And the Yellowstone Virtual Road Trip continues!
The more I say that title out loud the more it grows on me.
Having just explored the wonders of Norris Village, we’ll continue south down the Grand Loop Road and admire everything there is to see in Madison Junction. To be as informative as possible, I’ll admit that Madison Junction is not one of the most happening villages in the park. However, its name is fitting. 4 major roads meet at Madison Junction, meaning it’s likely that you’ll pass through at least once. And so if you do, here are some really nice places to stop and enjoy.
So enough yammering from my end, let’s go! Here’s a super-guide of everything to see, what to eat, and where to stay in Madison Junction at Yellowstone National Park:
Things to see and do in and around Madison Junction
Just short of a mile north of the Madison info station is Terrace Springs, a short trail of boardwalks that take you around a few thermal hot springs. This pull-off makes for a great, 10 minute stop to enjoy its blue, bubbling pools.
The Madison Information Station
The Madison Information Station primarily serves as a place to stock up on supplies, get trail recommendations, and orient yourself in the park. it’s also a piece of history, as when Yellowstone travel became a less ‘tour-guided’ more ‘self-guided’ experience, its first adventurous guests often stopped here to load up and get their bearings.
There are a few items on exhibit here from early Yellowstone travel, and sometimes, park rangers have fun little classes for kids to learn about nature through the Junior Ranger program.
Firehole Canyon Drive and Falls
If you’re looking for a spot a little off the beaten path, Firehole Falls is a great stop! From the Grand Loop road, take a detour down the Firehole Canyon Drive, and you’ll be able to access the Firehole Falls pull-off on the right. Not only will you get a scenic mountain drive along the Firehole river, but you’ll see a Yellowstone waterfall that few know to visit.
Firehole falls is a wide, gently sloping waterfall amongst a backdrop of sharp black cliffs. The parking lot is so close to the falls itself, it’s mesmerizing and inspires lots of artists. While I was visiting, a group on a photography tour was practicing taking photos of moving water.
While Firehole falls is about halfway between Madison and Old Faithful villages, the entrance to Firehole Canyon Drive from the Grand Loop road is less than a mile south of the junction, so make sure you don’t miss it!
Mount Hayne’s Overlook
This is a landmark I didn’t know about until recently, but if that last attraction inspired the photographer within you, then you’re gonna love the Mount Hayne’s Overlook!
About 3.5 miles west of Madison (on the road towards West Yellowstone) is a little lookout onto the forested peak of Mount Haynes. This mountain and its overlook were named by the first professional photographer to take photos of the park. The “overlook” is a parking lot, and the view is kind of obscured by trees, but if you walk out onto the wooden deck, you’ll get sweet views of both the Madison river and the peak.
There’s also a fishing ramp if you like trout!
Hiking in/around Madison Junction
0.25 miles North of Madison Junction is the trailhead for the Purple Mountain Trail. With a 6-mile round trip and a 1500ft elevation increase, this is a doozy of a hike but rewards you with views of the Madison and Gibbon rivers at its summit.
Around 2 miles west of Madison Junction, you’ll find the trailhead for the Harlequin Lake trail. This hike is much more laid-back than Purple Mountain, it’s 1 mile slightly uphill to a quiet, lily pad covered lake and 1 mile back. While at the lake, keep a lookout for its namesake- the Harlequin ducks!
Seven Mile Bridge
About halfway between the West Yellowstone entrance and Madison Junction is the trailhead for the Seven-mile bridge hike.
This trail is truly off the beaten path- I’ve never hiked it and I could barely find any info online for it except that it’s 14 miles and takes you along the lovely Madison River. If this hike sounds alluring to you, definitely check in the with a ranger at the info station so you know where to go!
Just within the park at the West Enterance, Two Ribbons trail is a nice, easy hike. At just one mile, you’ll get to follow the boardwalks along the Madison river. This trail is wheelchair accessible, which is always a nice touch.
Places to eat in Madison Junction
The Warming Hut
The Warming Hut is a valuable resource for Yellowstone travelers in the bitter winter season (December-March). It’s a nice place to get warm drinks and light snacks. It’s not open in the summer season.
While there are few places to get food in Madison Junction besides the info station, there are plenty of pretty places to enjoy a picnic outdoors if you’re self-catering! With so many to choose from, here’s a rundown of each picnic area in Madison:
Caldera Rim Picnic Area
Caldera Rim is situated at the base of a cliff and offers picnic tables and a restroom. The parking lot is huge, so there’s lots of space to stop.
Caldera Rim is about halfway between Norris and Madison, just north of Gibbon Falls.
Iron Spring Picnic Area
Iron Spring is situated along a meadow and the Iron Spring Creek, and as a bonus, it’s close to the small boardwalks where you can enjoy the thermal features of Iron Spring.
Iron Spring is about 5 miles north of Madison, and less than a mile south of the Caldera Rim picnic area.
Gibbon Falls Picnic Area
While enjoying the formidable Gibbon Falls, why not have some lunch?
At just 0.5 miles south of the Gibbon Falls pull-off, this picnic area has about 7 picnic tables situated right on the Gibbon River.
Tuff Cliff Picnic Area
Tuff Cliff is a small picnic area with a unique sight!
From 3 picnic tables, you’re treated to a view of Tuff Cliff, named for the type of stone that forms when volcanic ash is compressed into rock.
Tuff Cliff is about 1.5 miles north of Madison Junction.
Madison Junction Picnic Area
The Madison Junction Picnic Area is adjacent to the information station, so it’s a good option if you’re looking to stop at the station before or after eating, and has plenty of amenities like trash cans and restrooms.
Madison River Picnic Area
The picnic area at Madison River is one of the most picturesque in the park! Under one of the shady picnic tables, you’ll get to enjoy views over the swift-running Madison River.
West Yellowstone Restaurants
In the summer, the only place to get food in Madison itself would be the information station, and they typically only carry light snacks and drinks. However, The nearby town of West Yellowstone has plenty of grocery stores and restaurants. It’s a 25 minute drive west from Madison Junction through the park’s western entrance.
This is the closest place to restock on food, but the Old Faithful and Canyon Villages also have restaurants in the park.
Where to stay in Madison Junction
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in a central location within the park, the Madison Campground is a fabulous option!
Situated on a meadow, The Madison Campsite is located right where the Madison River meets the Gibbon and Firehole rivers. It’s a really beautiful site, and I would love to stay here if I were to visit.
For more info on the Madison Campground, click here.
West Yellowstone Hotels
While there are no cabins or hotel rooms for rent in or around Madison Junction, the nearby town of West Yellowstone has a wide variety of options for lodging. During my last visit, I stayed at the Days Inn and it was awesome! Free breakfast vouchers for the adjacent diner + a water slide in the pool made for a great stay.
Well, that’s everything to see, what to eat, and where to stay in Madison Junction at Yellowstone National Park!
I hope this master guide was helpful to the planning of your Yellowstone travels. But if it wasn’t, oh well I tried! Feel free to let me know either way in the comments 🙂 .
Next up, we’ll explore all of the sights to see on the Grand Loop Road between the Madison and Old Faithful villages. And oh boy, will it be a doozy of a post! There’s tons and tons to see, so be sure to stick around to see it all!
If you’re new to this Virtual Yellowstone Road Trip, all good! You can check out the post with everything to see between Norris and Madison villages here.