We stayed in West Yellowstone because it’s a convenient base from which to visit Yellowstone National Park: the park’s main western entrance gate is a stone’s throw from the main drag in town, and said main drag has shops and restaurants and groceries and other conveniences. It’s super touristy, and while I’m sure many people love it there, we found it irritating. We were kind of grouchy about the national park too, but I’ll get to that later. Now I bet you’re excited to read these posts. J wanted me to edit to say that we did actually really like Yellowstone… anyway, things will turn around when I write about the stop after Yellowstone–that place was love at first sight for me. Spoiler: it was Grand Teton NP, I love the Tetons!
We stayed at Buffalo Crossing RV Park, a very nice campground walking distance to wherever we needed to go in town. We did laundry there and the facilities were clean.
The best part about Buffalo Crossing, though, may be that you can get a 50-cent huckleberry-and-vanilla swirl soft serve at the movie theater next door! The patio at our site was nicer than the outdoor dining options in town, so we spent most mealtimes there.
Exploring West Yellowstone
We gave West Yellowstone a fair shot. We walked around town with Bugsy, dodging all the other tourists who were not super into wearing masks, searching out restaurants with outdoor seating or to-go operations. You’d think restaurants would be all about outdoor seating to take advantage of the beautiful late summer/early fall weather, even without stupid covid, but no. West Yellowstone disagrees.
We found a small patio at Bullwinkle’s so took Bugsy there for an early dinner. After a somewhat interesting huckleberry margarita, our food was terrible and service was incredibly slow–not really our friendly server’s fault because he seemed to be working the entire patio–although, he wasn’t wearing a mask, so we do judge him negatively. To sum up, here’s the note I took after dinner that night: “ugh. west yellowstone is terrible.”
The bright spot (other than that ice cream cone) in our West Yellowstone culinary adventures was stumbling upon a food truck hidden on a side street. Taqueria Malverde is an old school bus, with a small patio, and J had a great post-hike taco there.
The more interesting hiking and exploring that we did while staying in West Yellowstone was, of course, in Yellowstone National Park. I’m going to write about the national park in a separate post, so here let’s just talk about the non-national park hike we did.
As you know if you’ve heard me complain here before, dogs are not allowed on trails in most national parks (although Bugsy has hiked with us in Shenandoah and Acadia!). When we travel to national parks with Bugsy, we try to alternate dog-unfriendly hikes in the park with dog-friendly hikes in nearby national forests, as there are usually awesome national forests near national parks.
For our dog-friendly hike near West Yellowstone, we looked at Caribou-Targhee National Forest just across the Idaho border. On a chilly, foggy morning we hiked the Rock Creek Basin Trail from Sawtell Peak, and while the fog blocked any big mountain views, we had a nice, peaceful time away from the park crowds. If you do this hike, skip the scramble down the steep hill to the little lake at the end–the lake was dry when we hiked and even if it were not, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever worth the crazy effort to get down there and back up. Here’s a nice list of non-national park hikes in the Yellowstone area (we didn’t do any of these because we were worried they’d be crowded–if you do one, please let us know what you think).
In conclusion, our recommendation to you is to try to stay inside the park if you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park. However, the park campsites fill quickly, so if you don’t snag a spot inside the park we do recommend staying in West Yellowstone for the convenience. And the 50-cent ice cream cones.
Next up, Yellowstone National Park!