Skier along the Madison River in Yellowstone

West Yellowstone Riverside Ski Trails

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Skier along the Madison River in Yellowstone
NPS/Bianca Klein

West Yellowstone Riverside Ski Trails

By the time December rolls around I’m ready to don my cross-country skis and head out into the snowy woods. There may or may not be enough snow around Bozeman for Nordic skiing, but luckily you can always count on plenty of powder in West Yellowstone.

There are lots of ski trails around West Yellowstone but one of my family’s favorites is the Riverside Trail. Actually two loop trails, the Riverside Trails are easy enough for a beginner skier, but scenic enough for anyone. Another bonus is they are often partially groomed and you an easily pull a ski trailer with your little one. (There are a couple short, steep hills, but they are walkable.)

The trails start on the east side of Boundary Street between Yellowstone and Madison Avenues. Look for the trail sign through a gap in the snowbank.

From the trailhead ski east along the power line. At 1 mile you’ll reach a junction.

Downriver Loop: Veer left and head down the hill toward the river. At 1.25 miles from the junction look for a sign that reads “Cutoff”. By turning left here, you’ll have a nice hill to practice Telemark turns or a shortcut to the west section of the trail. If you ski past the cutoff, continue for 1.3 miles until the trail loops back to the top of the hill. Watch for the orange markers on the trees. It is 1 more mile to the Access Trail.

Upriver Loop: Ski to the right on the road briefly, looking for the trail through the trees on the left. Wind through lodgepoles on a bench above the river. At about 0.5 miles drop down a steep 60 yards. In another 0.3 miles you’ll reach the Madison River. Follow the river downstream to the end of the loop and a mellow climb back to the bench.

The two loops can be combined into a 7.3-mile bigger loop (including the Access Trail).

Where to Stay in West Yellowstone

The Stagecoach Inn tends to be one of the few cheap hotels near Yellowstone and it’s still pretty decent.

Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone

The staff at the Explorer Cabins will organize a tour into the park or get you set for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or ice fishing nearby. And the bonus is, when you get back to the Explorer Cabins you can roast marshmallows around campfire.

The Yellowstone camping cabins are clustered in groups of five, making it ideal for extended family or a group gathering.

Each private cabin boasts stylish décor, fine linens, a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette for whipping up your favorite meals. WiFi is available in the cabins and throughout the property. Dog-friendly cabins are available. Find more reviews and the best deals on the Explorer Cabins.

Holiday Inn West Yellowstone

Another of our favorite Yellowstone West Entrance lodging options is the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone. We tend to stay here in the winter because it’s close to the Rendezvous Ski Trails.

The Holiday Inn has all the basics: renovated guest rooms and suites, indoor pool, hot tub, in room microwaves, mini fridges, and free WiFi. The full service restaurant offers Montana cuisine and a full bar. Find more reviews and the best deals on the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone.

Best Western Yellowstone

The Best Western Desert Inn is just two blocks from the West Entrance to Yellowstone and close to the River Side Ski Trails. The rooms are big, if a little dated. Some rooms have kitchenettes, which is nice for easy meals or prepping picnic supplies for the day.

There is a pool, hot tub, WiFi, guest laundry, and laundry services. If you are looking for the closest hotel to Yellowstone National Park, this might be it. It’s also close to shopping, restaurants, the Imax Theater, and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. See more reviews and find the best deals on the Best Western in West Yellowstone.

Vacation Rentals in West Yellowstone

There are also a ton of vacation rentals in West Yellowstone. You get your own home away from home to spread out and relax. I am constantly surprised at how many houses for rent in West Yellowstone pop up each year.

If you want to scan all the places for rent in West Yellowstone, check out this page.

A few of the best homes and cabins in West Yellowstone:

Read more about visiting West Yellowstone in fall here and for fun things to do in winter in West Yellowstone, see this post.

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