To a resident of the West, "local" is an interesting concept. It might mean the neighbor's house next door and it might mean the neighbor's ranch 10 miles down the road. It might mean the store in the next town 50 miles away or the university 100 miles away. Generally, it means somewhere close enough to visit before dinner if you leave right after breakfast. With Faithful Street Inn as your home base, you can explore not just Yellowstone National Park but the surrounding area. Scenic drives and day trips to our part of Big Sky Country and into Idaho to our West will lead to extraordinary beauty. You can even view the Grand Tetons just 45 minutes from town.
Formed in 1959 when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook half of a mountain into the Madison Canyon and dammed the Madison River, Earthquake Lake is a recent example of geological catastrophism. The north shore of Hebgen Reservoir and most of the adjacent river valley sank over twenty feet. Homes were drowned on their foundations and the road disappeared into the depths of the reservoir. Campers died in their sleeping bags as rubble from the mountain buried them alive. Interestingly, the dam at the narrows held, as did the earthen dam at the mouth of the canyon. While Hebgen Dam survived the earthquake, it 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 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 half hour drive to visit.
Ennis, Virginia City, Nevada City
Just 80 miles from your door step, you will find 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, its "Old West" flavor is part of the attraction as visitors stroll the main street. Ennis serves as the gateway to the preserved western towns of Virginia and Nevada Cities which lie adjacent to Alder Gulch - the site of the great gold discovery in Montana.
While contemporary shops, restaurants, saloons, and antique stores inhabit some of the buildings, downtown Virginia City is just as it was 100 years ago. Some of the buildings still have 70 year old merchandise on the shelves. 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, and frontier architecture add to the charm and interest of this town. Ride the historic railroad powered by a steam engine or take a horse and carriage ride through town.
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Just a 30 minute drive up and over the Continental Divide on Highway 20 to the southwest, a paved loop drive leads "off the beaten path" to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Driving the loop from East to West will reveal (weather permitting) gorgeous views of the Grand Tetons to the South. After visiting the falls, you will end up in Ashton, Idaho, where you can stop for some lunch and a hand-blended milkshake before driving back to West Yellowstone just an hour away. In winter, you can ride a snowmobile from town on national forest trails and connect to the trail to visit the falls. On the return trip to West Yellowstone, a short 3.5 mile drive north on Highway 87 will take you to the Henry's Lake Fish Hatchery.
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. 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.
Guided Fishing Excursions
Try your hand at fly fishing in Yellowstone! West Yellowstone has several fly shops that offer wade trips in Yellowstone National Park or float trips on area rivers. For experienced anglers, they also offer area tips, sell gear, and can share some great tales.
White Water & Float Trips
Several outfitters in Big Sky, Montana, offer raft and kayak trips in the Gallatin River Canyon. Trips range from highly technical sections in the rapid spring runoff to half-day float trips in the gentle waters of summer.
Horseback TRAIL Rides
Spend a few hours traveling the scenic trail system around West Yellowstone on horseback. Several ranches and outfitters offer horses for hire on an hourly or daily basis. Canyon lands, mountain trails, and riverside rides are all available. For a longer trip of days to weeks, a licensed guide or outfitter can take you into the back country of Yellowstone National Park or the surrounding National Forest.