With Faithful Street Inn as your home base, explore Big Sky country and Idaho on local day trips. To a resident of the West, "local" is an interesting concept. Generally, it means somewhere close enough to visit before dinner if you leave right after breakfast. Idaho is just 8 miles to the west of town. On a clear day, you can view the Grand Tetons about 45 minutes to our southwest. And, about two hours to the northwest you will find Ennis, Montana.
Formed in 1959 when a 7.9 earthquake shook part of a mountain into the Madison River, Earthquake Lake remains an eerie reminder of the quake. The north shore of Hebgen Reservoir and most of the adjacent river valley sank over twenty feet. Homes were drowned on their foundations. The road disappeared into the depths of the reservoir. Campers died in their sleeping bags as rubble from the sliding mountain buried them alive.
Interestingly, Hebgen Dam survived the earthquake, but was threatened by the backed-up waters of the newly formed lake. To save the reservoir, the new earthen debris dam was blasted and bulldozed to its current level, and the Madison River finally carried the backed-up waters downstream. The National Forest Service erected a monument to the dead as well as the Earthquake Lake Visitors Center on top of the debris pile.
Earthquake Lake is well worth the hour round trip drive to visit. Or, make it a half day trip by continuing west on US 287. Then, turn left at the junction with MT 87, drive up and over Reynold's Pass, and enjoy a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons as you head south to highway 20. Just 3.5 miles before reaching US 20, the Henry's Lake Fish Hatchery is also a great place to visit. At the junction with US 20, turn left; a short half hour later you will arrive back to West Yellowstone.
Ennis - Virginia & Nevada City
Just 80 miles from your door step via US 287, sits the picturesque rural village of Ennis, Montana. It lies on the banks of the Madison River and has antique shops, art galleries, tackle shops, and sporting goods emporia. Used as the back drop for movies and commercials, enjoy its Old West flavor as you stroll the main street. Ennis also serves as a gateway to Virginia and Nevada City.
Lying adjacent to Alder Gulch - the site of a great gold discovery in Montana - Virginia and Nevada City remain much as they were 100 years ago. While contemporary shops, restaurants, saloons, and antique stores inhabit some of the buildings, 70-year-old merchandise remains on some shelves in downtown. Montana's first newspaper building and the presses the paper was printed on are still intact. The "cribs" of working girls, blacksmith shops, the first state capital building, and frontier architecture add to the charm. Ride the historic railroad powered by a steam engine or take a horse and carriage ride through town.
If you didn't see wildlife on your trip northwest, watch for deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and elk on the drive back to West Yellowstone. Also, watch for bald eagles and osprey perched in the trees along the Madison River.
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Just a 30 minute drive up and over the Continental Divide to the southwest, a paved loop drive leads "off the beaten path" to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Driving the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway from east to west will reveal (weather permitting) gorgeous views of the Grand Tetons to the south. After visiting both waterfalls, stop in Ashton, Idaho, for some lunch and a hand-blended milkshake! Then, it's a scenic one hour drive on US 20 back over Targhee Pass (and back into Montana) to your cabin at Faithful Street Inn. In winter, ride your snowmobile from West Yellowstone on groomed national forest trails to connect to the same trail to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Lunch in winter can be found at one of the backcountry spots only accessible by snowmobile.
Just 50 miles north of West Yellowstone, the resort town of Big Sky, Montana, offers activities in both summer and winter. Shops, restaurants, a golf course, white water rafting, and fishing attract summer visitors. And, the ski hills have become famous for their powder, diversity, and scenic splendor in winter. The tram to the top of Lone Mountain affords visitors an awe inspiring view of the surrounding area in both seasons. Also, you will travel through the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park for part of the drive. Watch for wildlife - especially moose along the Gallatin River and Bighorn Sheep once you reach Big Sky itself.