This gateway town is erupting with outdoor experiences

written by Tony Camper

Old Faithful geyser and its surrounding 2.2 million acres became the United States’ first national park in 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law. Largely in Wyoming, its western boundary and gateway is the tiny town in southern Montana, West Yellowstone.

Nordic skiers know it for its hospitality during regional races. Naturalists and adventurers know it for its basecamp amenities while they explore the region. Everyone should know West Yellowstone for the opportunities it presents.

In late spring and into the summer, snow recedes leaving hearty trails to hike, singletrack to ride and rivers to fish. If you enjoy all of these, you’re in for an experience you won’t soon forget.

When it comes to visiting Yellowstone, we recommend beginning with a guide or tour service. There is an overwhelming amount of territory and history to consume, and you won’t want to gorge and leave yourself feeling none the better. The Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour takes a full day as you encounter Old Faithful Geyser, hotsprings, buffalo, bears, the Continental Divide and waterfalls. Let your guides and minds take you back 11,000 years, when Native Americans were learning lessons of the wild as they made this area their home. West Yellowstone offers a number of bus or van guided services that can be customized for your needs.

In town, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center opened in 1993 as a vehicle to save bears that were removed from the wild because of their human interaction, which would otherwise be euthanized. Since then, the center has grown to include wolves, birds of prey and otters. This is a great option if you’re traveling with young children who won’t fare as well on a long van tour.

At the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, visitors can get close and learn about the plight of these animals.

Of course, Montana is known for its trails for hiking and running and its pristine rivers for fly-fishing. One rite of passage is to mountain bike or hike the CDT Targhee Pass. In all, it’s a 14-mile, 4,000-foot climb, but worth the views. Choose a bluebird day! For a more relaxing hike, try a portion of the 13.7-mile out and back Teepee Creek Road. It gains only 1,550 feet over that length and offers majestic views as well.

Fly-fishing on the Yellowstone River and others in the area is as good as it gets.

Just as with the abundance of things to do and know about Yellowstone, likewise are the many rivers around West Yellowstone. It’s no secret that this is bucket-list lust for fly-fishers. In spring and fall, rivers teem with lake-run Brown and Rainbow Trout. The four pinup rivers are the Madison, the Yellowstone, the Gallatin and Firehole. West Yellowstone’s year-round population includes those who came to fish and never left, launching guide services, outfitters and fly shops—Big Sky Anglers, West Yellowstone Guides, Jacklin’s Fly Shop and Arrick’s Fly Shop to name just a few.

It’s not hard to eat well in the small town of West Yellowstone. After coming back from a hella ride, run or hike, stop in a Firehole Bar-B-Que Company for a full rack of house-smoked ribs, brisket or pork. Want something a little more in proportion, head next door to the Taqueria Malverde food truck on Firehole Ave. Or kick back a Bullwinkle Saloon & Eatery for soups, salads, wild mushroom pasta or elk ravioli.

Book glamp accommodations at Under Canvas West Yellowstone and relax into the night below the big sky of Montana on the edge of American history.

The tent resort, Under Canvas, is a great way to experience the West.

Nordic skiers know it for its hospitality during regional races. Naturalists and adventurers know it for its basecamp amenities while they explore the region. Everyone should know West Yellowstone for the opportunities it presents.


Bullwinkle’s Saloon & Eatery

Firehole Bar-B-Que Company

Taqueria Malverde, a food truck on Firehole Ave.


1872 Inn

Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone

Under Canvas West Yellowstone


Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Hike, bike and run nearby trails

Yellowstone Lower Loop Tours (choose from many)

Published by
1859 Oregon's Magazine

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