To a lot of people, Madison is just a junction on the way to somewhere beautiful in Yellowstone National Park. For a long time, we treated this area the same way. But the Madison area extends all the way to West Yellowstone, and features some beautiful drives, fun stops, and a couple of nice hikes. This list of things to do near Madison Yellowstone will give you some ideas of how to start your Yellowstone adventure.
Unless your travels take you to West Yellowstone, there is really no reason to drive out to the West Gate, but if you are along this road, there are a few interesting points. The first is the very short Riverside Drive, which comes up on the north side of the road. We see swans and bald eagles in this area, so keep your eyes open for Riverside. It is a short drive, and there is not even a turnout sign, but the road is paved.
As you get nearer to Madison, the valley widens and the pullouts become more plentiful. We almost always stop to see buffalo and elk as we head in toward Madison. It’s worth a few minutes to check these turnouts for animal sightings.
Harlequin Lake Hike
The best hike in this area for kids is Harlequin Lake. Just a few miles before reaching the junction, you’ll see a small hiking sign with a parking area. The best thing about this hike is that we have never seen a single soul along the trail.
Madison Information Station
Madison Junction has only a small information center and bookstore, but it is the perfect place to pick up the Junior Ranger booklet as you are entering Yellowstone (or turn it in as you are leaving). We’ve written a lot about this program, and our kids look forward to doing it every time we are in Yellowstone. Best of all, there are multiple levels, so the program grows with them.
Just east of Madison Junction there is an amazing roadside waterfall. Gibbon Falls is an easy stop with plenty of parking. Get your camera ready, because the waterfall is up close and personal. This is one of the easiest and most beautiful waterfalls in the park to access.
Our favorite drive in Yellowstone National Park is just south of Madison Junction, and it comes with another amazing waterfall. Firehole Canyon drive is a one-way (north to south) drive through a rocky canyon. It is safe for most vehicles, but the road is tight, and there isn’t a lot of parking. Firehole Falls is right next to the road, and it is worth the short side trip. There is also a swimming hole just past the waterfall that is very popular in the summer. It is unstaffed, so please use caution if you swim in the river.
Our Must-Do List of things to do near Madison, Yellowstone is short, but if you are in the area, use these stops to enjoy the Madison area on your trip to Yellowstone.
- Riverside Drive
- Harlequin Lake
- Madison Information Center
- Gibbon Falls
- Firehole Canyon Drive
Madison Campground is one of the largest campgrounds in the park and does accept reservations. We highly recommend reserving because Yellowstone is one of the busiest National Parks. Info for reservations here.
Located at the Madison Information Center
Visit our Yellowstone page to find information about seven other areas in the park and to find helpful tips for visiting. Some posts you might be interested in: