The town of West Yellowstone sits right at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Here are the top 7 ways to avoid the park’s crowds and see the best of the area.
1. See a Grizzly
Where: Missed seeing a grizzly in Yellowstone? You are guaranteed to see a grizzly at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a nonprofit wildlife educational and research park at 201 S. Canyon St., in West Yellowstone.
Back Story: The seven resident bears arrived in West Yellowstone after becoming nuisance bears where they lived by either damaging property in search of food or becoming aggressive toward people. Rather than be killed, the bears at the center were rescued and serve as ambassadors for grizzlies in the wild. Two of them are cubs that arrived in 2019 after their mom had to be euthanized because she and her cubs had broken into human structures to get food in the Seeley-Swan Valley in western Montana.
But don’t miss seeing the center’s seven wolves, five of which arrived in 2019. And the new Banks of the Yellowstone River Otter exhibit, featuring North American river otters, offers a great deep-dive into Yellowstone’s riparian habitat to reveal the interconnectedness of everything that lives within it.
2. Get the Real Story on the Park
Where: Head to the Yellowstone Giant Screen where you can see the movie Yellowstone or another feature film projected on a six-story-high screen. You can also visit the Museum of the Yellowstone located in the historic Union Pacific Depot to learn about the history of tourism and travel in Yellowstone National Park.
Tip: The Yellowstone film plays during the day while a different feature film is shown in the evenings, so plan accordingly.
3. See a Sunset in Solitude
Where: Drive 20 minutes west of West Yellowstone to the stunningly beautiful Hebgen Lake to see the sunset, keeping your eyes open for moose, bison, herons, white pelicans and bald eagles. Look for mountain goats at the dam.
Tip: Rent a canoe, stand-up paddleboard or even a fishing boat at one of the lake’s marinas to experience the lake on the water.
4. Take a Spectacular Scenic Drive
Where: Lose the crowds of Yellowstone on this wildlife-filled “Around the Block” scenic drive that begins on Hwy. 191 and spans 64 miles, covering two states, two mountain passes and wrapping around three lakes: Hebgen Lake, Earthquake Lake and Henry’s Lake.
Back Story: Stop at The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center at Earthquake Lake. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the formation of the lake, which was created after an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale caused about 80 million tons of rock from Sheep Mountain to crash down in less than a minute and block the Madison River. Tragically, 28 people who were camping in the area lost their lives.
5. See a Rodeo
Where: Don’t miss seeing one of the West’s long-lived traditions at Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo. During the summer, there are between 4-6 rodeos a week, beginning at 8 p.m., so check the schedule and book online. Tickets are available at the gate, but rodeos do sell out.
Tip: If you want to do a trail ride before the rodeo, Creekside Trail Rides offers one-hour trail rides and 30-minute wagon rides at the rodeo grounds.
6. Get Some Air
Where: You’ll gain a new perspective as you fly through the air at Yellowstone Aerial Adventure. Choose between a number of passes to best fit your schedule.
Tip: There’s an Adventure Zipline Course and also a Junior Ranger Zipline for kids ages 4-7.
7. Have Dinner with Cowboys
Where: Lasso the fun at Parade Rest Guest Ranch just 10 miles from Yellowstone’s West Entrance for an evening under the stars.
You’ll ride a hay wagon, horseback or van (depending on availability) to the outdoor cookout spot in the mountains where you’ll eat classic western food like baked beans, grilled chicken or steaks and coleslaw.
Tip: Dress in layers because temperatures drop in the evenings.
Learn more at www.destinationyellowstone.com.