Need a Break From Yellowstone? Try These Local Adventures...Like the other gateway towns (Gardiner, Cooke City), West Yellowstone watches a steady stream of travelers beeline for the Park … bypassing the trails, waterfalls, expeditions and scenic spectacles that didn’t quite make it into Park borders. Head the other way to find West Yellowstone’s lesser-known hotspots.
Visit Quake Lake, A History Lesson in Water
Arrestingly solemn, the dead trees that break Quake Lake’s surface stand sentinel over the 28 campers who lost their lives there during a quake-triggered rockslide in 1959. Despite the lake’s tragic creation, it’s a striking, beautifully tranquil lake. Stop by the observation center to learn more about the lake, or bring your own gear for a unique flat-water kayaking excursion or trout-fishing float.
Directions: from West Yellowstone, follow US-287 25 miles north to signs for the lake turnoff.
Ride or Slide the Rendezvous Ski Trails
Revered by Nordic skiers worldwide for their consistent temperatures and Type-A grooming habits, these lodgepole-pine-lined trails open to bikers, runners and hikers in warmer months. Rent a mountain bike at Freeheel and Wheel in West to check out the rolling, non-technical trails, or switch to cross-country skis in winter.
Fish the Famous Henry’s Fork
There’s a reason West Yellowstone nabbed Forbes Magazine’s “Top Ten Fishing Towns” title, and Henry’s Fork is one. (The Madison, Gallatin, and streams in the Park are three others.) Bring your own tackle or hire one of West’s many guides to take you out—try West Yellowstone Fishing Guides, Madison River Outfitters, or Big Sky Anglers.
Hoof It to Coffin Lakes (Not as Creepy As They Sound)
Scary name, pretty spot: the twin high-alpine Coffin Lakes make for a popular haul. And yes, it’s definitely a haul: 2,500 feet of elevation gain over the five-mile approach. Hike the round-trip trail yourself, or let a burlier animal share the burden by booking a trail horse (and a fishing pole) with Firehole Ranch.
Hurry to Harriman State Park
About 45 minutes south of West, Harriman State Park’s 24 miles of trails attracts fat-tire snowbikers, snowshoers and Nordic skiers in winter (rent gear at Freeheel and Wheel in West), and hikers come summer. Watch for wildlife including trumpeter swans, moose and elk, and bring fishing gear if you have it.
Directions: Head west on Highway 20 from West Yellowstone, following it for 37 miles as the road veers East. Turn right onto Green Canyon Road, following the signs for Harriman State Park.
Peakbag Mount Hebgen
Sure, there are tougher peaks in the Madison, but why not bag a leisurely one? (And by leisurely we mean almost 7 miles round-trip and a 2,000 foot elevation gain, which isn’t exactly a slouch.) Hebgen’s wide summit makes a good picnic spot, and at 8,692 feet, the view’s not bad. The Teton Range, Taylor-Hilgards, Targhee, Coffin Peaks…yeah, not bad at all.
Directions: From West Yellowstone, head north on US-287 for 8 miles, veering left to stay on US-287 for another 5 miles. Turn right onto Red Canyon Road near mile marker 17, continuing 2.5 miles to the trailhead.
Snowmobile Two Top
There’s only one more quintessential West experience (if you guessed going to Yellowstone, you nailed it) so rent a rig from Two Top Snowmobile and knock this classic trip off your list. From Two Top’s summit you can see three states, both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and on a good day, the Grand Teton.
If West Yellowstone’s active adventures have you crying for a cushy seat, pick one with some entertainment. The long-standing Playmill Theatre mesmerizes audiences with song and dance numbers galore, putting on family-friendly shows and musicals interspersed with popcorn throwing and other shenanigans.
So even if you somehow miss Yellowstone altogether on your trip (why you’d do this to yourself, we’re not clear), rest assured that adventure aplenty awaits, well outside the Park fee kiosks.