Make the Most of Winter in West Yellowstone

Residents of West Yellowstone, Montana know how to make the most of every second of winter sunlight. If you’ve got cabin fever and the itch to explore, head to West Yellowstone for an escape that you won’t soon forget.
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West Yellowstone is a small-but-mighty community that sits at Yellowstone National Park’s western doorstep. The town is the park’s busiest gateway, a mecca for year-round recreation for outdoor enthusiasts. West Yellowstone is bordered by three national forests and Yellowstone National Park—there’s an adventure in every direction! Many think of the area as a summer destination, but its winter treasures are not to be overlooked.

Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing await visitors during the winter months. While you’re packing for a winter visit to West Yellowstone, be sure to pack plenty of warm layers and winter clothing—you never know when a snowstorm might pop up!

This article was written in partnership with the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, Montana. Photos courtesy of West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

Stay

West Yellowstone, Montana has lodging accommodations for every kind of traveler budget. From quaint cabins and B&Bs to luxe lodges and familiar chain hotels, you’ll have no trouble finding a cozy place to rest your head after your winter adventures. Whether you prefer a crackling wood stove, a steaming hot tub—or both, there’s an option for you.

Explore

Pull yourself away from the warmth of the fire and head outdoors! Winter in West Yellowstone will give you a fresh perspective on the landscape. During the winter, the town still leaves a layer of snow on the roads to allow travel around town by ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile!

Winter on the Water

Fishing? In winter? You bet! West Yellowstone has unparalleled year-round fishing. Trout streams around town and easy access to the Gallatin and Madison Rivers make it the heart of fly fishing in the Rockies. During the winter months, you can still wade into the icy waters to try your line. Nearby Hebgen Lake is one of the best ice fishing spots around, boasting nearly a foot of solid ice during the winter season and an ample supply of trout and more.

You’ll need a Montana fishing license for any casting, which can be purchased locally or online. Guided fishing excursions are a great option if you’re new to ice fishing or winter fishing—check with the visitor center for guide options.

Mush! Mush!

If dog sledding is on your bucket list, West Yellowstone is the perfect place to check it off! Dog sledding is a memorable experience for the whole family, and there’s no better way to see the snow-covered mountains than by dog team. Just 45 minutes away at Big Sky, you’ll learn to mush your own team of huskies, and might be so excited that you’re howling along with them by the end of the ride. You can even get some sleigh rides and downhill skiing in to make a full Big Sky day of it.

Hit the Trails

Nordic skiers will be in skinny-ski paradise on West Yellowstone’s cross-country trails. Prefer snowshoes? Most nordic areas allow snowshoers to hike alongside the groomed areas, so you won’t miss out on any of the views.

The Rendezvous Ski Trails are a nordic skier’s dream and are easily accessible from West Yellowstone. More than 20 miles of gentle, rolling nordic trails for both classic and skate skiing wind through the pine forests and open meadows with a stunning backdrop—and don’t be surprised if some of the local wildlife pops out to say hello!

If your furry friends came along for the adventure, check out the Boundary Ski and Snowshoe Trail! The dog-friendly trail runs from the northern end of town to Baker’s Hole Campground, and as the name suggests, runs parallel to the border of Yellowstone National Park.

For a unique way to explore Yellowstone National Park, hop onto the Riverside Trail off of Boundary Street in town, where you can cross-country ski or snowshoe along the Madison River right into the park. Be on the lookout for wildlife while you ski—eagles, trumpeter swans, bison, and more are all fond of this part of the river!

For ski and snowshoe rentals, winter clothing essentials, or a warm beverage and treat after your adventure, check out Freeheel & Wheel, a West Yellowstone favorite.

Warmer Options

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Grizzlies and wolves are some of the most charismatic critters in Yellowstone, and also some of the most feared! The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center gives visitors the opportunity to safely view rehabilitated animals like grizzly bears, wolves, otters, and raptors. Unlike those in the park, the center’s bears don’t hibernate in the winter. Their daily events include feedings, educational films, and other programs for a glimpse into the fascinating world of Yellowstone’s wildlife. As a bonus, children under five receive free admission.

A Visual History

If you’re looking for a break from the cold, the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre has daily IMAX showings of “Yellowstone,” a stunning and immersive documentary that dives into the beauty and history of the park as the seasons change.

Other Places & Experiences

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Photo credit: @trip_with_hari via Instagram

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