advertisement
At the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

West Yellowstone has a tiny year-round population, but it bustles with travelers most of the year. It sprouted up around the Union Pacific Railroad’s Yellowstone Special line starting in 1907. Though much of the town is hotels, souvenir shops, and overpriced restaurants, Yellowstone’s western gateway also offers excellent access to outdoor pursuits both inside and outside the park. A few historic buildings from the early 20th century remain in town, and a surprisingly good wildlife park is probably the top in-town attraction. 

Essentials

Getting There: For information on air service and car rentals, see “Getting There & Getting Around,” in chapter 10. West Yellowstone is 90 miles from Bozeman via US 191 and 108 miles from Idaho Falls via US 20.

Visitor Information: Stop by or contact the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, 30 Yellowstone Ave. (P.O. Box 458), West Yellowstone, MT 59758 (406/646-7701; www.destinationyellowstone.com).

Getting Outside

Just a few blocks from Yellowstone’s west entrance, West Yellowstone is also an easy drive from the Caribou-Targhee and Gallatin National Forests and all the outdoor opportunities therein. To the north, the Madison Range and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness offer fantastic hiking trails, and nearby Hebgen Lake hosts paddlers, sailors, boaters, and swimmers. Fly-fishing is huge here, thanks to the trout-rich waters of the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Henrys Fork of the Snake Rivers. When the snow flies, West Yellowstone transforms into a mecca for snowmobiling and snowcoach tours, and the Rendezvous Trail system draws devoted Nordic skiers.

Seeing the Sights

History buffs will get a kick out of the free, self-guided Historic Walking Tour, which guides you past hotels and railroad structures from the early 1900s (a striking number of which burned down at some point). Pick up a map and guide at the Chamber of Commerce. 

 
Where to Stay

As with in-park lodging, the smartest travelers book rooms well ahead of time—especially in high summer and around the holidays. Things quiet down in the spring and fall, but the popularity of the area’s snowmobile trails make snowy winters quite lively. West Yellowstone is the closest gateway town to the park with a wide variety of lodging options (Cody, Wyoming, also has quite a few, but it’s 50 miles from the park entrance), ranging from basic motels to swanky modern lodges to cabins and guest ranches. 

Most hotels in town are independents, but a few chains have a presence. You can grab a double at Days Inn, 301 Madison Ave. (406/646-7656; www.wyndhamhotels.com), for $278 in summer. Rates are only slightly lower at the Super 8 Motel, 1545 Targhee Pass Hwy. 20 (406/646-9584; www.wyndhamhotels.com), where doubles go for $259. Holiday Inn is a step up in quality, with rooms for $330 to $381. Kelly Inn, 104 S. Canyon (406/646-4544; www.yellowstonekellyinn.com), is luxuriously modern, with rooms for $320 to $360. There are also two Best Western affiliates, with double rooms ranging from $270 to $290 in summer. Call 800/780-7234 or check www.bestwestern.com for details.

For something more unique, try Alpine Motel, 120 Madison Ave. (406/646-7544; www.alpinemotelwestyellowstone.com), an affordable and comfortable spot right downtown, with rooms from $99 to $179. The 1912 Madison Hotel, 139 Yellowstone Ave. (406/646-7745; www.madisonhotelmotel.com), one-time host to the likes of Clark Gable and Herbert Hoover, stands out with its historic lodge and motel rooms ($74–$149) and hostel bunk rooms ($42–$45). Moose Creek Cabins, 220 Firehole Ave. (406/646-9546; www.moosecreekinn.com), is a step up with its cabin-style motel rooms and kitchenette cabins for $199 to $299. 

Where to Eat

Morning pick-me-up? You’ll find two of the best in unusual places. Head to the Mocha Mammas coffee bar inside the Free Heel and Wheel bike/ski shop, 33 Yellowstone Ave. (406/646-7744; www.freeheelandwheel.com), for espresso and smoothies, or to Book Peddler in Canyon Square ([tel] 406/646-9358) for delicious sandwiches and salads along with the usual caffeine. For a quick bite, try one of the town’s two taco buses Taqueria Las Palmitas at 21 N. Canyon St. (406/640-1822), or Taqueria Malverde, 132 Firehole Ave. (208/403-1157). 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.