Biking—You’d think Yellowstone would be a primo spot for road cycling, what with its hundreds of miles of paved roads through some of the country’s most spectacular country. But while bikes are allowed on all public roads, cycling here isn’t exactly a Sunday cruise. Roads tend to be narrow and twisty, and often lack a shoulder. Traffic can be heavy. Count on dealing with enormous RVs and trailers if you go. Still, well-prepared cyclists can have a great time; make sure to ride cautiously and use reflectors and lights for visibility.
The happy exception to the status quo here is during early spring (typically late Mar and early Apr) and fall (typically Nov), when the park opens roads to cyclists before and after cars are allowed. You’ll have the pavement to yourself, but the weather can be brutally cold these times of the year.
Mountain bikers have better luck. Though you can’t bike on most backcountry trails, a handful of old dirt or gravel roads are open to cycling. Blacktail Plateau Drive, a 6-mile scenic detour near Tower, allows two-way bike traffic, as does the Old Gardiner Road near Mammoth. Those with quads of steel can pedal 3 miles uphill to the Mount Washburn summit via Chittenden Road or circle Bunsen Peak on the 6-mile Bunsen Peak Road. Fountain Freight Road follows Fairy Creek near Midway Geyser Basin for 5.5 miles and makes the trip to Fairy Falls much faster, and cyclists can also zip along the Firehole River most of the way to Lone Star Geyser.
Bike rentals are available inside the park at Old Faithful Snow Lodge (www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com; tel. 307/344-7311) for $40 per day and in the gateway town of West Yellowstone at Free Heel and Wheel (www.freeheelandwheel.com; tel. 406/646-7744) for $35 to $40 per day.
Boating—Powerboats are permitted on most of Yellowstone Lake (which has the most services and panoramic views) and on Lewis Lake. Park concessionaire Xanterra rents motorboats out of Bridge Bay Marina: An 18-foot motorboat will run you $59/hour.
Canoeists and kayakers can paddle on these lakes and most other park lakes; the Lewis River Channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes is the only river that’s open to paddling. Many boat-only campsites along Yellowstone and Shoshone Lakes enable fantastic multiday trips, but be aware that high winds and very cold water can make paddling dangerous. Both motorized and nonmotorized boaters need permits, which can be obtained at the Snake River Ranger Station, Grant Village Backcountry Office, and Bridge Bay Ranger Station ($5/week for nonmotorized and $10/week for motorized), plus a free inspection for aquatic invasives.
Fishing—Seven varieties of game fish live in the parks: cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, lake trout, Arctic grayling, and mountain whitefish. Of the trout, only the cutthroats are native, and they are being pressured in the big lake by the larger lake trout. As a result, you must release every cutthroat caught anywhere in Yellowstone, as well as the native Arctic grayling and mountain whitefish. And you must keep or kill every single lake trout, as well as all rainbow and brook trout and cutthroat/rainbow hybrids in the Lamar River drainage. In some waterways, you’re also required to release some non-native species, too: Check the park’s Fishing Regulations guide carefully (link available at www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishing.htm).
The Yellowstone season opens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and ends on the first Sunday in November. Yellowstone Lake’s tributaries are closed until July 15 to avoid conflicts between humans and grizzly bears, both of which are attracted to spawning trout.
Many fine anglers come to Yellowstone, and they are well informed about which seasons are best on which stretches of river. In June, try the Yellowstone River downstream of Yellowstone Lake, where the cutthroat trout spawn. Fish the Madison River near the west entrance in July, and fish again in late fall for rainbow and some brown trout. In late summer, you can try to hook the cutthroats that thin out by September on the Lamar River, in the park’s beautiful northeast corner.
Fishing on Yellowstone Lake was popular until recent years, when regulations designed to bring back the waning population of cutthroat trout began to send some of the trolling powerboats elsewhere. Certain areas of the lake, such as the southeast arm, are closed to motorized boats; this makes the Yellowstone River inlet a lovely area to canoe, camp, and fish.
You can fish the Yellowstone River below the Grand Canyon by hiking down into Seven Mile Hole, a great place to cast (not much vegetation to snag on) for cutthroat trout from July to September. You’ll have the best luck around Sulphur Creek. Other good fishing stretches include the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers, which merge to form the Madison River on the park’s west side, and the 3-mile Lewis River Channel between Shoshone and Lewis lakes during the fall spawning run of brown trout.
There is access on the Madison River for anglers with disabilities, 3 1/2 miles west of Madison Junction at the Haynes Overlook, where you’ll find an accessible fishing platform over the river’s edge along 70 feet of the bank.
Permits—Park permits are required for Yellowstone anglers ages 16 and older; the permit costs $18 for 3 days, $25 for 7 days, and $40 for the season. Children 15 and under don’t need a permit if they are fishing with an adult who has one, but they need to pick up a free permit if they’re fishing without supervision. Permits are available at any ranger station or visitor center, Yellowstone General Store, and most fishing shops in the gateways.
Supplies & Fishing Guides—If you need supplies or a guide in Gardiner, stop at Parks’ Fly Shop, 202 Second St. South (www.parksflyshop.com; tel. 406/848-7314). In West Yellowstone, check Jacklin’s Fly Shop, 105 Yellowstone Ave. (www.jacklinsflyshop.com; tel. 406/646-7336). Full-day trips typically cost about $525 for two people in high summer.
Several Jackson, Wyoming–based fishing guides also lead trips into Yellowstone.
Horseback Riding—You can BYO horse (or llama, or mule) to the park for day rides or horse-packing trips; all overnight outings require a backcountry permit. If you’re more in the market for a catered day ride, concessionaire Xanterra (www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com; tel. 307/344-7311) offers mellow, 1- and 2-hour horseback trips out of Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt on well-mannered horses ($50 or $73 for riders ages 8 and up).
Many outfitters have permits to run horse-packing trips to a variety of destinations inside the park (go to www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm for a full list). Saddling up with one of them typically means horses, gear, meals, camping equipment, and permits are all included. Prices vary widely according to trip length and number of people, so contact individual outfitters for your options.
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.