THE FIVE APPROACHES TO
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARKYellowstone National Park is situated between 44 and 45 degrees north latitude
and 109.5 and 111 degrees west longitude. Most of the park lies in the state of Wyoming, but a small portion in the north is in Montana and a strip on the west side is in Idaho. The park covers an area of 3467 square miles (8980 sq km), most of which is undeveloped mountain and forest land. In spite of this huge size, almost all of the most interesting sights are available to visitors along or close to the more than 300 miles (483 km) of roads. Because there’s so much to see and do and so many people who want to use the limited housing and camping facilities, advance planning is essential.Your first decision will be which way to enter. The approach roads to the five entrances are shown on the map on page 24 and described below, along with a general idea of the scenery you’ll encounter and the available activities and facilities.Arriving by AirIf you plan to start your trip by commercial airplane, consider fl ying to Billings, Montana, the largest city in the vicinity of the park, with the most connecting flights. You can rent a car there to drive conveniently to any entrance except the South Entrance.Closest airport options other than Billings are: Jackson, Wyoming, the closest commercial airport to the South Entrance; Cody, Wyoming, for the East
Entrance; Bozeman, Montana, for the north or west; and West Yellowstone, Montana, for the West Entrance. These are also good options for private planes, and all have car rentals available. Additional general aviation airports are at Gardiner, Livingston, and Red Lodge, Montana, as well as Dubois, Wyoming.If you want to begin in Idaho Falls, Idaho, several airlines can serve you. Many people begin a western trip from Salt Lake City, Utah, which is a much longer drive but is especially well served by airlines and is relatively convenient to Grand Teton National Park and the South Entrance of Yellowstone.WEST ENTRANCEThere are several good reasons to approach Yellowstone along U.S. Highway
191 to its West Entrance. First, you’ll find ample tourist accommodations in Bozeman, in the Big Sky area, and in West Yellowstone, Montana. Second, the scenery through the Gallatin River canyon, though not the most spectacular of
the approaches, can be a delightful introduction to the Rocky Mountains. The third advantage of coming this way is
that the Gallatin River and Gallatin National Forest abound in opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and float trips, while numerous guest ranches offer western hospitality. Horseback trips for a few hours up to a few days can be arranged.This entrance gives geyser enthusiasts the closest access to the unique
geysers and hot springs in the western half of the park. It’s about 90 miles (145 km) from Bozeman to the West
Entrance; then 30 miles (48 km) farther to Upper Geyser Basin in Old Faithful Village, or 27 miles (43 km) to Norris Geyser Basin.Besides U.S. 191 from Bozeman,
you can reach the West Entrance from the northwest (on U.S. 287) and from the southwest (on U.S. 20 and Interstate 15). Montana towns northwest of the park include two where vacationers might want to linger, Ennis and Virginia City. Ennis is a center for trout fi shing, and Virginia City and Alder Gulch were famous for gold mining in the 19th century. In Virginia City, the capital of the Territory of Montana from 1865 to 1876,...
Janet Chapple (Author)
Janet Chapple is the author of previous editions of Yellowstone Treasures and editor and coauthor of It's Up to You!: A Handbook for Practicing Music. She lives in Menlo Park, California.