This post is sponsored by Montana’s Yellowstone Country
There are so many things to do near Yellowstone National Park, that you could spend your entire Yellowstone vacation on the periphery of our favorite National Park. I am not suggesting you do that, of course, but when you are planning a trip, be sure to consider the things to do around Yellowstone as well as the sights and activities within the park.
I am writing this post in July 2022, not long after a 500-year flood washed through the area. The North and Northeast Entrances to Yellowstone are currently closed to vehicles. However, I encourage people to explore the places to see near Yellowstone even when it is easy to get into the park.
There is a 3-Day Itinerary to Livingston, Gardiner, and Paradise Valley on my other site.
15 Things to Do Near Yellowstone
Eat Out Near Yellowstone!
For small towns, Livingston, Paradise Valley, and Gardiner have a lot of good restaurants. I often think about how lucky we are to have so many good choices of places to eat.
Hear Live Music
One of my favorite parts of summer is listening to live music outside.
Pine Creek Lodge is an intimate outdoor venue with bands several nights a week and during Sunday brunch. Dance beneath the pines, grab a drink, and enjoy an easy meal.
The Old Saloon has “Live music all summer long. Good food, booze, and great stories year-round.”
The Shane Center’s Summer Outdoor Concert Series is free and lively on Thursday evenings in summer. Food and beverages can be purchased, but bring your own chair.
Music Ranch Montana showcases mostly country music, dancing, and dinner.
Float Down the Yellowstone River
Whether you are looking for a scenic or white water experience, the expert guides in Gardiner and Livingston have you covered. If you are skilled at running rivers, you can even rent your own equipment and be your own guide.
Yellowstone Wood Boat Tours takes guests on the river in luxury with their handmade (gorgeous) wooden boats. They provide gourmet food, expert guides, and epic views.
Sleeping Giant River Guides offers scenic raft trips, inflatable kayak trips, and overnight rafting adventures.
The following companies offer both scenic and white water trips, as well as a “Saddle and Paddle” option in which you spend part of the day on a horse and the other part in a raft.
- Flying Pig Adventure Company
- Yellowstone Raft Company
- Wild West Raft Company
- Paradise Adventure Company
- Montana Whitewater
Montana is known for blue-ribbon fishing streams for a reason. Between spring creeks, mountain streams, and the Yellowstone River, there are plenty of options to cast a line.
You will need a Montana fishing license and the right gear, which are easily accessible at any of the fishing shops or from fishing outfitters.
Go Horseback Riding
What experience is more Western than horseback riding? Some of my favorite times in the local mountains have been atop a horse. You can see a lot when someone else is doing the walking.
Choose an outfitter from the list below or ask at your accommodations for their recommendation.
- Bear Paw Outfitters
- Chico Horse Barn
- Hell’s A-Roarin’
- Rockin’ HK Outfitters
- Yellowstone Roughriders
- Find more horseback riding options in Yellowstone Country.
If you want to ride in the park, see how much fun we had with our friends at Wilderness Pack Trips.
Book A Spa Day
Honestly, I do not have a lot of experience with local spas. I really wish I did! I do know that both Chico Hot Springs Resort and Sage Lodge have lovely spa facilities. I’d jump at the chance to check them out and recommend you do the same. After a day of hiking, horseback riding, or shopping downtown, a massage is what you need to get you ready for another day of Montana fun.
Go For A Hike Near Yellowstone
Some of the other places to visit near Yellowstone National Park are in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The National Forest is an extension of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion and has much of the same flora and fauna—from glacier lilies to grizzly bears. And the best way to experience it is to take a hike near Yellowstone.
Bear Creek Trail
Bear Creek Trail starts high above Gardiner and Jardine on the edge of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. The trail climbs steadily for 4 miles to Knox Lake – a beautiful turquoise body of water. The fishing is good and the views are excellent.
Pine Creek Falls
Pine Creek Falls is a popular 2.3-mile (round trip) hike to a lacy waterfall. Most of the hike is easy to moderate as it follows Pine Creek and the last section gets steep as it climbs to the waterfall.
Passage Creek Falls
The trail to Passage Creek Falls is easy and flat as it crosses Mill Creek and Passage Creek, then skirts the edge of a scree field. Follow Passage Creek through meadows and woods. Then it’s up and over a short, steep hill to the thunderous waterfall at 2.1 miles.
Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail
The petrified trees here date to 50 million years ago when living trees were covered in ash from the Yellowstone volcano. The 2.3-mile trail is marked with interpretive signs so you can better understand the long history of the place and the process of petrification. While the trail is short, it does gain 1,020 feet and is steep in places.
Ride a Bike
From mountain biking in the National Forest to gravel rides on one of the many dirt roads leaving the valley, to paved bike/walk paths, there are plenty of places to spin two wheels. Around Livingston, string together the city trails to get to know the town.
To find a suitable trail, check-in at Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company – they always have good advice.
If you don’t have your own bike, rent from:
- Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company (Livingston)
- 406 E-Bike Rentals (Livingston)
- Big Sky E-Bike Tours and Rentals (Gardiner)
Shop at Livingston’s Farmers Market
The Livingston Farmers Market is more than just produce (although the local produce is great!) it’s a gathering place for locals and visitors every Wednesday from 4:30-7:30 pm in the summer. You will almost always find us there!
Food trucks supply dinner and desserts and local breweries sell their craft beer while live music plays on the stage.
Stroll Galleries and Boutique Shops in Gardiner and Livingston
Gardiner and Livingston are full of Montana small-town charm and a lot of that comes from the art galleries, shops, and theaters that line their downtowns. There are too many to list, but a few of my favorite shops are Out of the Blue Antiques, Bob’s Outdoors, Cactus Blossom Collective, and Sax and Fryer.
Galleries showcase Western and modern art, wildlife and avant-garde subjects, and local and international artists.
Soak in a Hot Spring
There are two public hot springs to soak away the day.
Yellowstone Hot Springs is about ten minutes north of Gardiner and sits above the Yellowstone River with terrific views of the mountains on both sides. There are 4,000 square feet of mineral hot springs divided into a big pool with two smaller pools inside it and a kneipp walk. There are small, clean changing rooms. They sell a few snacks, but you can picnic outside, near the pools with your own food. No alcohol is allowed.
One of the most well-known Montana hot springs resorts, Chico Hot Springs Resort, is a turn-of-the-century, rustic, retreat snuggled into the Absaroka Mountains. Chico features an outdoor swimming pool and an attached, covered soaking pool. Chico is known for gourmet food—much of which is grown in the onsite gardens and year-round greenhouse—great local bands, and luxurious spa services.
Get Close to Grizzlies
If you are hankering to see a grizzly bear up close, but in a totally safe way, meet the bears at Montana Grizzly Encounter, a grizzly bear education and sanctuary on Bozeman Pass between Livingston and Bozeman.
The bears here are rescued and couldn’t survive in the wild, so they get great care in a natural setting – and you get to watch them and learn about grizzlies.
Sip at Local Breweries and Historic Bars
There is no shortage of watering holes in Yellowstone Country. Stop by for lunch, an apres-activity drink, or a night on the town.
Walk downtown in Livingston or Gardiner, look for a brick building with a Western front and you’ll likely have found a saloon. The Mint Bar and Grill, The Murray Bar, The Owl Lounge, Glenn’s Food and Spirits, and others in Livingston offer great food along with libations.
Explore a Museum
Sometimes you want to learn more about an area you are traveling in, and sometimes you want to get out of the rain or intense heat. One of our local museums will fill both of those needs.
Yellowstone Gateway Museum, Livingston
The Yellowstone Gateway Museum’s permanent exhibits interpret the area’s native cultures, early expeditions (including the Corps of Discovery and Lewis and Clark), the railway’s role in bringing visitors to Yellowstone National Park, and the stories and artifacts of early-day communities. Outdoor exhibits include a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and a fleet of transportation vehicles, including a caboose.
Livingston Depot Museum
Each summer the Livingston Depot Center opens its seasonal museum with a different exhibit related to the town and its history. The museum is housed in the original launching point for travel to Yellowstone National Park. The historic Livingston Depot was built in 1902 and was designed by Reed & Stem, the original architects for New York City’s Grand Central Station.
Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, Gardiner
Yellowstone’s collections document the cultural and natural history of the world’s first national park and the conditions of its resources. It is a branch of the National Archives and is used for research. The main and upper floor lobbies include small rotating exhibits for public viewing. Topics vary from history, culture, art, and natural history. Free public behind-the-scenes tours are offered Wednesdays from 4:00-5:00 PM between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Space is limited, please call 307-344-2264 to register.
Yellowstone Guided Tours
I am cheating a little with these guided tours since they do go inside Yellowstone National Park. Even though the flood in June 2022 washed out the North Entrance Road, permitted guides are allowed to take their tours in on the Old Gardiner Road.
Yellowstone guides offer wildlife, photography, natural history, and other types of tours. Walking Shadow Ecology Tours and YellowstoneWolf Tracker are two companies I know and recommend, but I think all the wildlife watching companies are really good.