With Three Entrances, Montana is the Ideal Location for Experiencing the Park
Located in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park – the world’s first national park – is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Encompassing 2.2 million acres, Montana has three of the five entrances to the park, including the only entrance that’s accessible to year-round vehicle traffic through Gardiner.
In 2021, Yellowstone National Park welcomed 4.86 million visitors and 2022 is shaping up to be another busy year as visitors celebrate one of the most special places in the world. And while people will be visiting the park en masse this summer, here are the best ways to experience it without the masses.
- Time it Right. No matter when you visit this summer, chances are that you’ll find crowds of people if you go during the day. Time your trip so you’re up early to catch the rising steam at Grand Prismatic Spring, watch Old Faithful erupt after the sun goes down and soak in the experience against a star-filled sky or get up with the sun to watch its rays spread over Yellowstone’s diverse landscapes.
- Hike it Out. The truth is that most visitors to Yellowstone National Park stick to the roads. If you really want to get away from other people, you should hit the trails. With 900 miles of trails throughout the park, there are plenty to choose from. Keep in mind that you should always hike with a friend, be prepared, carry (and know how to use) bear spray and give wildlife a wide berth.
- Go With a Guide. While you can visit the park on your own, one of the best ways to have a deeper experience is to go with a guide or outfitter on a horseback ride or llama trek. There are also seasoned guides who offer activities like backpacking, biking, fishing, and photography, as well as road-based tours.
And while Yellowstone National Park will remain a bucket-list destination, there are plenty of things to see and do outside of the park’s boundaries. Visitors are easily able to exit one of the park’s three entrances in Montana on their way to other adventures, including:
- Driving the Beartooth Highway. A wonder in and of itself, the Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byway that weaves through both Montana and Wyoming and is accessible by exiting Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. The 68-mile-road extends from Cooke City, Montana to Red Lodge, Montana, and gives its passengers jaw-dropping views and access to high alpine lakes and trails in the Beartooth Mountains.
- Visit Red Lodge. Surrounded by the Beartooth and Absaroka mountains, Red Lodge is one of Montana’s most charming small towns. With a historic and strollable downtown, Red Lodge is a place to put on your must-visit list. It’s also a launching point for outdoor recreation and adventures, including hiking, horseback trail rides, and river trips.
- Stroll Gardiner. Steps from the park’s north entrance is the town of Gardiner. Home to just under 900 residents, in the summer this gateway community is hopping. From August 23 – 28, there will be several tipis on display at the tipi village project at the historic Roosevelt Arch. You can also fish, raft and float with several local outfitters in Gardiner, as well as soak in nearby hot springs in Paradise Valley.
- Walk Through Montana History. Visitors who base their trip in West Yellowstone (or leave the park through its west entrance) are less than 90 minutes from Virginia City and Nevada City, two of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the country. During the summer season (Memorial Day – September), visitors can take history tours, check out local shops and saloons, stay the night in a historic property, pan for gold, or travel by stagecoach.
Learn more about Yellowstone National Park and the ways to celebrate its 150th anniversary at VisitMT.com.