By Caitlin Styrsky EBS Contributor
WEST YELLOWSTONE – Yellowstone National Park has many options to explore, but you don’t have to actually stay in the park to experience it all. Travelers lodging in West Yellowstone have a number of opportunities for day excursions including guided bus tours, fly-fishing trips, cycling and hiking adventures.
Bus tours provide guided trips to Yellowstone’s most popular sites without the stress of driving your own car on the narrow, winding roads. Buses pick up visitors at their hotel in the morning, visit the park’s main attractions, and return to town in time for dinner.
“You’re going to be seeing the majority of Yellowstone,” according to Said Medina, a tour guide with Buffalo Bus Touring Company. “Go into it knowing that you’re going to see the world’s first national park and it’s hard not to have a good day.”
A tour of the lower loop highlights Old Faithful, the geyser basins and Yellowstone Falls, while the upper loop offers a greater chance for wildlife sightings. Both routes make regular stops at points of interest and for wildlife viewing along the way. Guests should expect a full eight- to nine-hour day and be prepared with a rain jacket, camera and a positive attitude.
Guided fishing trips are another popular experience for Yellowstone visitors. A number of fly-fishing shops in West Yellowstone offer guided full- and half-day trips to take advantage of the park’s world-class fly fishing. During the summer season, anglers can fish the Firehole, Madison and Gibbon rivers as well as lakes and streams throughout the park.
“Guided trips allow beginners and experienced anglers an opportunity to fish the legendary waters of Yellowstone,” said Arrick Swanson, owner of Arrick’s Fly Shop. “Guides can take you to the best fishing holes and give you the best chance of catching trout.”Most shops provide equipment rentals for travelers packing light, or those new to the sport. Visitors fishing on their own can pick up a Yellowstone fishing license and equipment in town and head into the park for a day of exploration. Anglers are encouraged to read the Yellowstone fishing regulations and abide by park rules.
Cycling is an option for tourists looking to explore the park at their own pace. During the summer season, cycling is permitted on park roads and mountain biking is allowed on specific trails. Local shops in West Yellowstone rent both road and mountain bikes at hourly or daily rates.
“I would recommend getting an early start due to the summer traffic,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel, a ski and bike shop in West Yellowstone. “Otherwise, you can wait until 11 a.m. to let all the morning vehicle traffic into the park, then you can bike in and be back by 3 p.m.”
Hart recommends several cycling routes along the park’s main roads as well as options for mountain bike enthusiasts including Fountain Flat Road, Lone Star Geyser and Bunsen Peak Trail. Visitors are encouraged to check with a local bike shop for cycling conditions, pick up a map, and exercise caution due to the large volume of vehicle traffic during the summer months.
Hiking offers a chance for Yellowstone visitors to explore off the beaten path. A day hike in the park can range from a short, two-hour hike to an all-day excursion. A number of maps and guidebooks provide hiking options for all levels and durations. Hikers should remember that Yellowstone is located at a high altitude and to be prepared with plenty of water and snacks – and always carry bear spray.
Whatever you choose as a means for exploration, Yellowstone’s West Entrance is the perfect hub to experience everything the park has to offer.