Upon first glance, Madison Junction does not offer much to the inquiring visitor. But appearances can be deceiving.
True, Madison does not have any famous features within walking distance, no lodging facilities, no restaurants, no Grand Canyons of the Yellowstone. However, Madison Junction does have several advantages that make it both a spot worth visiting and a spot worth staying in.
Indeed, contrary to its apparent quaintness, Madison Junction is a picturesque stop on the Grand Loop Road. It’s a great spot to see bison, for instance, on the fields near the Madison River and its confluence with the Gibbon River. Madison is also just in sight of the towering Mount Haynes and tree-laden National Park Mountain.
Now, why National Park Mountain? There was an old story long held as authentic, dating back to the Washburn–Langford–Doane Expedition of 1870, about this. According to legend, in view of this mountain, the members of the expedition discussed (around a campfire) how Yellowstone should be set aside as a national park. Pretty, but alas, this story is apocryphal.
Nonetheless, the story has left its mark on the area. For years, the ranger station at Madison housed a museum. Today, it contains an information station and a Yellowstone Forever store.
The building alone is worth a visit to Madison Junction. Designed by Herbert Meier, it was built in 1929-30, and operated as a trailside Museum, appealing to Park visitors traveling by car instead of in a guided tour. The building is a classic example of early parkitecture, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Madison Junction has another item of historic interest as well. Behind the station is a bronze plaque commemorating Stephen T. Mather, the father of the National Park Service.
And besides the station and plaque, Madison Junction also has an Amphitheater, which features ranger-led programs about Yellowstone National Park every evening during the summer. This makes Madison Junction more than a pretty stopping point. It’s also a potential staying point.
You can stay longer than a day even. Nearby Madison Campground is not only one of the largest campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park; it also has one of the best locations. Think about it: Madison is roughly halfway between Norris Geyser Basin and the Old Faithful Area. Geyser central in Yellowstone. It’s also close to gateway community West Yellowstone. Madison is smack dab in great waterfall country too: Gibbon Falls is a short drive north, Firehole Falls a short drive south. It also has some of the best scenery in Yellowstone. In short, it’s one of the most well networked campgrounds in the Park.
If you’re looking to stay in the heart of geyser country while trying to avoid the bustle of Old Faithful, then Madison should be at the top of your list.