Yellowstone Discovery: West Yellowstone

We are kicking off our virtual tour of Yellowstone’s Lower Loop in one of the funnest towns in the west – West Yellowstone.

Located on the southwestern edge of Yellowstone, West Yellowstone (affectionately known as ‘West’) is YNP’s year-round destination for outdoor adventure.

West is a the busiest of Yellowstone’s gateway towns, with millions of visitors each year traveling through West to enter YNP.

West Yellowstone is a favorite of mine becuase it has an iconic western ‘camp’ feel – with walkable streets lined with over forty restaurants, dozens of hotels, tourism shops and some of the world’s finest fly-fishing guides. West Yellowstone is meant to be fun and is a great hub for exploring Yellowstone and beyond.

West is conveniently located eighty-nine miles show of Bozeman MT on Highway 191. The drive from Bozeman to West is my absolute favorite road trip in the world and I’ll blog about in a future post.

West Yellowstone is a good hub given its proximity to Old Faithful (roughly an hour east of West Yellowstone) and highlights outside YNP like the Gallatin and Madison National Forests, Gallatin and Madison Rivers (world’s best fly fishing), Hebgen Lake and proximity to Idaho (Island Park ID is a pretty spot not far from West).

West has a ton of lodging options from well known chains like the Holiday Inn and Best Western to local boutique hotels and cabins.

Yellowstone lodging is expensive in the prime season (June-September) – but West is typically more affordable than some in park lodging.

I personally recommend a mix of staying in gateway towns (West, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody) depending on your itinerary and focus in the park.

If you want to stay in one spot the entire trip – West is a good base.

The Gallatin National Forest has tons of camping options as well – including my personal fave – Baker’s Hole on the Madison River.

What to do in West Yellowstone: Looking for family fun while right in West-no problem! This western community offers a ton for fun for tourists – check out my highlights below:

Start at the West Yellowstone Visitor Center

  • Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: The safest and best place to see Grizzlies and Wolves in Yellowstone Country. This world-class AZA approved center is home to rescued Grizzlies and Wolves and teaches visitors about their importance in the local ecosystem and how to protect YNP’s wildlife
  • IMAX: The IMAX theater features Yellowstone themed movies and a great gift shop
  • Playmill Theatre – a great summer theatre with world class theatre productions!!!
  • Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Center

Where to Eat?

West has tons of delicious dining options – my favorite is Bullwinkles – a mainstay for local game and spirits, but enjoy all of the local restaurants. My mom and I used to grab a rotisserie chicken from local grocery stores (Food Roundup or Marketplace) and eat a picnic in the area.

Where to Stay:

So many great places to stay – I like the Holiday Inn, Kelly Inn and Grey Wolf Lodge…but great options – key is to book early!

Next entry we’ll enter Yellowstone’s western entrance and enjoy the scenic drive to Madison Junction before continuing on to Old Faithful!

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