Tuesday, August 19, 2008

West Yellowstone Airport Camping

As part of our Idaho and Yellowstone airplane camping trip, we stayed at West Yellowstone, MT(KWYS). I have been talking about it in my past blogs about a future Yellowstone flying trip and general airplane camping thoughts. This was the first time I had been there, but I have heard many people describe it as a great place to visit with a nice campground.

The Campground

We flew in at sunset and the FBO had closed, so we had to wander around to find the campground area. Luckily, it was fairly well marked and my Flight Guide had its location correct. It is located at the northeast end of the main ramp area a little away from the commuter and FBO traffic. When you find the area and sign in the picture below, you know you have found it.

The campground area is very nice, and it is free after you have paid for the overnight parking. It is only available to pilots, so it has a lot more availability than other Yellowstone campgrounds. I hear it can be busy over the weekends, but we had the place to ourselves. The nearest sites are just inside the trees, and there are more sites going back. There are fire pits, lots of firewood, a funky (but working) hot shower, an acceptable pit toilet, picnic tables, lots of flat space for tents, and drinking water. For a nice toilet, you can always go over to the terminal a little walk away. There are even a number of bicycles including a smaller girls bicycle available for use by pilots. Another nice item is the trailer to cart your stuff between your plane and your campsite.


The Yellowstone Aviation FBO is currently at the south end of the main ramp area in the terminal, although it is relocating to a cabin in the middle of the ramp area soon. Be careful walking to the terminal on the ramp since it has commuter airlines and NTSB controlled access. Better to go through the fence and go through the normal passenger entry. I have seen this at other airports, so I knew to be a little careful in the ramp area.

Getting a rental car... Both Avis and Budget there. With an AOPA discount, the Budget rental ended up being just over $50/day after taxes.

The FBO people were super friendly. They watched over my son while I got the rental car and offered him free food and toys they happen to have around. Maybe they were being nice to a father/son outing, but I think they were just genuinely nice too. Their fuel price was high, but they tried to make up for it in service.

There is a decent restaurant on the field as well. This is certainly convenient if you get lazy about cooking for yourself at your campsite. There are plenty in town as well which is not far away.


There is so much to see of Yellowstone National Park. The main roads in Yellowstone form a figure 8 of sorts. We had seen Old Faithful in the past which is part of the lower loop, so we decided to try the upper loop of the park. It had the Paint Pots, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and more wildlife potential. In the end, we did not see much wildlife, but we were mostly driving around during the main daylight hours of the day. The upper loop did take most of the day, and we did not stop at everything.

There is a new visitor center in the Canyon area of Yellowstone. It is a pretty nice visitor center, so I would recommend giving it look if you are near there.

My son still really wanted to see Old Faithful again, so we will definitely have to go back. Of course he told me this after we were half way around the loop. We saw the Old Faithful area from the air, so that made him happy for this trip.

The Town of West Yellowstone

We did not get a chance to look around West Yellowstone too much, but it seemed like a nice town. There are two links I found for the future: a general link on West Yellowstone and a good link from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

One thing we did visit that was recommended was the The Grizzly & Wolf Center. It is kind of a mini zoo for Grizzlies and Wolves and also a place to make people more informed about camping around grizzlies and wolves. It is brand new, expanding still, and quite nice.

There is a kid feeding time for the grizzlies which is kind of neat. No... not feeding kids to grizzlies. It happens once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They close the grizzlies out of the main closure and in a very organized way bring kids in to hide berries under rocks all over. Then the kids leave and the bears are allowed back in. It was pretty cool.

Flying Back

The trip along the Tetons on the way there or back is quite impressive. We also did fly over Old Faithful which was fun. I have seen some impressive aerial pictures of other places in the park that hopefully next time we will see from the air.

Teton National ParkSummary

West Yellowstone airport is a great place for visiting Yellowstone and good camping. It has a nice long, paved runway so any pilot can make it into this one. We were here by ourselves this time, but I hope to get other families to join us next time.



montana photos and treasures said...

Seen your blog and loved your pictures, the colors are great. We too flew into Yellowstone over a year ago, I don't know if it happens very often, but when we left, the windsock was a little deceiving. It sets below the trees so as soon as you get to tree level, we were hit with a pretty good crosswind that took us a little by suprise. We too have a 182 and have started airplane camping. We really like Benchmark, the bathrooms were clean and they do have a pumping system for water. Its great fishing around there. We also flew into Moose Creek Idaho and camped with friends. It was great. Nice campsites, decent bathrooms, and alot of trails to hike and both Moose Creek and the Selway river right there. Unfortunately, we heard that the Big Creek Lodge burned down. Don't know if its true. Will look forward to more of your blogs on camping as we are looking to do more of that and its nice to get some info on the strips. Elk River is another neat one, with town right there to go and explore. Happy Camping!

Anonymous said...

Same picnic table when I camped at the pilot's campground, as seen on my Flickr account

bluebird said...

My wife and I were up there a week ago during the fires in Idaho and Washington. Definitely not the best time to be flying. Too much smoke to see much of anything. But we did manage to get to west yellowstone airport and loved the campground. The fbo staff was very friendly and helpful. We would go back anytime. The campground is well stocked with wood and bikes for riding back and forth from the fbo. The fbo opens at 7:00 am and has coffee. We recommend this airport if you are going to yellowstone or just want to get away.