Are you passing through Montana’s Yellowstone Country this summer but don’t have enough time to tour the park? Don’t worry! There are a host of wonderful activities and day trips around the region to satisfy your need for adventure.
For avid roadtrippers and history buffs, a glimpse into the past is visible from Interstate 90 between Bozeman and Billings. A 260-year-old Dutch barn moved from upstate New York houses an antique gristmill and waterwheel powered by a natural spring flowing from nearby sandstone cliffs. Greycliff Mill, a roadside oasis that opened in 2021, offers visitors a quaint location to relax and refuel.
Employee Elisha Sherman said the owner’s passion is restoring old timber frame barns, and the site was perfect to team up with nearby Greycliff Creek Ranch to showcase the agricultural bounty of the region.
The mill’s restaurant features local ingredients including bread, bagels and wraps made from the flour ground on-site. Sherman said they’ve partnered with area farms and ranches to source the freshest local produce and meats.
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“We want to try and get the shortest amount of distance between your plate of food and where it’s produced,” he said.
The bi-weekly farm-to-table dinners have been a big hit, showcasing cuisines ranging from Brazilian to French, with Korean, Indian and Mediterranean nights planned in the future.
Sherman is impressed with how much the business has grown in one short year, especially with traffic down due to flooding. The farm is currently expanding with a leather shop, greenhouse, orchard, creamery, and cheese cave in the works. A herd of dairy cattle is planned to start providing fresh milk as early as next year.
“The whole place we’ve created is really amazing,” said Sherman. “It’s going to be a must-see destination if you’re coming to Montana.”
Stillwater River valley
Tippet Rise Arts Center is located on a 12,000 acre working ranch in the Beartooth foothills that features massive outdoor art installations and world-class live performances. Guests can book van tours or hike and bike around the expansive campus. In August, they will host “A Piece of Work: Shakespeare on the Rise,” in collaboration with Montana InSite Theatre. Artists will perform Shakespearean speeches, songs, and poetry inspired by various locations across Tippet Rise. Whitewater rafting guides are eager to show off the might of the Stillwater River. And no visit to the valley is complete without a scrumptious sandwich at the Fishtail General Store, a picnic at Emerald Lake, hike to Mystic Lake, or dinner at the famous Grizzly Bar in Roscoe.
Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River valley
Hiking in the Pryor Mountains means plenty of wildflowers and wide-open views. The interpretive site at the Big Ice Cave lets visitors explore a chilly prehistoric wonder. More adventurous hikers can trek to Crater Ice Cave or Rocky Juniper Trail. Fresh local produce stands dot the highway during harvest season. Top the day off with dinner and drinks at Edgar Bar or the Bear Creek Steakhouse. Bear Creek’s wild and unpredictable pig races are a can’t-miss!
Swimming, fishing, boating and other water sports are waiting at Cooney State Park reservoir. Once you’ve worked on your tan, shop for furniture at the Amish-run West Bench Country Store, or sample homemade pies at the Chuckwagon restaurant in Roberts. Rustle up a local dinner at Jane Dough’s Pizza, Melinda’s or the Lost Village Road House Saloon.
Big Timber/Boulder River valley
Hunting and fishing outfitters abound in this small town situated at the foot of the stunning Crazy Mountains. For sightseers, Natural Bridge falls and picnic area are a great rest stop along the main Boulder River. Nearby hikes include Green Mountain Trail and Placer Basin Trail, both offering great views of the valley. Big Timber’s historic downtown has a variety of restaurants, boutiques, a brewery, shopping, a fun bar scene, a movie theater, art galleries, and unique museums. Weekly farmers markets and rodeos run throughout August. Soak up some local flavor with pints at the Crazy Peak Brewing Company and dinner at Holly’s Road Kill Saloon, the Timber Bar, or the Thirsty Turtle.
Nestled alongside the Yellowstone River between Big Timber and Columbus, Greycliff moves at a slower pace. The lively underground residents of Prairie Dog Town State Park will have you chuckling—just watch out for rattlesnakes. The Greycliff Mill restaurant offers a local gift shop, gardens, playground, outdoor spaces and coffee shop. Watch in real time as Montanans’ wheat is ground into fresh flour. For an unforgettable western experience, stay at a nearby rustic cabin and hire out horseback rides at Greycliff Creek Ranch.
The Shields Valley gets less attention from tourists than its southern sister, Paradise Valley, but the landscape is equally breathtaking with views of the Bridger, Crazy and Absaroka Mountain ranges. Clyde Park and Wilsall, about 25 minutes north of Livingston, offer a look into towns that still operate like it's the Old West. There’s no trendy bars or breweries, but to drink like a local checkout the historic Bank Bar & Vault in Wilsall. Clyde Park and Wilsall both offer weekly farmer’s markets in the summer on Mondays and Wednesday, respectively, with booths from local farmers, crafters and artisans. Or, easily spend the afternoon angling on one of Montana fishermen’s best kept secrets: the Shields River. The Shields River Lodge offers guided angling day trips, luxury rooms and farm-to-table cuisine. If you have some extra time, take the scenic route from Wilsall to Bozeman through Bridger Canyon on Highway 86.
Pray, in Paradise Valley, provides easy access to the Yellowstone River and camping, hiking, rock climbing or horseback riding. Head to nearby Mill Creek for a relatively easy 5 mile out-and-back trail to Passage Falls, book a horseback trip with Rockin’ HK Outfitters or hit Chico Hot Springs’ expansive frisbee golf course at the base of Emigrant Peak. After dinner at Sage Lodge or one of the three restaurants in Chico, soak in the evening air in Chico’s two hot spring pools. If you’re not worn out yet, head to the Old Saloon in Emigrant for a drink, live music and dancing.
Pine Creek is a favorite summertime hangout for locals looking to hike, camp or listen to live music. The 2.5 mile hike to Pine Creek Falls is well-known, but well-worth the trip. Intrepid hikers can go beyond the falls for relatively difficult hikes to Pine Creek Lake (10-miles out-and-back) or the less-trafficked George Lake (10.5 mile out-and-back), both affording beautiful views of alpine lakes and the Beartooth Plateau. At night, the neon sign of Pine Creek Lodge lights up the small community with green and red and promises of fun and good food. Pine Creek Lodge offers food, accommodations (cabins and tent camping), and an outdoor stage for live music. The stage is what makes Pine Creek Lodge a favorite among locals. Adjacent to the creek, it draws local and touring musicians for an intimate evening under the stars
Adventures still await visitors in Yellowstone Country towns Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate
In the Paradise Valley, Gardiner and the high country of Cooke City/Silver Gate, locals and seasonal workers are grappling with the reality of having limited access to the northern gates of Yellowstone National Park after historic flooding in the area.
A June 30 press release from the National Park Service stated that visitors may access the park on foot through the North Entrance Road (Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs) and Northeast Entrance Road (Cooke City/Silver Gate to Tower-Roosevelt) in order to recreate in areas not identified as closed. These entrances remain closed to visitor vehicular traffic while temporary repairs are completed. The park will evaluate bicycle use through these entrances up to damaged road sections in the near future.
In a positive development, the North Loop of Yellowstone National Park opened to visitors on July 2, and the opening makes 93 percent of roads in the park available to personal vehicles.
Additionally, park staff are working with commercial guides and outfitters in Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate to further expand park access where possible. Yellowstone has also reopened a 23-mile segment of the Beartooth Highway from the US-212/WY-296 (Chief Joseph Highway) junction to the Beartooth Basin ski hill parking lot, providing visitors access to this world-class scenic roadway just south of the Montana border.
According to NPS, reconnecting the park to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate remains Yellowstone's highest flood recovery priority.
Most businesses have resumed operations and are eager to host visitors again. We’ve included some activities and tours that are available in the area below. You can also go to www.visityellowstonecountry.com for more information.
Saddle up for trail rides, pack trips, fishing trips and more with experienced mountain guides.
Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters
Specimen Creek Outfitters
Several companies offer whitewater rafting and scenic floats down the Yellowstone River that can be packaged with other tours.
Yellowstone Raft Co./Paradise Adventure Co.
Flying Pig Adventures Rafting
Montana Whitewater/Yellowstone Rafting & Zipline
Wild West Rafting
Yellowstone Wildlife Profiles
Big Sky E-Bike Tours
Yellowstone Dreamin’ Adventures
The Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center houses Yellowstone's museum collection, archives, herbarium, tours, traveling exhibits, and research library.
Bring water, bug spray, sturdy shoes, and bear spray for these short hikes that are easy/moderate in difficulty level:
North Fork Bear Creek Trail
Joe Brown trail
Chico Trout Pond
Big Creek to Bark Cabin Creek
Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail
2nd Annual Gardiner Fire-Ball
Thursday, July 14 from 4 p.m.-midnight
Live music and food trucks at Red’s Blue Goose Saloon in a fundraiser for the Gardiner Volunteer Fire Department.
Saturday, July 16 at 3 p.m. at Arch Park
Regional beers on tap, local BBQ, kids activities, live music and cornhole tournament
Old Saloon, Emigrant
Old Saloon's 120th Anniversary featuring Steve Earle & The Dukes
Fri., July 8, 7 p.m. (doors 5:30 p.m.) With The Whitmore Sisters - All Ages Welcome
Fri., July 15
All Ages Welcome
Sat., July 16
All Ages Welcome
The Dead South
Wed., July 27
All Ages Welcome
Tickets $35 / $45 Day Of
Kimberly Dunn W/ Amanda Stewart
Sat, July 30 at 7 p.m.
All Ages Welcome
Cooke City/Silver Gate
Saddle up for trail rides, pack trips, fishing trips and more with experienced mountain guides:
K Bar Z Guest Ranch
Skyline Guest Ranch
The Cooke City and Daisy Pass OHV routes should be clear of snow sometime in July. Inquire locally for road conditions.
As of July 1, the highway is open on the Wyoming side to the Beartooth Basin Ski Area parking lot. The ski area is usually open in the summer season but is closed for 2022 due to lack of snow. Scenic lakes and mountain views dominate the landscape at a breathtaking 10,000 feet, and snowbanks can linger well into August. The road is closed north of the Montana border due to flooding south of Red Lodge, but Montana Department of Transportation crews are working to get access restored by the end of July. View current road conditions at https://www.511mt.net/
Cooke City Montana Museum
Learn about the history of the area through eleven exhibits illustrated by the museum's wonderful collection of artifacts. Nine of the exhibits in the museum include touchscreens which give visitors a glimpse into the people and places that made this area what it is today.
Bring water, bug spray, sturdy shoes, and bear spray for these short hikes that are easy/moderate in difficulty level:
Beauty Lake Trail
Crazy Creek Falls
Long Lake to Snyder Lake
Hauser Lake Trail
Clay Butte Lookout
Bannock Ski Trail
Beartooth Run: Cooke City Edition
Saturday, July 9, noon
Due to flooding and the inability to access the traditional 5K/10K course on top of the Beartooth Pass, this year's race is relocating to Cooke City, the “coolest small town in America”. Sign up here.
2022 Annual Church Bazaar
Tools, equipment, winter and summer sports gear, clothing, books, games, puzzles, household and kitchen items, furniture in usable shape, decorative items, and linens. Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – Noon
2022 International Hemingway Conference
The International Hemingway Conference provides both new scholarship and an opportunity to experience and explore Hemingway’s Rocky Mountain West. Hemingway went West again in 1930 and traveled across Wyoming to the L-T ranch just outside Cooke City, Montana. It was then, and still is, wild country—spectacularly beautiful, a bit intimidating, and bereft of some 21st Century amenities.
To attend this 2020 International Hemingway Conference you must be a member and register for this conference. Go to www.hemingwaysociety.org and go to the membership tab to join.
Shakespeare In The Parks
Saturday, August 15 at 6 p.m., Silver Gate Park
"Cymbeline", also known as "The Tragedie of Cymbeline" or "Cymbeline, King of Britain", is a play by William Shakespeare set in Ancient Britain and based on legends that formed part of the Matter of Britain concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobeline. Like “Othello” and “The Winter’s Tale”, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy.
If You Go
Check recreation closures, alerts and restrictions before you head out:
Custer Gallatin National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/custergallatin/about-forest/contactus
Beartooth Ranger District: (406)446-2103
Bozeman Ranger District: (406)587-6701
Gardiner Ranger District: (406)848-7375
Hebgen Lake Ranger District: (406)823-6961
Yellowstone (Livingston) Ranger District: (406)222-1892
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/ba378e9a50ec4d53bbe92e406b647d3e
Bureau of Land Management Montana/Dakotas:
Montana Department of Transportation:
Federal reservation system for recreation sites in the U.S., including camping, lodging, tours, permits and passes: https://www.recreation.gov
Cowboy up for 'Cowboy Christmas' in Montana's Yellowstone Country
Rodeo season is already in full swing in Montana’s Yellowstone Country, and visitors in search of bulls, broncs, beers and barrel racing won’t have to stray far to find the action. And with a resurgence in popularity and interest brought about by TV shows like Kevin Costner’s Montana-set “Yellowstone,” rodeos are sure to be a hot ticket this summer.
For Montana’s outdoor rodeos, the Fourth of July holiday really kicks competition into high gear. Hundreds of competitors will have dozens of rodeos to choose from in the coming weeks, a frenzied window known as “Cowboy Christmas,” due to the buildup of excitement and potential for big prize payouts.
According to Livingston Roundup Association president Bruce Becker, area rodeos are scheduled in conjunction with each other to draw the best array of talent. “Livingston, Red Lodge and Cody all agreed to have their rodeos on the Fourth of July weekend,” he said of the towns that are spread out over about 200 miles. “That way (competitors) can go to all 3 in a matter of a few days.
And in that small 3-day window, cowboys and cowgirls will have ample chances for eye-popping purses, including nearly $250K in total payout at the Livingston rodeo alone. The trio of events have also become known as “Gateway Rodeos,” not only because the host towns are gateway communities for Yellowstone National Park, but also because each stop can potentially be a qualifying gateway for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“(Cowboy Christmas) is a great chance to boost earnings, and also a make-or-break point for making Vegas,” said Stacie Nardinger, Secretary and Communications Director for the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo.
Rodeos can also be a proud display of the heart and unique personality of each community, from the local western flavor of the crowds and parades to the performers and behind-the-scenes volunteers that make the events happen.
Nardinger emphasized the annual rodeo is a “huge piece” for Red Lodge. “Especially with our access to Yellowstone Park and the Beartooth Pass closed, it is really integral to our economy. Despite fires (in 2021) and this year’s flood, we are promoting hope for businesses,” she said, adding the rodeo recently volunteered a work crew to help three local families impacted by flooding.
The events also provide a community platform for kids’ participation, scholarship opportunities, fundraising, and honoring groups like the military and first responders. July 3rd is “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night at both the Livingston and Red Lodge rodeos, part of a national initiative to promote breast cancer awareness. Mutton bustin’, stick horse rodeos, and lesser-known events like breakaway roping and wild horse races offer one-of-a-kind spectacles that can often showcase homegrown talent.
Montana’s Yellowstone Country gateway rodeos are the perfect venue for families to get outdoors in a mountain-studded backdrop and take in a sporting event steeped in American history and what Nardinger calls a “Wild West feel”.
Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time, there’s no sporting event quite like a rodeo. Montana offers many opportunities to watch cowboys, cowgirls, rodeo clowns, rodeo queens, and world-class stock in action throughout the summer.
Go to www.visityellowstone.com/rodeos for more information, and find a list of upcoming pro rodeo events in Montana’s Yellowstone Country below:
If You Go
Make sure to check the websites and social media pages for businesses and events, and call before you go to ensure space is available—these events are popular!
PRCA Xtreme Bulls, roping events
Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo
Livingston Roundup Rodeo
West Yellowstone Rodeo
Nightly June 27-July 9
Three Forks Rodeo Dayz and Street Fair
Big Sky PBR professional bull riders tour
July 21-23, PBR Arena, Big Sky Town Center
Bozeman Roundup ranch rodeo
Big Timber Weekly Pro Rodeo
6 Wednesday night PRCA Rodeos: August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, & September 7 starting at 7 p.m. Different specialty acts each week.
'Hell or high water': Yellowstone gateway communities determined after flooding
Southern Montana communities are showing characteristic resolve in the face of historic floods as they work to quickly clean up the damage to their homes and businesses.
Untold tons of mud, rocks and debris have been removed as engineers in the Yellowstone National Park gateway region work to repair the damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water and sewage systems.
And with the southern loop of Yellowstone Park now open just a week and a half after the park’s closure on June 13, residents in nearby Montana communities are getting the word out that they’re also open for business.
For Red Lodge resident and Roman Theater owner Mike Booth, that word is “ready”.
After watching helplessly as the raging waters of Rock Creek inundated his neighborhood and cut water and power service, Booth witnessed his community stand up and stand together.
“It’s been nothing short of a miracle what they’ve accomplished in a few short days,” he said of volunteers and government agencies responding to clean debris and repair roads. “Everybody is doing everything they can.”
Booth said that while some residents were displaced from homes, the silver lining is Red Lodge’s historic downtown escaped the flood largely unscathed. As the executive director of the upcoming Red Lodge Songwriter Festival (June 23-25) he will oversee the town’s first big event after the disaster.
“The message is Red Lodge is open for business,” Booth said. “Montanans know we are at the mercy of the land, but we are resilient. We will get back up off the mat.”
The songwriter festival will boast 25 shows featuring 20+ songwriters across 7 venues, and will serve as a test run for bigger summer events like the Home of Champions 4th of July Rodeo and the Beartooth Rally.
“It’s all happening come hell or high water,” Booth said. “We’ve been through both.”
For the fledgling Yellowstone Hot Springs, located a short drive north of Gardiner in the Paradise Valley, building a following from scratch is no new challenge.
After losing the summer influx of Yellowstone tourists, “our customer base isn’t there anymore,” said general manager Erin Kennedy. “We are treating it like wintertime.”
Built on a historic site at Corwin Springs that has seen many iterations of mineral hot springs attractions, the current location was remodeled and opened in 2018. The site boasts cold and hot pools ranging from 65 to 105 degrees, with nearby RV and tent camping.
Kennedy says their springs are unique in the region as an interactive experience, with employees taking a one-on-one approach to educate guests about the pools’ mineral composition and natural features like flora and fauna. They also offer two dedicated pools for “Kniepp Walking”, a form of hydrotherapy that alternates hot and cold water to both relax and invigorate the body.
Despite the challenges flooding has brought to their doorstep, Kennedy remains positive, stressing area businesses are eager to bounce back. “Our outfitters and guides will be back on the river soon. They will have to learn a whole new river, but that’s what these guys are made for.”
The hot springs has also focused on the bright side, partnering with a rafting company from Gardiner to build a landing site at a new ‘beach’ created by the flooding.
“We want to turn into a destination, not just a stop-off,” Kennedy said.
While flooding has forever changed the landscapes that Montanans call home, they are still eager to play host and show travelers their resilient spirit.
Mike Booth’s advice for those wanting to visit areas affected by flooding is simply: “Be patient, be kind, be respectful.”
If You Go
There are still ample ways to visit Montana’s Yellowstone Country while recreating responsibly and respecting impacted communities. Some tips for your trip:
- Heed road closures, recreation alerts, signs, and weather safety warnings
- Make sure to check the websites and social media pages for businesses and events, and call before you go
- Be flexible, and be prepared for plans to change
- Be aware of cancellation policies for activities and lodging
- Consider trip insurance
- Make the best of the situation! It may not be the vacation you planned, but it will be unique and memorable
- Be kind to workers and locals. Many have lost more than just a vacation
For more information about visiting Montana’s Yellowstone Country, go to www.visityellowstonecountry.com.
If you would like to donate to flood relief efforts in southern Montana, please visit these verified websites:
To make an online donation to the Southwest Montana Flood Relief Fund, text Flood22 to 41444 or go to Greater Gallatin United Way
Upcoming Events in Yellowstone Country
Pig Races at Bear Creek Saloon & Steakhouse
Races begin at 7 p.m. every Thursday-Saturday through Labor Day
Enjoy dinner and cocktails while betting on pig races to benefit a local scholarship fund. Dinner reservations recommended. Bearcreek Downs: Where Pigs DO Fly!
Sweet Grass Fest
Rodeo, parade, car show, street fair and fun run in a historic community at the foot of the Crazy Mountains.
Annual Fishtail Family Fun Day
Activities all day including pancake breakfast, cornhole tournament, vendor fair, gun raffle, bake sale, live music and duck races.
Jammin’ Out in Joliet
Family fun, vendor fair, live music, street dance and fireworks in this charming community between Laurel and Red Lodge.
Tap Into Montana Brew Fest
June 25, Miles Park bandshell, 3-8 p.m.
Sample craft beer from your favorite Montana breweries, enjoy live music and delicious local food while taking in the beautiful views of the Yellowstone River and Absaroka Mountains.
Powderhorn at Music Ranch Montana
June 24, dinner at 6:30 p.m., music at 7:30 p.m.
Enjoy dinner, live music and dancing in the heart of the stunning Paradise Valley.
Quenby at Old Saloon
June 23, 8 p.m.
Live music for all ages. No cover.
Sean Devine at Pine Creek Lodge
June 23, 6 p.m.
Outdoor concert from “The Treasure State Troubadour” Free show
The Wood Brothers with Amanda Stewart at Pine Creek Lodge
June 24, 7 p.m.
The Steel Woods at Old Saloon
June 24, 7 p.m.
All ages, tickets $20
Brunch with Maggie Hickman at Pine Creek Lodge
June 25, 11 a.m.
The Sleepless Elite at Pine Creek Lodge
June 25, 6 p.m.
The Dirty Shame at Old Saloon
June 25, 8 p.m.
All ages, no cover
Brunch with Chandler Huntley at Pine Creek Lodge
June 26, 11 a.m.
6th Annual Red Lodge Songwriter Festival
For three days in June the streets, bars, cafes, and parks of Red Lodge will become a gathering place for songwriters from Montana, Nashville, and around the country. The weekend features 25 live performances and 24 songwriters across 7 venues, plus a songwriting contest.
Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo
June 22-25, 7 p.m.
Rodeos run 5 to 6 days a week in June, July & August. Cowboys and cowgirls show off their skills in bareback, saddle bronc, teaming roping, bull riding, and more. Trail rides are also available.
For more upcoming events in Montana’s Yellowstone Country, visit: www.visityellowstonecountry.com/events.