Find the best of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding communities: Livingston, Gardiner and Red Lodge.
Outdoor adventure and spectacular scenery abound on this five-day scenic loop through southern Montana and into Yellowstone National Park. Hike on a wilderness plateau. Raft the Stillwater River. Horseback ride in Paradise Valley. Along the way, make a stop to soak in a hot springs-fed pool.
The Route: Livingston > I-90 to Columbus > MT-78 to Red Lodge > U.S. 212 to Yellowstone National Park entrance > Exit Montana to Wyoming > U.S. 212 > Grand Loop Road > U.S. 89 to Gardiner > Exit Wyoming to Montana > U.S. 89 > MT-540 through Paradise Valley > U.S. 89 to Livingston
Total Distance: approximately 360 miles
Gateway Airport: Bozeman Yellowstone
International Airport, Bozeman
Begin in Livingston with a pilgrimage to Dan Bailey’s, the all-things-angler shop founded in 1938 by the father of Montana fly-fishing. Buy hand-tied flies, hire a local fishing guide, or get tips on where the trout are biting that day. Spend the night in Livingston.
Trade your car for a horse and hit the trail. Paintbrush Adventures in Absarokee leads rides into Montana’s highest mountains. Bear Paw Outfitters in Paradise Valley offers trips to places like Yellowstone and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Or, take a pulse-pounding rafting trip down the Stillwater River with Absaroka River Adventures. Relax in quaint Red Lodge.
Soak in the scenery on the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212), an All-American Road connecting Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The highway (late May to mid-October) leads past 20 peaks of more than 12,000 feet and over the 10,900-plusfoot Beartooth Plateau. After that white-knuckle drive, spend the night in Cooke City.
Prepare to be amazed as you follow the Grand Loop Road south through Yellowstone National Park. Highlights include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; the bubbling Mud Volcano area; and the Mammoth Hot Springs, a hotbed of geothermal formations. Spend the night in Gardiner.
Turn onto scenic U.S. 89 in Livingston to take the Paradise Valley Scenic Drive. Paralleling the Upper Yellowstone River between the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges, the drive passes through pasturelands of the lower valley, and delivers pure Montana mountain and river vistas. Take a relaxing soak and spend the night at Chico Hot Springs Resort in Pray.
This route was published in National Geographic Traveler magazine. To see more about this route—including interactive maps and additional photos—visit nationalgeographic.com/montana/roadtrips.