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20 Fun & Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone, Montana

20 Fun & Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone, Montana

Are you trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life? If so, you will love West Yellowstone and its beautiful natural surroundings.

The most popular entrance to the renowned Yellowstone National Park is the lively, small town of West Yellowstone, which is a year-round hotspot for outdoor activity enthusiasts. 

In the wintertime, West Yellowstone offers activities like touring snowcoaches, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Whereas in the summertime, you can enjoy activities like mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, river rafting, and more. Furthermore, viewing wildlife is an exciting, adventurous activity available all year long. 

Yellowstone Lake Scenery

West Yellowstone provides a lot more than just outdoor activities. There are many stores, museums, restaurants, and theaters throughout the city.

If you want to learn more about the best things to do in West Yellowstone, check out the post below and make the most of your trip! 

Holiday Inn West Yellowstone
1. Holiday Inn West Yellowstone, an IHG Hotel Top Recommendation

With free shuttles to and from the airport, it's easy to get to and from the hotel. The on-site dining and free Wi-Fi in all guest rooms are just some of the great amenities offered by this pet-friendly hotel. An indoor pool and hot tub are perfect for relaxing after a long day of exploring the park. The on-site gym features a variety of cardio machines and a mounted TV, so you can stay fit while on vacation. And when it's time to head home, the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone gift shop has everything you need to remember your trip.

Elkhorn Cabins and Inn
2. Elkhorn Cabins and Inn

This hotel offers convenient accommodations in West Yellowstone. It's less than 5 minutes' drive from the West Entrance to the park. With Yellowstone Historic Center Museum just a 7-minute walk away, and the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center only 9 minutes' you can easily walk to these locations. Plus, after a long day of exploring, you can relax in your comfortable room, complete with a desk, flat-screen TV, and private bathroom.

Gray Wolf Inn Suites
3. Gray Wolf Inn & Suites

This hotel is right next to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, making it easy to explore all that this area has to offer. Gray Wolf Inn & Suites have all the amenities you need to relax and enjoy your stay, including an indoor heated pool, hot tub and sauna. All of the guest rooms come with free Wi-Fi so you can stay connected even while you're on vacation.

Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone in Winter

Regardless of the temperature outside, there is always something to do in and around West Yellowstone, Montana. If you are wondering what to do in West Yellowstone, here are the top things to do in West Yellowstone during the winter season:

1. Cross-Country Skiing

Skiing during winter

Cross-country skiers love West Yellowstone because of the area’s snowy winters. Even though it does not offer mountain skiing, West Yellowstone is still one of the favorite destinations among cross-country skiers. It is the ideal location for cross-country skiers to experience a winter wonderland because it has accessible tracks spanning more than 30 miles.

The Rendezvous Ski Trails is the best location for skiers of all skill levels. Everybody can find a trail at Rendezvous. 

These trails are known as a “Nordic Skier’s Dream,” as it features groomed trails through meadows, pine trees, and plenty of picturesque mountain views.

In order to make skiers of all skill levels feel welcome and a part of a much bigger community, the Rendezvous Trails also provide a beginner’s loop trail and hosts races every year in November.

The West Entrance is one of the best places to begin your skiing adventure in Yellowstone National Park. 

You can also explore popular terrains in the area, including the Canyon Area Ski Trails, Mammoth Area Ski Trails, and Old Faithful Area Ski Trails. Skiers will have the West Yellowstone attractions to themselves since the park is closed to vehicles during the winter season.

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World

2. Go on a Snowmobile Adventure

Snowmobiling

In the winter, West Yellowstone is a magnet for snowmobilers. Along with easy access to snowmobile-friendly routes in Yellowstone National Park, the area’s national forests also offer hundreds of miles of groomed trails. 

Everyone can enjoy the winter rush in West Yellowstone, all thanks to the community’s several snowmobile outfitters and rental businesses.

The West Entrance to Yellowstone is closed to automobile traffic during the winter season. However, snowmobiles are allowed here to explore at their leisure. 

Riders can also experience an incredible guided tour of snow-covered Yellowstone landmarks and geysers like Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. 

You can find excellent trails throughout the park. Several hundred miles of trails are located in the national forests surrounding West Yellowstone, and are reachable from the city. The Madison Arm Loop, Big Sky Trail, and Mount Two Top Trail are a few well-traveled paths.

You can book a guided private tour and spend your day snowmobiling from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful to make the most of your trip.

3. Go Shopping for Souvenirs

Eagle's Store
image by jesse o/TripAdvisor

Without purchasing some souvenirs to commemorate your vacation, no trip to Yellowstone National Park is complete. Fortunately, West Yellowstone has a wide variety of stores. West Park Mall and Eagle’s Store are two popular shopping spots.

The small business of Eagle’s Store offers cowboy boots, t-shirts, trinkets, and other items. This gift shop also sells some of the best huckleberry ice cream, which you can enjoy while shopping in West Yellowstone for your favorite souvenirs.

The West Park Mall is a large shopping center with several souvenir shops. You will have plenty of options to choose from, making this the ideal place to shop!

4. Visit the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre to Watch a Movie

Even though many visitors to West Yellowstone come for the adventure and to see places like the Grand Canyon, Grand Prismatic, and the Old Faithful, there are times when some might just want to relax and watch a movie. 

The Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre is the best spot for adults and kids to unwind, regardless of the weather.

Yellowstone’s Giant Screen is one of only two officially recognized big screens in 12 states. The cinema offers an IMAX experience and is equipped with premium surround sound.

This theatre provides an incredible experience that rivals that of the neighboring city, Bozeman, and has one of the biggest screens in the state at six-stories tall.

Blockbuster movies and local films about the Yellowstone region can be seen on The Giant Screen daily. Additionally, there is a lobby gift store where guests can purchase popcorn and other snacks to get the best movie experience. 

See Related: How To Travel Full Time

5. Enjoy a Meal at a Local Restaurant

Firehole Bar-B-Que Restuarant
image by Scott L/TripAdvisor

The tourism industry is the lifeblood of West Yellowstone, Montana. Due to its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, the local economy of West Yellowstone is highly dependent on the influx of tourists. And as so, visitors have various bakeries, local eateries, and bars to select from in West Yellowstone.

In southwest Montana, breakfast is considered an important meal and is vital before beginning a full day of sightseeing in the greater Yellowstone region. For coffee, pastries, and sandwiches to go, locals prefer Ernie’s Bakery and Deli.

This restaurant offers the best pastries and sandwiches in the area, prepared using French bread, such as baguettes and croissants. Since it has been operated locally for more than 30 years, Ernie’s is the ideal destination to pick up breakfast and lunch.

Firehole Bar-B-Que serves some of the best BBQ in the West for dinner using fresh meats delivered every day. Even when they have busy nights, it is easy to get meals at Firehole, as it is both a drive-thru and a sit-down location.

You can visit the Slippery Otter Pub, one of West Yellowstone’s top dive pubs, for late-night entertainment, bar cuisine, and drinks to wash down your barbecue.

The main West Yellowstone eateries provide traditional American food, including pancakes, steak, and burgers. However, they serve burgers prepared from local meats like grass-fed cows, bison, and elk. As these types of meats are a common component of the diet in Montana and are frequently prepared fresh by local hunters in Montana homes, it is pretty common and encouraged to consume them.

See Related: A 5-Day Yellowstone Itinerary You’ll Want to Copy

6. Shooting at Yellowstone Big Gun Fun

Yellowstone Big Gun Fun Building
image by Todd Beck/TripAdvisor

You might want to try something different when visiting West Yellowstone, like shooting a gun. Fortunately, West Yellowstone has a shooting range called Big Gun Fun. Here, visitors can try out a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 and a Glock.

Always keep in mind that it is not similar to just practicing your aim at a shooting range. This location serves more as a tourist attraction where guests can experience shooting a gun.

Yellowstone Big Gun Fun’s crew offers several instructions for beginners to ensure their experience is both safe and fun.

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7. Meet the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center’s Residents

Brown Bear

West Yellowstone’s Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a must-see wildlife attraction. There are several bears and two to three wolf packs at this non-profit facility. 

The animals kept here aren’t for captivity display but are those that would struggle to survive in the wild. Both animals are kept apart yet in a climate-controlled, open environment, helping them live in surroundings similar to the wild.

The facility remains open every day from 9 am to 4 pm. Enthusiasts can either stop and watch wolves and grizzly bears from the outside or, to get a more intimate experience, they can visit the river otter display, Birds of Prey show, and Naturalist Cabin on site.

The facility also provides a 30-minute Kid’s Keeper demonstration where young children can learn about bears and set out food for them. All in all, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is the best option for a fun-filled family day in West Yellowstone.

8. Explore Yellowstone National Park by Snowcoach Tour

Yellowstone Snowcoach

You can’t go on a winter vacation to Yellowstone National Park without taking an exciting and interesting Snowcoach Tour! 

Riding a snowcoach is one of the best ways to access Yellowstone in the winter. It allows you to relax and take in the breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Most snowcoaches in West Yellowstone offer excellent heaters and large windows to enjoy the stunning view in comfort.

You can book a snowcoach tour of the Grand Canyon and the Old Faithful. Furthermore, there are also options for private and customized tours.

In the winter, there are daily snowcoach tours that leave from West Yellowstone, Montana, or Gardiner, Montana.

9. Grab a Sled

Kid Sledding

Sledding is one of the most fun winter activities for both children and adults. So grab a sled and spend your day zooming down hills!

You can utilize the fantastic sledding hill at West Yellowstone’s City Park or venture outside into the National Forest to look for the perfect spot.

Check out Kids N’ Snow in West Yellowstone if you have kids. Apart from sledding, this show allows kids to practice other activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in a secure setting with local experts.

Overall, the Kids N’ Snow show offers plenty of entertaining activities that your kids will love.

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10. Go Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing

Whether you are a seasoned pro or are just learning how to ice fish, the Yellowstone region is the ideal place to carry your spud bar and catch a trout.

Hebgen Lake is one of the best fishing locations close to West Yellowstone. It has at least a foot of solid ice during the winter and a good population of gulpers and trout.

Kirkwood Resort and Marina are well-liked spots to access the lake for ice fishing. These places offer convenient parking that allows you to walk out onto the lake right away. If you’ve never gone ice fishing before, the friendly locals will help you.

Although ice fishing may take a lot more patience and effort than other types of fishing, Hebgen Lake has plenty of fish, making it easier for you to catch something! 

You will find brown and rainbow trout in large quantities in the lake. The sizes range from 14 to 18 inches on average, but sizes above 20 inches are not unusual. It is an easy trip with no trekking required unless you choose to venture further away.

11. Get Some Exercise With Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is another well-known winter excursion in Yellowstone. Although it may sound a little intimidating, snowshoeing is one of the best winter activities. So if you’ve never tried snowshoeing before, give it a go!

Snowshoeing across Yellowstone will allow you to see the scenery more freely, even in places where the snow is deep. Since snowshoeing is a common activity in Yellowstone, several park trails have been groomed specifically for it. As a result, you will see other people engaged in the same activity.

Snowshoeing is a great way to explore thermal zones, including the areas near Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin.

The following trails are excellent choices for beginners who want to explore Yellowstone in snowshoes:

  • Tower Fall Ski Trail (5 miles)
  • Black Sand Basin Ski Trail (4 miles)
  • Bannock Ski Trail (2 miles)
  • Observation Point Loop Snowshoe Trail (2 miles)
  • Upper Terrace Loop (1.5 miles)
  • Old Canyon Bridge Ski Trail (1 mile)

If you don’t want to bring your own pair, you can rent snowshoes at the park. The Bear Den Ski Shop (Old Faithful) or Mammoth Hot Springs are the ideal spots to rent snowshoes.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Billings, Montana

12. Wildlife Viewing

Fox in Yellowstone

The animals in Yellowstone behave very differently in the winter than in other seasons. Compared to summer, winter is when you’re more likely to see wildlife, and it is a wonderful opportunity to watch them endure some of the harshest conditions. In Yellowstone’s winter, only the strongest live!

Wolf viewing is popular in the winter as wolves are rarely seen in the summer and thrive during winter, while elk, bison, and other species battle to survive the severe temperatures. Furthermore, it is an exhilarating experience to witness a pack of wolves hunt.

While some herds of bison endure the below-freezing temperatures in valleys and use their enormous heads to push through thick snow to locate grasses hidden underneath, other herds gather in geyser basins to stay warm and discover exposed vegetation.

Elk rule the icy landscape and bugle to break the stillness of the land. Otters play and dance in the snow. You may find trumpeter swans scattered throughout the partially frozen rivers. Additionally, you might even come across a moose or two.

In Yellowstone, the Madison Valley, Hayden Valley, and Lamar Valley are some of the best locations to see wildlife throughout the winter. 

If the weather conditions are right, you can reach Lamar Valley by car. On the other hand, Madison Valley and Hayden Valley can only be reached by over-snow travel. 

When visiting these places, do not forget to keep your spotting scope or binoculars with you so you can see wildlife up close.

In Yellowstone, wintertime offers some of the best wildlife views in the entire world. Get a private Yellowstone tour to iconic sites and wildlife and maximize your experience to the fullest.

See Related: Amazing Month-Long Vacation Ideas

Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone in Summer

The best time to explore Yellowstone National Park and its surroundings is the summer season. Here are some fun things to do in West Yellowstone in the summertime. Let’s check them out!

13. Enjoy a Live Show at the Playmill Theatre

Playmill Theatre Building
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Catching a show at the Playmill Theatre is one of the most enjoyable West Yellowstone activities. The facility is more than 55 years old and close to the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center.

Shows run here from May to September each year. The Playmill Theatre places a strong emphasis on delivering a personalized experience by welcoming and directing each visitor appropriately to their seat.

Every single show here focuses on family-friendly entertainment, so you are welcome to come and see the show even if your children are with you.

Playmill Theatre also organizes a five-day summer camp in June for children aged between 14 and 18 years. Furthermore, ticket prices depend on the seat you choose.

See Related: Best Spring Break Destinations for Families

14. Watch the Wild West Rodeo and Cheer on the Cowboys and Cowgirls

Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo
image by peasedm/TripAdvisor

The Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo, one of Montana’s favorite small-town events, is held in West Yellowstone, which is also home to wildlife like bears. From mid-June to the end of August, the rodeo takes place every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The rodeo, which is four miles from West Yellowstone, Montana, on Highway 20, starts at 8 pm and immerses spectators in the lifestyle of the Old Wild West. The rodeo features local cowboys and cowgirls roping calves, competing in barrel races, and riding broncos and bulls, in addition to horseback riding.

No matter how many rodeos someone has already attended, the rodeo is for both novices and professionals, making everyone’s trip enjoyable. Since its inception in 1999, the rodeo has remained one of West Yellowstone’s most well-attended and famous events.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Montana

15. Participate in a Zipline Adventure

Zipline Adventure Park
image by Management/TripAdvisor

The Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park is a family-friendly, adrenaline-filled aerial adventure. Even the most grumpy teenagers get entertained by this attraction, which features a zipline, a ropes course, and a rafting adventure.

The park’s ziplines and outdoor obstacle course are the most notable features. Visitors can swing, climb, fly, and shimmy through Montana’s big sky, which is full of aerial challenges and adventures. Kids love this location because the ropes course is appropriate for children as young as four.

However, this park has more to offer than just aerial adventures. The park also provides rafting adventures during the summer. Families can take rafting trips down the Gallatin River’s rapids while being encircled by the majestic wilderness of Gallatin Canyon. These rafting trips are organized by Geyser Whitewater Expeditions.

Overall, the Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park is ideal for an exhilarating day in West Yellowstone because it offers the chance to see wildlife and experience family-friendly entertainment.

See Related: Best Vacations for a Group of Friends

16. Visit the Museum of the Yellowstone

Museum of the Yellowstone Building
image by Dietmar Rabich is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Museum of the Yellowstone, situated at the park’s west entrance, is a perfect place to spend the day learning about the park, the history of the west, and the greater Yellowstone region.

This museum is run by the Yellowstone Historic Center and tells us about the background of travel to and within Yellowstone National Park.  Furthermore, the museum has interactive exhibits showcasing different modes of transportation and their influence on the area, from early voyagers on horseback to the popular yellow stagecoaches.

They also show films about the transport system in Yellowstone and the region’s geological history, such as the 1959 earthquake around Hebgen Lake that blocked the Madison River and formed Earthquake Lake.

You can also take a walking tour of West Yellowstone’s historic sites and the former Union Pacific train depot, offered by the Museum of Yellowstone. Additionally, it provides an exciting way to learn about the background and setting of the geyser-filled park.

17. Make a Visit to the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center

Earthquake Lake Scenery

In 1959, an earthquake of 7.3 magnitudes caused a landslide in Madison River near Hebgen Lake. As a result, 28 people died of the chaos in the area, although certain newspaper outlets at the time reported that number to be in the 50 – 60 range.

The landslide formed a brand-new natural body in an instant, recognized as Earthquake Lake or Quake Lake today. The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center provides insightful information about the 1959 incident and the local geological setting. 

There are 2,400 square feet of indoor exhibit space in the visitor center. A functioning seismograph and many interpretive illustrations about the 1959 earthquake are among the items on display.

The structure provides a beautiful view of Earthquake Lake and the surrounding mountain range. You can get the best view from the short outside trails of the visitor center’s grounds. You will also find memorial plaques for the 28 earthquake victims along these hiking trails.

18. Experience Fly Fishing at Blue Ribbon Waterways

Fishing

In Montana, West Yellowstone is the best place to experience fly fishing. Within a short drive, you will find many renowned fishing spots, including Yellowstone National Park’s trout-rich waters.

The Madison River is the one that flows closest to West Yellowstone, among the many famous rivers that emerge from the park, including the Gallatin River and Yellowstone River.

The Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, well-known fish hatcheries, meet to form the Madison in Yellowstone. The Madison leaves the park’s borders and travels close to the city limits. The river then joins Hebgen Lake, another favorite still-water fishing location in the area.

To get guidance on where to fish and what equipment to use, you can stop by one of the fly shops in the area. If you are a beginner, the professionals at these shops will gladly help you get started with fly fishing.

The Blue Ribbon Flies, Montana Trout Wranglers, and Yellowstone Angler are a few of the best fly shops in West Yellowstone. Fly fishing is one of the best ways to unwind and take in West Yellowstone’s breathtaking scenery. Also, it is a  fantastic family activity. All in all, West Yellowstone offers incredible fly fishing opportunities.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Paradise Valley, Montana

19. Watch the Beautiful Sunset at Hebgen Lake

Hebgen Lake Scenery

Outside of the park, West Yellowstone is surrounded by exceptional outdoor settings. And one of the area’s vast landscapes, Hebgen Lake, is a prime example. This enormous reservoir on the Madison River is a favorite spot among visitors for summer recreation and is located less than 20 minutes to the northwest.

Campgrounds, boat ramps, and hiking trails are just a few facilities maintained by the U.S. Forest Service along the lake’s shore. 

Hebgen Lake is well-known as the best stillwater fishing spot in the area, and fishing is one of the most popular activities here. Even if you do not catch a fish, Hebgen Lake is a perfect place to witness the sunset, and the bright evening colors paint the sky. 

20. Explore Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Landscape

The neighborhood closest to Yellowstone National Park is West Yellowstone. The distance between the West Entrance and the town center is less than a mile. Hence, because of the proximity, West Yellowstone is one of the perfect starting points for exploring Yellowstone park.

The first national park established by the country, Yellowstone has a staggering 2.2 million acres of land and a distinct ecosystem. Firehole Canyon and Madison Junction are the first spots visitors see when they enter through the West Entrance.

Significant Yellowstone sights like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and the Upper Geyser Basin are conveniently close to Madison Junction.

The Norris Geyser Basin to the North is surrounded by stunning landscapes like Artists’ Paintpots and Steamboat Geyser. Many of Yellowstone’s best hiking trails are located among these breathtaking landscapes.

There are countless adventures to experience in Yellowstone. Furthermore, apart from numerous places to visit, there are a wide variety of things to do near West Yellowstone. You can book a guided tour to West Yellowstone and create an unforgettable adventure. 

See Related: Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Best Areas & Places

Where to Stay in West Yellowstone, Montana?

West Yellowstone is located right outside the park’s west entrance, but you still need to drive through the park before you can see the top tourist attractions in West Yellowstone and access the free things to do in West Yellowstone. Depending on traffic, this drive usually takes 20 minutes or less. Some of the best hotels to stay in West Yellowstone include Holiday Inn, Elk Horn Cabins, and Gray Wolf Inn & Suites.

You can also pick up a car rental in West Yellowstone and venture out wherever and whenever you’d like. If you want to travel without worrying about anything, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance such as World Nomads and InsureMyTrip.

Conclusion

Be sure to incorporate these top attractions and the best things to do in West Yellowstone, Montana on your list as you prepare for your trip. The ideal starting point for exploring Yellowstone National Park and its surroundings is West Yellowstone. It is suggested that you use this list to plan your trip without any hassle.

FAQ

Is West Yellowstone, Montana worth visiting?

West Yellowstone is unquestionably the best location to start your Yellowstone adventure any time of the year. With many hotels, campgrounds, and RV parks available, it is the most convenient place to spend your winter or summer vacation.

What are the top attractions to visit in West Yellowstone, Montana?

The top attractions you can visit in West Yellowstone include the Playmill Theatre, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, Earthquake Lake, and Yellowstone River. To get the most out of your adventure-filled trip, you must include these attractions.

What is the best place and time to see wildlife in West Yellowstone, Montana?

Animals are typically the most active early in the morning or late at night. It is recommended to search for wildlife at dusk and dawn when you’d prefer to be going to bed or stay in bed. Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley are the best places to see wildlife, but since animals like to roam, you never know where they will appear next!

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