WEST YELLOWSTONE: Snowmobiling Capital of the World, a 3-Day Guide

West Yellowstone Snowmobiling Trail

West Yellowstone is often called the “Snowmobiling Capital of the World,” and this 3-Day Guide will help you plan your unforgettable trip.

Rookie snowmobilers welcome!

First, if you’ve never snowmobiled before, don’t let that deter you. From personal experience, I will tell you, you do NOT need to be someone who has done hours of riding to enjoy this trip. In fact, even if you’re a snowmobiling rookie, you’ll be just fine. It’s been said, if you can steer a lawnmower you can drive a snowmobile.

And, the local outfitters will get you everything you need, so owning a snowmobile (or even a winter coat!) is not required for this one-of-a-kind adventure.

WEST YELLOWSTONE SNOWMOBILING TRIP SUMMARY

Day 1 —Travel to West Yellowstone
Day 2 —Pickup snowmobiles, explore trails
Day 3 —Yellowstone guided snowmobile tour
Day 4 —Explore more trails outside the park
Day 5 —Travel home

Travel to West Yellowstone (Day 1)

If you plan to fly to the area, the closest airports to West Yellowstone are Bozeman, Montana (100 miles) and Idaho Falls, Idaho (110 miles).

Of course, if you own snowmobiles and are hauling them out there, well then you’re all set. 

A rental car is not really needed

Car rental companies are available at both airports, or from Bozeman you can hire a shuttle company called, Karst Stage, to take you round-trip to/from the airport. If you’re staying right in the town of West Yellowstone, this might be a great option. That’s because once you get your snowmobile rental, that is what you’ll use to get around town! You’ll see snowmobiles all lined up in the parking spots outside of bars, restaurants, stores, etc. Lots of places are within walking distance too in the town. So, really, a car rental is not necessarily needed.

The West Yellowstone snowmobiling rental season runs from about mid-December to mid-March. 

Where to stay

There are a number of hotels in West Yellowstone (most are 2-stars and 3-stars), as well as VRBO or AirBNB options. The four properties owned by Yellowstone Vacations are a great place to start your lodging research. Wherever you end up staying, hopefully it has a hot tub as nothing feels better then a hot soak after a long day out on the trails.

Explore West Yellowstone Snowmobile Trails (Day 2)

Plan on getting up before 7 a.m. so you can get some breakfast and be at the rental place to pick up your sled by the time it opens (8 a.m. for most places). That way, you can maximize the daylight hours and be on the trail as much as possible. 

Where to rent

There are a number of rental places in/near West Yellowstone. Personally, we had a great experience with Yellowstone Vacations. All places have a variety of models to choose from, and they can walk you through the options when you call to reserve your sleds and gear.

Snowmobile features and costs

It’s fun to drive your own snowmobile, but if you’d rather just ride or if you have kids along, a two-up sled is the way to go. All the snowmobiles have heated hand grips and thumb warmers (on the throttle), which was a welcome feature out on the trails.

The cost to rent a snowmobile is about $150 – $200/day, depending on the type of sled you reserve. (High-performance sleds for the backcountry trails and expert snowmobilers will run you closer to $250/day).

2-person Snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park

What to wear

Honestly, you really don’t need to wear all that much winter gear to the outfitter. Here’s what is suggested:

  • Thermal long underwear
  • Warm ski socks
  • Comfortable layer of pants & sweatshirt/sweater
  • Ladies: a sports bra (you’re welcome!)

Gear to rent

The outfitters have high-quality outerwear to rent by the item or as a package. Such options include: 

  • Snowmobile suit
  • Boots
  • Helmet & helmet liner
  • Mittens
  • (**Gear is highly-rated for extreme cold, and sizing ranges from toddler to 5XL).

Geared up and ready

After you’re all geared up, hit the trails! There are over 500 miles of well-marked, groomed trails beyond Yellowstone’s borders. This trail system is one of the most extensive, easy to navigate systems available to recreational snowmobiles world-wide.

My group, for example, snowmobiled the first day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We covered about 120 miles, and crisscrossed across the continental divide between Montana and Idaho.

Snowmobiling at Idaho border in West Yellowstone

The Madison Arm Loop is where many beginner snowmobilers and families go first. It’s a flat, winding, 20-mile trail along two rivers with gorgeous views.

The next place I’d head is to Two Top Mountain, which has the most storied snowmobiling trail in North America. Besides the 2,000-foot elevation change, its famed for its “snow ghosts.” Constant driven winds create ghostly ice patterns plastered on the trees at the top of this mountain. On a clear day, the mountaintop also provides stunning views of Yellowstone National Park, and Wyoming’s Teton Mountains.

Two Top Mountain West Yellowstone snow-covered trees

Late afternoon, you’ll want to be heading back towards the place you’re staying with plenty of daylight left. Being out on the trails at night is not the smartest move, especially when you’re not familiar with the area.

Another word of caution: pay attention to the weather. We learned of a snowstorm coming through the area and when it hit we could not see 10 feet in front of us; it was a complete whiteout. That can be dangerous if you’re in the mountains, but the trails are well marked.

West Yellowstone Snowmobiling Trail

Since the West Yellowstone snowmobile outfitters allow you to keep your rentals even in the evenings, that’s what you can take to dinner each night in town. More than cars, you’ll see snowmobiles parked outside of all the bars and restaurants. 

Yellowstone Guided Snowmobile Tour (Day 3)

On this day, I’d highly recommend a guided snowmobile tour inside Yellowstone National Park. You’ll likely see a ton of wildlife, and winter brings the lowest tourist levels of the year.

Bison in winter - Yellowstone National Park
Wolf in Yellowstone during Winter

For the most part, the bison herds use the trails to get around in the winter in order to conserve energy when food is scarce. The good news is, fortunately, that due to this goal of conserving energy, we were told by the park rangers that they move slower and are less aggressive in the winter. But even still, it was a bit nerve-wracking to be this close to these huge, wild animals that didn’t seem bothered at all by our presence.

Bison herd by snowmobiles - Yellowstone National Park
Bison on Trail - Yellowstone Snowmobiling

Other highlights of the tour were the mud pots and many geysers we saw, as well as the frozen waterfalls

Yellowstone winter sulfur pots
Yellowstone mud pots

The beauty of God’s world sure is on full display here:

Waterfall in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in winter

Snowmobile on the West Yellowstone Trails (Day 4)

Finally, head outside the park again for your last day of snowmobiling on the West Yellowstone trails. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll spot a moose hanging out in a stream like we did…

Winter stream scene in West Yellowstone
Moose in West Yellowstone winter creek

Travel (Day 5)

Time to head home after your four-night stay. For us, those three days of snowmobiling in West Yellowstone felt like the perfect amount of time and provided us with a great long weekend getaway to break up the long winter. 


More time?


Pin this West Yellowstone Snowmobiling Guide for later!

Snowmobiling West Yellowstone 3-Day Guide

More ideas.

Have you been to the area snowmobiling? What do YOU recommend? Kindly, include your tips in the comments section below.

And, be sure to follow “Whoa, What a View” on social media to see the comments other travelers are leaving about their favorite parts of snowmobiling in and near Yellowstone.


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Tags: Montana, Snowmobiling, West Yellowstone, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park
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Comments

  1. Reply

    What a wonderful adventure. We have always wanted to visit Yellowstone and it seems that winter could be the perfect season! We like cold weather and a lack of crowds. The wildlife just looks amazing. Thank you for all these trip ideas.

    1. Reply

      I have visited Yellowstone in both winter and summer, and yes, if you like cold weather and lack of crowds winter is DEFINITELY the time to go!

  2. Reply

    People love to snowmobile where I am from, but we don’t see bison or geysers. Cool

    1. Reply

      We also saw moose, bobcats, big horned sheep, eagles, and wolves too. It was amazing!

  3. Reply

    Those pics of the waterfalls and white-outs look gorgeous. Those sights are what would get me out in the snow – and to see bision etc in the wild would be a first for me too. I think I would have to save up for it though as $200 per day for the snow-mobile is a high price. No doubt it would be worse every cent though.

    1. Reply

      Yes, the cost to rent the snowmobiles is a bit steep, but definitely worth saving up for this travel adventure! I hope you splurge on it someday!

    • Jack (Nomad Tactics)
    • October 17, 2021
    Reply

    I thought yellow stone doesn’t open in the winter, but now this seems like the best destination to go to!

    1. Reply

      There are definitely some roads and entrances that are closed in the winter. But the park is definitely open! Here is a great post I found about the winter season in Yellowstone: https://www.yellowstonepark.com/park/weather-seasons/winter-in-yellowstone/

  4. Reply

    This sounds like such a cool experience! I’ve never done anything like this before but I’m always willing to learn and try new things, great post!

    1. Reply

      You would LOVE it! No prior snowmobiling experience required, truly! Hope you’ll have a chance to try it sometime.

    • Anna
    • November 13, 2021
    Reply

    Wow absolutely stunning. Are snowmobiles easy to drive? Seems like a fun trip.

    1. Reply

      It is such a fun trip, and yes snowmobiles are really easy to drive! If you can drive a riding lawnmower, you’re good to go! 🙂

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