Around the Block Scenic Drive
If you have had enough of the busy park, there is a beautiful drive you can take outside the park which has the potential for seeing wildlife and lots of beautiful scenery. This drive is approximately 64 miles and called “Around the Block”. I love this drive and take it in all seasons. It starts right here in town in West Yellowstone, and you have two different directions that you can tackle it. I drive both ways, making my decision which way I am going when I jump in my Jeep!
First want to talk about direction and some tips if you are thinking this might be fun on a bicycle. We do have a lot of people that ride this scenic route on their bicycles. If you are going to ride, please be aware that this will be a 6–9-hour bike ride. Make sure that you are prepared with plenty of water and snacks and always carry bear spray here in grizzly country! The best place to start is at the corner of Highway 191 and 287, there is a large parking lot for vehicles. From this point you will ride 8.5 miles into West Yellowstone. There is a nice wide shoulder on the side of the road for riding. When you get to town, you will take a right and head up Highway 20. The shoulder on this section is much narrower, so ride with caution. This stretch is 13 miles. When you get to Highway 87, you will turn right. You will ride for 17.5 miles. This area has an incline so you will be pedaling uphill for much of this section. When you reach Highway 287, you will be pleasantly pleased to arrive at a nice long downhill section, and you will also be riding with the wind. This is a great route to ride, and you have the potential to see a lot of different wildlife.
I always drive my Jeep when I am out exploring this area. There are two different directions you can head out – I mix it up and go different ways. For this writing, I will start at the main intersection in town, and I will head up Highway 191. While driving Around the Block, you want to keep your eyes roaming the sides of the road for wildlife. This first section is 8.5 miles. In this area I have seen red fox, eagles, moose, osprey, ravens, coyote, bison, and even a grizzly bear! You will pass by the West Yellowstone Airport on the left. Our airport is open from May thru October and is a great place to land to start your Yellowstone vacation. Along this stretch, we also have some great campgrounds. Baker’s Hole is my favorite, it is right on The Madison River and so pretty. We also have Madison Arm and Rainbow Point campgrounds, all very beautiful locations for camping in West Yellowstone. When you reach Highway 287, you will turn left.
The Highway 287 section is so pretty. You will pass by both Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake. There are several osprey nests on this stretch. I have also seen bald eagles, golden eagles, red tail hawks, moose, red fox, coyotes, wolf, bison, deer, elk, and many other birds. You will first pass by Hebgen Lake – I have seen lots of Canada Geese and American White Pelicans floating on the water. There is great fishing and boating here and in the winter season, ice fishing is incredible! In this area, there are a few places to stop for lunch if you would like. The Happy Hour Bar is right on Hebgen Lake and High Country Tavern is a few more miles down the road on the opposite side. When you reach the Hebgen Lake dam, pull in and look at the mountainside with your binoculars. I spot mountain goats up there almost every time I look in the summer! Shortly after you leave here, there is a place for breakfast and lunch, The Campfire Lodge. They do require reservations so call ahead. They are open from 7 AM ‘til 2 PM.
Soon you will be arriving at Quake Lake. I see bighorn sheep in this area in most seasons but typically not in the summer months. I believe they move up higher to stay cool. I have seen elk, black bear, moose, and deer in this area. When you reach Quake Lake, be sure to stop at the overlook and the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center. There is a very moving memorial site here from the earthquake that struck this area in 1959. There is a free movie and history session inside the visitor center and there are also restrooms and a water refill station here.
A few miles from the visitor center, you will reach Highway 87, turn left. If you are interested in visiting Ennis, at this point you would just go straight. In this area, you could see deer, elk, antelope, black bear, and moose. I have also seen red fox, wolf, and coyote in this stretch. You will be approaching The Continental Divide in this section and driving over Reynold’s Pass. You can pull into the pullout at the top and get photos with both welcome signs for Montana and Idaho! There is also a nice wooden Continental Divide sign there to get photos next to. This is a beautiful stretch, driving thru some of the prettiest mountains in the area. As you are driving towards Highway 20, you will get some beautiful views of Henry’s Lake. I have seen many moose in this section and the lake always has lots of ducks and birds including the American White Pelicans and lots of eagles and hawks!
Soon you will be reaching Highway 20, where you will turn left. This is the final stretch of the drive and will bring you right back into West Yellowstone. In this area, I have seen eagles, fox, coyotes, moose, and both black and grizzly bears! There is a great roadside water fill station that is called Howard Springs. This is super cold and fresh spring water, take advantage of this amazing freshwater. Soon you will be back in town.
AUTHOR: CINDY SHAFFER
Hopefully, you had a great drive and spotted some amazing wildlife. I get some of the prettiest photos on this drive. When you arrive back in town be sure to stop and say hello at the Visitor Information Center and get some more fun ideas from the staff there!
AUTHOR: CINDY SHAFFER