With the political standoff over the government shutdown continuing without any apparent progress toward resolution, travelers planning trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are struggling to decide whether to cancel, or come up with an alternative itinerary outside the parks.
In the interest of providing some options for those who can’t cancel their travel plans without losing deposits, vacation days or other investments, Yellowstone Gate asked travel and tourism experts and industry insiders in gateway towns around the parks to offer their top picks for things to see and do at the fringes of Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
We’re presenting their ideas this week in an ongoing series, Next Best Things. Nothing quite matches the unique experiences you can have in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but these ideas represent the Next Best Things in nearby communities.
Barbara Shesky, executive director for the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, offers a few of her picks for the Next Best Things to see and do in and around Gardiner, Mont.
Shutdown Alternatives: Next Best Things in Gardiner
By Barbara Shesky
In spite of the government shutdown, Gardiner is still open. Our picturesque Western town is the historic, original entrance to Yellowstone National Park, situated just north of the park’s northern boundary. There are plenty of great attractions and activities in the area.
The scenic drive from Livingston, Mont. through Paradise Valley on Highway 89 is well worth the trip. The open ranch land with herds of cattle and horses is surrounded by the snowcapped mountain peaks of the Gallatin and Absaroka Wilderness. Both bald and golden eagles are frequently sighted from the highway. Watch for the Devil’s Slide between Yankee Jim Canyon and Gardiner, as this is a unique geological formation. This a truly scenic drive with ample photography opportunities.
At this time of year, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope come down to the Gardiner Basin area, making sightings of these wonderful creatures on the outskirts of town a frequent delight. Mule deer and elk are regularly seen this time of year right in the town of Gardiner.
With the Yellowstone River running through the heart of town we are the perfect base camp for fall fishing. Fishing supplies and guide services are also available at this time, and there are numerous fishing accesses along the Yellowstone River, at Daily Lake and in the Jardine area, above Gardiner.
For a beautiful scenic drive from Gardiner to the north, access the Old Yellowstone Trail Road by taking Park Street. Then, instead of going under Roosevelt Arch, turn right past the Gardiner School. This dirt road follows the west side of the Yellowstone River and can be exited at Cinnabar Basin Road. If the weather and road conditions are good, you can continue through Yankee Jim Canyon (this portion of the road can become slippery in rain or snow and then should be avoided), and exit at the Tom Miner Basin Road. To get back to Highway 89, turn right. To go to the Petrified Forest, turn left and go approximately 10 miles to the Tom Miner Campground to access the trail. Watch for bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer along the way.
While U.S. Forest Service campgrounds are closed, there are many trails for great day hikes into the Gallatin National Forest and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area. At this time of year, it is highly recommended to carry bear spray and hike with a partner or a group.
Several great hiking trails can be accessed from Highway 89.
At the southern end of Yankee Jim Canyon, you can access trail #381, the Joe Brown trail.
At mile marker 10, which is Cedar Creek Road, you can access the Historic OTO Ranch and trail #72. These trails network together and can take you to Monitor Peak, which is 10,420 feet in elevation. A short hike can be accessed at LaDuke Springs, trail #134.
In Gardiner, you can access the Gallatin National Forest by taking Jardine Rd, which connects with Highway 89 on the north side of the bridge over the Yellowstone River. There are several Forest Service campgrounds located in this area, including Eagle Creek, Timber Camp and Bear Creek. While you can’t camp in those campgrounds because of the shutdown, you can access the trailheads from these areas. There are a number of abandoned logging and mining roads that work great as simple day hiking trails.
Trail #364 can be accessed at Timber camp which also leads to Monitor Peak.
From Bear Creek, trail #64 to trail #620 north to trail# 282 takes you to Thompson Lake.
You can also access the Hellroaring trail #84 off Crevice Mountain Road. This trail connects to numerous trails that spread out in to the Beartooth Wilderness.
There’s too much to do in a single day in Gardiner, so plan on spending the night in one of our hotels, motels, cabins or vacation home rentals. We also have plenty of eateries for you to choose from, and our gift shops and art galleries are open too.
For help in planning your Gardiner visit, please go to our directory page for more information at www.gardinerchamber.com.
Contact Barbara Shesky, executive director of the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, at 406-848-7971.