You could spend all summer in Yellowstone and still not do everything. But Jennifer and I have made it our mission to outline the best things to do in the park.
We highly recommend you get our complete Yellowstone Travel Guide. It's a 7-day adventure guide to all-things-Yellowstone. But we also want to give you a great place to start with this article.
Why We Recommend Starting in West Yellowstone
We recommend starting your adventure in West Yellowstone for two reasons:
- Because there are more than 20 locations (commercial campgrounds and boondocking) within a 20-mile radius.
So, if you absolutely need hookups or the campgrounds within Yellowstone are full, you should still be able to find
- Because West Yellowstone is the closest town to any of the park entrances, you should be able to stock up on food, LP, fuel, or whatever else you need. Just remember that with the proximity to Yellowstone you’ll definitely be paying
inflated prices for it.
So, if you're not coming directly from the East, start in the West!
Most Popular Things to do in West Yellowstone
We would definitely recommend checking out West Yellowstone at least one of the days you’re in the park because there are a couple of really great spots in this town.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
Before heading into the park, spend some time at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a not-for-profit wildlife park and educational facility.
Here’s the center’s description:
“The bears at the center were all what is known as nuisance bears, or orphaned cubs of a nuisance bear.
Nuisance bears learn to obtain food from people, damage property in search of food or become aggressive toward people and are usually killed.
Instead of being destroyed, the eight bears that reside at the center were rescued and are ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.
The center is also home to 8 wolves that live in two different packs. The wolves were born in captivity and are unable to live in the wild.
The facilities where they were born did not have room to keep them and the center was able to provide them a home.
Here, the wolves give visitors an up-close look at their normally secretive lives. The wolves eat, play, reinforce their dominance hierarchy, and howl right in front of the viewing areas.”
When we went there was also a beautiful bald eagle. The sign said she was found as a chick alone and may have suffered neurological damage from chemicals or a fall.
In truth, we have mixed feelings about the place. The animals are beautiful. But it’s really a zoo.
Nice conditions, compared to most zoos, but hardly the wild where we would like them to be. The nuisance bears lives
were saved, but they got a life sentence.
Still, the animals would not be alive were it not for the center. The staff clearly love the animals and care for them well. And the center does research, based on observations of the bears’ and wolves’ behavior.
Another highlight while you’re in West Yellowstone, you can’t miss a live performance at the Playmill Theatre.
The Playmill Theatre is a cornerstone of West Yellowstone having been around for over 50 years. They are really top-notch.
Every summer they have 3 different shows going, this year (2021) it’s Newsies, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.
The shows run from May to August and they perform almost every night! And sometimes twice a night.
Tickets are $21-27 depending on location in the theater (and being 65+ gets you a $2 discount).
Their number is (406) 646-7757 and their address is 29 Madison Avenue West Yellowstone, MT.
If you have some extra time for a side trip, it’s worth taking a 30-minute drive out to Quake Lake – the site of a major
the geological tragedy about 60 years ago.
On August 17, 1959, an earthquake in the Madison Canyon River Area, formed Quake Lake.
The earthquake created a massive landslide. In less than 1 minute, over 80 million tons of rock crashed into the narrow canyon, which stopped the flow of the Madison River in the Madison River Canyon gorge.
The landslide caused the death of 28 unsuspecting campers in the area. The lake now measures five miles long,
one-third of a mile wide, and 190 feet deep.
The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center displays a Memorial Boulder from the earthquake for the 28 people who died. It
shows pictures of the aftermath, the recovery efforts, and the race to release the rising reservoir of water.
In the greater West Yellowstone area, there are 4 commercial campgrounds in the town, 2 KOAs just outside, a State Park campground, and multiple boondocking spots in the Gallatin National Forest.
You can check out our Complete Yellowstone RV Travel Guide for all the details.
And we've been writing about Yellowstone for years! Just take a look at these through time.