Ahh the summer road trip, a classic American pastime. From the days of the original Route 66 to the dawn of the Interstate Highway System, Americans have been getting out to explore the beauty of this country. Whether it’s a historic landmark, a National Park, or even a tourist trap roadside attraction, there is something for everyone along America’s roadways.
Montana is no different and being the 4th largest state by area, there is plenty to see along the way. Many who experience a Montana road trip only ever get to experience a small fraction of what the Treasure State has to offer. If you’re looking for a roundtrip excursion to give you a glimpse of Montana, then look no further. Starting at the North entrance of Yellowstone National Park, drive north on US Highway 89, into Gardiner, MT. This is a good place to fill up the car, grab some food and if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to stop at the Flying Pig Adventures for a thrilling whitewater rafting trip down the Yellowstone River.
Once you’re back on the road, continue on US Highway 89 North heading towards Yankee Jim Canyon. Here the road twists and turns, following the steep canyon walls until the rugged peaks of the Absaroka Mountains come into view, rising steeply to the east as you drive through Paradise Valley. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife along this stretch of the highway as you make your way towards Livingston. Once you get into Livingston, head downtown for an opportunity to experience the rich history of the area as well as an abundance of art galleries, museums, and dining options.
After you had a chance to stretch your legs, hop on I90 and head east. Heading towards Billings, you’ll want to get off at exit 367 for Laurel and then follow the signs for Red Lodge. Here is where you will get onto US Highway 212, the Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. This 68-mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and Northeast Wyoming as it leads you back to Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance. The Highway sits in a million-plus acre wilderness. Here you will have the rare opportunity to experience and explore pristine, untouched alpine landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra in the space of a few miles. It is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. In the surrounding mountains, glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high. The Road itself is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.
Like most road trips, driving through Montana is an incredible and unforgettable experience. There is so much to see and do you’ll need a lifetime to experience it all. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see similar stories, there are many more road trip ideas in Montana that we’d love to share with you. Leave us a comment and share with a friend and most importantly, get outside and explore this summer.