Discover art, culture and the wild side of Montana small towns in outdoor adventures along two breathtaking routes boasting unforgettable scenery.
Montana small towns itinerary at a glance: Spend three days and two nights exploring arts and culture plus brewery and culinary delights in charming Montana small towns. Along the way, view some of the most gorgeous landscapes encompassing two scenic drives plus the Beartooth Highway All-American Road—one of the most beautiful routes in the country. Discover hiking trails through the incredible landscape of the Absarokee-Beartooth Wilderness and Custer Gallatin National Forest, and experience Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife-laden Lamar Valley.
Duration: 3 Days
Set out on the Absarokee Loop Scenic Drive, taking in gorgeous views of the Stillwater River, sweeping valleys, and the majestic Beartooth Mountains, while exploring the charming Montana small towns of Absarokee, Fishtail and Nye. Beginning in Absarokee, the route heads west on Highway 420.
Near Nye, there’s an option to set stretch your legs on a 1.4-mile out-and-back hike to Woodbine Falls. You’ll find beautiful views the entire way, plus a scenic waterfall at the end of the trail.
From Nye, travel east toward Absarokee on Highway 419, with the option to visit the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail. Tippet Rise is a 12,500-acre working sheep and cattle ranch set against the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains. Tour the center’s large-scale, outdoor sculptures and check their events schedule for classical music offerings.
If you need any provisions before or after Tippet Rise, head to the Fishtail General Store—the oldest continuously operating general store in Montana is not to be missed.
Before heading south in 78 for a night in Red Lodge, grab some delicious food made with fresh, organic, local ingredients at Wild Flower Kitchen.
Once in Red Lodge, grab a drink and a good night’s rest in quaint downtown Red Lodge at the historic Pollard Hotel.
If this feels like too much to pack into one day, choose between the Woodbine Falls hike and Tippet Rise.
Spend the day immersed in the scenic beauty of the Custer Gallatin National Forest and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Day hikes range in distance and difficulty. Recommendations include West Fork Trail (7.2 miles, easy); Glacier Lake (4.6 miles, moderate); and Becker and Albino Lakes (5.5 – 12.2 miles, easy – moderate), but there are many options to choose from depending on your desires and comfort level.
You’ve a few options for post-outdoor-adventure food. Head to Prerogative Kitchen, a Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice, also recommended by Restaurant Guru for Best Burgers, or mosey on over to Red Lodge Ales for some finely crafted Montana beer, casual dining, and a warm Montana welcome.
Explore downtown Red Lodge before settling in for another overnight at the Pollard Hotel, which also has a newly remodeled and rethemed restaurant on-site. Don’t forget to ask Pollard’s staff about the hotel’s famous visitors.
Take the stunning Beartooth Highway—hailed the most scenic drive in America—from Red Lodge to Cooke City. This All-American Road is the highest-elevation highway in the Northern Rockies, winding through the Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges with numerous scenic pull-outs and views of 20 peaks towering over 12,000 feet. Pull over and explore alpine plateaus, glacial lakes, lushly forested valleys cascading waterfalls, and the “Top of the World.”
Once in Cooke City, explore this tiny outpost before driving to Gardiner through the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, including the wildlife-laden Lamar Valley, dubbed “America’s Serengeti.”
From Gardiner, take the Paradise Valley Scenic Drive north to Livingston, stopping along the way for a soak at historic Chico Hot Springs in Pray. This scenic loop follows the Yellowstone River along the soaring peaks of the Absaroka Mountains to the east, with the picturesque Gallatin Range to the west. Stop at Mallard’s Rest Fishing Access Site for the ultimate Montana view.
End your day in the vibrant community of Livingston, with dinner and drinks at the legendary Murray Bar. If you’re up for it, opt for an overnight at the Murray Hotel.
Yellowstone Country Montana
Robin Hoover/Executive Director
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