West Yellowstone – The Gateway to Jellystone!

Yogi, Booboo & Ranger Smith shut up shop, but then take pity on us.

As you’ll know by now if you’ve read my last update, substantial flooding, rockslides & rockslides on roads caused Yellowstone National Park to temporarily close all 5 entrance gates on 13th June & they currently remain closed. I’m pleased to report that no-one was injured by this devastating natural disaster.

When we left Helena on 12th June, our plan was to reach West Yellowstone on 14th, then head into the National Park via the West Gate. We would then look to camp for up to a week as we explored the North Loop (via Gardner & Cooke City) & the South Loop (Old Faithful, West Thumb & Yellowstone Lake), then exit via the East Gate to Cody.

This is no longer possible, so we’ve taken the decision to enjoy a couple of days of rest & relaxation in West Yellowstone, while we come up with an alternative plan. Full details of our alternative plan will be at the bottom of the post (assuming we have a plan by then!!).

Due to the late decision to stay longer in West Yellowstone, we spent 13th & 15th June in Dude & The Round Up, while on 14th we stayed in The Travelers Lodge.

Yellowstone National Park preserves the most important bison herd in the United States. It’s the only place in the USA where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times & they are the largest herd on public land. They are able to roam over the expanse of Yellowstone & some nearby areas of Montana.

As a result they continue to exhibit wild behaviour just like their ancestors, congregating during breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration & exploration. Less than a century ago, the bison population was on the verge of extinction, but by the end of 2021 there were in the region of 5,450 in Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone has its own herd of bison sculptures – each individually painted.

West Yellowstone has had 5 names throughout its history. Before there was a town, stage coaches bringing passengers from Monida to Yellowstone National Park crossed the nearby park boundary. The location of that crossing & the surrounding area was known as Boundary.

Terminus applied to this location as the Union Pacific Railroad progressed to the soon-to-be town site. Riverside was the official name for the town’s first Post Office, opened in 1908. Many locals considered the name misleading, as the town was 2 miles away from the Madison river.

Early in 1910, the town’s name was officially changed to Yellowstone. This caused concern for the other 4 towns located at the entrances to the National Park (Gardner to the North, Cooke City to the North East, Cody to the East & Jackson / Teton to the South). It was felt that the name suggested this was the only entrance to the National Park.

The descriptive name of West Yellowstone was given to the town in 1920 & it was formally incorporated in 1966. It has been the most popular entrance to the National Park since 1913 & regularly welcomes in excess of 4 million visitors per year. All this & more is described & explained in the Museum.

The IMAX cinema is another ‘must do’ activity – we watched an enthralling 45 minute film on the relationship between the animals & man. It was an uplifting story that encouraged us to take the 1 mile trip to the National Park gate & take a couple of photos. Normally this deserted stretch of road would be packed with cars trying to get into the National Park. After such an exciting afternoon, I needed an ice cream to cool myself down!

I visited West Yellowstone on a cycling tour in 2010, so had an idea of what to expect – I also wanted to revisit the Best Western to rekindle old memories – it isn’t a good photo, but it triggered some great memories. I also took the chance to catch up with Yogi Bear & Booboo, as well as practice riding another type of steed! I also asked Zoltar if he could predict whether Yellowstone would be open if we headed to a different Gate.

Although Zoltar didn’t provide an answer, we agreed that our best chance of seeing Yellowstone National Park would be to approach it from the South. We eventually worked out 4 short days that would get us to Jackson Hole for Monday 20th June. We could then take in Teton National Park on Tuesday 21st & then be reliant on the National Park opening by 22nd June. Alternatively, we would have to move on & pick up our original route further East.

As it’s now the 21st June, we know the National Park will open at 8am on 23rd. We have a campsite booked in Teton National Park on 22nd & have booked over-priced accommodation at Grant Village in Yellowstone on 23rd, but at least we’re now going to see the National Park!! I’ll post later in the week about what we did & how we got to Jackson – we had plenty of fun & a few adventures along the way!

One thought on “West Yellowstone – The Gateway to Jellystone!

  • I’m sure every minute of the wait will be worth it, when you do eventually get in to the park in the next few days. Good luck both!

    Liked by 1 person

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