West Yellowstone, Montana

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As I came to the crossroads at Madison, it was obvious that my original plan wouldn’t work.  When the day started, I had hoped to complete the entire lower loop of Yellowstone’s figure-8 highway, then drive back to Jackson the way I came (through Grand Teton NP).  Now, it was mid-afternoon, and I had only made it a quarter of the way around.  Clearly, I needed a new plan.

I decided to exit the park by way of West Yellowstone, Montana, then drive through eastern Idaho on the return trip to Jackson (I’ll explain that trip on another page.)  So at Madison, I turned west, leaving the park loop road behind.

The official park map doesn’t highlight any attractions in this part of Yellowstone.  Don’t let that fool you–this part of the park offers plenty to see.  Much of the way between Madison and West Yellowstone is a peaceful drive alongside the Madison River.  It’s a good spot to find buffalo.

Two of the creatures were hanging out, munching on grass, not far from the edge of the road.

Beautiful scenes like this one appear one after another in this part of the park.

Rising above a forest devastated years ago by wildfire, you’ll notice Mount Haynes.

This part of the river is a favorite of fly fishermen…

… and elk.

West Yellowstone

Just moments after you cross into Montana, you leave Yellowstone National Park behind.  As soon as you’re out of the park, you round a curve, and suddenly, you’re in the small tourist town of West Yellowstone.  Souvenir shops, motels and restaurants line up along Yellowstone Avenue (seen above–head straight as you enter town) and Canyon Street (take a right as you enter town).

I can’t offer an opinion on Cafe Timberline, since I didn’t eat there.  I just liked their sign.

You want to take US 20 out of West Yellowstone.  The road isn’t clearly marked, so if for a moment you feel like you’re on the wrong road, don’t worry, you’re probably okay.  US 20 turns south and runs to Ashton, Idaho, where ID Rte. 32 and 33 complete the return trip to Jackson.  It was nearly dark as I made this trip the first day, but I got an earlier start the following day, so I covered the return route on this page.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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