If you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog, you’ll know that Austin and I are not strangers to winter adventures. We tend to travel to the coldest places in the winter and we always end up having an incredible time! If you’re like us, this post is for you! If you’ve ever wondered what to do in snowy Montana winters, this post is for you! One of the best things I can recommend during winter in Montana is snowmobiling in West Yellowstone.
Before we get into it, I’ll clarify that West Yellowstone is a town and is not actually located in Yellowstone National Park. It’s just outside of Yellowstone near the west entrance! While you can snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park in winter, this post will be focused on snowmobiling outside of the park.
–> Read more: What to do in National Parks in Winter <–
West Yellowstone Snowmobile Tours
If you’re new to snowmobiling or just don’t feel comfortable riding up a mountain by yourself, I’d recommend looking into snowmobile tours. This will be the safest option since one or more trained guides will be with you along with several other tour group members.
This is also the ideal option if you plan on snowmobiling by yourself. Some places won’t even rent one snowmobile at a time because it’s dangerous. Snowmobiles almost always get stuck on a ride (it happened twice for us), and having a second snowmobile really helps get it unstuck.
Here are a few snowmobile tour companies in West Yellowstone:
- Backcountry Adventures: Offers tours inside Yellowstone, but also through the Gallatin National Forest.
- Yellowstone Vacations: Offers tours inside Yellowstone, but also through the Gallatin National Forest. 2021 season runs from December 15 – Mid March.
- See Yellowstone: Offers tours inside Yellowstone and of the surrounding National Forests.
- Yellowstone Adventures: Offers tours in several national forests outside Yellowstone.
When we went snowmobiling in West Yellowstone, we rented snowmobiles without a tour group, so I haven’t actually used any of these tours and can’t personally recommend them. That said, they all provide expert guides who will make sure you’re safe while you’re riding and help if anything is needed!
West Yellowstone Snowmobile Rentals
If you’re a more advanced snowmobile rider and you have more than one person in your party, I’d recommend renting snowmobiles. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert snowmobile rider by any means, but I knew that we had 4 people with us on 2 snowmobiles. I also know that Austin over-prepares anywhere we go, so we’d have the tools we needed if anything were to happen. Because of that, I felt comfortable renting snowmobiles as opposed to going on a tour.
Just know yourself and the people you’re going with! If you’re confident that you’d be able to pull a snowmobile out of a ditch and control it (it takes some strength!), then go for the rental! You’ll have a lot more freedom and flexibility with the trails you go on if you’re not on a tour.
Here are a few snowmobile rental companies near West Yellowstone:
- Big Boy Toys: They are actually located in Bozeman, MT, but they are a great option if you’re looking to rent earlier in the season, since other companies don’t start renting until Dec. 15th. This is who we used and they give you a trailer to tow the snowmobiles wherever you’d like to go. Just understand that the trails won’t be as groomed in the early season!
- Back Country Adventures: Offers both rentals and tours. Will also rent snowmobile gear if needed.
- Yellowstone Vacations: Offers both rentals and tours. Rental season starts December 15th.
- Yellowstone Adventures: Offers both rentals and tours.
- Highmark Rentals: Offers more advanced snowmobiles for experienced riders.
- Travelers Snowmobile Rentals: Offers both rentals and tours of Yellowstone.
Popular Trails in West Yellowstone
The trail that we did when we went is Two Top Mountain Trail. It’s one of the most popular and scenic trails in West Yellowstone! In fact, it’s one of the most popular snowmobile trails in North America. A lot of the tour companies use this trail for their tour groups, but you can also use it if you rent snowmobiles and are going off on your own. The entire trail is lined with pine trees covered completely in snow and it’s beautiful!
I’m no expert, but from personal experience, I’d say this is an intermediate trail. We did get stuck a few times, but we got ourselves out. Luckily there aren’t very many parts of it that have steep drop offs because those tend to scare me the most!
Destination Yellowstone has a great article that lists 7 of the best snowmobile trails in West Yellowstone including Two Top Trail, Horse Butte Loop, Lion Head Trail, Big Sky Trail, and more! Check out their blog post if you want more information on other trails in the area.
Tips for Snowmobiling in West Yellowstone
If you’re going on a mountain trail, get a mountain snowmobile
This might seem obvious, but this was a huge mistake we made. We rented two snowmobiles that each sat two people. They were snowmobiles meant for easy-going trails. Trail snowmobiles are heavier and harder to control because they have to support two people. We did this because it was much cheaper than renting four snowmobiles and everyone having their own. However, we’re fairly certain that this was the reason we got stuck a few times!
When we started to lose control, there was no gaining it back unless you stopped completely and then started again. We learned that the hard way!
So, if you plan to ride on Two Top Trail or any of the other intermediate or advanced mountain trails, I’d highly recommend getting mountain snowmobiles. They will be easier to control and easier to pull out if you do end up getting stuck.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you get stuck or if you get lost, there are likely going to be more advanced riders that know the area and are more than happy to help out. Almost every time we got stuck, there was someone stopping to see if we needed help. Unfortunately, the tour guides likely won’t stop since they have a tour to run, but solo riders are usually more than happy to stop. Don’t be afraid to wave someone down!
If you see someone stuck or struggling, offer to help
On the other side, if you see someone struggling, offer to help them! You’re on a mountain and if that person gets stuck for a long period of time, it could be dangerous with how cold it gets. You don’t need to be a snowmobile expert to help either. They might just need some extra muscle to help push them out of a snow bank.
Things to bring with you
If you’re going on a snowmobile tour, you likely don’t need to worry about what to bring with since your tour guide will be able to help with anything. If you’re renting snowmobiles, call ahead and ask your rental company if they provide any of this so you can avoid buying/bringing it. The place we rented from, Big Boy Toys, provided helmets and a safety kit to help us get our snowmobiles unstuck if needed. They also had snow gear to rent, but we had our own already.
Here’s what you’ll want to bring with:
- Helmet (and optionally goggles) for each rider
- Waterproof pants or snow pants
- Warm, waterproof coat
- Two pairs of socks (at least one of them should be wool)
- Winter boots
- Some kind of face covering to protect your nose and mouth from the wind
- Safety kit with a small shovel
- Tow straps if you have them
- Lunch or snacks
Let me know how it goes!
I’d love to hear how your snowmobiling adventure in West Yellowstone turns out! This is a sure fire way to see some incredible views and it should be on everyone’s Montana winter bucket list!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.