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West Yellowstone, Montana City Guide

by Sabrina Smelko

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The gateway town to the world’s first National Park, West Yellowstone, MT holds the record for the lowest temperature in a community for the lower 48 states, at 66 degrees below zero. While summer days can reach into the 80s, from November until April, this little town also transforms into a winter wonderland and cozy getaway for snow-lovers everywhere.

Although the roads become buried under ice and snow, and a snowmobile is the only way to get around some areas, that only adds to the fun for tourists and locals, such as photographer Trent Sizemore. Whether you stay for just a few days — or for weeks — to see the park, it’s easy to fit in a lot of adventure. “While most of the sights are inside Yellowstone,” Trent explains, “there is still plenty in town to do after a long day of driving and sightseeing,” and today, Trent is virtually-touring us through his favorite local stops; from where to shop and stay, to what to eat and drink, to what to see and do! –Sabrina

Photography by Trent Sizemore

EAT

If you’re walking around town, stop by the Taco Bus (Las Palmitas) for a unique experience! This is actually an old bus converted into a sit-down restaurant, and I’ve never heard anything bad about this place!

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The Gusher Pizza and Sandwich Shop offers great pizza, free delivery, and various other sit-down meals at their restaurant location on the corner of Madison Avenue and Dunraven Street.

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To get a box lunch for your day trip into Yellowstone, call Ernie’s Bakery & Deli ahead of time! Ernie’s has been in town for over 30 years. They also offer catering.

Bullwinkle’s Saloon and Eatery offers a family-friendly dining room and lounge bar, as well as the Casino Bar with sports games on 10 TVs. Bullwinkle’s is family owned, and has been open for nearly 20 years.

The Lounge at Madison Crossing is a nice restaurant inside the building that was once the first school in West Yellowstone. The Lounge restaurant serves wine and dishes from “Bison Nachos” to local grown trout and steaks.

If you’re looking for a full breakfast before your tour of the park, head to the Running Bear Pancake House, just a few blocks from the entrance to Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone also has two grocery stores, and a few familiar fast food stops like McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, and Arby’s.

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SHOP

You won’t find a Walmart here, since that’s a 90-mile drive from town. Instead, you’ll find dozens of local places to shop, all right in town. Canyon Street and Yellowstone Avenue are two of the main streets in town, leading the way to Yellowstone National Park. You can find many shops here — everything from souvenir t-shirts to handmade gifts and jewelry.

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Freeheel and Wheel is a small shop on Yellowstone Avenue, open year-round for biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. This locally run shop has helpful locals, good coffee, outdoor gear, and rentals for both bikes and skis.

If fly fishing is what you’re coming for, stop by Blue Ribbon Flies to get the latest fishing report and the best flies. There are several other fly shops in town, so you’ll definitely find anything you need to fish some of the best rivers in the world!

 

STAY

Whether you have a large group or are just a couple looking for a cabin, The Faithful Street Inn has a cozy place to stay. The nine cabins range from two to eight bedrooms, and are open all year-round. All cabins feature a full kitchen, free Internet and satellite TV, so it’s like a home away from home.

The Stage Coach Inn is a rustic, landmark hotel with all the modern amenities you’d expect to find. They now offer an indoor pool, sauna and exercise room, so you’re getting a classic feel with all the extras of a good hotel.

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VISIT/SEE

Activities available in and near town depend on the season, but there’s always something to do!

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In winter, the Rendezvous Ski Trails offer miles and miles of groomed cross-country skiing, right on the edge of town. A trail pass is required, which you can get in town. Skis can be rented from Freeheel and Wheel, the locally owned ski and bike shop on Yellowstone Avenue.

Since the majority of Yellowstone is closed to public travel in the winter, you’ll have to take a snow coach tour with a guide company. Yellowstone Vacations offers a full-day guided snow coach tour to Old Faithful or the Canyon area of the park. If you aren’t familiar with a snow coach, it’s a passenger van that has been outfitted to run on tracks that can go over snow!

For a more adventurous tour, you can check out Yellowstone Adventures for a snowmobile tour. This is a more exciting way to visit the park in the winter, as you’re more exposed to the elements. You can also rent snowmobiles and explore the miles of groomed trails that surround the town.
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The main summer attraction, and the original reason for the town’s existence, is Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a place words can’t describe. Since it lies underneath a supervolcano, it is a very active geothermal area. Wildlife is abundant, and you will rarely be anywhere you can’t find a bison. Bears, elk, moose, and pronghorn are all frequently seen throughout the park. Several tour companies offer guided tours to fit your needs, and you can’t go wrong with a knowledgeable tour guide for your first park visit.

Open year-round, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a wildlife park with animals that are unable to survive in the wild. You can see grizzly bears and gray wolves up close, and learn about their existence in Yellowstone.

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Comments

  • Having been there i would say this is a great guide and article. Wish I had known this much about the local businesses when I was there.
    Beautiful photos.

  • I’m so excited to see West Yellowstone featured! I stayed there last year for a Yellowstone vacation.
    I’d also HIGHLY recommend looking on AirBnB for rentals at the WorldMark timeshare complex in West Yellowstone. After staying there last year I have to say that it seemed like the best deal in town- clean, quiet, walking distance to the main commercial area, across the street from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and all the apartmnts had a full kitchen.
    I really enjoyed Bullwinkles too- I remember the buffalo chili and the Moose Drool beer quite well!

  • Great article! I’ve vacationed near there every summer for several years and I’d have to recommend getting a waffle cone at ArrowLeaf Ice Cream and then walking two doors down and getting an apple pie caramel apple at the candy shop.

  • Hi Sabrina. Could I please ask for your permission to make prints for my personal use of your two winterscape photos listed under “Visit/See”? They really speak to me! Thanks, H :)

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