If you’re entering or leaving the park via the West Entrance, it’s worthwhile to allow time for a visit to Earthquake Lake (often shortened to Quake Lake), northwest of West Yellowstone on U.S. 287. This is the site of the devastating August 17, 1959, earthquake and huge landslide that killed 28 people,
most of them campers in a now-buried campground.
The landslide, caused by an earthquake of magnitude 7.5, dammed the Madison River, forming the lake. This earthquake affected the geysers in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin some 35 miles away.
Quake Lake was created by a huge landslide.
Motel and hotel accommodations and other tourist facilities are available throughout the year in the town of West Yellowstone. It’s possible to travel by public bus between West Yellowstone and Bozeman, the only regularly scheduled public bus connection between one of the gateway communities and a larger city.
In winter, you can arrange snowcoach transportation from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful Village through the park concessionaire and several other companies. A snowcoach can carry 10 to 12 people in relative comfort over unplowed roads. In addition to serving as a starting point for snowcoaches, West Yellowstone is a major center for snowmobile rental.
West Yellowstone’s first post oce was established as Riverside in 1908, but the town soon changed its name to Yellowstone, Montana. This proved confusing, so in 1920 the name became West Yellowstone; the locals now simply call it West.
Before 1908 the Union Pacific Railroad reached only to Idaho Falls, and visitors to the park traveled a day or more by stagecoach to reach the West Entrance. From that year until 1961, the U.P.’s Oregon Short Line served the town and this entrance to Yellowstone.
The former railroad station is now The Museum of the Yellowstone, featuring railroad history and exhibits about wildlife, the Hebgen Lake earthquake, and the 1988 fires. Another West Yellowstone attraction is the nonprofit Grizzly Discovery Center, home to eight grizzlies and six gray wolves. These are both located on or close to Yellowstone Avenue, the town’s main street leading into the park, and both host park ranger programs in the summer. Also just outside the park entrance is the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center.
0 Riverside Trail (primarily a ski trail) enters the park from the eastern edge of town. Snowcoaches may gradually replace snowmobiles for winter transportation.