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Guide to West Yellowstone, Montana

Downtown West Yellowstone, Montana
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West Yellowstone, Montana, is truly a tourist town in every sense of the word. This really isn’t surprising, since it serves as a primary gateway to Yellowstone National Park. West Yellowstone does nothing to hide it’s trappings as a tourist destination spot, either.

Yet, there is something a bit different that separates a true “tourist trap” from West Yellowstone. I guess what I’m saying is that West Yellowstone, while a tourist town in every sense of the word, is just plain different from your typical tourist trap encountered near other National Parks and popular places or along busy Interstate highways.

I like West Yellowstone. Even though I’m not a fan of crowds and touristy spots – truth be told, I tend to avoid them like the plague – I’ve had to spend time in West Yellowstone a number of times simply because the town really can’t be avoided. All roads seem to lead there, and the town is about the only “civilization” for miles and miles around.

Old Depot in West Yellowstone - Now a Museum
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What separates West Yellowstone from other total tourist traps is that West Yellowstone seems to have “character”, if that makes any sense. It’s not like a touristy thing that lies just off the Interstate, hoping to snag a few dollars from a desperate passing motorist. West Yellowstone seems to realize that people who visit probably end up spending lots of time there, so they’ve done a pretty nice job of making your stay in and around West Yellowstone a nice one.

To begin with, West Yellowstone is extremely simple to get around. The town’s road system is an easy to figure out grid pattern, and the wide width of the streets allows traffic and people to flow well enough. Parking, unlike in many tourist traps of the world, is also not really a problem. You can usually find a place to park within a block or two of where you want to go.

Moreover, the town of West Yellowstone has an absolute dizzying array of things in town. What it does lack, much to its credit, is a Wal-Mart or other “superstore”. Instead, West Yellowstone is filled with hundreds of little “mom and pop” specialty shops – many of which carry very unique items that you will find no place else. I especially like the little book store they have – buried as it may be in an almost hidden mall (for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this place).

West Yellowstone is also not lacking in dining options. Overall, Montana is somewhat barren in dining variety, but West Yellowstone bucks this trend. No matter how your culinary tastes may run, on any particular day you’re likely to find something in town to satisfy it. While not all restaurants may be good, of course, all the ones I ate at were better than average. For pizza, the best place in town is the “Gusher,” which has been in existence seemingly forever.

Of course, the other side of all this is that West Yellowstone is not exactly the cheapest spot around to eat and buy stuff. It’s location in the middle of nowhere and its tourist trappings lead to eye-raising prices for things like groceries, restaurant food and gas. And hotel and motel rooms are quite pricy during the summer, too.

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