Want to ride like the wind across a frozen wonderland? Jump in the car and head south. Situated high in the mountains at an elevation of 6,667 feet and in the center of a 400-mile snowmobile trail system that spans three national forests and three states, West Yellowstone has earned the reputation as one of the best of the best snowmobiling locations in North America. Here’s what you need to know this season.
- Beginning December 1, groomers head out nightly in all directions to smooth trails for the next day’s riding. Experienced riders can bring their own equipment or rent a high-performance mountain machine for the day. When bringing your own snowmobile, remember that you will need both Montana and Idaho stickers, both available in West Yellowstone
- For beginners, West Yellowstone is the perfect place to start. There are many snowmobile rental services that will match you with the right snowmobile and show you how to operate it. Complete clothing from head to toe is available for rent from Yellowstone Vacations (Rendezvous Snowmobile Rentals) in West Yellowstone and Silvertip Mountain Center in Silver Gate, including helmets, snowmobile suits, gloves, and boots, and is designed to keep you warm and dry. West Yellowstone tour companies also offer daily trips over the snow into Yellowstone via snowmobile or snowcoach. Snowmobile tours also include all the equipment and clothing you will need for a day in the park. Over-the-snow tours of Yellowstone begin on December 15 and run through March 15.
- You can snowmobile directly from lodging properties and snowmobile rental businesses on most West Yellowstone roads onto groomed snowmobile trails. The trails are clearly marked with information and directional signs that match an easy-to-read snowmobile trail map. Trail maps are available from local businesses or the West Yellowstone Visitor Center (30 Yellowstone Avenue). You can also book an expert guide for a day to assist with riding and the trail system.
- The most famous trail is Two Top Trail—a popular choice for its variety of terrain and 2,000-foot elevation gain. The trail is groomed, and powder fields abound. This trail is a large loop with plenty of extra off-trail riding, and there are numerous bowls out there with drop-offs and overhanging cliffs. The bowls are great to ride, but make sure you know where you are out there.
- On clear days, you can see the Teton Mountains and be treated to an incredible panorama of the entire region. From the upper areas, the surrounding mountain ranges come into view, including Wyoming’s Tetons, Idaho’s Centennial Mountains, Lionhead in Montana, and Yellowstone National Park. Constant driving winds create ghostly ice patterns on the trees at the top of this mountain, creating the famous “snow ghosts.”
- More experienced riders can access extra off-trail riding from the Two Top or the Lionhead Trail. Following the east side of the Continental Divide, the trail climbs to over 10,000 feet. It is also one of the shortest and steepest trips in the area at around 16 miles, but it’s one of the most scenic trails with expansive vistas from the Teton to Yellowstone. This trail rides along the Continental Divide and then up to the top of Lionhead Mountain through a series of switchbacks that are not recommended for inexperienced riders.
For more information on snowmobiling West Yellowstone, visit yellowstonedestination.com or call 640-0069.