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West Yellowstone, Montana is one of those unforgettable places in the American West. In a place where fiery sunsets blanket snow-covered peaks and plains, where mountain lakes dot national forests and blue-ribbon trout streams traverse the landscape, there are adventures to be had around every bend in the trail.

Spring in West Yellowstone, the west entrance and gateway community to Yellowstone National Park, is a unique time of year. The crowds haven’t yet arrived for the summer, and because the mornings and evenings are still chilly and the afternoons are sunny and warm, you can enjoy both winter and spring outdoor activities. To help you make the most of the spring season, here are four ways to experience this beautiful time of year in West Yellowstone, Montana.

1. Nordic Ski Like a Local: Crust Cruising in West Yellowstone

Crust Cruising
A surface coating of ice created by ideal conditions allows skate skiers to go Crust Cruising. Photo Courtesy: Freeheel & Wheel

This isn’t your average Nordic skate skiing adventure. When conditions are just right, a thin crust of ice forms on top of snow-covered trails, lakes, and mountain passes, and skate skiers can fly across the landscape anywhere they choose.

Though vacation typically calls for sleeping past your normal workday alarm, a daybreak departure is what’s required to truly immerse yourself in this magical experience. Head to Hebgen Lake, Big Horn Pass, Fawn Pass and the meadows surrounding the Rendezvous Ski Trails for a stunning sunrise crust cruising ski, and a unique experience that most locals find totally addictive.

If you’re looking for a more traditional Nordic ski outing, head to the Rendezvous Ski Trails located at the edge of town where you’ll find more than 35 kilometers of groomed trails.

2. Cycle through Yellowstone National Park

Cycling in Yellowstone
Enjoy the undisturbed landscape of Yellowstone National Park by cycling it before it opens to motorized vehicles. Photo Credit: Jacob Frank

Imagine visiting one of the most famous destinations in the United States without the crowds, cars and RVs. Now, imagine unobstructed 360-degree mountain views and the quiet of an undisturbed landscape. That’s what Yellowstone National Park is like in the spring before it opens to motorized vehicles in late April.

As conditions allow, the West Gate entrance opens in late March to spring cyclists and hikers free of charge. The most popular route for cyclists is to traverse the roads between West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs. Here you can expect to find glimpses of wildlife as they awake from winter hibernation, beautiful mountainscapes, and green plants starting to poke up through the ground.

3. Enjoy a Scenic Drive

Moose outside Yellowstone
Catch glimpses of awakening wildlife by taking a scenic drive to less-trafficked areas outside the park. Photo Credit: Holly Scholl Photography

There’s just as much to see outside of Yellowstone National Park as within. Leisurely drives north and west of town provide access to some of the area’s best hidden gems as well as uncrowded country roads and byways. Wildlife love these less-busy places, so don’t be surprised if you come across bison, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, moose, osprey, beavers, waterfowl and more.

One of the local favorite routes is lovingly dubbed, “Around the Block”. This 64-mile trip will take you through two states, over two mountain passes and around three lakes. This local favorite is one that you won’t want to miss.

Free maps, information and route suggestions are available at the West Yellowstone Visitor Center.

4. Celebrate Opening Day at Yellowstone National Park

April 19 the world’s first national park officially opens for vehicle access, and the 21st is Fee Free Day. Photo Courtesy: West Yellowstone Chamber
April 19 the world’s first national park officially opens for vehicle access, and the 20th is Fee Free Day. Photo Courtesy: West Yellowstone Chamber

Mark your calendar for April 19, 2019, the official Opening Day for Yellowstone National Park. West Gate opens for public vehicle access, and if you’re like us and love a good snack, those who are first in line will get a free muffin from West Yellowstone locals!

Photographers from around the region head to Yellowstone for opening day to capture the first glimpses of wildlife emerging from their winter slumbers. Mists hover over the rivers and thermal areas on these cool mornings, and as the sun rises over the horizon, wolf packs head out into the meadows, bison munch on grasses and elk herds begin to migrate back to their spring territories. You’ll capture awe-inspiring pictures and experience once-in-a-lifetime views during the early spring season.

Visitors from around the world flock to this unforgettable destination, the world’s first national park established in 1872. Geothermal features like hot springs, mudpots and geysers are some of the highlights of the park, in addition to the wildlife, forests, mountains, lakes and waterfalls. This thriving ecosystem is one of the most unique —not only in the country, but also in the world —and it’s one of those bucket list destinations that you’ve got to check off in your lifetime.

Take advantage of the National Park Fee Free day on April 20, 2019 to enjoy the park without the gate admission fee.

For more about West Yellowstone trip ideas, visit DestinationYellowstone.com.

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