call an automobile club to assist.
Flying The Friendly (or sometimes Unfriendly) Skies
Traveling via the friendly skies can lead to some major hiccups, but a little pre-planning can help.
- Flight Delays Or Cancellations Before making your final reservations, consider checking the flight’s “on-time performance score.” This will show you how often your flight has been cancelled, and how often it’s been late, leading to missed connections. If your planned flight has a bad track record, you may want to consider a different flight. Once booked, always have a go to Plan B. This means, in the event your flight is cancelled, you are aware of other flights, with that airline or with other airlines, that can get you to your final destination.
- Lost or delayed luggage There are a few preemptive steps you can take to prevent luggage issues: 1) try to book your flight direct, 2) check your bags early, 3) remove old tags, 4) go with a longer connection time, and 5) use something unique like a ribbon, to make your bag stand out. In the event that your luggage is delayed, make sure that your necessities, like any necessary medication, are in your carry-on bag.
Staying Safe On The Homefront
The last holiday hiccup you’ll want to deal with is coming home from the trip of a lifetime to find your home broken into. So before heading out, take some extra safety precautions.
- Deadbolts Most burglaries happen through the front door, so if you don’t have a deadbolt installed on this door. you should get one added. Make sure that all windows and doors are locked.
- Lighting Use light timers throughout your home that go on and off at random times to make it appear like you’re home.
- Home Security System Home security systems are more effective and affordable than ever. Check out Redfin.com for ideas for home security solutions. Homes without a security system are 300 times more likely to be broken into.
In the event you are broken into, call the police and your insurance company immediately. Make sure to document, on video, all of the damage that is done to your property before cleaning up; this may be necessary for your insurance provider. Once things are settled, use a home safety checklist, so you’re sure to prevent a repeat.
As you start packing for your exciting getaway, make sure to pack an ample dose of flexibility. Traveling can bring about uncertainties, whether it’s hours of unexpected road delays, a last minute airline maintenance routine, or severe weather diverting you from one of your ship’s ports. Stuff happens, take a deep breath, go with the flow, and you’ll find you can still enjoy that special getaway.
AUTHOR: DANIEL SHERWIN
The small town of West Yellowstone, nestled at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, is ruggedly Western yet comfortably homey in a way that echoes the landscape surrounding America’s first national park. Small-town hospitality, Western grandeur, and a decidedly outdoorsy lifestyle combine to create an authentic experience at the doorway to some of North America’s most storied wonders.
Summer is peak season for visitors to the area, as Montana’s big sky seemingly stretching to accommodate a flood of eager explorers from around the world. Pending conditions, the road into Yellowstone National Park opens in late April and closes in early November. Early spring and late summer are both beautiful times to visit—and you’ll find a fraction of the crowds.
West Yellowstone is also a popular wintertime stop for cross-country ski and snowmobile enthusiasts, and snowcoaches carry visitors into the national park in the depth of winter, offering exclusive photography opportunities and wildlife watching. Here’s how to make the most out of an outdoorsy weekend in and around West Yellowstone.
Where to Get Caffeinated
A hearty breakfast and plenty of caffeine is a must-do start to any adventures in West Yellowstone, and for such a small town, there’s a surprising array of awesome choices. For a convenient caffeine fix before a day spent outdoors, bike and cross-country ski shop Freeheel and Wheel boasts a small yet quality espresso bar, and nearby Mountain Mama’s Cafe and Coffee House serves Starbucks coffee as well as hand-crafted breakfast sandwiches on freshly made bread. Try the bison sausage to start your day.
Craving a heartier breakfast? Running Bear Pancake House is a simple eatery known for its large portions and makes an easy, affordable stop before the day’s adventures, with attentive staff and excellent lattes. Three Bear Restaurant is a West Yellowstone institution (order the sweet cream pancakes with local huckleberries), and the Timberline Cafe serves up comfort food in a casual atmosphere.
Where to Find Nearby Adventure
In West Yellowstone, outdoor adventure is never very far away. From world-class blue-ribbon fly fishing to a plethora of hiking trails, activities abound within close reach of the town. A must-do is Yellowstone National Park. When crossing through the West entrance of the park, visitors are offered a map that outlines many of Yellowstone’s attractions, from hiking and scenic stops to the few small outposts in the park itself. Outside Yellowstone’s borders, massive Hebgen Lake offers boating, fishing, and sight-seeing opportunities galore. Another recommended stop just north of Hebgen is Quake Lake, which earned its name when it was formed after an earthquake struck in August 1959, killing 28 people in a massive landslide. Today, the lake is a compelling, eerie body of water filled with dead trees and backed by the still-visible landslide scar. A stop at Earthquake Lake Visitor’s Center provides insight into the area’s history and the events that led to the lake’s formation. West Yellowstone is surrounded by hiking trails, and a quick stop into one of the many local outdoor stores can provide an update as to trail conditions and recent bear sightings (it’s always a good idea to carry bear spray). Fly anglers will find no shortage of water—there’s a reason West Yellowstone attracts fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. With its proximity to the Madison, Gallatin, Henry’s Fork, and many other storied rivers, West Yellowstone is a veritable fisherman’s paradise. A quick stop into one of the town’s many fly shops can provide information and, if needed, a fishing guide. ## Where to Unwind
After a long day of outdoor adventure, options abound for refueling and relaxing in West Yellowstone. Get a taste of Montana residents’ philosophy of “work hard, play harder” at any number of watering holes around town. After a day on the river, many locals can be found relaxing at Bullwinkles, people-watching and enjoying a local brew. Just down the street, the Grizzly Lounge offers quick, friendly service in a relaxed environment, and Madison Crossing Lounge is set in a quaint old schoolhouse, offering hearty dinner options.
In recent years, a variety of “quick dining” options have popped up along the main drag, Canyon Street. In the busy summer season, look for everything from taco trucks to coffee huts, offering fast options if you’re in a hurry.
Where to Get a Good Night’s Rest
Thanks to a bustling tourist economy, there’s no shortage of lodging in West Yellowstone. From traditional chain hotels to exquisite “glamping” camps to working guest ranches, visitors will find lodging suited to their particular needs. Nestled in town, the Alpine Motel is a classic hotel owned by locals Brian and Patty, who happily offer insider tips for visitors looking to make the most of their stay. Al’s Westward Ho Motel, the Evergreen Motel, and Three Bear Lodge are all well-established lodging choices in West Yellowstone proper, offering an easy stroll to dining, shopping, and more.
Located just three minutes from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the Arrowhead Lodge has five units available—two one-bedroom suites and three two-bedroom suites. Each features jetted tubs, kitchens with stainless steel appliances, flat-screen TVs, and wifi. It’s a very comfortable place to relax after a day in the park.
Also located within walking distance of the park are the Best Western Desert Inn and the Brandin’ Iron Inn, both of which offer free continental breakfast daily. The Stagecoach Inn, just a few blocks further from the entrance, is a landmark hotel that’s been renovated with a modern touch. You’ll also find lots of cabins and bigger properties to rent if you’re traveling with a larger group. Visit destinationyellowstone.com for all your lodging options.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in West Yellowstone, it’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. This small town nestled next to America’s first national park embodies the rugged Western spirit and the adventurous hearts of those who love the outdoors.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit West Yellowstone, a birding adventure awaits. Whether you are hiking through an alpine forest or snowshoeing along a riverbank, the Greater Yellowstone region hosts a rich population of birds for every season. Birding enthusiasts and casual watchers alike can revel in the majestic sights of migrating ducks, resident eagles, and wintering trumpeter swans.
Bird watching is an accessible, year-round activity for area visitors of all ages. Some of the best viewing occurs between May and October—migrating birds abound in the spring and fall while long summer days lend sight to bald eagles, osprey, and waterfowl along the Madison River. With just a pair of binoculars and a guide book (or app), explorers can begin to identify and document the area’s abundant bird population. During the spring, birding enthusiasts can identify upwards of 50 or 60 bird species over the course of a single day. Casual visitors can spot eagles, hawks, and ducks as they enjoy a day fly fishing on the Madison River, hiking in Yellowstone National Park, or taking a scenic drive along the north shore of Hebgen Lake.
The Greater Yellowstone region is home to a number of distinct habitats that host ever-changing populations of resident and migrating birds. Forests of native conifers, including dense stands of lodgepole pine, old-growth Douglas-fir, and Engelmann spruce, blanket the mountainsides and are home to red-tailed hawks, sparrows, and yellow-rumped warblers, among other species. Recently burned forests provide insect-rich feeding grounds for woodpeckers. Sage thrashers and sparrows thrive in areas of thick sagebrush cover while shorebirds and waterfowl frequent the region’s alpine lakes, winding rivers, and placid wetlands. Lucky birders might even catch sight of other regional wildlife, such as elk, bison, otters, moose, and bears, while exploring the ecosystem.
While visitors may be able to glimpse a hawk or an eagle overhead with the naked eye, a spotting scope or a pair of binoculars are a must to catch a close-up view of area birds. These tools will also help birders maintain a respectful distance to avoid disturbing the wildlife. A reference guide is an essential tool to get the most out of your birding experience. The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce provides free area maps and birding trail brochures while field guides and reference books can be purchased in many local shops.
Where to Go
Some of the area’s best birding locations are just a short drive from West Yellowstone. Featured below are a few key locations for your next birding expedition:
- Yellowstone National Park
What better place to catch sight of a soaring bald eagle than in America’s first national park?
Nearly 300 avian species have been documented in Yellowstone National Park and roughly 150 species nest within its boundaries. The park has even been known to host some rare birds for the enthusiast’s bucket list, such as the great gray owl or the black-crowned night heron. Trumpeter swans from across the Rocky Mountains and Canada migrate to the park and the surrounding ecosystem for the winter.
- Earthquake Lake
Earthquake Lake, or Quake Lake, is a stunning sight for area visitors. An earthquake in 1959 triggered a massive landslide that blocked the Madison River and formed the lake. Bald eagles, osprey, and double-breasted cormorants nest in the bare timber that still rises from its depths while common mergansers sail across the surface. “There’s an eagle nest right where Beaver Creek flows into Quake Lake,” said West Yellowstone local Melissa Alder, describing one of her favorite birding destinations. “Across the river on the other side there are a couple of other eagle nests … it’s a really awesome spot.”
- Madison River
Just a few miles north of West Yellowstone, Highway 287 follows the north shore of Hebgen Lake before winding along the Madison River with several excellent birding spots en route, including Beaver Creek, Ghost Village Road, and Raynold’s Pass. The riparian habitat hosts an extensive collection of bird species, including bald eagles, geese, great blue herons, American white pelicans, and mallards, just to name a few. Explorers may catch sight of osprey diving for trout, American dippers bobbing in the fast-moving water, or even harlequin ducks passing through along their spring migration.
Take a day trip from West Yellowstone and visit Red Rocks Lake National Wildlife Refuge for a birding expedition in Montana’s breathtaking Centennial Mountains. Created as a protected area for nesting trumpeter swans, the more than 50,000-acre refuge is home to rich wetlands and more than 230 documented species of birds, including yellow-headed blackbirds, American kestrels, and occasional peregrine falcons.
The Greater Yellowstone region’s abundant bird population makes West Yellowstone an ideal hub for a birding expedition. Whether you are a birding enthusiast or a causal observer, the area’s diverse ecosystem offers year-round birding opportunities for your next adventure.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
PHOTOS: DAVID LOEBL
Did you know that one of the strongest recorded earthquakes in North America occurred just a few miles north of West Yellowstone? On your next scenic drive around West Yellowstone, stop in at the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center to find out more about the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake and the “night of terror” that ensued. Visitors to the center can learn about the area’s rich geologic activity while taking in striking views of the mountain that fell and the lake it created.
The Hebgen Lake Earthquake
The Hebgen Lake Earthquake occurred in the dead of night on August 17, 1959. The earthquake measured 7.5 (later adjusted to 7.3) on the Richter scale and triggered a landslide that brought 80 million tons of rock hurdling down into the Madison River canyon at 100 miles per hour, killing 28 people who were camping nearby. The geologic event blocked the Madison River in less than a minute and formed what is now known as Earthquake (Quake) Lake.
The Visitor Center
The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center opened for its first season in May 1967. Renovations to the building began in 2012 and the facility was updated and expanded from 1,500 to 2,400 square feet. Since reopening to the public in 2014, the center has hosted more than 50,000 visitors from around the world each season.
The visitor center is perched atop the 80 million tons of rock that broke away from Sheep Mountain on the night of the earthquake. A short walking path leads to a nearby boulder that echoes the magnitude of the event and serves as a memorial to the 28 victims. Additional short paths lead to overlook points with unparalleled views of Quake Lake, dotted with skeletal trees reaching up from the depths, and the massive scarp from the landslide that ripped away the side of the mountain. Several interpretive signs outside of the visitor center provide background information about the 1959 earthquake and the area’s geologic activity.
Inside, curious visitors can check out a working seismograph and peruse interpretive displays on earthquakes, plate tectonics, and geologic activity. The building offers panoramic views of the mountain that fell and Quake Lake below. A movie detailing the events of the “night of terror” and the formation of Quake Lake is shown in the building’s observatory. Visitors can also purchase a souvenir at the bookstore, operated through a partnership with the nonprofit organization Yellowstone Forever.
But the adventure isn’t over yet! Grab an area guide on your way out and explore the landscape for yourself. Drive to the various points of interest marked on the map and pause to view the series of interpretive signs that tell the story of that fateful night. Some points of interest take you on short walks, including trails to the Refuge Point overlook and the old Hilgard Lodge. Visitors can even drive along part of a road that was destroyed by a landslide.
Where is it located?
The visitor center is located approximately 25 miles northwest of West Yellowstone and is an easily accessible stop on a scenic drive through the area. The drive to the visitor center features breathtaking views of Hebgen Lake, the Madison River, and the Madison Range. From West Yellowstone, head north on Highway 191 for 8 miles. Turn left onto Highway 287 at the junction. Continue on Highway 287 for 17 miles until you reach the visitor center on your right. As you approach the visitor center, keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep that frequent the area!
When can I visit?
The visitor center’s 2018 season runs from May 25th through September 15th according to the following schedule
- May 25th-September 3th, 10am-6pm
- September 4th-September 15th, 10am-5pm
For questions, contact the visitor center from May through September at (406) 682-7620. During the off season, contact the U.S. Forest Service—Hebgen Lake District Office at (406)-823-6961.
Over 4 million people visit Yellowstone Park every year, for the incredible scenery and wildlife. One of the best ways to see the park at a leisurely pace is by bike. As soon as the snow has been cleared, the Yellowstone is open for cyclists looking to tour the national park. This is a great time to visit, as you can ride until April without needing to negotiate with motorized vehicles – especially ideal for novice riders. In the summer months, you can cycle on all the public roads around the park, as well as on the designated cycle routes. Here are some great routes for you to try out.
The Old Faithful Cycle Tour
The Old Faithful Cycle Tour is on September 29th, 2018, and has been running for 21 years. It’s a great way to explore the national park in the fall, just when the colors are starting to change. The bright yellows and oranges of the aspens are particularly impressive. On this 60 mile round trip you will be able to see thermal features, elk, bison and of course geysers. The ride is perfect for families and small groups, as well as individual leisure cyclists that just want to explore. Using a hybrid bike is recommended, as the terrain is quite varied. It is a relaxed supported ride, and not a race. There are a couple of feed stations on the way around, and also some on-course bike mechanics, if you run into any difficulties. One of the nicest things about this tour is the community feel – there is a delicious group meal organized for the end of the day.
West Yellowstone and Madison Junction
A very popular ride amongst amateur cyclists is the 28 mile route between West Yellowstone and Madison Junction. The distance can be covered at a leisurely pace in a day, giving adequate time for admiring the amazing geysers, and getting in a spot of lunch. You will need to be wary of the wildlife in the area, a “buffalo traffic jam” is not unheard of. It’s common to see coyote on this route, as well as the bald eagle. Don’t forget that the wildlife has right of way in the park – especially the bears and the wolves – don’t go within 100m of them.
Daisy Cut Off to Biscuit Basin
Daisy Cut Off to Biscuit Basin, is a great little ride to do with young family. It’s only four miles long, so is easily manageable in an hour or two. Biscuit Basin itself is completely fascinating, and the water is a beautiful shade of deep azure. Don’t go diving in though, the water is extremely hot, even it if is inviting. The basin is very close to Old Faithful, and has a boardwalk around it, so you can park up your bikes and get a good view of the geothermal as it bubbles away.
Spring Cycle Only Days in Yellowstone
Once Yellowstone National Park closes to snow traffic (usually on or around 15th March – but this is weather dependent) to the third Thursday in April, cyclists will find that some of the park roads are open, but just to non-motorized traffic. These roads are plowed and so cycling, walking, jogging are all allowed and there is no fee from the entrance of West Yellowstone to Mammoth – this is of course, dependent on conditions. Another way to enjoy cycling!
Cycling around Yellowstone park will enable you to see so many different sights than if you were traveling in the car. You can pick a short ride if you only have a few hours, or make a day of it, stopping for a picnic. Whilst riding you can take in the smells and incredible noise of both the geysers and the unique wildlife.
AUTHOR: JACKIE EDWARDS
Long-distance traveling with kids is one of parenting’s most stressful experiences. You and your child are far from your comfort zone, in a tight and confined space sometimes in the midst of strangers who may not be used to the quirks of little ones, especially on a long trip.
Many travel experts advise that the best way to see it through is to make it as familiar and comfortable as possible for the kids. That means bringing along much-loved objects and favored toys. If your children are used to seeing and interacting with something at home, by all means bring it along unless size and practical demands won’t allow it.
You can’t transform an airplane cabin or the back seat of the family vehicle into a playroom, but you can make kids comfortable and give them distractions enough to cover the long hours they’re curled up strapped in a seatbelt.
Be smart about seating
If you’re traveling by air, be mindful of seating arrangements. Where possible, reserve seats at the back of the plane, where you have a little separation from the rest of the passengers. If all goes right, you can create your own little sanctuary back there. Unless you have a tight connection, there’s no reason to worry about being the last one to “deplane” as the airlines put it. If that’s not possible, remember that kids need to make frequent trips to the bathroom and they’ll get fidgety as soon as boredom sets in. Giving your youngster the aisle seat provides a little more “wiggle room,” and makes things much easier when it’s time for a bathroom stop.
If you’re concerned your kids will be scared if the plane encounters turbulence, the back of the plane is often the bumpiest. Instead, consider booking seats next to or near the wing, which usually provides the smoothest ride.
Time it right
The best time to start out on a long trip is when your kids tend to be sleepy and may well nod off. If they typically nap right after lunch, schedule your flight for that time or have the car packed, fueled and ready to roll as soon as lunch is over. It’s better for them (they get a good nap in) and for you because you don’t have to begin a long journey in a state of high stress exacerbated by squirmy, exhausted children.
Pack play resources
As a parent, you probably have an entire arsenal of play materials and favorite toys that can keep your little ones happily distracted for hours. Include everything you can in a child’s backpack or small rolling suitcase and bring it along. The more you can keep colored markers, coloring books, playing cards, handheld gaming devices (with power cords) and small toys within easy reach of the kids, the easier the trip will be. Besides, you don’t want to have to keep reaching back and forth handing and retrieving play items when they should be placed well within the little ones’ reach.
In the car and going far
Not all travel happens by plane. If you’ve opted for a road trip, know that it’s not as simple as popping the kids in the backseat and heading out. You’ll also need to plan plenty of ways to keep them entertained and fed. Kids are notorious for wanting to snack in the car so make sure you have items that are easily cleanable. Crackers are a great option since they can be vacuumed up after the trip. Avoid chocolate and fruit snacks. At all costs. Magnetic travel games are also a wonderful way to engage the youngest members of your crew. Older kids will be happy with a book or handheld gaming device. Invest in a small point and shoot camera and let your children document the sites along the route.
The beauty of travel cribs
If you’re traveling with a little one, there may or may not be a safe, clean space for sleeping when you arrive. Consider bringing along a travel crib, which can be broken down and transported in a carrying bag that will fit snugly in the tightest packing space. No worries when it comes to weight; they’re light and easy to carry through the largest airport.
Going on a long trip takes careful planning and preparation. If you travel fairly regularly, you’re probably accustomed to it all. Providing distractions and making things fun for the kids is just another preparation, albeit an extremely important one.
AUTHOR: DANIEL SHERWIN
While working summers at the Fountain Hotel in Yellowstone National Park, Sam and Ida Eagle saw opportunity upon learning that the Oregon Short Line of the Union Pacific Railroad planned to run a spur route to the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Sam negotiated with the US Forest Service to survey and later lease property across from the proposed rail station in West Yellowstone. This is where the Eagle’s Store story begins.
Sam and Ida partnered with friends Alex and Laura Stuart to build and open a general store in 1908. By 1910, Alex and Laura had purchased Murray’s Store across the street and began a separate business. Sam and Ida built a second store in 1910 and had expanded into a third section by 1916.
The early store buildings were replaced by the current 3-story rough-hewn log and stone structure designed by Bozeman architect Fred F. Willson. The rustic park architecture-styled building housed the business and was home for the Eagle family of 10 children. Construction began in 1928 and was completed during the middle of the 1930 season with all work being done by the Eagle family and Sam’s Pennsylvania cousin, Raymond Mauger. The store was built in three sections around the older stores allowing the Eagles to continue operations during the profitable tourist season. The east wing was the last section finished and included the 1910 soda fountain.
Sam worked diligently to have the leased land near the railroad changed to land for purchase, which was instrumental in the development of West Yellowstone as a town. Sam and Ida were leaders in the community, active both in business and personally. Sam held Sunday school for children and adults. He applied to the state requesting and securing a school teacher for the children of the area. Eagle children were 4 of the 8 children in the first class. Sam and Ida provided land for the Protestant church and lobbied for an airport.
Ida was storekeeper, cook and seamstress, making sure each of the 10 children knew his or her responsibilities in the store and within the community. Sam was an entrepreneur who worked hard to assure the financial success of his family. For years he worked as a fishing and hunting guide. He and Ida sold staples including food, camping, fishing and hunting equipment, and outdoor wear. They later added products like gas, cameras and film, western wear and jewelry. Space in the store was rented to a barber and a baker. Sam served as postmaster from 1909 to 1935 and housed the post office within the store. Sam expanded his business further when he bought a 1915 Ford so he could take tourists fishing and sightseeing. Eagle’s Store had the only telephone switchboard in West Yellowstone for years. Sam and his older children built rental properties including storefronts, cabins and an auto garage in West Yellowstone. Sam and Ida were never idle and taught their children to have the same work ethic as they had.
Not having had the opportunity to attend college, Sam stated he wanted to have as many children as he and Ida could afford to educate. They purchased a home in Bozeman so their children could attend high school and Montana State College (now MSU) which all 10 children attended.
Visitors today can wander through the wings of Eagle’s Store and treat themselves to ice cream at the original 1910 soda fountain. Mom Eagle’s recipe is still used for the chocolate sauce. Old photos of the Eagle family and early West Yellowstone life adorn the walls inside the east wing of the store. The original skis that Sam used to travel 14 miles to Henry’s Lake, Idaho to exchange the winter mail when he was postmaster are proudly displayed in the clothing area of the store. In the tackle shop, one finds Sam’s duck boat, photos of the family fishermen and some of their fish mounts.
June 21-24, 2018, is a special celebration for Eagle’s Store’s 110th year of business. The Yellowstone Historic Center (YHC) will feature the summer exhibits Eagle’s Wings: Generations of the Eagle Family and Store and Fred F. Willson: Diaries of a Dreamer. The West Yellowstone Library will have a photo show related to the YHC exhibits. Watch the following websites for information on these events:
With all the fantastic sceneries that Yellowstone has to offer, the annual number of visits to Yellowstone has increased by a whopping 40% in comparison to 2008. Due to the convenience of using RVs, people will tend to visit the popular park on their motorhomes and trailers. Luckily, Yellowstone already has provisions for RV camping. However, you should know that RV spaces can be limited and fill up pretty quickly in and around the park, so make a reservation ahead of time. While a long haul RV trip can be fun, they do come bundled with a number of issues. As you travel to Yellowstone for activities like angling, it is possible to experience mechanical issues, bad weather or even road construction in progress, which can slow you down.
Being prepared prior to your trip is the best way to brave these challenges. Here are a few insights that will come in handy during your long haul RV trip to Yellowstone:
Ensure That You Have RV Insurance and Road Service Professionals on Your Side
While you might have been prepared to make your trip smooth, mechanical issues are sometimes inevitable on the road. Instances where your RV breaks down could easily bring your trip to a halt. Instead of having to leave your belongings on the side of the road when this happens, being in contact with a reputable road service company that specializes in RVs can be a lifesaver. Additionally, an insurance cover can help cater for the damages that your vehicle might get on the road. To be safe, take your time to understand what is catered for under the insurance cover.
Check the Road Conditions
The worst time to travel as an RV enthusiast is either during winter or during road construction periods. Both situations will make traveling difficult, not to mention, slow you down. In order to save yourself from the frustration of a delay due to road construction work, look through the various websites that offer information on road closures, construction and the general condition of the roads you’ll be driving on. To get accurate information on road conditions in and around the park, consider visiting the Yellowstone roads webpage to identify the best roads to use.
Pay Attention to the Weight of the RV
The weight of your RV will not only determine the fuel efficiency of your ride, but also dictate whether you might have issues with the authorities at the RV campgrounds. Ensure that your trailer or motorhome doesn’t go anywhere above the weight limit. You can easily determine the weight of your RV at weigh stations or commercial truck stops. To reduce weight, only carry the items that you can’t find close to your campsite. For example, traveling with just enough water for the trip is a wise idea as you can refill your tank once you get to your destination. Whether you’re camping at the popular campgrounds around West Yellowstone like Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park and Campfire Lodge Resort, LLC or want to experience a more adventurous experience deep in the park, always do some prior research to know what is allowed.
Being prepared before your long haul RV trip is essential for a smooth trip. The fewer the inconveniences, the faster you can get to Yellowstone and enjoy the perks that the area has to offer. Use the above tips to ensure a smooth time traveling.
AUTHOR: JACKIE EDWARDS
A small town tucked at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, West Yellowstone is an outdoor playground—home to world-class fly fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. But what many visitors may not realize is the area’s affinity for cyclists. Thanks to winding roadways through some of the region’s most stunning scenery, West Yellowstone supports a thriving community of cyclists. Both road cycling enthusiasts and those keen on mountain biking trails will find themselves quite at home in this scenic town.
Each year, West Yellowstone hosts several events worth planning a trip around. One of the most memorable of these is when the roads of Yellowstone National Park are open for several weeks to non-motorized traffic only. As soon as the park roads are cleared of snow until late April, Yellowstone is closed to car traffic, affording road cyclists the perfect opportunity to sightsee and get the first season’s looks at Yellowstone’s impressive wildlife before the bustling season begins. Most riders will take the route between West Yellowstone and Madison Junction, a 28-mile round trip beside the famed Madison River. Without doubt, this is the best time to ride in America’s first national park.
The annual West Yellowstone Old Faithful Cycle Tour, held each autumn, is a perfect wind-down to a busy summer of riding. Join 350 riders on this 60-mile round-trip supported ride that features the changing fall colors of Yellowstone before ending the day with a hearty group meal. Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons in the park—many of the tourists have gone home and wildlife is bountiful.
Many serious cyclists will have heard of the famed Trans-America Trail, a 4,228-mile cross-country cycling route leading from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia. West Yellowstone is a noted stop along the trail, anchoring the fourth leg of the route (going west to east) that covers the 329.5 miles from Missoula, Montana. Cyclists follow the stunning Madison River, Quake Lake, and Hebgen Lake before arriving in West Yellowstone. It’s quite common to grab a bit of rest, relaxation, and sightseeing in West Yellowstone before beginning the next leg to Rawlins, Wyoming, 350.5 miles away.
The route out of West Yellowstone leads riders into Yellowstone National Park to Madison Junction, then south past Old Faithful and West Thumb (and its stunning lake views) then out the park’s south entrance on the scenic John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Riders pass Jackson Lake on their right before veering off to Moran and then southwest to the Wind River Mountains. Of course, you don’t need to ride all the way across the country to enjoy this section of the route, as a multi-day cycling trip in either direction is quite the experience.
For those seeking a bit of off-road adventure during their stay in West Yellowstone, the area’s trails don’t disappoint. Options range from easy to advanced with challenging climbs; stop in at a bike shop—both Free Heel and Wheel (home to a stellar espresso bar) and Yellowstone Bicycles are local favorites—for information on trail conditions. You can also rent bikes at both locations, for trail or road. The Divide Trail (easy doubletrack, 6 miles), Mike Creek Trail (advanced singletrack, 7 miles), and Rendezvous Loop (easy doubletrack, 6 miles) are all close to town and feature varied riding terrain with stunning views.
Does a bit of mellow road riding near town sound more like your style? West Yellowstone’s streets are easy to navigate and a simple ride around town is a fantastic way to explore. Or pack up and head north of Highway 191, turning onto Highway 287 toward Hebgen Lake for a scenic, flat ride with stunning views of the expansive waterway.
An excellent resource for visiting cyclists is Cycle Greater Yellowstone. While the actual Cycle Greater Yellowstone Ride takes place each August (the 2018 dates have already sold out, but there is a wait list), the organization puts out timely news on events, road/trail updates, and need-to-know news on the area’s cycling community. The organization is a great way to connect with local southwest Montana cyclists.
So whether you’re on a cross-country trip or simply riding a rental bike around town for a few hours, you can find plenty to love. For serious cyclists, it’s a bucket-list destination that allows you to explore one of the most scenic regions of the country.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by West Yellowstone
Tom Sadler, a noted outdoor writer and conservationist, found the perfect location for his wedding in West Yellowstone, Montana. "The location and diversity of activities for our friends and family were ideal—from fishing on the Madison River, touring Yellowstone National Park, or just hanging out in West Yellowstone," he says. “The recreational options were endless.”
Situated at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the town of West Yellowstone draws visitors who want to hold their special event someplace beyond the ordinary. Summer work retreats can include unforgettable hikes. Wintertime conferences tucked snugly inside the quaint town offer post-meeting activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and wildlife tours via snowcoach. Thanks to its ample amenities and scenic surroundings, West Yellowstone is the perfect place to host any event, whether you’re thinking about a destination wedding, company retreat, industry convention, or family gathering.
An easy drive from the airport hub of nearby Bozeman (and with a regional airport of its own), West Yellowstone is accessible, with the infrastructure to handle meetings for large and small groups. Visitors will find a variety of lodging options, from chain hotels to large resorts to boutique "glamping" ranches. And what better way to draw attendance to your next conference than offering easy access to America’s first national park?
The West Yellowstone area has become increasingly popular for destination weddings, with many brides and grooms choosing to host the event at one of the area’s guest ranches. Their guests can spend the morning playing cowboy on a trail ride, fishing a blue-ribbon stream, or simply relaxing at the ranch spa. Favorite locations include Bar N Ranch (6.6 miles from downtown West Yellowstone), Parade Rest Guest Ranch (9 miles), and Firehole Ranch (19 miles from downtown West Yellowstone).
Brett Prettyman, director of communications at Trout Unlimited, has his own fond memories of attending a wedding in the region.
"One of my best friends picked Yellowstone Country as the place to make his vows with his beloved, and we came from across the country to witness it on the banks of Buttermilk Creek as it flows through the Bar N Ranch," he says. “We would have made the trip no matter when it was, but the fact they picked September—my favorite time to visit Yellowstone Country—made it that much more special. I always try to snap a picture when I drive by Bar N Ranch now to send to my friend to remind him of what a great decision they made to have the wedding there.”
A western guest ranch is the perfect "one-stop shop" for a relaxed wedding—many ranches have large event tents and established connections with local florists, caterers, and photographers. Guests will appreciate having a vacation element to their travel, and the opportunity to play and recreate in the great outdoors before the big day is perfect for brides and grooms seeking a unique wedding experience. These same elements make guest ranches a stellar choice for family reunions.
Janet Duncan, owner of the Wilderness Edge, notes the ranch’s location—tucked next to remote and stunning Cliff Lake as a big draw for groups. "We host many destination weddings for people who live here locally but have family coming from all over," she says. The ranch also has canoes, kayaks, and boats available for guests to play on the turquoise waters of the lake. Meeting participants can all stay in one place and have plenty of recreation options.
Bar N Ranch, just 10 minutes from the entrance of Yellowstone, offers a number of different lodging options for visitors. "We have lodge rooms and cabins available, but we also have glamping tents in the summer," says Marilynne Mungovan, who runs public relations for the ranch. “There is truly something for everyone.”
Those hosting large groups can take advantage of plenty of meeting space in town, including the Holiday Inn Conference Center, Days Inn of West Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lodge, and Three Bear Lodge. Looking for something a little different? Bring a bit of Western spirit into your meetings with the Historical Union Pacific Dining Lodge, the Rendezvous Trailhead Building, or the Madison Crossing Event Center. Want to take advantage of a unique venue in the glorious summer months? Even the town’s Yellowstone Airport can host outdoor events.
When it comes to food, West Yellowstone is home to an array of high-quality dining options to suit all levels of planning. Local catering companies can take care of food needs on-site, and many restaurants in town are built to accommodate large groups. Need a picnic lunch for the afternoon bus tour through Yellowstone? There are plenty of options. Need to meet a colleague for a coffee and muffin before heading into that morning meeting? West Yellowstone is home to several comfortable, friendly coffee shops that are a comfortable spot for meet-ups and study sessions.
And after the work is done, gather your group and go play. In addition to the national park, explore the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to observe wolves, grizzlies, otters, and birds of prey. The Yellowstone Historic Center Museum can provide valuable information on the area’s expansive history, and—of course—visitors can take a guided van or wintertime snow coach trip into Yellowstone to observe wildlife and the park’s many natural wonders. For thrill-seekers craving a bit of adventure, trail riding, ziplining, hiking, whitewater rafting, fly fishing, and a host of other outdoor activities beckon.
Regardless of the size of your group, West Yellowstone will welcome your next gathering with open arms and more than a bit of Western charm. Come visit this community to see why it has become synonymous with both outdoor adventure and down-home hospitality.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Visit West Yellowstone
For fly anglers around the globe, the very idea of West Yellowstone conjures up images of mountain streams, lush meadows with winding rivers, and trophy-size wild trout. It’s hard to page through any fly-fishing publication without seeing mention and photographs of the region, and for good reason—West Yellowstone is bordered by top blue-ribbon trout streams in nearly every direction.
For Bob Jacklin, the thought of getting to fly fish in this pristine part of the country changed the course of his life.
“I read a story about fishing in Yellowstone,” says Jacklin, who grew up in New Jersey where he learned to fly fish. “And I thought, that’s what I want to do.” He saved his money while serving in the military, and when his enlistment was up he headed straight to West Yellowstone.
“This will be my 49th year guiding here,” he says. “There’s nothing else like it.”
Jacklin’s Fly Shop is one of many local institutions that have helped grow the sport in the region. Blue Ribbon Flies is another, offering guide services for a variety of trips that can be custom-tailored to the angler’s needs and desires. (Just schedule early, most West Yellowstone guides book up their season up to six months in advance.)
“When you’re talking about fly fishing for trout, it’s probably the best destination in the world, certainly in this country,” says Cam Coffin, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. “There’s such a variety here. And then there’s this setting. It just can’t be beat.”
“It’s first-class all over here, no matter what direction you go,” Jacklin says. “ Within a half hour to a hour drive, there’s just so much to explore.”
Whether your tastes lean toward a long hike into classic backcountry fishing, a drift boat float down the famous Madison River, or stillwater lake fishing, West Yellowstone has you covered. Here are a few famous (and not-so-famous) places to wet your line:
One of the iconic southwest Montana waterways, the Madison River is West Yellowstone’s most popular fishery. Certain sections are closed seasonally (check regulations before you go), but thanks to easy access of Highway 287, walk-and-wade fishing is popular. Many locals favor the stretch between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake; winter fishing with streamers is particularly productive here for the cold-hearty! Many anglers time their trip around the famed salmon fly hatch, which typically occurs during the month of July. The most classic way to fish the Upper Madison is via a day-long drift boat trip, and most West Yellowstone guides are well-versed in the various sections of the river. For adventurous fishermen, guide services also offer combo trips that combine whitewater rafting with fly fishing on the Madison, particularly through the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Area.
It’s impossible to mention West Yellowstone fly fishing without bringing up Baker’s Hole. Home to a campground located on the Madison River, Baker’s Hole is a mere 3.2 miles north of downtown, and it offers a broad, lazy bend perfect for classic Western trout fishing. Thanks to its fame in fly-fishing circles the access fills quickly, so plan to arrive early or stay late. For first-time visitors to the area this is a must-fish location.
Keen to fish, but don’t want to drive far from the comforts of West Yellowstone? A 15-minute drive just north of town, Hebgen Lake provides easy-access fishing opportunities, including boat rentals. Many anglers travel to Hebgen for the infamous “gulper” fishing—large, healthy trout rising to dry flies as they cruise along. Gulper fishing is most productive through July and August when then Trico and Callibaetis hatches occur. Thanks to its strong population of rainbow and brown trout, Hebgen is a fun, relaxing fishery where families can enjoy a day on the lake.
The Gallatin River winds northward from its inception in Yellowstone toward the town of Bozeman. Between the Park border and the resort town of Big Sky, the river meanders through mountain meadows, offering enticing pool fishing for moderately sized trout, primarily rainbows. (Much of this section is in a northern section of Yellowstone National Park, so be aware an additional Yellowstone fishing license is required.) Fishing becomes stronger in the canyon section of the Gallatin, between Big Sky and the Gallatin Valley—estimated fish counts in this section are 4,000 fish per river mile. The river fishes well through all seasons, with nymphing and small streamers a popular choice in the cooler months, and classic dry flies in the warmer days. In the late summer drift terrestrials by grassy, undercut banks and prepare for action.
Yellowstone National Park
Part of West Yellowstone’s charm is its proximity to some of Yellowstone’s best fly fishing. A short drive into the park reveals a multitude of waterways, including the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison Rivers. Acquire the required national park fishing license, pack a lunch, and prepare for a truly unique day of fishing. Yellowstone’s rivers support a healthy population of trout, including rainbow, brown, and Yellowstone cutthroat, and the experience of catching a trout in America’s first national park is one you won’t soon forget.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different, head to Quake Lake, just 25 miles northwest of West Yellowstone. The lake was formed in 1959 when a large earthquake caused a massive landslide, blocking the Madison River and eventually forming the lake. It’s now filled with downed trees and other structure, offering ideal habitat for trout and unique—almost eerie—conditions. Fish a dry fly around the dead standing timber during summer evenings for impressive dry fly action.
Regardless of what waterway you plan to explore during your stay in West Yellowstone, consider hiring a guide for your first few days to learn what water is fishing well and what flies are working. Fishing with a guide takes much of the work out of the experience, allowing you to just kick back, relax, and focus on the fishing.
“A guide can will really help you know the river—and what works there,” Coffin says. “And you spend the day with him, learning the sport. You find out what other places you need to explore next. It’s way to learn the sport and learn about the area.”
The scenery surrounding West Yellowstone’s trophy rivers is breathtaking, so take full advantage of the opportunity to look up between casts and soak it all in.
“Go for the full day,” says Jacklin. “You can relax and enjoy lunch and take the time to learn the sport. You can get an education anywhere, but there’s no better place to do it.”
Some other quick tips for beginners from local guides include:
Talk to experts: The best spots to fish—and what’s working to catch them—changes throughout the year. Stop by a fly fishing shop, hire a guide, or go with an experienced angler to help you get the most out of your experience.
Take a casting lesson: Your first time on the water is more enjoyable if you know what you’re doing. Local casting classes are available to teach you the technique so you’re ready to go once you hit the water.
Know your insects: Once you learn the basics, knowing what fish eat and when they do so will make a big difference in your success. Each species of insects has a different time for hatching, so read up to understand more about what the fish will be eating when you’re visiting West Yellowstone.
Know when to fish: While fly fishing can be done year-round, the peak season is the eight weeks after the 4th of July, when the rivers run clear of snowmelt and insect hatches are strongest. “It’s probably the best time to fish, but it’s also the busiest,” Coffin says. “Through most of the year, you’ll find incredible opportunities somewhere.”
Be prepared: Learn about which fishing licenses are needed for your trip and purchase them in advance. If you’re finishing in Yellowstone, it has its own set of regulations and permit requirements. Have everything you need for a day in the outdoors, including rain gear, sunblock, food, water, insect repellent, and bear spray.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by West Yellowstone Chamber. Dobson Ent. Inc.
A visit to Yellowstone National Park is all about the awe. The first national park in America, Yellowstone covers nearly 3,500 acres nestled atop a volcanic “hot spot,” which creates a variety of unique, must-see geothermal attractions. Filled with craggy mountains, lush valleys, winding canyons, and an eclectic collection of mountain rivers, Yellowstone offers an abundance of natural beauty vying for your attention. And the park’s waterfalls are no exception.
Some of the falls are readily visible from a casual drive while others require a bit of a hike (the payoff is always worth it). Traveling to Yellowstone from Vancouver, Ping Shen took the short hike on the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail, giving her and her husband a spectacular view of one of the the park’s signature waterfalls. “My standards for waterfalls are rather high,” she says, mentioning that she’s also visited Yosemite and Niagara Falls, and viewing the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River was a definite highlight of trip—as was the surrounding wildlife that she saw throughout the park.
“Many visitors camp out at Lamar or Hayden Valley and wait for wildlife with their night vision cameras and binoculars,” she says. “I prefer to encounter wildlife by chance, and I was lucky enough to see bison, elk, deer, sheep, and coyote.”
Visitors to Yellowstone have a number of options when it comes to seeing the powerful waterfalls—and the wildlife you may spot along the way. Here are a few favorites:
Located less than 30 minutes from the town of West Yellowstone, Firehole Falls is one of the most accessible—and stunning—waterfalls in the park. You’ll find the falls just off a gorgeous scenic drive through Firehole Canyon, and you can watch as the Firehole River meanders along the rocky cliffs before plunging 40 feet down. The Firehole Canyon Scenic Drive features a small parking area (plan to arrive early as the lot fills quickly in the busy summer months). The drive alone is worth the journey, but do plan to get out of your car and watch the majesty of the falls, one of the park’s classic sights.
One of the more famous waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park, Tower Fall is located roadside between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Village (just three miles south of the Roosevelt Junction). It is easily accessible thanks to a roomy parking area just a 300-foot stroll to the viewing area. Tower Fall was named in 1870 for the stunning, rocky pinnacles that frame the falls. Visitors can watch as Tower Creek drops a dramatic 132 feet straight down before joining the famed Yellowstone River roughly 1,000 yards downstream. This can be one of the busier falls in the park, so plan ahead and arrive early for the most peaceful experience.
Located just off the road between Madison and Norris Junctions, stunning Gibbon Falls is an easy drive from the park’s entrance at West Yellowstone. If you’re lucky, you may be able to glimpse (and hear) the falls from your vehicle. But do yourself a favor and park. It only takes a few steps into the woods to reveal the full beauty of the falls, which cascade 84 feet into a small, clear pool. The setting is quintessential Yellowstone, with scrubby pine trees and rocky cliffs.
Drive just south of Old Faithful for a glimpse of Kepler Cascades, where the Firehole River narrows and dramatically drops into a rocky pool. Park your car and take a short stroll down a well-marked pathway that leads to a dramatic overlook high above the 150-foot waterfall. The overview is small and feels snug nestled among the pines. If you’re looking for a break from the busier scenic overlooks, Kepler can offer a moment of peace in the woods.
Undine Falls takes its name from wise, typically female sprites who reside near waterfalls in mythology. It’s quite easy to imagine mystical fairies living amidst this triple-plunge waterfall. Undine Falls drops 60 feet into a stark canyon below, set amidst the Park’s classically rock-lined landscape and many downed trees from years past. One of the lesser-trafficked falls in Yellowstone, Undine is perfect for those seeking a little solitude. The falls are easily accessed off the highway between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt.
Upper and Lower Yellowstone River Falls
The Upper and Lower Yellowstone River Falls are popular tourist attractions in Yellowstone—for good reason. Just off the main highway between North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive in the Canyon Area, the Brink of the Upper Falls is a dramatic drop of 109 feet into the storied Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Upper Falls often sees less traffic than the bustling Lower Falls, and it is accessible via several roadside viewpoints.
The most famous waterfall in Yellowstone National Park, the Lower Yellowstone River Falls are an impressive 308-foot drop with several postcard-worthy vantage points. The viewing platforms are almost always busy, so plan for crowds. A favorite spot is Artist’s Point, which offers a classic view of the falls without a hike. This is a must-see waterfall for anyone traveling through Yellowstone.
Many of Yellowstone’s falls are best accessed from the park’s entrance at West Yellowstone. Wherever your waterfall-chasing takes you along Yellowstone roads, plan to start your day early to beat the crowds. Remember that while many falls are accessible without a hike, sometimes the extra effort is worth it to leave the crowds behind and get a more personal view. In Yellowstone, you never know what you’ll find along the trail.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Yellowstone NPS
Nestled at the west entrance to the America’s first national park, West Yellowstone is a veritable outdoor hub, perfect for anyone looking to enjoy the scenic beauty of this corner of Montana. In the warm months the town hosts an array of sightseers, fly fishing enthusiasts, nature photographers, and vacationing families looking for a little something out of the ordinary. In the winter the area draws its fair share of cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and adventurers hoping a snowcoach ride into Yellowstone National Park.
There is arguably no better way to explore the region than by foot—trekking through the Rocky Mountains offers a full immersion experience into the flora, fauna, scents, and sights of the mountains. And while Yellowstone’s roadways may be tourist-filled in the summer and the pathways busy, when using West Yellowstone as your home base, it’s easy to go beyond the park and escape into the surrounding national forests. Here are seven hikes worth exploring during your stay in West Yellowstone, all accessible without ever setting foot in Yellowstone National Park:
1. South Tepee Creek Road Trail
The South Tepee Creek Road Trail winds for 13.9 miles paralleling a creek for the first several miles. Only 15.5 miles from West Yellowstone, the easily accessible trail offers stellar wildflower viewing in the spring and early summer as it winds through lush meadows with stunning mountain views. An elevation gain of 1,551 feet means it’s a bit of a workout, especially for those unused to the area’s elevation (though it’s still rated an “easy” trail); bring along the dogs and make a full day of it. Horses are also allowed on the trail, so keep an eye on dogs not used to equine companions.
2. Johnson Lake Trail
The moderately difficult Johnson Lake Trail winds 5.5 miles through the Gallatin Custer National Forest, eventually winding up at a small, scenic mountain lake. The 15.5-mile drive from West Yellowstone is scenic and largely on paved roads. Johnson Lake Trail climbs 1,381 feet over its length and is a popular out-and-back option for birdwatchers and photographers thanks to the lake and vast fields of wildflowers in the late spring and early summer months. June is the perfect time to enjoy the storybook-like scenery.
3. Horse Butte Lookout Trail
Just five miles from West Yellowstone, the Horse Butte Lookout Trail is just north of the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake. The four-mile round-trip hike is best known for providing access to the historic 40-foot fire lookout tower, which offers excellent views of the lake and mountains. A good family hike, the area around the fire tower even has picnic tables where you can stop for lunch. There is a bit of climbing involved to get to 450 feet above lake level, but it should be manageable for older kids. It’s known for excellent bird watching as well, so keep your eyes open for bald eagles and osprey, among others.
4. Coffin Lakes Trail
Don’t let the name scare you off—the Coffin Lakes Trail is a 11.3-mile, moderately rated trail best explored from June through September. Snow can last quite late on parts of this trail, thanks to the 2,483-foot elevation gain, but the calf-burning climbs pay off with stunning views, small stream crossings, and solitude. A mere 20.5 miles from West Yellowstone, the Coffin Creek Trail is an out-and-back hike offering fishing opportunities along the way (pack the rods) and a swim-worthy lake. Be on notice, animals are often sighted on this hike as well.
5. Cabin Creek Trail
A favorite of area locals, the Cabin Creek Trail is an easy, 4.9-mile, out-and-back trail leading to a scenic lake with excellent fishing. Book the Forest Service Cabin at the lake and make it a weekend. The trail gains 764 feet over its length, but much of the climb is on shale and rock, so be prepared for slick conditions in rainy weather. Popular with all skill levels despite the sometimes-tricky footing, the trail is often used by hikers, trail runners, anglers and—in the autumn—hunters. The trailhead is only 22.4 miles from West Yellowstone, meaning it’s easy to get off the trail and head into town for a burger and beer.
6. Red Canyon Trail
Located in the Custer Gallatin National Forest not far from the Cabin Creek Trail, the Red Canyon Trail is a bit longer, giving hikers a 9-mile round trip with an elevation gain of 1,900 feet. If you’re not up for a lot of climbing, the first section of the trail provides some nice, easy walking through the canyon and along a creek before you start ascending. The climbing is worth it, however, as you reach a subalpine meadow with whitebark pines and an abundance of wildflowers in season (which is from early July to mid August). Keep rising to reach the ridge, where you’ll find some excellent views of the surrounding mountains and Hebgen Lake. Be aware that this region is home to grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, and moose. Read forest service guidelines about the best way to stay safe among these amazing creatures.
7. Targhee Creek Trail
Four-mile-long Targhee Creek Trail is a moderately-trafficked, out-and-back trail perfect for families. A mere 11.8 miles from downtown West Yellowstone, the easy-rated trail follows a creek through most of its length and can provide promising wildlife sightings. A meager 331-foot elevation gain and short-ish length means even younger children will find the hike attainable, and its close proximity to town means an ice cream stop in West Yellowstone is mandatory afterwards. On-leash dogs are allowed.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Jim Peaco/Visit West Yellowstone
The country’s first national park, Yellowstone, is a nearly 3,500 square miles of natural beauty occupying the northwest corner of Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho. Located atop the Yellowstone Caldera—considered the largest supervolcano on the continent—it’s filled with hot springs and geysers that make it one of world’s most unique environments. In fact, two thirds of the world’s geysers are found within the confines of the park. Beyond that, Yellowstone is packed with scenic mountains, forests, lakes, alpine rivers, waterfalls, and some of the most spectacular wildlife you’re likely to see.
A trip to Yellowstone means deciding how best explore the massive park, which at 2.2 million acres, is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Five different entry points will take you into the park, classified by their geographic location: west, north, northeast, east, and south. Each has a number of benefits, but by far the most popular entrance is from the west, where the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, serves as the entry point.
“It’s just a very convenient place for getting into the park,” says Alli Shurr, who with her husband Justin runs Shurr Adventures, which offers kayaking and hiking tours in Yellowstone. “Since we can’t live in the park, it’s the next best thing.”
This small, visitor-minded hamlet boasts a year-round population of only 1,353, but the town sees more than four million visitors annually. It has developed to accommodate these travelers with a wealth of hotels, guest ranches, restaurants, bars, and even museums. West Yellowstone manages to accommodate high seasonal traffic while still maintaining its Old West charm—including a rodeo throughout the summer months.
While West Yellowstone alone provides a good reason for starting your journey at the west entrance, the park itself backs up that logic. Entering Yellowstone from the west puts visitors in the very heart of Yellowstone’s geyser country, meaning it’s the quickest way to visit Old Faithful and a number of the park’s best-known attractions. Roads are very well-maintained in this section of the park, providing comfortable driving conditions.
Visitors entering Yellowstone will receive a park map and small newsletter by National Park Service staff. Read up on the latest news—this often includes up-to-date road construction information that will be helpful in avoiding delays during the busy summer months. The easy-to-navigate map includes information on popular sights and destinations.
From the west entrance, the road winds along for 14 miles, paralleling the scenic Madison River. Be sure to watch for bison and elk before you reach Madison Junction, a crossroads leading to geyser basins to the north and south. The Madison Junction campground is a popular stopping place for those wanting access to both West Yellowstone and the park itself, and a large, modern rest stop is a handy place to stretch your legs before traveling onward.
From here, you have a decision to make: north or south. Turn the car south to see:
- Lower Geyser Basin, the largest geyser basin in Yellowstone. It includes mind-blowing sights of the Great Fountain Geyser, Firehole Lake Drive, and the famed Fountain Paint Pot. This mud pot, which is an acidic hot spring that takes the form of bubbling mud, produces amazing colors throughout the year, as the iron in the mud oxidizes. At different times of the year you’ll see vibrant blues, greens, reds, and yellows.
- Midway Geyser Basin, which is home to Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. The colors found in the massive spring mirror those found in an optical prism—dazzling red, orange, yellow, green, and blue—providing its tell-tale name. A well-built, expansive boardwalk with educational signs explains the mysteries of this incredible sight.
- The Upper Geyser Basin, where more than 150 geysers reside in one square mile. This is a geothermal activity hub and home to Old Faithful, Biscuit Basin, and many sights worth exploring. The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center offers interactive activities and presentations that will intrigue and educate travelers of all ages.
If at Madison Junction you head north, you’ll reach the park’s oldest, hottest, and most changeable thermal area, the Norris Geyser Basin. The basin is home to the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat Geyser, which shoots water more than 300 feet in the air. You’ll also find an array of colorful hot springs en route to the gorgeously tiered Mammoth Hot Springs and its expansive boardwalks. The terrain here becomes much much more stark and arid, resembling something out of science fiction movie.
If you’d like to let someone else do the driving, the western entrance to the park is home to a variety of group-sightseeing tours, which provide motorcoaches to take visitors through the park, often focusing on wildlife, photography, or backcountry excursions.
While the western entrance may be best known for its access to geyser country, that’s certainly not all that’s available for visitors to this section of the park. From West Yellowstone, you can access some of the best fly fishing in the country, with several blue-ribbon trout streams close to town. Nearby Hebgen Lake, just outside the park, is known as one of Montana’s best still water and dry fly fisheries. Marinas can provide boats and fishings supplies.
Active travelers who enjoy hiking and biking will find lots to love in this region as well. Outfitters like Shurr Adventures and See Yellowstone can help you plan for a trip that focuses on exploring the park by foot or two wheels.
Come winter, West Yellowstone becomes a snowmobile mecca. The park entrance is closed to cars, but you can still access Yellowstone by snowmobile or snowcoach through the six park-authorized concessionaires who provided guided tours. In West Yellowstone outside the park, you’ll find hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails to explore on your own.
Any time of the year, West Yellowstone truly is an ideal place to base your Yellowstone adventure. With an abundance of lodging accommodations, RV parks, and campgrounds, it’s the easiest way to spend the night. You’ll find in-town entertainment such as the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, an IMAX theatre, the Yellowstone Historic Center, plus live theatre, and much more. After a day of exploring Yellowstone, it’s a great place to kick back, relax, enjoy a good meal and start planning for the next day’s adventure.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Sashikanth Damaraju
Serving as the gateway community to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, West Yellowstone, Montana, is tailor-made for family trips. Fishing on Hebgen Lake, rafting on the Gallatin River, and hiking on mountain trails all draw families to the outdoors. And that’s before you even step foot in one of the country’s most popular national parks. In the winter, take a snowcoach into Yellowstone and marvel at the frost-laden bison and winter-coated elk. In the summer, explore geyser country and marvel at natural wonders unique to this corner of the world. Using West Yellowstone as your home base is an easy way to get the most out the park while taking advantage of all that Montana has to offer. Here are 10 ways for families to enjoy this incredible getaway.
1. Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park
A zipline hardly begins to describe what you’ll find at this massive climbing structure in downtown West Yellowstone. Featuring a giant ropes challenge course as well as more than 1,000 feet of ziplines, this park will wow visitors with the number of things to do up in the air. The ropes course contains elements from 14 feet to 50 feet off the ground, with elements like spider webs, rope bridges, and log bridges to challenge users. Four different ziplines targeted at families means there’s something for kids as young as four years old to enjoy.
2. Playmill Theatre
Operating in West Yellowstone for more than 50 years, the Playmill Theatre features live performances of family-oriented musicals like The Little Mermaid and Newsies. From the time guests step inside the doors, they can expect a unique and welcoming atmosphere. The talented cast offers interactive experiences throughout the variety show-style performances, including songs and a feature production, entertaining to both children and adults alike.
3. Raft the Gallatin River
Located a short drive north of West Yellowstone, the Gallatin River offers a variety of whitewater rafting opportunities. Those seeking a scenic float can enjoy a gentle Class I-II cruise, while thrill-seekers can undertake Class III-IV whitewater rapids. The most popular option, Class II-III, offers a bit of both and is perfect for families, with a few good soakings and plenty of relaxation in between. Choose from four different rafting outfitters providing trips on the river.
4. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
A nonprofit wildlife park and educational facility, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center offers every visitor a chance to see live grizzly bears and wolves. The center boasts a museum highlighting Yellowstone’s unique ecosystems and history, and the Naturalist Cabin provides the perfect setting in which to observe wolf pack dynamics. Seasonal raptor exhibits (May through November) educate visitors on the area’s impressive birds of prey. Plus it’s open 365 days a year, as the bears living here do not hibernate.
5. Cross-Country Ski the Rendezvous Trails
Easily accessible from West Yellowstone, the Rendezvous Ski Trails offer the perfect wintertime distraction for the family. Skiers of all skill levels will find themselves at home on the more than 35 kilometers of well-groomed trails that wind through scenic pine forests and wide-open meadows. Ski rentals and trail advice are readily available at local shops like Free Heel and Wheel.
6. Cowboy Up for a Rodeo
The West is still for cowboys. West Yellowstone hosts weekly rodeos throughout the summer, offering classic ranch entertainment for visitors of all ages. Pull on your boots, grab your hat, and prepare for an evening of impressive feats. You can even ride a horse to the event thanks to an outfitter that combines horseback riding with a trip to the show.
7. Fish Hebgen Lake
Fifteen miles long and 4 miles wide, Hebgen Lake is just a 10-minute drive from downtown West Yellowstone. Often called the premier stillwater fishing lake in Montana, it’s home to massive “gulper” rainbow trout. The lake offers plenty of space for families to fish, play, boat, and simply relax. Stop by Kirkwood Resort and Marina for boat rentals (including stand-up paddleboards), fishing equipment, and snacks.
8. Visit Earthquake Lake
The West Yellowstone region was struck by a large earthquake in 1959, triggering a massive landslide that blocked the Madison River and formed Earthquake Lake. The Visitor’s Center stands above the lake, serving as a memorial for the 28 lives lost and providing an educational review of the impressive lake’s formation. For families with an interest in regional history, this is a must-see.
9. Take a Guided Tour of Yellowstone
There’s no better way to see Yellowstone National Park than with an interpretive tour. Available daily, the tours feature knowledgeable local guides who know the best places to spot wildlife and take in the sights—and letting someone else worry about navigating the park means families can relax and enjoy the experience. Choose from a variety of motorcoach tours in the summer, some with a focus on things like photography or backcountry excursions. In the winter, the west entrance of Yellowstone is closed to cars, so snowcoaches and snowmobiles become the only way to explore the park. The trips offer a spectacular tour of Yellowstone at its snowy best.
10. Yellowstone Historic Center
Open May through October, the Yellowstone Historic Center is located in downtown West Yellowstone and documents the region’s impressive history. The museum is housed in an old Union Pacific Train Depot and provides a history of travel in the greater Yellowstone region. Explore from the first trapper’s footsteps to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and beyond. The interactive displays, weekly educational programs, and daily films are a good way to learn a little bit about the area you’re about to explore.
Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Destination Yellowstone
Have you ever dreamed of having Yellowstone National Park all to yourself? Do you ever imagine the stunning, 360-degree mountain views without the distraction of cars or crowds? Visit West Yellowstone in the spring for your chance to explore YNP on a bike—and without a car or crowd in sight.
Spring visitors to West Yellowstone can experience YNP for a brief period of time without the distraction of peak-season traffic. As park access shifts with the seasons, visitors can bike, walk, run, and enjoy non-motorized activities for a few weeks on certain roads before the gates open to public cars, RVs, and tour buses. A popular activity for visitors during this period is to bike along YNP’s clear roads with only limited traffic from park employees and construction crews.
“Biking in Yellowstone National Park when there are no cars around is one of the most unique experiences that you will have in your lifetime,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone. “With no cars around, it’s a time to have the park all to yourself.”
Bikes allow visitors the freedom to move through the park at their own pace while experiencing panoramic views of the park’s dramatic transformation from winter to spring. The snow gradually melts, the bears start to emerge, and migratory birds begin to appear in the trees. Since there was heavy snow this past winter, visitors might even catch a glimpse of an animal feeding on a winter carcass.
The beauty of the seasonal change, coupled with minimal crowds, makes spring an ideal time of year to visit YNP and the surrounding region. Below, we’ll break down all you need to know for your spring cycling adventure in West Yellowstone.
When should I visit for spring biking?
Following the winter season, the the park roads close to snowcoaches and snowmobiles in order to remove snow and allow the roads to dry. Depending on the conditions, certain park roads open to bicycles and other non-motorized traffic on a to-be-determined date between late March and early April. The roads do not re-open to public vehicle traffic until late April.
For 2018, the west entrance opened to bikes on March 28, 2018, and to public vehicles on April 20, 2018.
Where can I bike?
From West Yellowstone, cyclists can enter YNP through the west entrance and bike to Madison Junction. From Madison, they can then either return to the west entrance or continue the journey to Roaring Mountain (due to construction). Keep in mind that those exiting through the west entrance during this time of year should prepare for a headwind on the return trip and plan accordingly. Visitors can take advantage of the limited road traffic to pause and savor the dramatic landscape.
For visitors who want to venture outside of YNP, a scenic bike route begins at the Highway 191/287 junction north of town and continues along Highway 287 to Quake Lake. The road offers both mountain and lake views as cyclists wind along the north shore of Hebgen Lake.
Are there any restrictions?
There are a few rules and restrictions for spring cyclists in YNP. These include:
- Bike in a single-file line on the right side of the road.
- Use a white bike light in the front and a red bike light in the back if cycling before sunrise or after sunset.
- Maintain a safe distance from animals (100 yards from bears and wolves, 25 yards from other wildlife).
- Only cycle on specified, open roads. Many popular routes, including the road from Madison to Old Faithful, are closed to the public and only accessible by authorized personnel during this time.
Can I rent a bike?
Visitors can rent or purchase bikes and gear at Freewheel and Wheel, West Yellowstone’s local bike and ski shop. Rentals include a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle. Cyclists can rent road bikes for $40/day and mountain bikes for $35/day.
What should I wear?
Cyclists should endeavor to wear high visibility clothing, even in light of limited vehicle traffic. Since spring weather in West Yellowstone can be unpredictable, cyclists should also dress for all conditions. A spring bike ride from West Yellowstone might begin on a warm, sunny morning, but the weather can quickly shift to chilly wind, rain, and even snow. Consider dressing with wicking materials, an insulated layer, a windbreaker, long socks, a light hat, and gloves before you set out for the day.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler in need of a break from the crowds or a first-time visitor in search of a quiet escape, cycling opportunities in YNP and the surrounding region make West Yellowstone an ideal spring biking destination.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
When spring comes to West Yellowstone, the days gradually grow warmer while the nights stay crisp and cold. These unique weather conditions can only mean one thing—it’s time for crust cruising!
What is crust cruising? When the snow warms and softens under the spring sunshine, it refreezes overnight into a smooth, sparkling crust. Skate skiers can effortlessly glide, or “cruise,” over the crystalline crust without sinking into the deep snow beneath. Skimming across the surface of the spring crust allows skiers to quickly and easily cover a large amount of territory. Those who venture forth have the freedom to ski across areas that would be difficult to access in the middle of winter—giving them the opportunity to explore the spring scenery off the groomed trail.
“It’s so magical, it’s like you’re skiing on ball bearings,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone. “You can go anywhere, you’re not on a groomed trail. You can look over to the east or the west and see an open snow field and just head for it.”
Spring weather in Montana can be unpredictable, however, and crust cruising is entirely dependent on the perfect combination of warm days and cold nights. Conditions may appear as early as March or as late as May. Look for daytime highs in the 40s and 50s paired with nights that dip into the 20s, teens, or single digits for the ideal crust conditions. If nighttime temperatures drop well below freezing, skiers might be able to crust cruise until about noon the next day. But when temperatures only dip just below the freezing mark, skiers have to be more careful and may only be able to crust cruise until around 11am. The key to crust cruising is to get an early start before the snow turns to mush!
“Waking up early and being part of the ecosystem here in Yellowstone can feel so good, it’s a very magical place,” said Hart. “I think [crust cruising] is one of the most incredible opportunities…it’s the most invigorating sport there is around here and so unique to the area.”
West Yellowstone visitors of all ages and levels can take part in crust cruising—you don’t have to be a veteran skate skier to experience the exhilaration. Though skate skiing can be challenging for beginners, those who feel comfortable and are capable of gliding are able to crust cruise. Those who prefer to classic ski can still crust cruise and have a blast, just not at quite as fast a pace as skate skiers. Visitors can take a skate ski lesson, rent gear, and grab a latte from Freeheel and Wheel to prepare for their next morning of crust cruising. Visit www.freeheelandwheel.com for more information.
Are you ready to cruise? Check out some of the best area locations below for your crust cruising adventure:
- Hebgen Lake
Depending on the snowpack, late March is the best time for crust cruising Hebgen Lake, just north of West Yellowstone. Skiers can usually crust cruise Hebgen Lake earlier than anywhere else in the area. First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that the conditions are safe. There’s a very short window of opportunity and the surface can melt out pretty quickly. But while it may be a touchy spot, crust cruising Hebgen Lake offers an expansive surface area paired with unrivaled views of spring mornings in the Madison Range.
- Yellowstone National Park
The northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, just a 20-25 minute drive from West Yellowstone, offers some of the best crust cruising in April. Skiers can access exciting and beautiful terrain, including stunning river views, from Fawn Pass Trailhead and Bighorn Pass Trailhead. Those looking for a longer ski can connect the two to make a loop. The full loop can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on your level, so get an early start!
- Rendezvous Ski Trails
Staying in town? West Yellowstone’s Rendezvous Ski Trails are home to more than 35km of premier ski trails groomed for classic and skate skiing. During the spring, skiers can find excellent opportunities for crust cruising, especially up on Windy Ridge. Depending on the weather pattern, crust cruising enthusiasts can easily ski the Rendezvous Trails until May.
Stay safe, have fun, and go crust cruising!
Author: Caitlin Styrsky
Situated virtually in the backyard of Yellowstone National Park, America’s first national park, the outdoorsy town of West Yellowstone is home to a wide array of visitor-centric shops, restaurants, and lodging, all topped off with a hearty dose of old-fashioned Western hospitality. The town’s proximity to many of Yellowstone’s main draws— including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Firehole River, Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful—ensures it’s a must-stop destination for regional visitors. Despite its small size (the town claimed 1,353 full-time residents in 2016), West Yellowstone offers a host of lodging options, ranging from traditional hotels to unique glamping experiences.
Here, eight recommended spots that make for an excellent home base after a day of adventure in the outdoor playground around West Yellowstone.
1. Alpine Motel
For visitors seeking a more traditional hotel experience in the heart of town, the Alpine Motel is just the place. The property offers a central location makes it a cinch to explore shops, restaurants, and attractions, while offering a quiet, comfortable atmosphere. In 2012, TripAdvisor gave the motel a Travelers’ Choice award for best service—thanks in large part to owners Brian and Patty, who make guests’ stays even more personal with their passion and knowledge of the area.
2. Bar N Ranch
Located just six miles from West Yellowstone, the Bar N Ranch offers rooms both in its grand lodge and private cabins. Set against a stunning landscape with resident wildlife galore, the ranch offers fine dining, guided tours of Yellowstone National Park, hiking, a swimming pool, fly fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and many other outdoor activities guaranteed to keep everyone in your group entertained. In addition, the lodge’s proximity to town means guests can enjoy the area’s more urban attractions, too.
3. Three Bear Lodge
A West Yellowstone institution, Three Bear Lodge is an award-winning, eco-friendly lodge located in downtown. Rooms feature unique furniture and thoughtful nods to local influences, like towel holders crafted from reclaimed wood. Common areas invite relaxing with roaring fireplaces and comfy furniture, offering cozy respite after a busy day exploring nearby Yellowstone. The property’s beloved Three Bear Restaurant is a favorite of both locals and tourists alike—for breakfast, don’t miss the sweet cream pancakes with local huckleberries.
4. 1872 Inn
Located just outside the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the 1872 Inn is an excellent option for a basecamp to exploring the park. The boutique inn features custom rooms that are each a mix of both luxury and traditional Montana design. Each room features its own fireplace, a large double shower, and comes furnished with locally handmade custom furniture—from the headboard to the desk chair. Continental breakfast is included with your room, giving you the energy you need to start exploring the park each morning.
5. Parade Rest Guest Ranch
A sister property to Three Bears Lodge, the Parade Rest Guest Ranch is located just 10 minutes outside of West Yellowstone. Traditional log cabin lodging offers a slice of rugged Montana life, while horseback trail rides and world-class fly fishing all but guarantee adventure-filled days. Food is simple yet hearty, often served in traditional, open-air Western-style cookouts. Parade Rest is an excellent option for those seeking a no-fuss, no-frills but comfortable Western experience.
6. Evergreen Motel
Located just blocks from the West entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the Evergreen Motel is a small, comfortable property with rich history. Originally built in 1931 as the Evergreen Auto Court, the 17-room property has seen several iterations but has maintained a solid reputation among outdoorsy types for its clean, cozy rooms at affordable prices. Some rooms come with a kitchenette, and all have their own dedicated parking space for easy transport of outdoor gear. Owners Logan and Sara take a hands-on approach to the property and are happy to answer any questions about the town and the area.
7. The Explorer Cabins of Yellowstone
These rustic but cozy cabins are ideal for families and couples looking for a comfortable Western adventure—guests even receive a complimentary s’mores kit upon check-in. Private cabins are well-outfitted with TVs, kitchenettes, and WiFi, and dog-friendly cabins are available. Make new friends around the community fire pit in the evenings, then fall asleep to the sound of the breeze rustling through the trees before the next day’s adventures.
8. Firehole Ranch
Once voted into the list of Top 10 Fly-Fishing Lodges by Forbes, the cushy ranch has since worked hard to maintain that standard. Located 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park, Firehole Ranch is home to 10 lake view cabins scattered on a spacious 640 private acres. Fishing is a big draw here: Expert fly fishing guides lead guests on legendary rivers such as the Madison, Gallatin, and Henry’s Fork. But there are plenty of other activities to choose from, including hiking, horseback rides, and mountain biking. This is one of the area’s most popular lodges for anglers, as the lodge is open for only 15 weeks each summer and hosts only 22 guests at a time, starting with three-night packages. Contact them early for reservations, as it often fills up a year in advance.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Adam Fagen
West Yellowstone, Montana, the small community situated at the west entrance to America’s first national park, changes drastically through the four seasons. While summer heralds the arrival of a large number of travelers, drawn by the lure of the Big Sky and Yellowstone’s wonders, spring and fall bring the relative quiet lull of lessened tourist traffic and changing “shoulder season” weather. Winter welcomes a new kind of traveler—passionate snowmobile riders and cross-country skiers are drawn to the deep snow and wild country surrounding this comfortable community of roughly 1,400 residents.
Thanks to its status as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, West Yellowstone is home to a variety of lodging, shopping, dining and activities that are available year-round (some businesses close for the winter, but plenty stay open to service visitors). Tucked amid three national forests, world-class trout streams, and storied terrain from Western lore, West Yellowstone brings a dose of old-fashioned hospitality and outdoor adventure regardless of the season. Here are just what makes the area special, no matter when you visit.
West Yellowstone receives more than 150 inches of snowfall annually. Pair the impressive snowfall with frequent sunshine and bluebird skies, and it’s no wonder the town is a draw for outdoor-loving winter sports enthusiasts. Snowmobilers can explore more than 400 miles of groomed trails near town, winding through open meadows, craggy hillsides, and along some of the finest trout fishing rivers in the world. Cross-country skiers will love the Rendezvous Trail System, home to 35 kilometers of daily-groomed trails, or several pet-friendly ski trails that start at the edge of town.
Wintertime in Yellowstone National Park has been likened to stepping inside a winter wonderland. Join a guided snowcoach or snowmobile tour for an entirely new look at the park and its animal residents. Looking for something different? West Yellowstone hosts Snowmobiling EXPO, Power Sports & Races, a nationally ranked ice fishing tournament and a series of cross-country ski and biathlon races throughout the winter season.
As snow gives way to green grass and wildflowers, West Yellowstone wakes from the quiet of winter and erupts in a riot of color. Spring is an excellent time to visit West Yellowstone before the true crowds of summertime travelers arrive. The region’s scenic drives and early-season hiking draw outdoor adventurers and sightseers alike.
The west entrance to Yellowstone is open to only bicyclists from mid- to late-March to mid-April, offering cyclists a unique exposure to animal sightings and stunning early-season scenery. Kelli Sanders, co-owner of outdoor store Freeheel and Wheel, is keen on this early season. “The Park opening early for cyclists is a huge, wonderful opportunity that very few people get to take advantage of,” she says. “If you can get here, it’s such a magical time to explore—just to be in the park and see the wildlife with no cars around. The true serenity of the experience.”
For Sanders, spring is one of the best seasons for cyclists, even outside the park boundaries. In the months before the busy season rush, there are fewer cars on the road, leading to a more peaceful riding experience. She shares that it’s likely cyclists will, at one point or another, encounter bison on the road, and urges caution: “Give them their space!” she notes with a laugh.
Bison calving typically begins in mid-April, and spring is also the best time of year to view black and grizzly bears as they wake from hibernation and make their way to lower elevations. This is the season West Yellowstone wakes up, and it’s an ideal time to enjoy the region without the press of summer crowds.
Summertime is perhaps the season when the West Yellowstone area shines the most. Long, bright summer days bring endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploration, and the town of West Yellowstone is booming. Shops, restaurants, and hotels are in full swing, offering a surprisingly robust variety of amenities for travelers.
Yellowstone’s wildlife, geysers, hiking, and waterways may be the biggest summertime draw, but there are plenty of outdoor activities for those seeking a bit more of an adventure than a mellow sightseeing drive. The region’s blue-ribbon trout streams offer a myriad of fly-fishing opportunities, hiking trails are available for all skill levels — from a post-dinner stroll to a multi-day backpacking trip—and mountain bikers will find plenty of trails and pathways to occupy their time.
For guide and outfitter Alice Owsley of Riverside Anglers, West Yellowstone is the perfect fishing hub. “I live in West Yellowstone because in every direction you can leave town headed toward a trout fishing destination,” she says. “The variety of fishing options, include wadeable freestone streams, larger floatable tailwater rivers and fantastic lakes. I truly appreciate all the publicly accessible fine trout fishing available here in Southwest Montana.”
The autumn season is a favorite of West Yellowstone locals, and for good reason. Elk are in their mating season (called the rut), the scenery is stunning and the photography opportunities are truly exceptional. Cooler temperatures and a changing landscape mean it’s an ideal time for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the Yellowstone region. Anglers will find themselves occupied with spawning runs of feisty brown and rainbow trout moving from Hebgen Lake up the local rivers, and wildlife watchers will find this season more productive than the busy summer days.
Regardless of what season you choose to visit West Yellowstone, expect a dose of Western hospitality, exceptional outdoor adventure, and world-class wildlife watching. Whether your tastes lean more toward a long day spent in the Madison River angling for trophy trout or strolling the comfortably rustic streets in town, West Yellowstone is truly an outdoor paradise ready to welcome visitors any season of the year.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for West Yellowstone Chamber.
Featured image provided by Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development
National Ice Fishing Tournament, Workshops and Free Kids Camp January 12-14, 2018 at Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, Montana
West Yellowstone, Montana will host an NAIFC (North American Ice Fishing Circuit) National Qualifier from January 12-14, 2018. The qualifier – an ice fishing tournament – takes place on Sunday and is open to any two-person team. Teams range from locals to national level pro’s to teams just wanting to learn more about ice fishing. Teams can register up to 6 PM at the Saturday night reception and rules meeting.
The tournament is located on Hebgen Lake just outside of West Yellowstone. Kirkwood Resort & Marina is the location for the tournament starting point and Kid’s Ice Fishing Camp.
Throughout the two days preceding the tournament, there are many educational opportunities. These activities are free and open to the public.
Friday night kicks-off with a Gathering with a chance to meet local fishermen, familiar with Hebgen Lake, along with nationally ranked ice fishermen. A Social Hour and informal introductory information for people new to ice fishing—and networking with experienced friends who love to ice fish–starts at 5 pm at West Yellowstone Holiday Inn Conference Center (315 Yellowstone Avenue). From there, people go in groups with a pro-fisherman to another local restaurant/tavern to “talk ice fishing” over dinner, where “Ice Fishermen Specials” will be available for purchase. These group discussions, which are open to the public, are geared toward educating fishers to the world of tournament ice fishing.
Starting around 8:00 am Saturday, Pro-Staff and representatives from ice fishing product companies will be demonstrating the latest techniques and equipment on Hebgen Lake. Meet them at the Kirkwood Marina, where you can try out the newest ways to catch fish through the ice.
One of the most popular activities of the weekend is the free NAIFC Kid’s Free Ice Fishing Camp will be back again on Saturday, January 13th at Kirkwood Resort & Marina on Hebgen Lake. All kids can participate, along with family members, regardless of age. This is the largest kids ice fishing camp in the Intermountain West where kids get to meet ice fishing pro’s, and members of the USA Ice Fishing team.
A change this year: the Kids Ice Camp will start with classroom instruction and demonstration at the Holiday Inn Conference Center at 10:00 am and then lunch and on-ice fishing experience at Kirkwood Resort & Marina on Hebgen Lake starting at 11:30 until 1:30. The classroom instruction and demonstration will cover ice fishing equipment, techniques, safety, conservation & environmental stewardship. Before leaving, all kids who participate also will receive a complimentary ice rod and tackle. The NAIFC Kid’s Ice Camp is sponsored by ice fishing industry supplies along with local businesses, food suppliers, and Kirkwood Marina.
On Sunday, the NAIFC will conduct the Hebgen Lake Qualifier with two-person teams fishing from approximately 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. At 3:00 PM the NAIFC Tournament weigh-in will be conducted at the Holiday Inn Conference Center. Cash and prizes will be awarded to the top teams. The top ten finishing teams also receive an invitation to the NAIFC National/North American Championship to be held next December.
Make sure to bring the family and enjoy our other events and activities happening throughout West Yellowstone. Saturday and Sunday children and their families can enjoy activities like snowshoeing, M120 Kids snowmobile rides, live raptor programs from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, s’mores, sledding and skating for free during the Kids’N’Snow Weekend.
For more information on the NAIFC, tournament events, the Kids ICE CAMP, information about the West Yellowstone/Hebgen Lake lodging and activities for tournament, go to www.westyellowstonemticefishing.com. To enter an NAIFC qualifier please go to www.naifc.com or please call Kathy Roberts at 320 252 0428.
Kids’N’Snow Weekends in West Yellowstone, Montana!
Looking for a family-friendly winter destination, filled with events and activities for everyone? West Yellowstone, Montana is the place for you and the kids.
The Kids’N’Snow program is offered one weekend each month during the winter from December through March. Through Kids’N’Snow, we offer an opportunity for all kids, both from our community and winter visitors, the chance to try new things in a safe and fun hands-on learning environment. Hopefully, they develop lifelong, healthy habits along the way.
Imagine snowshoeing through the snow covered forest with a Park Ranger, meeting a live raptor, or learning to ice fish. Find animal tracks in the snow, go sledding, ride a snowmobile, or make a s’more over the fire. Each weekend varies by activities and schedule so many families come for multiple weekends. Most of the activities are free, and some activities have limited space so pre-registration is offered.
This season’s dates:
- December 16-17, 2017
- January 13-14, 2018
- February 3-4, 2018
- March 3-4, 2018
Kids’N’Snow headquarters will be located at the West Yellowstone Visitor Center, 30 Yellowstone Avenue. Families can register and pick up their supplies for the weekend here.
Join us on Facebook to stay up to date at “Kids’NSnow.” As events grow and more activities are solidified, they will be added to www.kidsnsnow.org
These events would not be possible without the support of our partners, community businesses; weekend sponsors WestMart, Debbie Griffin, Broker at MT Territorial Land Co.; Three Bear Lodge; Blackfoot Communications, Republic Services, Yelowstone Wildlife Cabins, Stagecoach Inn, QuickPrint, Yellowstone Vacations, Custer-Gallatin Forest Service/Hebgen Ranger District, Yellowstone National Park, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone Chamber, TBID and West Yellowstone Marketing and Promotions Fund.
After six years, the program has expanded to over 1,000 participants spanning more than ten states and several countries over the four weekends each winter. In 2012, the program received the “Tourism Event of the Year” from the Montana Office of Tourism and in 2014, we were awarded an AZA Nature Grant, recognizing us as an AZA Nature Play Site. The event is a public private partnership with local businesses and non-profit organizations, Yellowstone Park, Custer-Gallatin National Forest, the Town of West Yellowstone and the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.
The west entrance to Yellowstone National Park may be closed for the season, but more than 3,500 visitors still flock to West Yellowstone, Montana, over the Thanksgiving holiday to take part in the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival. Nordic skiers of all ages and skill levels meet in West Yellowstone to ring in the ski season with a week full of races, clinics, presentations, and festivities. Over the festival’s more than 30-year history, the event has played host to thousands of ski enthusiasts and marked West Yellowstone as a Nordic ski destination.
The 2017 Yellowstone Ski Festival will take place from November 21 to November 25. The festival features an array of clinics and races for skiers of all levels in addition to demonstrations, presentations, and a product expo with all of the latest gear. The festival’s outdoor activities and events take place at the Rendezvous Ski Trails, West Yellowstone’s premier trail system that has served as a training ground for some of the world’s most elite Nordic skiers. The Holiday Inn, the official headquarters of the ski festival, hosts the Indoor Expo as well as a variety of classes, social activities, and events.
The Yellowstone Ski Festival is packed with activities for beginners and advanced skiers alike. Refine your skills during the day by signing up for one of the one- to five-day clinics with instruction from leading coaches in the field. Later, unwind in the evening at one of the ski festival’s presentations or social events
For an up-to-date schedule of activities an events, visit www.skirunbikemt.com.
Whether you are an experienced skier or just want to learn the basics, the ski festival has a variety of skills clinics to meet your needs. Clinics are held over a period of one to five days and range from basic skills development to advanced technique. The three- to five-day clinics are recommended in order to allow participants the chance to work with different coaches, to increase the time spent on skis, and to give skiers the opportunity to reinforce new skills. All ski clinic participants receive a trail pass for clinic days. Festival attendees can take part in the following clinics during the 2017 ski festival:
- Waxing Made Simple, TOKO Wax Clinic
- 5-Day Skate and Classic Technique for Performance
- 5-day and 2-day “Tune Up” Clinics
- 3-Day Skate & Classic Technique for Performance
- 3-Day Skate & Classic Training Camp for Master Racers
- The 2-Day Skate & Classic Tune Up
- The 2-Day Junior Clinic Ages 10 – 14
- 2-Day Improve your Skate Technique
- 1-Day Improve Your Skate Technique
- 1-Day Learn to Skate Ski
- 1-Day Improve Your Classic Technique
- 1-Day Classic Touring
- 1-Day USSA Level 100 Coaching Certification Technique Clinic
Waxing clinics also take place each evening—including the not-to-be-missed Whiskers, Whiskey, and Waxing featuring whiskey-tasting samples from Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, Montana.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to participate in one of the Yellowstone Ski Festival’s racing events! The festival offers competitions for all levels—even a “Try It” Biathlon Demo that includes instruction and gear for those new to the sport. The following races are scheduled for the 2017 festival:
- “Try It” Biathlon Demo
- Freestyle Sprint Race Skill Challenge
- Biathlon Sprint Race
- Novice Biathlon Race
- 10K/5K Freestyle Race
- Masters Race 5K Freestyle
- Juniors Race 5K Freestyle
West Yellowstone may be a small town, but the ski festival boasts a full schedule of demonstrations, presentations, and social events to keep even the busiest skiers event-hopping from sunrise to well past sunset. Visitors can peruse the festival’s Indoor Expo, which showcases the newest in cutting-edge products from some of the top names in the industry. After checking out the latest equipment and technology, guests can relax and enjoy a movie night at the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival. Visitors can even get a close-up view of some of the area’s most majestic wildlife at the Holiday Inn, where the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center will be showcasing its Birds of Prey exhibit. Other can’t-miss festival activities include:
- Salomon TV premiere – Check out the premier of the Salomon TV episode featuring Olympic athlete Jessica Diggins.
- Keynote speaker Billy Demong – A five-time Olympian, Demong was the first American nordic skier to win a gold medal.
- Fitness classes – Pilates, breathe and stretch, and bootcamp classes are all available for athletes in search of a physical activity to pair with a day of skiing.
- Fashion Show – The country’s only nordic ski fashion show! Check out the latest in apparel from the Indoor Expo.
- Social events – Meet and greet your fellow skiers at the Apres Ski, Apres Ski & S’Mores, and the Yellowstone Ski Festival Social.
- Speaker Doug Smith – Yellowstone National Park’s leader of the Wolf Restoration Project, Smith is known for his engaging presentations.
- Branch Beer Bash – Celebrate ski season with micro and craft beer tastings from some of the best breweries in the Treasure State.
- West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation (WYSEF) Raffle – Unwind after a day on the trails and support West Yellowstone’s local youth ski team.
- Yellowstone Ski Festival Awards Ceremony – Congratulate the festival’s award-winning athletes!
Whether you are a seasoned skier or new to the sport, the Yellowstone Ski Festival has everything you need to ring in the ski season with fellow enthusiasts. Make West Yellowstone your Nordic ski destination this November and hone your skills against the backdrop of a dazzling winter in Yellowstone Country.
AUTHOR: Caitlin Styrsky
Driving through Yellowstone National Park is a breathtaking experience, but you might return to West Yellowstone with the urge to take a walk. Stroll along the West Yellowstone Historic Walking Tour to stretch your legs, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and learn the eclectic history of the unique town.
The first Union Pacific Railroad train full of tourists bound for Yellowstone National Park arrived at the park’s west boundary in June 1908, spurring the development of what would eventually become West Yellowstone. Reminders of the height of the train travel era still line Yellowstone Avenue, including historic hotels, the former Union Pacific Railroad station, and early forest service cabins. The West Yellowstone Historic Walking Tour gives visitors the opportunity to take a short, scenic stroll along the town’s historic corridor. Explorers can lengthen the tour by pausing along the route to view the 21 plaques describing the historic places and events that shaped the heart and soul of the town.
To access the walking tour, visitors can simply follow the Painted Bear Paw Trail along the sidewalks and take a moment to pause at each of the 21 plaques that mark points of interest in West Yellowstone’s history. Maps are available at the visitor center and at a number of locations along the tour. A digital guide for mobile devices is accessible through the West Yellowstone Economic Development Council’s website at http://wyed.org/walking-tour/. In addition to the 21 points of interest, the map and guide feature fire icons that highlight the locations of historic fires that impacted West Yellowstone as well as buffalo icons that mark the locations of the remaining Buffalo Roam statues throughout the town.
Points of Interest
The walking tour begins at the Union Pacific Pylon at the east end of Yellowstone Avenue. From there, the Painted Bear Paw Trail meanders along Yellowstone Avenue between Canyon Street and Electric Street. A handful of historic locations on Canyon Street and Madison Avenue are also included in the tour. A few highlights from the tour include:
- Forest Service cabins: The Forest Service cabins at the east end of Yellowstone Avenue were originally built four blocks west of their current location in 1924 as the former West Yellowstone Ranger District Headquarters. The historic buildings were relocated to their current location within the Oregon Short Line Terminus District in 2010. The buildings feature remarkable corner joinery craftsmanship for the architecture enthusiast.
- Oregon Short Line Terminus District: Plaques one through nine make up the Oregon Short Line Terminus District. The district features historic architecture from the height of the train travel era, including the town’s oldest building, the beautiful Union Pacific Depot. The depot opened in 1909 to welcome travelers arriving on the Oregon Short Line’s Yellowstone Special. Today, the depot is home to the Yellowstone Historic Center.
- Madison Hotel: Glamorous celebrities including Clark Cable, Gloria Swanson, and President Herbert Hoover all stayed at the Madison Hotel during their trips to the region. The hotel, built in 1924, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Smith & Chandler: Since 1924, the Smith & Chandler general mercantile has welcomed visitors to West Yellowstone. Situated across the street from the Union Pacific Depot, Smith & Chandler was often the first stop in town for weary travelers. The original building burned down in 1972, but the store was rebuilt in 1973 and continues to offer souvenirs and gifts to Yellowstone visitors.
- Buffalo Roam statues: In the summer of 2006, the West Yellowstone Economic Development Council commissioned 26 buffalo cow and 10 buffalo calf statues made of fiberglass and painted by area artists with depictions of the history of West Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, or the Native Americans of the region. Most of the statues were sold at a fundraising auction in 2009, but a number of the statues still brighten the town streets.
On your next West Yellowstone adventure, take a break from touring Yellowstone National Park and journey along the West Yellowstone Historic Walking Tour to learn the story of the little mountain town that has hosted generations of visitors to the nation’s first national park.
West Yellowstone is the gateway to hundreds of miles of trails and Forest Service Lands.
We’ve now made it easier and safer to recreate in the area by making our trail maps available to download right to your smartphone or tablet through two different apps.
The maps are geo-referenced and once downloaded, can be used without cell reception. They even work in airplane mode!
National Forest Service Maps:
Get the Avenza app directly in your iOS or Android App Store, then search for and purchase or download free maps of your choice.
- Motor Vehicle Use Maps
- West Yellowstone Snowmobile Trail Map
- West Yellowstone All Season Trail Map (Chamber) – (Ski/Snowshoe/Hike/Bike)
- UTV Trail Map
- Go to Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
- Search “PDF Maps”, by Avenza Systems, Inc.
- Download the FREE app.
- To search maps, click on the shopping cart icon
- Click on “Find Maps”.
- To find the correct Motor Vehicle Use Map, or Over-Snow
Map, search by name:
– “Custer NF” or “Gallatin NF”
– Or specifically by name of district
- Select “List View” to see maps easier.
- Select the map and click “Install”
- Hit the “back arrow” twice to get to your installed map page and to see the download progress. The map downloads and is stored directly on your phone.
- The map is now available to view on your phone. Click the map to open and view it.
For more options and instructions visit www.fs.usda.gov/main/custergallatin/maps-pubs
West Yellowstone Chamber Snowmobile Trail Map
- Go to Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
- Search “Trail Treker” app.
- Download the app. The app is available for a one-time $2 fee (per user).
- To add a map, click the Map Layers button in the upper right corner.
- Browse the map folders to find the map you wish to load.
- Select the map and purchase ($2/map)
- Once downloaded, click the Back button until you get to the “Maps” list.
- Once in the Maps list, simply click on the map to make the layer active.
- Click the Back button in the upper left and your map will be displayed.
For more options and instructions visit trailtreker.com
Do you enjoy exploring off the beaten path? Have you dreamed of a rustic adventure in the mountains? Stay in a Forest Service cabin during your next West Yellowstone adventure to experience the beauty of the area’s remote mountains in a rustic, old-fashioned setting.
Forest Service cabins were originally constructed during the 1920s and 1930s for use by early Forest Rangers working on projects in the field. Today, visitors can rent Forest Service cabins for use as basecamps during backcountry adventures or as rustic retreats from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.
Before you make your reservation, keep in mind that Forest Service cabins offer basic, no-frills accommodations. Some cabins are still in use by the Forest Service and may have limited bedding, kitchenware, and firewood supplies. Moreover, none of the cabins in the West Yellowstone area have electricity or indoor plumbing.
Where are forest service cabins located?
There are four Forest Service cabins available for nightly rentals on a rent year-round basis near West Yellowstone in the Hebgen Lake District of Custer Gallatin National Forest. Though some cabins are easily accessible via a road or a short hike, others require a longer trek.
Beaver Creek Cabin (21 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
The drive to Beaver Creek Cabin takes you through a stunning forested canyon along Beaver Creek. The cabin sits below Hilgard Peak, which rises to an elevation of 11,316 feet, and can serve as a fantastic basecamp for exploring the trails and alpine lakes of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.
Visitors can drive straight to Beaver Creek Cabin in the summer months, but cross-country skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles are necessary to access the site in the winter. Cooking facilities and kitchenware are not available. The cabin can sleep up to four people in bunks (with two mattresses) and a sleeping loft, but visitors may need to bring extra bedding, depending on the number of guests. Mattresses are not provided in the winter and the firewood supply may be limited.
Directions: Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 8 miles. Turn left at Highway 287 and continue for 14.5 miles. Turn onto Beaver Creek Road and continue for 3.5 miles.
Cabin Creek Cabin (22 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Cabin Creek Cabin is an ideal backcountry cabin for the adventurous visitor. The cabin sits at an elevation of 8,700 feet on the edge of a wooded area that opens to a picturesque valley with views of the Madison Range. From Cabin Creek Cabin, visitors can explore hiking trails through the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the summer and access the Big Sky Snowmobile Trail in the winter.
Guests can directly access the cabin via hiking trail #205 (Red Canyon to Cabin Creek Divide Trail) or Trail #151 (Tepee Road and OHV Trail). Visitors can also ride ATVs to the top of Trail #151 (Tepee Road and OHV Trail), but must park ATVs at the junction with Trail #205 and continue to the cabin on foot. In the winter months, guests can snowmobile to the site, but skiing and snowshoeing are not recommended due to the difficulty of the trail. The cabin sleeps up to four people, but no firewood, mattresses, or bedding are provided.
Directions: Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 10 miles. Turn left on Tepee Creek Road and continue for 6.5 miles to the trailhead for Trail #151. Continue on the trailhead for 5 miles to reach the cabin.
Basin Station Cabin (10 miles west of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Basin Station Cabin is an easily accessible forest service cabin near the South Fork Arm of Hebgen Lake. The cabin rests in an expansive meadow in the Upper Madison River Valley with breathtaking mountain views. Guests are only a short distance from exploring Yellowstone National Park, hiking the Continental Divide Trail, or fishing on Hebgen Lake.
Visitors can drive to the cabin in the summer via Denny Creek Road and cross-country ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile to the site in the winter. Basin Station Cabin is equipped with a wooden cookstove and kitchenware. The cabin sleeps up to four guests and has a limited, seasonal supply of firewood. Guests must bring their own mattresses and bedding.
Directions: Take Highway 20 west from West Yellowstone for 8 miles. Turn right on Denny Creek Road and continue north for 2 miles.
Wapiti Cabin (Approximately 39 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Wapati Cabin is a great option for visitors who want to explore the Taylor Fork area. The cabin sits in a beautiful alpine meadow near Wapiti Creek at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
Wapiti Creek Cabin is accessible via Wapiti Creek Road in the summer, but snowshoes, cross-country skis, or snowmobiles are required to access the site in the winter. The cabin sleeps up to four people and has a wooden cookstove with kitchenware, but mattresses and bedding are not provided. A limited, seasonal supply of firewood is available.
Directions: Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 33 miles. Turn on Taylor Fork Road (Forest Service Road #134) and continue west for approximately 4 miles. Turn on Wapiti Creek Road (Forest Service Road #2522) and continue south for 2 miles.
How should I prepare?
Visitors can reserve a Forest Service cabin online if they plan to book a stay more than three nights in advance. To make a reservation less than three nights in advance, guests must contact the Hebgen Lake District Office at (406) 823-6961.
Remember, Forest Service cabins only offer basic accommodations and some cabins may be more equipped than others. Check in with the Hebgen Lake District Office prior to your stay to confirm what amenities are available.
Depending on the cabin, visitors may need to bring:
- Sleeping bags/bedding
- Cookware/dishes, dish soap, garbage bags
- Drinking water and food
- Flashlights/lanterns, matches
Always be prepared with adequate food and water as well as appropriate seasonal clothing. Visitors should also be familiar with the necessary precautions for exploring bear country.
For those eager to explore the rustic side of the West Yellowstone region and venture off the beaten path, Forest Service cabins are the perfect alternative for a remote, scenic getaway. Book your reservation today!
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
2017 Solar Eclipse in Yellowstone Country
WEST YELLOWSTONE, MT – The last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was during the June 8, 1918 eclipse, and not since the February 1979 eclipse has a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will make a path across the U.S. A narrow path, called the path of totality, will completely obscure the sun along a route that crosses the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina.
Hotels, campgrounds, RV parks and many other sites have been completely booked along the path of totality for months, or years in anticipation of the eclipse. This path will also pass through 28 national forests and grasslands.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks any part of the sun. On Monday, August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) across all of North America. The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a roughly 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe) will experience a brief total eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, turning day into night and making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona — the sun’s outer atmosphere — one of nature’s most awesome sights. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well.
Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe).
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.
Expect traffic delays around August 21
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY –Visitation to Yellowstone National Park in the days before, during, and after the solar eclipse on August 21 is anticipated to be heavier than usual.
Park roads and facilities may be overwhelmed by this large influx of visitors who are here to see the eclipse. Yellowstone does not recommend traveling in and out of the South Entrance on August 21. That entrance borders Grand Teton National Park and the center-line of the solar eclipse will pass over that park, placing it in the path of totality. August 21 is anticipated to be the busiest day in the history of Grand Teton National Park.
In Yellowstone, the partial eclipse will occur between 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. The eclipse will “peak” around 11:36 a.m. for a little over two minutes.
- Pack your patience. Extra patrols will be out from Highway Patrol, National Parks, US Forest Service, and local authorities in Idaho and Montana.
- Expect traffic delays on highways and roads inside and outside Yellowstone Park
- Give yourself plenty (EXTRA) of time to travel to and from your destination
- Arrive with enough food, water, and fuel in your vehicle for the entire day
- Do not park on the roadway, shoulder or grass areas – use official pull outs, parking lots, etc.
- If you are involved in an accident, move your vehicle off of the road and contact authorities
- Get up-to-date road condition for Yellowstone Park by phone at (307) 344-2117 and online at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm
- Do not expect to have cell phone service, even in areas where it is normally available
- Internet service will most likely go down as well from lack of bandwidth
- Bring appropriate eclipse viewing glasses available at several locations in West Yellowstone and inside Yellowstone at park lodges, general stores, and bookstores; and solar filters for cameras, binoculars, or telescopes.
If you are on National Forest Land (which surrounds West Yellowstone on 3 sides):
- Be aware of weather and fire conditions. August is one of the hottest and driest months, making it high fire season. Fires can start quickly, spread fast and be terribly destructive and sometimes unpredictable.
- Only park in designated areas. Most roads on national forests and grasslands are working roads, which means at any time large vehicles will need a clear path for wildfires or search and rescue.
- If you are camping food storage restrictions are in place.
- PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT – Do Not Leave Trash Or Debris Of Any Kind. LEAVE NO TRACE.
- Drones are not allowed over Yellowstone National Park or US Forest Service land in the area around West Yellowstone (restricted due to Yellowstone Airport)
HOW TO VIEW THE ECLIPSE SAFELY:
- During totality (the period of about 2-1/2 minutes when the sun is completely blocked by the moon), it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. The problem is this: you won’t know if it’s totality unless you look!
- Any time before or after totality, when any portion of the sun is visible, looking directly at the eclipse can cause eye damage.
- The safest way to view the eclipse is by an indirect method:
- The pinhole technique: put a pinhole in a piece of card stock. Hold the paper in the sun. Project the pinhole of light passing through the card onto a second card about 3 feet away.
- The mirror technique: Use a small, flat mirror (or a mirror covered except for a circle about W diameter) to reflect sunlight on a nearby wall or object. The shape of the reflection will mimic the shape of the sun
- Special eye protection goggles may allow for safe viewing. Disposable “eclipse glasses” are widely available, but their efficacy has not been fully tested. If you use eclipse glasses or any other handheld viewing device, make sure it is rated as having an optical density (OD) of at least 5. Look for evidence that they’re certified to meet the ISO 123 12‑2 international standard for safe direct viewing of the Sun. Commercial welder’s glasses shade 14 or darker are felt to provide sufficient protection.
- If your eyes hurt or your vision changes, stop looking at the eclipse Any additional viewing will lead to accumulating damage.
- DO NOT look directly at the sun when ANY part of it is visible, even a sliver. – DO NOT look at the sun repeatedly, even for a split second.
- DO NOT look at the sun through makeshift filters, such as exposed film, CDs, sunglasses, smoked glass, or looking directly at the sun’s reflection on water (the latter was the preferred technique of the ancient Greeks).
- DO NOT look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
- DO NOT look at the sun through a camera, smartphone, or any other device without a proper solar filter (ISO 12312-2 certified).
If you think you’ve damaged your eyes by looking at the sun
– STOP looking directly at the sun.
– Go indoors, preferably into a dark room.
– Rest your eyes.
– Follow up later with an eye specialist. Testing can be done to determine the
extent of damage, but there is no effective medical treatment for solar retinopathy at this time.
Click here to see Eclipse Blindness FAQ. (PDF)
NASA will be live streaming the eclipse August 21, 2017 – 12pm – 4pm EST
(REMINDER: Most likely cell and internet service will be interrupted due to high volume of use)
On the day of the eclipse go to www.nasa.gov/eclipselive, where you will be directed by default to the NASA TV broadcast. The broadcast will connect with many of the NASA broadcasts distributed across the country.
Links for Ways to Watch:
- Live Stream Page (link is external)
- Facebook Live (link is external)
- YouTube (link is external)
- Twitter/Periscope (link is external)
- Twitch TV (link is external)
- Ustream (link is external)
- NASA Apps
- US Forest Service, Yellowstone National Park, NASA, Idaho and Montana Highway Patrol
One thing most people don’t know about West Yellowstone, MT is that we are completely surrounded by National Forest Lands, or “landlocked” as we like to call it. To our east is Yellowstone National Park and to the other three sides is Custer-Gallatin National Forest. We consider these forest lands our home, as well as valuable habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife.
While this means thousands of acres of public access, recreation, trails, and campgrounds, it also means that we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Mid-summer the daily temperatures rise into the 80s and 90s and chances of precipitation is low. Combine this with afternoon winds and the occasional thunderstorm, increased fire dangers are present.
We ask that our visitors know the proper procedures for campfires and be aware of the fire conditions. These can be obtained by local visitor centers, the United States Forest Service Ranger office, and Yellowstone National Park visitor services.
Below we have included some simple rules for campfire safety and the meanings of area fire danger ratings.
Remember what Smokey the Bear says “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Prevention and conservation go hand in hand – leave no trace for the people behind you.
Yellowstone National Park:
- No camping outside of designated areas.
- Campfires need to be in an established fire ring.
- Campfires, including those in portable wood or propane fire pits, are prohibited in the Fishing Bridge RV Park. Wood and charcoal fires are permitted in all other campground locations, though special fire restrictions are occasionally put in place when the danger of wildland fires is great. If you plan to light a fire in the park, please ask about current fire restrictions at the entrance station when you arrive or email our Visitor Services Office immediately prior to your visit. Propane grills and stoves are normally not restricted.
- Do not leave fires unattended.
- Completely extinguish the fire before leaving – no red or smoldering embers. Cool to the touch.
West Yellowstone Area – Custer-Gallatin National Forest:
- Be aware of fire regulations. In drought conditions, fires may be prohibited and you may only use a camp stove. In extreme drought conditions, even camp stoves are forbidden.
- Where fires are permitted use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Do not make a fire ring of rocks.
- Use only dead and downed wood.
- Don’t burn dangerous things like aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass or aluminum cans. They could explode, shatter and/or create harmful fumes or dust.
- Keep a shovel—even a small camp shovel—near the fire so it’s available to use to throw dirt on the campfire.
- Keep a bucket of water near the fire to help extinguish it when necessary.
- Know where the nearest water faucet is located to refill the bucket after use. Supervise children at all times when fires are burning or grills are in use. Do not allow children to run or play around the fire ring, even when the fire is not lit.
- When near campfires, wear snug fitting clothing and be sure everyone knows how to put out a clothing fire—stop, drop and roll.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, extinguish campfires completely then widely scatter cool ashes. Never leave a smoldering campfire, as wind can cause it to flare up.
Since 1974, five rating levels have been used to describe danger levels in public information releases and fire prevention signing:
- Low (Green)—Fire starts are unlikely. Weather and fuel conditions will lead to slow fire spread, low intensity and relatively easy control with light mop-up. Controlled burns can usually be executed with reasonable safety.
- Moderate (Blue)—Some wildfires may be expected. Expect moderate flame length and rate of spread. Control is usually not difficult and light to moderate mop-up can be expected. Although controlled burning can be done without creating a hazard, routine caution should be taken.
- High (Yellow)—Wildfires are likely. Fires in heavy, continuous fuel such as mature grassland, weed fields and forest litter, will be difficult to control under windy conditions. Control through direct attack may be difficult but possible and mop-up will be required. Outdoor burning should be restricted to early morning and late evening hours.
- Very High (Orange)—Fires start easily from all causes and may spread faster than suppression resources can travel. Flame lengths will be long with high intensity, making control very difficult. Both suppression and mop-up will require an extended and very thorough effort. Outdoor burning is not recommended.
- Extreme (Red)—Fires will start and spread rapidly. Every fire start has the potential to become large. Expect extreme, erratic fire behavior. NO OUTDOOR BURNING SHOULD TAKE PLACE IN AREAS WITH EXTREME FIRE DANGER.
Click here for more details about what factors go into determining fire danger levels.
The Yellowstone Nature Connection in West Yellowstone conducts daily education courses for families through their Jr. Smokejumper program.
Summer is one of the most beautiful seasons to plan a visit to West Yellowstone. The days are long, the temperatures are warm, and visitors can spend hours outdoors hiking, fishing, horseback riding, biking, and exploring the majesty of the Greater Yellowstone region. But when the long summer days get a little too hot, consider cooling off in one of the area’s mountain lakes or scenic rivers.
Below, we break down some of the best ways to beat the heat on your next West Yellowstone adventure.
Where should I go?
Hebgen Lake is located about 20 minutes from West Yellowstone. The lake, which is roughly 16 miles long and 4 miles wide, offers some of the best still-water fishing in the state. Visitors can bring a picnic and relax on one of the lake’s numerous beaches, venture into the water for a refreshing swim, or explore the area on a boat or watercraft.
The Madison River flows from Yellowstone National Park into Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake before winding through the stunning Madison River Valley. The river is one of the premier fly fishing destinations in the state. Visitors can also kayak or canoe certain stretches of the river and take in the breathtaking mountain views.
For those looking to explore, the following local businesses offer a variety of watercraft rentals to get you out on the water. Make sure to confirm rental prices before your visit and clarify whether life jackets or fuel are included.
Kirkwood Marina (35 Kirkwood Creek Road)
Kirkwood Marina caters to visitors who are looking to beat the heat! Kirkwood offers one of the widest selections of watercraft rentals in the area, both motorized and non-motorized, to allow guests to keep cool during the summer’s hottest days.
Whether you are relaxing on the water with a large family or cruising the lake with a couple of friends, Kirkwood offers a variety of motorized boat rentals in various sizes. Depending on the boat, rentals are available for a two-hour block, a half day, or a full day.
- Pontoon boats (No hourly rental, $229-$299/half day, $299-$369/full day)
- Ski boats (No hourly rental, $349/half day, $429/full day)
- Fishing boats ($69-$89/2 hours, $89-$109/half day, $129-$179/full day)
Kirkwood Marina also offers several non-motorized paddlecraft rentals for recreation. Pedal boats, stand up paddleboards, kayaks (single and double), and canoes are all available for rental at hourly, half day, and full day rates.
- Pedal boats ($20-$40/1-3 hours, $45/half day, $50/full day)
- Stand up paddleboards ($20-$40/1-3 hours, $45/half day, $50/full day)
- Kayaks ($20-$45/1-3hours, $40-$45/half day, $50-$55/full day)
Madison Arm Resort (5475 Madison Arm Road)
Madison Arm Resort has an affordable selection of watercraft rentals to please every member of the family! The resort offers motorized boat rentals and non-motorized watercraft rentals at hourly or daily rates.
- 14-foot aluminum boat ($35/hour, $175/day)
- 16-foot aluminum boat ($40/hour, $200/day)
- Canoes ($15/hour)
- Kayaks ($15/hour)
- Stand up paddleboards ($20/hour)
- Water bikes ($15/hour)
- Paddle boats ($15/hour)
Yellowstone Holiday RV Campground & Marina (16990 Hebgen Lake Road)
At Yellowstone Holiday, visitors can rent all of the gear that they need to explore Hebgen Lake and keep cool on a hot summer day. The resort rents 14-foot fishing boats for $20/hour, stand up paddleboards for $15/hour, kayaks for $10/hour, and canoes for $10/hour.
Keeping cool on a summer day in West Yellowstone can be a challenge, but the lakes and rivers of the area offer plenty of refreshing opportunities. Whether you are looking to relax on a sandy lake beach or kayak in the shadow of the mountains, West Yellowstone has your options covered to beat the heat on your next adventure.
For more information and trip ideas click here.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
The sun is shining, the temperatures are warming up, and we’ve even seen some rain storms. This means a chance to get outside and hike, camp, and take in the gorgeous scenery of our area, and that includes a huge range of beautiful wildflower blooms.
“The Yellowstone is a wild-flower garden. Wander where you will, you have the ever-new charm, the finishing touch, the ever-refreshing radiance of the wild flowers.”
— Enos Mills, Your National Parks, 1917
Yellowstone and the surrounding area is home to more than 1,000 plant species, hundreds of which are wildflowers of all shapes and colors. When they begin to emerge, usually around late June and early July, the show of colors they put on is astounding. Before any hike into the park, be sure to pick up a laminated flower identification pamphlet or, for more detail, a wildflower reference book, either of which you can find here at local West Yellowstone shops, as well as in many of the gift shops inside the park. The National Park Service offers a list of common flowers and their bloom periods here. As you can see by this chart, there are quite a few flowers here that bloom throughout the summer and even into September, although spring and early summer are the peak times for taking in the widest variety of flowers.
What can you expect to see? Going into Yellowstone National Park from the West Entrance you’ll find purple-blue lupine, yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, and white mule’s ears, not to mention the range of reds and oranges seen on the Indian paintbrush.
Some popular Yellowstone National Park hikes that provide great wildflower viewing opportunities are the Mount Washburn Trail and and the Cascade Lake Trail. The hike up Mount Washburn is about 6 miles round trip with an altitude gain of about 1,400 feet. Because this trail passes through forest and then emerges above the tree line, you pass through different zones that will each offer their own variety of wildflower– be sure to keep an eye on shady areas and rocky outcroppings just off the trail to spot flowers you might otherwise miss. The view from the top of the mountain is an added bonus.
Cascade Lake Trail, in the Canyon area, is less of a climb and more of a meandering walk through meadows and along streams, offering a wide variety of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer. This hike is about five miles round trip and will take approximately three hours, but is rated as “easy” by the National Park Service. This trail is also known as a good place to spot wildlife!
(For more information on day hikes in YNP, check out this guide by NPS)
Boggy, marshy areas inside the park will be home to the bright magenta elephantheads (which do resemble the shape of an elephant’s head!), and the white Bog Orchid.
If your main focus is geysers, you’ll still be able to catch some hardy flowers that manage to grow in the harsher conditions near thermal areas and in the nearby meadows. This includes coralroot and few flowered shooting stars (a member of the primrose family) at Old Faithful, and blue-eyed grass at Midway Geyser Basin.
The Custer Gallatin National Forest, also in immediate proximity to West Yellowstone, offers trails and even Forest Service roads that allow for excellent wildflower viewing. Here you can find swaths of yellow glacier lilies and pale yellow columbines, low woods strawberries, and pink to purple sticky geraniums, just to name a few.
No matter where in our area you choose to explore, you’re bound to stumble across some beautiful blooms, and we encourage everyone to take a moment to stop and truly smell the flowers.
AUTHOR: MONIKA ROGERS
There’s more to West Yellowstone than scenic views and outdoor adventures—even the most active explorers need to power up with a fresh breakfast or wind down over a savory meal. Below, we serve up a selection of West Yellowstone’s best restaurants, with a few local recommendations on the side!
Whether you are grabbing breakfast on the go as you venture into Yellowstone National Park or fueling up for a day of mountain biking, West Yellowstone features breakfast options to suit every morning itinerary.
- Running Bear Pancake House (538 Madison Avenue)
If you want a hearty meal to gear up for a day of exploring, Running Bear Pancake House has you covered. The family-friendly diner features a full menu stocked with traditional breakfast favorites and unique daily specials. The menu features breakfast options to satisfy every member of the family, from a stack of mouthwatering pancakes to a protein-packed, three-egg omelette. For a sweet start to your next adventure, try the chocolate chip pancakes and order a boxed lunch for the road.
- The Book Peddler (106 Canyon Street)
The Book Peddler is the perfect spot for visitors in search of coffee or breakfast on the go. The coffee bar features a variety of roasts from Montana Coffee Traders as well as classic espresso drinks and area favorites, such as huckleberry lattes and Montana Mochas. Pair your beverage with a freshly-baked cinnamon roll or a savory breakfast burrito for a quick morning meal that’s easy to tote along on your morning adventure.
“I like the medium roast coffee with two espresso shots,” recommended coffee bar regular Oliver Murray. “And a baked good on the side.”
If you’re not in a hurry, sip your coffee as you browse through the books and home decor or grab a chair at one of the sidewalk tables.
- Campfire Lodge (155 Campfire Lane)
Take a morning drive along the north shore of Hebgen Lake and venture into Gallatin National Forest for a morning meal at Campfire Lodge. Order a daily breakfast special or dine on traditional morning fare, including eggs, bacon, and enormous pancakes! Don’t rush this meal—take a few extra minutes to savor your coffee on the patio and revel in the sights and sounds of the Madison River.
Switching gears mid-day? Take a break between hiking and horseback riding to grab lunch at one of West Yellowstone’s family-friendly watering holes.
- The Buffalo Bar (335 Highway 20)
The Buffalo Bar is a lunch spot fit for your inner Montana cowboy. Grab a seat beneath the wildlife mounts that line the walls and dig into a tasty selection of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, salads, and entrees.
“I’d say it’s hard to pass up the smothered chicken burrito at the Buffalo Bar,” commented area local Mandy DeTienne.
After a long morning in the sun, take a breather with a beer or cocktail from the full bar and check the big screen TVs for live sports and updates. Enjoy a few yard games on the patio and bask in a cool mountain breeze.
- Ernie’s (406 Highway 20)
For the explorer on the run, call ahead and order one of Ernie’s boxed lunches to munch along your tour of Yellowstone National Park or scenic area drive. Boxed lunches are packed with the explorer in mind and include a “build your own sandwich,” chips, fruit, a gourmet cookie, candy, and a drink. If you need to recharge and reboot, grab a table and savor a hot sandwich, a refreshing wrap, or one of the owners’ famous French specials.
- Slippery Otter Pub & Eatery (139 N. Canyon Street)
Families and large groups are welcome at the Slippery Otter Pub & Eatery! The casual restaurant features a pub atmosphere and a menu loaded with burgers, pizzas, and award-winning salads. Sip a glass of wine from the bar or pick from a selection of microbrews on tap. After a long morning of hiking, order up a jalapeño wonton appetizer and a savory elk burger. Gluten free options are available.
As the sun sinks low behind the mountains, wind down from a day of exploration with dinner and drinks at one of West Yellowstone’s popular evening establishments.
- Madison Crossing Lounge (121 Madison Avenue)
Madison Crossing Lounge offers some of the best fine dining in West Yellowstone. The menu features unique appetizers, signature salads, enticing entrees, and exquisite desserts. Sip on one of the Lounge’s signature cocktails or linger awhile over a digest it. West Yellowstone local Molly Moore recommends pairing “a dirty Tito’s martini and the wild mushroom risotto.” And don’t forget the legendary blueberry white chocolate bread pudding! Gluten free options are available.
- Pete’s Rocky Mountain Pizza (112 Canyon Street)
Keeping it casual? Treat the family to pizza night at Pete’s Rocky Mountain Pizza. Choose from a selection of signature pizzas, build your own pie, or order up a pasta entree. The menu also features unique dinner specials, such as elk spaghetti and buffalo ravioli. Area pizza favorites include The Wrangler with BBQ sauce and chicken or Pete’s Favorite with Italian sausage and pepperoni. Wash it all down with your favorite beer, wine, soft drink, or Italian soda.
- Cafe Madriz (311 Canyon Street)
Looking for something out of the ordinary? Enjoy a variety of tapas, traditional Spanish appetizers, at Cafe Madriz! Unwind in the relaxed atmosphere and order an assortment of small dishes featuring imported products, such as Manchego cheese and Serrano ham. The cafe’s signature paella is always a crowd-pleaser.
“I start with the warm bacon spinach salad, then meatballs, then shrimp,” recommended area local Brandy Holland. “I love their paella, too, and their potatoes!”
Pair your tapas spread with cold beer or a bottle of wine and snag a seat outside to take in the mountain sunset.
West Yellowstone has dining options to satisfy casual, adventurous, and traditional travelers alike. With options like elk burgers and bison ravioli, take a cue from the locals and complement your West Yellowstone adventure with delicious regional fare. Click here for our directory with even more options.
AUTHOR: Caitlin Styrsky
Madison County, Montana is where you will find the “ghost” towns of Virginia City and Nevada City. Virginia City is a well preserved, very much alive, ghost town which is frozen in time. It is located just 20 miles west of Yellowstone National Park (90 miles by road).
In May of 1863 six men, Barney Hughes, Thomas Cover, Henry Rodgers, William Fairweather, Henry Edgar and Bill Sweeny set out toward the Yellowstone River. Their goal was to find enough gold to be able to buy tobacco in the town of Bannack. Unfortunately, they encountered a party of Crow Indians and were captured. The story goes that William Fairweather put a rattlesnake in his shirt. That impressed their captors and the men were released on the condition that they return to Bannack, which they did.
On May 26, 1863 Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold near Alder Creek, so named because the banks were lined with Alder trees. They discovered the largest surface field of gold in Alder Gulch. No matter how hard they tried to keep their discovery a secret, the word got out and within three weeks the town of Virginia City was thriving. Some built log cabins, some of which stand to this day. Others built makeshift brush shelters while others pitched their tents. By the Fall of 1863 between 7000 and 10,000 souls called this place their home.
June 16,1863 a township was formed under the name of “Verina”, which was intended to honor Varina Howell Davis, the first and only First Lady of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. However, when they attempted to register the name, a Connecticut judge by the name of G. G. Bissell objected to their choice of name and recorded it as Virginia City.
It quickly became a boomtown of thousands of prosectors and fortune seekers. This remote area of what was then Idaho Territory had no law enforcement except for the miners courts. Due to the great wealth of this region, the lack of any type of justice system and the methods of travel, crime began to flourish there. It is estimated that “road agents” were responsible for up to 100 deaths in the area in 1863 and 1864. These “road agents” would ride out from Robbers’ Roost and terrorize stagecoaches, miners and travelers in the area and as far as Missoula 200 miles away. The locals were afraid to do anything about it because the road agents had spies everywhere and would soon find out who was working against them.
Henry Plummer was, at that time, the sheriff of both Bannack and Virginia City. Many suspected that he was the leader of the road agents gang called “The Innocents”. The suspicions about the Sheriff and the increasing number of murders in the immediate area prompted the citizens to form the Vigilante Committee. After obtaining confessions from some members of “The Innocents” the Vigilante Committee arrested Plummer on January 10, 1864. Plummer was hanged in Bannack without a trial.
On May 26, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Montana Territory. Bannack was the first territorial capital but on February 7, 1865 the legislature moved the capital to Virginia City where it remained until April 19, 1875 when it was moved to Helena.
It was in Virginia City that the first public school was established. “Montana Post”, the first newspaper was established in Virginia City.
Among this who have called this their “home”:
- Calamity Jane (resided here for a short time)
- Jack Slade (Pony Express co-founder and gunfighter, was lynched here)
- John Bozeman (prospector, merchant, founder of Bozeman, Montana and the Bozeman Trail)
- Nathaniel P. Langford (prospector, vigilante and first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park)
- William F. Sanders (founding member of the Vigilance Committee and U.S. Senator from Montana)
- Sam V. Stewart (Governor and Supreme Court justice of Montana practiced law here)
- Nelson Story (prospector, merchant and cattleman, famous for 1866 cattle drive from Texas to Montana)
- George Laird Shoup (Governer of Idaho moved there after the Civil War)
When the gold ran out, there was enough left so the homes and businesses remained occupied. Unfortunately, there was not enough go left to repair and remodel the existing buildings. In the 1940’s Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town and doing some of the much needed maintenance. In the 1950’s the town began to be restored for tourism. Most of the city is now owned by the state government is a National Historic Landmark and is operated as an open air museum. There are nearly 300 structures in the town with almost half of them having been built prior to 1900. Many of the buildings are in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques standing next to modern diners and other amenities.
Nevada City was destroyed by dredging operation in the early 1900s. It was Charles and Sue Bovey who also undertook the restoration of Nevada City. Many historic cabins have been moved to the site of the original Nevada City. A visit to Nevada City Museum will give you an idea of what it would have been like to live in the Alder Gulch area during the 1860’s. You will find a collection of music machines, like an automatic violin player. Nevada City is operated as an outdoor museum.
So – what is there to do in Virginia City and Nevada City?
There is a Boothill Cemetery in Virginia City which you can visit. You can take a ride on the narrow gauge Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad which will take you to Nevada City. You will not want to miss a visit to the Virginia City Opera House and a performance by the Virginia City Players. The opera house is an old livery stable which has been remodeled into a 19th century era theatre. It is home to one of the only remaining Cremona Player pianos which is used was used to accompany silent movies. It has been carefully maintained and restored. The theatre company performs authentic 19th entry melodramas and vaudeville variety.
You can take a 25 minute ride on the Virginia City Overland Stagecoach which will take you on a narrated tour up Alder Gulch to where the gold strike was originally discovered.
You might want to screen for rubies with the Red Rock Mike and Garnet Gallery in nearby Alder.
Montana Carriage offers a variety of horseback riding opportunities. You can choose a 1/2 hour ride, a 1 hour trip or, if you feel adventurous, you might want to try the 2 hour ride. There are also pony rides for the kids.
All of this in just over an hour’s scenic drive from West Yellowstone Montana – making it the perfect day trip for the family!
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
“Bear Friendly” means allowing every bear to retain its wild and free nature.
Spring is the time when bears and cubs emerge from their winter dens. Please enjoy our wildlife, especially bears, safely and responsibly.
Being bear-friendly in Montana is a commitment. It may mean sacrificing the opportunity to see a bear or take pictures of it—for the welfare of the bear. It means taking steps to prevent bears from finding sources of food on your property or when you are out camping.
Once a bear is food-trained, it is often impossible to un-train them. That is why biologists so often say a fed bear is a dead bear.
Your vigilance in keeping your residence and outdoor camps “Bear Friendly” can make all the difference in helping keep Montana’s grizzly and black bears wild and free.
Montana is a place where a bear is not viewed as entertainment but as a wild animal that shares its habitat with humans. Please make the commitment now to share bear country in a way that is respectful of bears and of the safety of other humans.
Don’t Feed Bears!
It is unlawful to intentionally, or to inadvertently feed bears. Those who do will be warned and possibly cited.
Tips for Recreating in Bear Country
Human behavior is the other half of the equation in a positive wildlife encounter. Here are some tips on human behavior that will help you prepare for safe outings.
- Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
- Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
- Stay on trails or rural roads.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Keep children close.
- Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off.
- Camp away from trails and areas where you see grizzly signs.
- Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
- Avoid cooking smelly foods.
- Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10′ above ground and 4′ from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container. Livestock feed should be treated the same as human food.
- Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.
The Custer-Gallatin National Forest Food Storage Order requires that all unattended food, refuse, and attractants be acceptably stored at all locations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Acceptably stored means placing all attractants in hard-sided vehicles or certified bear-resistant containers, or utilizing methods that meet the requirements outlined in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Approved Bear Resistant Products List. The list can be found at here. The Food Storage Order defines appropriate methods for acceptably storing and possessing food, refuse and other attractants, including animal carcasses.
- Don’t leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes and streams. Sink entrails in deep water. If you don’t properly dispose of entrails you increase danger to yourself and to the next person to use the area.
Hunting in bear country requires special equipment, skills and precautions. Here are some tips to properly prepare for your hunt:
- Carry bear pepper spray (at least 1 canister per hunter) and know how to use it;
- Have pulley systems & ropes (for hanging game & food storage);
- Have a drop cloth for relocating game;
- Carry gloves & apron for handling game;
- Carry a charged cell phone or hand-held 2-way radio and first aid kit;
- Let someone know where you are and when you plan to return;
- Know the requirements of Food Storage Order; and
- Pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map for the area you are hunting in from the nearest Forest Service office.
This is the story of a family who lived and worked in Yellowstone National Park in the 1880’s when the majority of our country was just beginning to discover the wonders of the Park.
The members of this family are Ellery Channing Culver, his wife, Mattie Shipley Culver and their only child, a daughter named Theda. Two of the members of this family would eventually leave the National Park but one would remain forever amidst the beauty and wonder of the Park.
Ellery was born in Shoreham, Addison County, Vermont on April 28, 1842. Martha Jane Shipley was born September 18, 1856 in Middlesex County Massachusetts. Theda was born on June 22, 1887 in the area around Billings, Montana.
So, how did they come to be in Yellowstone? Martha Jane, also known as Mattie, and Ellery, also referred to as E. C. were married April 6, 1886. Ellery served in the Civil War for 4 years with the 34th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. After his discharge, he and Mattie moved to Virginia City, Montana. By 1871 E. C. was well established in that town. Ten years later, by 1881, they had moved to the area around Billings where he was a businessman.
It was during their time in Billings that their only child, a daughter they named Theda was born. Mattie, E. C. and Theda spent the summers of 1887 and 1888 at the Firehole Hotel in Yellowstone. Mattie unfortunately suffered with tuberculosis and E.C. had hopes that the mountain air in Yellowstone would improve her condition. With that thought in mind, he became the caretaker of the hotel and the family spent the winters of 1888 and 1889 in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, hopes that the climate would improve Mattie’s condition were not to be realized. On March 2, 1889, at the age of 30 years, she succumbed to her illness.
Even though it was early March when Mattie passed away, the heavy snows and frozen ground made it impossible for a proper grave to be prepared for her. It is reported that some of the soldiers who were stationed at Fountain Soldier Station took two empty barrels, placed them end-to-end and placed Mattie’s body inside those barrels which were kept outside until the ground softened enough for a grave to be prepared.
That spring, Adelaide Child, wife of the president of the Yellowstone Park Improvement arranged a proper burial for Mattie. She also had the gravesite fenced and, it is assumed, that she was responsible for the headstone being erected. Today you can visit the grave of Mattie Culver. Considering all the harsh winters it has endured, the headstone remains in remarkable condition. Mattie is the one member of the Culver family who will never leave Yellowstone.
So – what happened to the other two members of the Culver family? Theda, who was approximately 2 years old when her mother died, was sent to Spokane to live with relatives. Research shows that Theda passed away on July 2, 1906 at the age of 19. She is buried in Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington.
As for Ellery, in 1892 he was appointed US Court Commissioner for Wyoming and for the next 2 years he served in that capacity and was headquartered at Mammoth. He was in charge of the Norris Lunch Station and then in 1893 he went to work for the YPTCo and served as the train agent. He rode the rails from Livingston the Gardiner. He also worked for the YPA giving promotional lectures. In 1897 he became the Postmaster in Gardiner, Montana and also ran the Post Office Store there. In 1904 he retired due to poor health but later that same year he returned to work as the train runner.
In 1908 health issues forced him to retire once again. In 1909 he moved to the Sawtelle National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in California where he passed away on April 17, 1922. He is buried at the National Soldiers Home Cemetary.
And there you have the story of one family and their association with Yellowstone National Park. Not a very happy story to be sure. One would have hoped that Mattie would have recovered from her illness and lived to raise her daughter – but that was not to be the case.
Theda left Yellowstone at around the age of two, never to return to the Park. Ellery remained in the general vicinity of Yellowstone for many years after Mattie’s death. Mattie remains the sole member of the family who never left Yellowstone.
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
Today you can visit her grave located near the Nez Perce Picnic Area. The gravesite is well kept and often visitors find fresh flowers on the grave. Artifacts from the old hotel have also been found at her gravesite. I do not know if the National Park Service has someone who tends the grave or if concerned visitors do it.
Nevertheless, Mattie S. Culver will forever remain part of Yellowstone National Park.
West Yellowstone, Montana: Your Biathlon Destination
West Yellowstone is one of the few places in the Western United States where visitors can experience biathlon in action—and even try it for themselves! Read on to find out more about biathlon and how you can encounter the sport on your next West Yellowstone adventure.
What is biathlon?
Biathlon is a unique combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting. The sport is rooted in Scandinavian countries, where hunters and soldiers alike would ski to cover long distances before shooting to hunt game or engage in military action. The combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting evolved recreationally during the 18th and 19th centuries and biathlon officially became a winter Olympic sport in 1955.
Biathlon begins with athletes skiing a loop, usually between 3 to 5 kilometers in length, until they arrive at a shooting range. Athletes have five bullets to shoot five targets at the range, either prone or standing, with a .22 caliber rifle. Following the shooting, athletes ski an additional 150 kilometer penalty lap for each target that they missed. After completing the penalty laps, competitors return to the loop and repeat the ski and shooting cycle three to four times, depending on the event type, before skiing a final loop to the finish line.
“There’s a lot of action from the penalty loop to the range,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel & Wheel in West Yellowstone. “The precision is really neat for people to watch. Athletes have to slow their breath when they come into the range to be able to shoot, and there’s always the wind factor as well.”
The combination of skiing and shooting can level the playing field between strong skiers and precision marksmen. A fast skier can quickly lose ground to slower competitors if they miss targets and have to ski multiple penalty loops. Likewise, an excellent marksman may struggle to keep pace with poorer shooters who are stronger skiers. The variation among individual strengths across the course can make biathlon exciting and unpredictable for athletes and spectators alike.
When can I check out biathlon?
West Yellowstone hosts several biathlon cups during the winter season. The following dates reflect the 2016-2017 winter season:
- December —Biathlon Cup #1
- January —Biathlon Cup #2
- February —Biathlon Cup #3
In February, the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation, in conjunction with Freeheel & Wheel and Altius Handcrafted Firearms, host a Free Ski and Try Biathlon Day. Visitors can take advantage of free 2-hour equipment rentals and a free 1-hour ski lesson courtesy of Freewheel & Wheel. In addition, those interested in learning how to shoot can take part in a free demo courtesy of Altius Handcrafted Firearms. After learning the basics, visitors can ski the Rendezvous Trails, West Yellowstone’s premier trail system, free of charge for the full day.
Not into skiing? Don’t like winter? Not a problem! Each July, visitors can take part in the summer biathlon, which combines mountain biking with rifle shooting.
How can I get involved?
Visitors are welcome to watch an event, or volunteer to get an even closer look at the action.
“The best opportunity to try biathlon is on our event days or on our try it biathlon day,” said Marc Sheppard, owner of Altius Handcrafted Firearms. “We welcome novices at any event, so you don’t need to be experienced.”
Ski lessons and gear are available at Freewheel & Wheel, West Yellowstone’s local ski shop. Visitors can rent gear for $25 to $30 a day or $10 an hour. Group lessons range from $35 to $40 an hour and private lessons are available for $50 an hour. For those interested in the summer biathlon, the store offers mountain bike rentals for $35 to $40 a day or $10 an hour.
Biathlon shooting lessons are available through Altius Handcrafted Firearms, West Yellowstone’s local rifle supply and the world’s only biathlon specialty shop. Visitors can set up a 2-hour private lesson on the range or take part in the Summer Shooting Camp in August.
Whether you are an accomplished athlete, a novice, or a spectator, West Yellowstone offers a variety of opportunities to experience biathlon. For summer and winter visitors alike, biathlon makes an exciting addition to your next West Yellowstone adventure.
Author: Caitlin Styrsky
Crust Cruising: A euphoric phenomena allowing Nordic skate skiers to travel over large open areas. Determined solely by Mother Nature.
Periodically throughout the spring, ideal crust cruising conditions present themselves. To the experienced skier, it is an addiction. The uninitiated question the daybreak departure, but soon are enlightened. Follow these rules and hope to find yourself at the right place, at the right time.
- Locate suitable terrain. Look for wide open areas with lots of sun exposure. Around West Yellowstone, Montana popular crust cruising spots include Hebgen Lake, Big Horn Pass, Fawn Pass, and the meadows near the Rendezvous Ski Trails.
- Wait for a window of perfect weather. Warm spring days with little to no snowfall are a great start. It needs to be warm enough to slightly melt the top layer of snow. The thermometer must drop below freezing overnight. Get up early and be rewarded. Skate skiers can literally ski anywhere by staying on top of the hard crust that has formed. After spending a season confined to groomed trails, skiers will soar across the surface in all directions. Keep your eyes open for once in a lifetime views of wildlife and tracks. Look for birds, bears, otters, wolves, coyotes, bison, Sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans that show off in the spring.
- Know when to quit. The caveat of crust cruising is the end time. Get off the snow before it softens up, or post-hole all the way home.
Crust cruising is almost impossible to predict. Watch the weather, consult your favorite Nordic shop, and get a good night’s sleep. One perfect morning sailing over hills and flying through miles of terrain will keep the storage wax away.
For the latest on crust cruising conditions around West Yellowstone, call the folks at Freeheel and Wheel, 406-646-7744.
Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel in Yellowstone National Park
In the year 1826 in Barren County, Kentucky John F. Yancey was born. At that time no one realized that he would one day have an impact on Yellowstone National Park. Yancey was the 6th of ten children in the Yancey family. When he was a young boy his parents moved the family to Missouri where Yancey grew up.
It is believed that he participated in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. In the 1870’s he turned up in the newly created Yellowstone National Park. He was a prospector here in the area of the Crevice Creek gold strike on the northern boundary of the park.
Evidently he did well in his gold mining endeavor as he made enough that in 1882 he set up a way station on the Gardiner to Cooke City road inside the park. The location was just north of the Tower-Roosevelt junction on the Yellowstone River Trail.
It was the then park superintendent, Patrick Conger who gave Yancey verbal permission to build a cabin in Pleasant Valley. The route thru Pleasant Valley was the only way in and out of the Cooke City mining camps during the winter months. In April of 1884 the Department of the Interior granted Yancey a 10-acre lease to establish a hotel.
This hotel consisted of a 1 ½ story log cabin measuring 30’ x 50’ and had 5 rooms and was named Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel. The hotel could supposedly accommodate 20 guests in the upstairs bedrooms. Sometime later a saloon was built near the hotel for the use of the guests. The rooms were $2.00 a day or $10.00 a week – meals included. In doing some research in Wikipedia I found the following that was written by a hotel guest in 1901.
“We asked to be shown to our rooms. A pink checked little maid leads the way up a stairway of creaking, rough boards and when we reach the top announces that the lady and her husband, meaning me and my daughter, can take Room No. 1. The little hallway in which we are standing is formed by undressed boards and the doors leading from it have large numbers marked upon them in chalk from one to five. Inspections of the bedrooms prove them to be large enough for a single bedstead with a box on which are washbowl, pitcher and part of a crash towel. Of the four window lights, at least one was broken in each room. The cracks in the wall are pasted up with strips of newspaper. No. 1, being the bridal chamber, was distinguished from the others by a four x six looking glass. The beds showed they were changed at least twice, once in the spring and once in the fall of the year. A little bribe on the side and a promise to keep the act of criminality a secret from Uncle John induces the maid to provide us with clean sheets”
by Carl E. Schmidt, A Western Trip, 1910
Yet another description of a stay at this hotel can be found in Geyser Bob’s Yellowstone Park History Service and reads as follows:
Yellowstone Travel Account by Mary Caldwell Ludwig, describing the park and her stay at Yancey’s Hotel in Pleasant Valley in September of 1896.
The Pittsburg Press, May 30, 1987
In The Yellowstone – Beauties of a Trip There in the Autumn
A Hotel Quite Primeval
On the 8th of last September we left the Grand Canyon Hotel to make an equestrian trip to the Mammoth Hot springs via “Yancey’s” following for the most part the survey of the intended new road, which when complete, will open to the traveling public scenes varying greatly from any along the present route….
We stopped at Yancey’s for the night. It may interest our friends to know something of Yancey and Yancey’s. John Yancey, familiarly known as Uncle John has for years held a lease of some land in the valley of Lost Creek, at the foot of Crescent Hill. He is n odd character, whose looks encourage a belief in reincarnation, so forcibly does he remind us of the prehistoric. His hotel, too, belongs to the primeval; its walls are of log; its partitions and ceilings of cheesecloth. The bedrooms each contain a bed, washbowl, pitcher, a wooden box for a nightstand, one chair and carpet. The choicest two of the rooms revel in the luxury of a mirror, one mirror being about 4 x 6 inches and the other 8×10 inches. When a guest is ready to retire he is furnished with a candle, which casts it subdued light over his 6×8 front room. When there are sheets enough to go around, he sleeps in a clean bed, but if the tourists occupy half a dozen rooms somebody will – but we draw the curtain over unpleasant memories. Uncle John’s housekeeper, who also performs the duties of cook and chambermaid, confidentially informed one of our party that it was hard to find time to wash so many clothes every day. Poor woman, she probably knew what she was talking about.
If you are fortunate enough to arrive when the proprietor has not been too “busy” to milk the cows you will have milk to drink and cream for your coffee; you will dine on potatoes, fresh fish or whatever other food a kind providence has allowed to come to the dwelling. On this visit we were treated to fresh beef, cabbage and black currant jam.
The local folks referred him to as “Uncle John” and in 1903 he attended the dedication of the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner. He became ill shortly after and died on May 7 at the age of 77. He is buried in Gardiner cemetery on Tinker’s Hill.
His nephew, Dan took over the business and on April 16, 1906 fire destroyed the hotel. Dan applied for permission to continue the business but requested to move it to a location closer to where a new road was being constructed. Unfortunately, permission was denied and the original lease was revoked that November. The saloon, which had escaped the fire that destroyed the hotel, was razed in the 1960’s.
Currently this area is being used by Xanterra Parks and Resorts for their stagecoach cookouts.
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
Avalanche Awareness Tips
With heavy snow in our area, avalanches are a possibility throughout the winter season. If you love winter recreation in West Yellowstone, taking a few simple precautions before you venture out can mean the difference between life and death.
Doug Chabot, Director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, says that groomed snowmobile and ski areas in town are safe, but once you venture off of these trails you may end up in avalanche-prone terrain. “Avalanche terrain is any steep, open slope with snow on it,” Chabot explains, “and there’s a lot of these around!”
So how can you be as safe as possible when riding, skiing, or even snowshoeing in our beautiful backcountry areas? Chabot provided some key tips:
- Check the avalanche report. This report can be found at http://www.mtavalanche.com/advisory and is updated frequently as weather changes. Many things can influence the potential for avalanches, including snowfall and temperature
- Hire a Guide. There is a selection of companies in the area that can not only rent out equipment, but can also offer guide service. Contact the West Yellowstone Chamber for information: (406)646-7701.
- Take an Avalanche Safety class. These classes can provide a wealth of information. If you plan on frequent winter backcountry trips, or just want to put your mind at ease for a specific trip, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has the class for you. They offer a FREE 1-hour Avalanche Awareness course, as well as more in-depth workshops complete with field components. You can find more information on upcoming classes and registration here.
- Always travel with a partner. If one of you does get injured or caught in an avalanche, having a partner can greatly increase your chances of survival. They will be able to help you on the spot or go get help, and you could do the same for them in the event of an emergency.
Whether you take a class/hire a guide or not, you and your partner(s) should always carry some crucial pieces of equipment, including:
- An avalanche transceiver. Each person in the party should carry a transceiver, so if one or more members of the group becomes separated the pulsed radio signal can assist in locating them. For more information on how transceivers work and how to to choose a transceiver, see this article from REI.
- A shovel. There are lightweight foldable and collapsible shovels designed specifically to be carried on or in a backpack for backcountry use.
- A probe. This is a long folding pole that looks similar to a tent pole. Once it assembled, it can be used, often in conjunction with an avalanche transceiver, tohelp locate a person that is buried under snow.
This equipment will help facilitate rescue if you or someone you’re skiing or riding with do become buried in an avalanche. All of the items above can be found at many outdoors stores as well as online at popular retailers such as amazon.
We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy our beautiful forests and mountains as much as possible, but always be sure to travel safe so you can venture out again and again.
Special thanks to Doug Chabot and the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center for the information they shared for this article and for their continuous work on avalanche awareness.
AUTHOR: MONIKA ROGERS
As soon as the snow arrives, visitors to West Yellowstone can enjoy Nordic skiing as a part of the complete winter experience. Beginners and experienced skiers alike can explore more than 50km of groomed trails in and around West Yellowstone from November to April each year, weather permitting.
Below, we break down the basics to help you get started with Nordic skiing on your next West Yellowstone adventure.
Why should I choose Nordic skiing?
Nordic skiing is a winter activity suitable for visitors of all ages and fitness levels. West Yellowstone offers easily accessible trails for both classic and skate skiing. Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, recommends that beginners try classic skiing first.
“Basically, if you can walk, you can classic ski,” said Hart.
Classic skiing incorporates a diagonal stride, an alternating forward motion of the legs and arms similar to walking or running. The familiarity of the stride can make classic skiing a more manageable method for beginners. It can also be a more stable option for newcomers who struggle with balance. In addition to working out the entire body, classic skiing is a low-impact activity that is easy on the joints.
Skate skiing incorporates a forward skating motion with the skis in a V-shape, which can be more challenging or tiring for beginners unaccustomed to the altitude. If skate skiing looks more fun, visitors are welcome to take a lesson or rent the gear and try it out on their own.
Where can I ski?
The accessibility of Nordic skiing in West Yellowstone makes it an appealing winter activity for visitors, especially for those with limited transportation options. Freeheel and Wheel, the local ski shop offering gear, rentals, and lessons, is walkable from any of the hotels in town. From there, its only a short trek to three beginner-friendly trails.
- Boundary Trail (Free): Dogs are welcome on this trail! Visitors can access the trailhead at the end of Boundary Street on the northern edge of West Yellowstone. The trail runs along the boundary of Yellowstone National Park toward Baker’s Hole campground. It is groomed for classic skiing on a need-to basis, usually once or twice a week.
- Riverside Trail (Free): This trail enters Yellowstone National Park from Boundary Street and offers skiers stunning views of the Madison River and Gallatin Mountain Range. Visitors might even catch a glimpse of the elk, bison, or moose that frequent the area. The Riverside Trail is also groomed for classic skiing as needed.
- Rendezvous Ski Trails ($8/day or $40/season): The Rendezvous Ski Trails make up West Yellowstone’s premier trail system. The trail system includes 40km of trails groomed daily for classic and skate skiing. The relatively flat terrain allows beginners to gain confidence while the gentle hills offer entertaining challenges. Visitors can purchase a day pass for $8 or a season pass for $40.
Additional trails can be found in Yellowstone National Park and north of town along Highway 191. Whether enjoying a leisurely ski or a challenging workout, beginners will be surrounded by spectacular winter scenery—regardless of the trail.
“What I like about our trail system, whether its the Rendezvous or another, is that you feel like it’s your own,” said Moira Dow of the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation. “There are so many kilometers and—just the way the trails are laid out—you feel like you have your own personal trail system.”
What will I need?
Beginners don’t need to worry about purchasing expensive equipment to take part in Nordic skiing. Freeheel and Wheel offers gear rentals (including skis, boots, and poles) for $10 an hour or $25 a day. The shop also offers private and group lessons for both classic and skate skiing ranging from $35 to $50 an hour.
“The easiest way to get started is to take a lesson,” recommended Dow. “Nordic skiing can be intimidating, but don’t be scared.”
What should I wear?
Since Nordic skiing is a full-body experience, beginners can become overheated if they overdress and work up a sweat.
“If you’re slightly cold when you start, that means you’re going to be just right,” said Hart.
Hart recommends that beginners layer like an onion—incorporating breathable wicking materials, base layers, and light shells. Wool socks, gloves, hats, and neck gaiters can also help skiers stay warm, but avoid overheating.
What if I fall?
Visitors new to Nordic skiing occasionally express concern about recovering from a fall and opt for snow shoes instead. Though it can initially be difficult for a beginner to return upright after falling on skis, Hart urges newcomers not to be intimidated.
“People do feel like they may have more control on snow shoes, but I’m always surprised at how we can usually talk people into skiing instead.”
The gentle glide and pace of Nordic skis impart an added level of enjoyment to an outdoor winter excursion. Beginners eager to explore the area may also be able to cover more distance on skis versus snow shoes.
West Yellowstone offers a number of Nordic ski events throughout the winter season. Beginners can take advantage of ski clinics and novice races during the following events to build their skill sets and gain confidence on the trails.
- Yellowstone Ski Festival (Week of Thanksgiving): Each November, the Yellowstone Ski Festival offers clinics and races for skiers of all levels. Beginners can participate in novice events, volunteer, and draw inspiration from the elite athletes and world-class racing.
- Free Ski Day: (January 8, 2017): Visit West Yellowstone in January to take advantage of Free Ski Day. Participants can ski the Rendezvous Trails for free and take part in a free, one-hour lesson for classic or skate skiing. Freeheel and Wheel also offers free gear rentals on a first come, first served basis.
- Taste of the Trails (February 25, 2017): This supported 5K race is open to skiers of all levels and offers four food and drink stations en route. Beginners have the opportunity to ski the Rendezvous Trails at their own pace and enjoy delicious fare along the way.
Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, West Yellowstone is a Nordic skier’s wonderland. Beginners can plan their trip around a particular event, schedule a lesson, or simply try it out on their own. With endless trails and beautiful scenery, Nordic skiing can be the perfect addition to your winter West Yellowstone adventure.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
Courtesy of West Yellowstone TBID
Sitting at the west entrance to the park, the charming and authentic community of West Yellowstone has truly earned its designation as one of the “11 Coolest Winter Places in America” (Budget Travel). The new year means new snow; with 150 inches of annual snowfall, there is more than enough for everything from snowball fights to backcountry excursions.
Winter in Yellowstone National Park is truly magical. Whether you travel through the park in a heated snowcoach, ride a snowmobile along a groomed trail, or go Nordic skiing through the forest —– you will be surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Shouldn’t 2017 be the year you take a winter vacation to Yellowstone? Start planning now to make sure you experience one of these upcoming events.
January 7, 2017: Spam Cup #2 Nordic Ski Race
Skiers of all ages and abilities are invited to compete in Freestyle 1k, 5k, or 10k races for the coveted custom-designed Spam trophy and bragging rights for a month! Taking place along the Rendezvous Ski Trails, day-of registration will be available at the Rendezvous Trailhead Building.
January 8, 2017: Free Ski & Try Biathlon Day
In honor of National Winter Trails Day, the Custer Gallatin National Forest will waive trail fees on the Rendezvous Trail System on January 8. WYSEF will be hosting free 1-hour cross-country ski tutorials at 10am. Freeheel & Wheel is offering free 2-hour equipment rentals. Altius Custom Firearms and WYSEF are hosting the Try-It Biathlon Demo at 12pm. Learn what it takes to ski & shoot! Pre-registration is not required.
January 8 & February 26, 2017: Biathlon Cup – Nordic Ski
A biathlon is a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country trail system with the total distance broken up by either two or four shooting rounds, half in prone position and the other half standing. All cross-country skiing techniques are permitted, and the biathlete carries the smallbore rifle. Novices are welcome and must attend the Novice Clinic.
January 13-15, 2017: NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament Qualifier
The qualifier – an ice fishing tournament – takes place on Sunday and is open to any two-person team. Teams range from locals to national level pros to teams just wanting to learn more about ice fishing. There is a registration fee for the tournament. Top teams earn prizes and cash payouts. The tournament is located on Hebgen Lake just outside of West Yellowstone. Kirkwood Resort & Marina is the location for the tournament starting point and Kid’s Ice Fishing Camp. Throughout the two days preceding the tournament, there are many educational opportunities which are free and open to the public.
January 14-15; Feb & March 4-5, 2017: Kids’N’Snow Weekend
Kids can try out a wide range of fun winter activities during these special weekends, like ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and much more. Kids’N’Snow takes the fear out of first-ever winter experiences, and people young and old can discover the true delight of winter activities.
January 14, 2017: Kids’ Ice Fishing Camp – West Yellowstone Hebgen Lake Ice Fishing Tournament
Ice Camp is a popular youth education program that is open to the public and free of charge. It includes in-class and on-ice fishing tutorials delivered by experienced, certified NAIFC Pro-Staff instructors. The curriculum promotes safety, conservation, and environmental stewardship. Two groups will begin at 11am and 11:45am, and all kids who participate will receive a complimentary ice rod and tackle.
February 25, 2017: Taste of the Trails
Taste of the Trails is designed to encourage skiers of all ages and abilities to try cross-country skiing in a simple and festive format. A 5km (3.1 mile) course will take skiers and snowshoers around the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Four feed stations are staffed by volunteers and will offer snacks and beverages to participating skiers. Skiers can casually stride from spot to spot, revel in the winter landscapes, refuel with friends, and explore the trails in a relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere.
March 4, 2017: Rendezvous Ski Race – Big Hair Band Theme
Are you ready to put a winter’s worth of training to the test while you enjoy the beauty of the Yellowstone region? You are invited to participate in the 38th annual Yellowstone Rendezvous Race on March 4th, 2017 in West Yellowstone, Montana. There are six different races to choose from depending on your age and ability: 2K, 5K, 10K, 25K classic, 25K, and 50K. The six races are run concurrently and skiers of all ages and abilities participate every year. The Rendezvous Race is the culmination of cross country ski racing in our region and, as the name implies, it is a reunion of old timers and new comers alike who have trained and skied on our trail system for years or who are skiing here for the first time. Run on the beautifully groomed, rolling terrain of the Rendezvous Ski Trails, there is no better way to celebrate the end of the winter season than to ski in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race!
March 10-12, 2017: Snowmobile EXPO, Powersports & Races
A terrific end and beginning for snowmobilers! The West Yellowstone Snowmobile EXPO March 10-12, 2017, will feature snowmobile races Friday and Saturday, plus the National Vintage Show. Exhibitors will be on hand with the newest machines and accessories, as well as demos. Snow bike racing returns on Sunday morning. Powersports joins the show with exciting events including the family-friendly SWOOP stunt team, Trials bikes performances, and we are excited to announce the only Razr flip performance in Montana by a rider from Butte! Saturday night will bring the high flying action along with UTV races. Nighttime activities include a “Funny-Money” Casino night, live entertainment and plenty of laughs. Plan now to attend!
March 17 & 18, 2017: Tour de Spam – Montana’s only Cross Country stage race AND night race
Friday night ski by moonlight, lantern light, and headlamps in the 3k Freestyle Sprint. Saturday morning is the 7.5k Classic Mass Start race. Stick around for the afternoon and test your legs in the 15k Freestyle Mass Start. Sign up for just one race or the whole series of low key, but challenging races. Prizes will be awarded to those who stick it out and race both days, and winners of all 3 races (top 3 male and female overall finishers).
West Yellowstone is the ideal hub for all your Yellowstone National Park adventures and offers a full range of lodging options from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large full-service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience winter in Yellowstone. Book your lodging now for the best selection and availability.
Flowers and trees blooming, bears venturing down from higher elevations, the bison “nursery” in full swing, longer days, and sunny afternoons that transpose to beautiful sunsets—- that is spring in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Spring travel to Yellowstone National Park offers visitors a unique and memorable experience and West Yellowstone is the perfect hub for all your adventures. Plan now so you don’t miss out on the unique adventures listed below.
- The heart of fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains, West Yellowstone is surrounded by some of the country’s top trout streams and some of the best float and deep water trout fishing on nearby Hebgen and Earthquake Lakes.
- Cycle-Only Days in Yellowstone National Park. The roads between the West Entrance at West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs will open as conditions allow from late March (generally the last Friday in March) through the third Thursday in April, depending on weather. The West gate does not start charging entrance fees until it re-opens for vehicle travel.
- Yellowstone Historic Center opens in mid-May. The Yellowstone Historic Center Museum, located in the Union Pacific Depot in West Yellowstone’s Historic District, aims to share the unique story of travel to and through Yellowstone National Park. The museum features exhibits on travel from the stage coach era, through the railroad heyday to the advent of the automobile and beyond, as well as exhibits on the heritage of the West Yellowstone area.
- The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center opens on Memorial Day and provides a panoramic view of the mountain that fell during an earthquake in 1959 and the resulting lake that was formed.
Other activities include scenic drives, wildlife watching and birding, hiking and much more. Sample itineraries are available here.
West Yellowstone offers a full range of lodging options, from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large, full- service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience spring and summer in Yellowstone. Book your lodging now for the best selection and availability.
West Yellowstone, MT January 14-15, 2017
On Saturday, January 14th, kids will have the unique opportunity to learn to ice fish for free! The ice fishing pros and equipment manufacturers will be in West Yellowstone that weekend for a NAIFC tournament. As part of the tournament, NAIFC (National Association of Ice Fishing) offers a special Ice Camp for kids and their parents.
Ice Camp is a popular industry-leading youth education program that is open to the public and free of charge. There will be two different starting times. The first group begins at 11:00 AM with classroom instruction and demonstration of ice fishing equipment, techniques, as well as safety, conservation, and environmental stewardship. Then everyone heads out onto the ice for fishing tutorials delivered by experienced, certified NAIFC Pro-Staff instructors. A second group will start in the classroom at 11:45, followed by the on-ice experience. A hot lunch will be served after on-ice demo’s and practice, between 12:30-1:30. Before leaving, all kids who participate will receive a complimentary ice rod and tackle. Make sure to dress warmly including waterproof footwear for this outside event.
Kirkwood Marina is located on Hebgen Lake, 18 miles from the junctions of Highways 101 and 287 north of West Yellowstone. For directions, call 406-646-7200 or go to westyellowstoneicefishing.com/directions
Winters in West Yellowstone are always exciting, but now fun with the family means even more activities during the Kids’N’Snow Weekends. Most activities during these weekends are free, although some have limited openings and require pre-registration to secure a spot.
In its fifth full year, the winter event series was created to offer an opportunity for all kids, both from our community and winter visitors, the chance to try new things in a safe and fun hands-on learning environment. And hopefully to develop lifelong healthy habits along the way.
So, what kind of activities can your child try, you ask? How about a snowshoe hike along the Riverside Trail in Yellowstone National Park with a Ranger? Or join a naturalist from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center for a free presentation with live raptors (birds, not the dinosaurs!). Children can also find animal tracks, ride an M120 snowmobile, dissect owl pellets, or make a s’more over an open fire.
For more information, the complete schedule and registration, please go to www.kidsnsnow.org.
Courtesy of Carolyn L Fox, carolynfoxphotos.com
Photography isn’t just snapping pictures of beautiful scenes, loved ones, or animals. It’s preserving memories of things you treasure. Through photography you can bring a person from their spot in the world to yours. You can show them things they’ll never see and open worlds to them that they’ll never experience. They can stand with you among the geological wonders of Yellowstone or watch as a grizzly bear nurses her cubs. That’s how powerful a photograph can be if the subject is captured correctly.
Great photographs are not necessarily the result of having the best equipment in the world. It’s how you use what you have. Anyone can take an incredible photograph by following some basic principles.
One thing that is absolutely crucial is knowing how to use your camera correctly, whether it’s an iPhone or an expensive camera. The time to figure that out is before you get to your destination, not when you’re trying to get that once in a lifetime photograph. Read your manual, take some practice shots and always check your camera settings before taking a picture. Make sure you’re using the correct shutter speed, aperture, ISO or Mode.
Decide on your subject. What do you want your viewer to see? What’s your story? Every picture should tell a story.
You’ll have a more interesting picture if you compose in thirds, placing your subject to the side of the frame and leaving some space in front of your subject, especially if the subject is a person or an animal. Placing the subject in the center normally creates a more static picture and that’s not what you want. Lines that lead towards your subject will help the viewer see what you want them to see and feel what you felt when you created the picture.
Try to take pictures in the early morning or in the evening when the light is nice instead of in the middle of the day when the sun is bright and the shadows harsh. Don’t put the camera away when it’s foggy. Those days are great for environmental and surreal pictures.
Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough and that you have enough light. Hold your camera steady and use a tripod if possible. Raise your ISO if needed. A little noise is better than a blurry picture. Capture moments!
Think about what story you want to tell, how you want to tell it and what you want the viewer to “see” when they view the image that you’ve created.
Ten Tips for Better Photography
1. Decide on a center of attention
2. Capture moments
3. Compose in thirds
4. Avoid camera shake
5. Check camera settings before taking a picture
6. Check the light source
7. Choose the appropriate aperture, shutter speed and ISO
8. Create a sense of depth
9. Use a simple background
10. Practice, practice, practice
For more helpful information and tips: http://bit.ly/2aggYDD
Any local will tell you that one of their favorite times of the year around West Yellowstone and Yellowstone Park is September and October during the Elk Mating Season (rut). This is when the males are vying for the females’ attention. During this time the herds can be found in the northern range, including Mammoth Hot Springs and along the Madison River.
We can assure you that listening to the sound of their bugle is a unique experience (for some, once in a lifetime). It starts as a low, long moan and grows into several high-pitched grunts. (Video here: http://bit.ly/2bT46Ed). You will often hear several bulls bugling back and forth across the valleys, almost like a synchronized concert. Sometimes the mating ritual will also lead to sparring matches between bulls to establish their dominance of the herds.
Yellowstone provides summer range for an estimated 10,000–20,000 elk, from 6–7 herds, most of which winter at lower elevations outside of the park. Males (bull) weigh about 700 pounds and are about 5 feet high at the shoulder; females (cow) weigh about 500 pounds and are slightly shorter; calves are about 30 pounds at birth. Bulls have antlers, which begin growing in the spring and usually drop in March or April of the next year. Calves are born in May to late June, with spots like their smaller deer cousins.
Local tip: Elk seem docile, but they can move quickly. When threatened they will grunt and posture. If the threat persists they can react with their antlers or by kicking – they have been known to head butt a vehicle or two, leaving dents. Please obey wildlife safety rules by staying at least 25 yards or more from the animals, especially those with young.
For more information about West Yellowstone in the fall: http://bit.ly/1OQ6IlZ
Please Come Prepared
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY – At 8 a.m. Thursday, December 15, Yellowstone National Park roads will open to the public for motorized oversnow travel. Winter is here!
Visitors will be able to travel the park’s interior roads on commercially-guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches from the North, West, and South Entrances. Visitors who have proper permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22.
The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, Montana, is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year.
Are you planning a winter trip to the park? Weather is extremely unpredictable and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Please come prepared. Carry personal emergency survival equipment and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.
Most stores, restaurants, campgrounds, and lodges are closed during winter. The following list highlights when winter visitor services will open:
- December 15 – Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, Geyser Grill, and Bear Den Gift Shop (includes the ski shop)
- December 16 – Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and Obsidian Dining Room
Mammoth Hot Springs
- December 16 – Terrace Grill, Ski Shop
- Open Year-Round – Albright Visitor Center, Yellowstone General Store, 24-hour gasoline pumps, medical clinic, campground, and post office
- Open Year-Round – 24-hour gasoline pumps
Additionally, a series of warming huts throughout the park provide shelter. Some huts are staffed during business hours and food, restrooms, and water is available.
– www.nps.gov/yell –
About the National Park Service: Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of America’s more than 400 national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, we safeguard these special places and share their stories millions of people every year. Learn more at www.nps.gov.
*Order by October 31, 2016 for the best rate
Prepaid trail passes will be available for the Yellowstone Ski Festival from Oct. 1-31, 2016. Passes are valid from November 1-30, 2016. Passes can be purchased through the mail or online.
For coaches, clubs, and teams-
Discounted passes for the month of November are available now. Regularly $55 each, these passes can be purchased by college, high school and club coaches for $45 each. Passes must be paid for by check and postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to qualify for the special rate.
To qualify for this incentive, coaches must send the PreSeason Ski Pass Form containing the following information:
1) A complete list of athletes attending the Yellowstone Ski Festival
2) The exact name of the lodging establishment you will be staying in while in West Yellowstone
3) Your arrival date
4) Contact info including email and phone number
5) One check for all your ski passes, postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to:
The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
ATTN: Yellowstone Ski Festival Coordinator
PO Box 458
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Trail passes will be delivered to the front desk of your hotel prior to your arrival. Other options for pick-up are listed on the form. Please read carefully. There will be one package of passes delivered and coaches are responsible for distributing the passes to their teams. Please let your team members know that they will have to get their pass directly from you. Prepaid passes for the Rendezvous Ski Trails are non-refundable.
For individual skiers-
Discounted passes for the month of November are available now. Regularly $55 each, these passes can be purchased by skiers and families for $45 each. Passes must be paid for by check and postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to qualify for this special rate.
To qualify for this incentive, skiers must send the following:
1) A complete list of skiers in your group attending the Yellowstone Ski Festival
2) One check for their ski passes postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to:
The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
ATTN: Yellowstone Ski Festival Coordinator
PO Box 458
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
For groups of 5 or more, trail passes will be delivered to your place of lodging, if within the town of West Yellowstone. Passes will be at the lodging facility no later than Sunday, November 20.
All other passes will be available for pick up at one of the designated locations listed on the form. If you will be arriving before these times, please email info@SkiRunBikeMT.com to make arrangements.
Prepaid passes for the Rendezvous Ski Trails are non-refundable.
Passes may be purchased online (for a small processing fee) at http://yellowstoneskifestival.athlete360.com/
For more information on the Yellowstone Ski Festival, please visit www.SkiRunBikeMT.com