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West Yellowstone, Montana, Adventure Gateway

The perfect basecamp for a fall trip to Yellowstone National Park

One of the many bears you can observe at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited in the United States, with the number of visitors peaking in the summer months. In October, those numbers slow down before the park roads close in early November. This makes fall a perfect time of year to visit, and the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, makes a great base from which to explore the wonders of the park.

In fact, the town is something of a destination in its own right. Located three blocks from the West Entrance of the park, the Yellowstone Lodge is one of the newer properties in town. The recently renovated hotel features large rooms, and continental breakfast is provided each morning.

West Yellowstone is very walkable, with a selection of quaint restaurants and shops just a few blocks off the lodge.

Must see activities include the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, where you can experience the power of a grizzly bear up close as they test bear-resistant containers. The center is the only facility in the United States which tests and certifies bear-resistant containers. During the day, the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre shows the Yellowstone Movie, and in the evening, current releases. Take some time to walk through town and enjoy the shops and historic district.

Western-themed décor and hearty portions are a hallmark of West Yellowstone eateries, and Café Madriz is an unexpected surprise. Owner Elena de Diego moved to the area from Spain and has made it her mission to educate diners on the cuisine and wines of Spain. A variety of delectable tapas are available, including imported meats and cheeses, as well as Spain's renowned dish, Paella.

One place the locals frequent -- which was worth more than one stop -- was the cute shop/café the Book Peddler. The eclectic, rustic space offers a great selection of gifts and books, in addition to wonderful coffee; yummy, house-made pastries; and a selection of items for breakfast and lunch.

Yellowstone, of course, is the main draw in the area, but there are so many other things to see and do in the area.

Well worth the splurge, the half-day guided walk/wade fly-fishing excursion with Madison River Outfitters will have you mastering this skill in no time. Casting along the banks of the Madison River, you will be battling to reel in the denizens of a world-class blue-ribbon trout stream.

Flicking the fly rod rhythmically back and forth has a certain Zen quality. If you need something high adrenaline, rent an ATV from Yellowstone Adventures and explore the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, which surrounds the town. No need for a trailer, you can drive right from the shop in your rental ATV to access nearby trails.

For your day in Yellowstone National Park, consider hiring a guide. Amy Beegel, owner of Easy Tours Yellowstone, LLC, is very knowledgeable and provides a step-on guide service (she will drive your car or arrange a rental) and give you a tour of the park based on what you want to see.

She knows area landmarks and where to spot local wildlife. Insider Tip: Ask to go to her favorite picnic site. If you have a limited amount of time, the cost of the interpretive trip is worth it to maximize your visit to the park.

West Yellowstone is the closest entrance to the iconic Old Faithful Geyser. The 31-mile drive takes about an hour with no stops. Make sure to take a picnic with you and lots of snacks. Fall weather and being outdoors really ups the hunger.

Yellowstone is our nation's first national park, and the breathtaking scenery and geysers live up to its reputation. Seeing Old Faithful erupt for the first time is magical, and you are likely to share the experience with people who travel from all over the world just to see this globally famous geyser spewing scalding steam and water skyward. It is unforgettable.

For more information about Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area, visit:

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