There are dozens of great reasons to visit West Yellowstone in the magnificent US state of Montana, and of course they all relate to one fact – the town is the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. In fact the actual entrance to the park is less than a mile from the centre of town, and the local airport is the closest to famous attractions like the Old Faithful geyser. Add soaring mountains scenery, crystal clear rivers and springs, waterfalls and forests and you have the basis of the holiday of a lifetime.
The town itself is pretty new and was only founded in 1908, but it’s consistently ranked as the best city to live in in Montana. The permanent population may only be about 1,200 but with millions of visitors each year the town is surely one of the most popular in the US.
People come from all over the world for the hiking trails and climbing opportunities around West Yellowstone, and there are dozens of marked trails to choose from. Horse riding and cycling are very popular, and the town is also said to be the snowmobile capital of the world.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre is a truly wonderful place to visit, and an essential stop on your visit to the city. The animals that live here wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild, and the centre provides a great way for you to see them up close. Interact with grizzly cubs or see the wolves from the naturalist cabin.
Yellowstone National Park is considered to be the first national park in the world, and the town is the largest gateway into this spectacular wilderness area. The park lies on the Yellowstone caldera, the continent’s biggest supervolcano. As well as the Old Faithful Historic District and the famous geyser, the west entrance to the park takes in the Madison River where fishing and kayaking are popular. See the Firehole Falls and canyon and spot wildlife including black bear, grizzly, deer or elk and dozens of bird species in one of the most thrilling wilderness areas in the world.
In the town, the Yellowstone Museum has a terrific exhibition that charts the history of the park, and it is open daily during the months of May till September.
The best time to visit the town is from May till August, when all the park’s roads and facilities are open. The shoulder periods of March and April and September and October are less busy and some of the roads may still be open. All roads are normally open to cars and buses from the third weekend in April till the first Sunday in November. From December to March only guided, properly tracked snow vehicles are permitted, depending on conditions. Winter can see extreme conditions, but it is still popular with experienced cross-country skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts who come for fields of unspoilt snow and sensational scenery. Unless you are with a local guide, it’s not advised to set off into the park on foot during winter as conditions can change very quickly.
The cheapest time to visit is from November till February, but it can be very cold and temperatures often drop to between ?20 to ?5 °C during the day, and the park roads are closed. However, cheaper flights can also be found in the shoulder season months of March to April and September to October. Summer is the most expensive time, and it can also be very busy as visitors flock to the park. Holidays such as Memorial Day and Labour Day are extremely popular times to visit and it can be very busy in town.