We started the next leg of our journey (spoiler! my favorite part) in Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is a fun little town that seems to be mainly populated by river rats and tourists heading in to Yellowstone. The Gardiner entrance is Yellowstone’s only year round entrance, and the Yellowstone River flows right through town.
“…located in the heart of Yellowstone’s Northern Range, at the junction of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers. We are surrounded by the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the east, the Gallatin Wilderness to the north and west, and the world’s first and most famous national park, Yellowstone National Park, to the south. This area is home to the most diverse herds of large wildlife species in the lower 48 states including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and deer.”
The town obviously caters to the visitors who stop on their way to the National Park and to recreate on the Yellowstone River, but the town doesn’t feel overly “touristy”. Definitely get dinner on the huge deck at Iron Horse Bar & Grille. I drank a delicious Montana beer (that I immediately forgot the name of!) while watching the sunset over the mountains and the river flow by.
There are a ton of things to do in Gardiner! While we mostly used it as a base to head into Yellowstone National Park, there are plenty of activities centered in or around the town. You can raft the Yellowstone River – we saw plenty of individuals and guided groups, prime fly fishing, horseback tours, and much more!
As far as Yellowstone National Park goes, you get to enter through the Roosevelt Arch, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. Gardiner is only a couple of miles from the Boiling River, a great spot for swimming where a hot spring pours into the Gardiner River. This is also a great spot for wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep on the hillside almost as soon as we drove in to the Park! You’re also only about five miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, and can venture further into Yellowstone from there.
I would highly recommend the place we stayed in Gardiner – the Riverside Cottages. Our set up was a condo-type studio with a full kitchen. They also have a communal hot tub with a river view! After a great night’s sleep in the comfy beds we grabbed a quick breakfast at Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe (coffee + breakfast sandwiches + books = my 3 favorite things), and headed out on the road. Stay tuned for Lamar Valley, Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway!