Gardiner, Montana is a beautiful part of Montana with fun things to do in Yellowstone National Park and in and around the town. Below we share our recommendations on where to stay and things to do in Gardiner, MT and the surrounding Yellowstone area.
Gardiner is located right on the edge of the entrance to Yellowstone National Park – The iconic Roosevelt Arch. The Arch is the first ever entrance to the park. That in itself is really cool! However we are going to recommend you stay about 15 minutes north of Gardiner in an awesome mountain lodge.
Table of Contents
- Things To Do In Gardiner, Montana
- Where To Stay
- Where To Eat
Things To Do In Gardiner, Montana
If there is one thing you do while in Gardiner this should be it. The Yellowstone Wild Tour team is amazing and so knowledgable. They aren’t just a guide taking you on a tour, but people that are truly invested in the park, understand the landscape and the animals and even volunteer in the park to learn more about the animals and their behavior.
You take off early in the morning between 5-6am, but it is well worth it! They then take you out to see what they can find. For us it was a pack of wolves hunting an elk that they eventually took down. We watched for over 7 minutes while the pack singled out and hunted down a particular elk.
The final kill happened behind a hill, but we know it happened since about an hour later we saw one of the wolves come out with its mouth covered in blood to share the food with the pups from the pack.
It was a crazy and unbelievable experience! One of the only reasons we could see it was because our guide had spotting scopes for everyone to use and also an adapter for his phone so he could put it on the scope and we could all watch what was happening and get it recorded.
Before that we had been watching a grizzly bear in the field while a herd of Elk came through. This all happened before 8am and was just the start to our day. After that we saw 3 more Grizzly Bears (one was a cub) a Black Bear, a mountain goat, pronghorns, bison, birds, bald eagles, and probably some more I forgot.
It was simply amazing!! After all that craziness of the morning he had hot chocolate and coffee and huckleberry scones for everyone. So we sat and ate our breakfast while we watched a bear through the scope. Like I said unbelievable!
We spent the day with our guide showing us all around Yellowstone and tracking down animals, along with a lunch break, that he had prepared for us, set out on a picnic table in the park.
It truly gave us another perspective on Yellowstone and everything that is happening – even though you can’t always see it with the naked eye.
Tips: Bring warmer clothes then you think you need and layer up. We went in the beginning of October and it would have been better for our kids if we had snow-pants and boots for them. Then as they day went on it warmed up and we could have stripped down. Also bring a pair of hiking shoes in case you go out to hike at all.
The Yellowstone Hot Springs are just outside of town and they are great! It is in a canyon and surrounded by mountains. There are hot pools, warm pools and a cold pool. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon and it was great that we could be in a nice big warm pool while our kids jumped between the hot and cold pool!
They have a nice changing area here so it is easy to get your suit on – but bring something warm to wear as you walk out to the pool and then back to the locker room! Also I would recommend a bottle of water – we all got pretty thirsty since we were here for so long :).
OTO Ranch Hike
A 2.6 mile roundtrip hike to the oldest dude ranch in Montana. You hike through the Custer Gallatin National Forest to the dude ranch – where you can walk through and explore the old buildings! A fun way to spend your morning or afternoon.
Gardiner has a variety of shops in their downtown area. From art galleries to sporting goods, a general store and a sweet shop.
Heritage And Resource Center
The Heritage and Resource Center is home to a variety of research and documentation on Yellowstone. You can tour the lobby and temporary exhibits set up by the National Park Service when you visit.
Yellowstone National Park
The park is amazing so make sure to set time aside to explore. When you are in Gardiner you are really close to the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. If you have more time you can continue on to West Yellowstone, Old Faithful, Tower-Roosevelt and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone just be prepared that it is a long drive to hit all of these parts of the park and isn’t really doable in one day
You will drive through the arch (named after Theodore Roosevelt who happened to be vacationing there when it was being built) to get into the park. Don’t just drive through it though, park and walk through the door – where you can stop and look up into the arch!
Just a few miles from Gardiner is the Mammoth Hot Springs area of Yellowstone National Park. There is a whole town here with housing for Yellowstone employees, a small convenience store, restaurants, hotels, Fort Yellowstone and even a doctor’s office. Beyond that there are a couple really cool things you want to check out while you are here.
The Mammoth Terraces are an unreal display of hydrothermal features. There is a boardwalk trail you can walk on that will take you up and through the terraces. You can just drive by, but don’t. Stop get out and walk on the trail to get up close to the beautiful terraces.
There are a couple places in Yellowstone where you can get into the water. This is one of them! You park in a lot just north of Mammoth and then you walk about a half mile down to the entrance of the Boiling River where the cold water from the Gardiner River (a tributary of the Yellowstone River) mixes with the Boiling River hot springs.
It is a unique experience! Be sure to check if it is open – as it does close when water levels are too high. Also, wear shoes that you can wear into the river. It’s rocky on the bottom and moving fast, so doing it in bare feet isn’t so pleasant.
Elk love to hang out in Mammoth and will literally be just hanging out on the lawn by the restaurants there or outside the visitor center. They look really chill, but they are still wild animals so keep your distance!
You can also see them – like pictured above right in Gardiner, MT! This picture was taken right outside of the north entrance to Yellowstone.
Where To Stay
This is a beautiful house up on the mountain that has windows everywhere looking out over the mountains, a huge living room kitchen area, an upstairs loft area with an office, a seating area and multiple bedrooms. It is the perfect place to come back to after exploring Gardiner or the park. The only problem is you may not want to leave in the morning, but instead find yourself snuggling in and just enjoying the house!
It would also be a great location for a multiple family vacation as there are multiple bedrooms and a downstairs area. Lisa, the host, does an awesome job and everything you need is there and ready for you.
This campground offers beauty and convenience! Only 8 miles north of the entrance, it’s just a quick drive to Yellowstone. Relax in the pools after a long day of hiking and sightseeing and enjoy the breathtaking views of Paradise Valley.
Check out these awesome Montana Airbnb options too!
Where To Eat
Gardiner is a pretty old city, but for this cafe they had to build a new building since the old one was basically crumbling and had to be taken down. The inside is really cute and modern and the food was delicious.
They are part of Taste Your Place so anything they could source locally, they did. Finding good food in Yellowstone can be a challenge so it is nice to know that there is a restaurant like this in Gardiner.
This is the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch! It is counter service so you walk up and place your order – things like cheeseburgers, burritos, grilled cheese or salad for lunch. Then they bring it out to your table. The food was fresh and tasted great.
Just be aware they do close at 2pm – so it is only an option for breakfast and lunch.
I felt like this was old school Gardiner. It was a pizza joint/bar that offered a variety of drinks and delicious pizza. The owners were super nice and kept the drinks and pizza flowing!
If you just want to buy your own food to bring back to your place then head over to the Gardiner Market – a local grocery store where you can pick up the things that you need.
Yellowstone Park is of course amazing, but there are so many cool things to do outside of the park too. If you are coming to Yellowstone be sure to make time to stay in Gardiner, Montana and explore all the fun things to do here!
This part of the United States is so beautiful. You are going to want to plan to spend a lot of time here. Here are more places that we recommend you visit in the area:
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