While it’s no secret that Yellowstone is incredible, you may not know how much there is outside of the park. The charming towns, cultural treasures and endless outdoor recreation are well worth your vacation time. We’ve compiled a list of ten ideas to get you started on your trip planning, but we suspect you’ll need to visit more than once to fit it all in!
If you live in a city and grew up wishing for a pony, horseback riding in Yellowstone Country is the experience for you! Horses can take you to scenery you may not be able to see on foot, and the experience of riding itself is something to write home about. (Don’t worry, you’ll be given instruction, a helmet and a real cowboy to lead the ride.)
The first time you experience whitewater rafting, you’ll understand why it’s so popular. It’s the perfect combination of serene scenery and exhilarating rapids. On a hot summer day, getting splashed with cool river water is just about perfection. Plus, everyone in the boat participates; this definitely isn’t a spectator sport!
Explore Local Art
It’s no surprise that Yellowstone Country is home to talented painters, ceramicists, writers, jewelry makers and musicians; living in such a beautiful area is inspiration in and of itself. Galleries are abundant and many of the feature local artists. Watch for art walks and local festivals. And if you’re looking to explore your own creativity, ask about classes and workshops.
For a serious thrill, try zip-lining. Believe it or not, this adventure is loved by people of all ages. Poised high above the ground, safely strapped in, you’ll cruise through courses that will give you more than a few shots of adrenaline. Try one of the four lines at Big Sky Resort, which are tailored to various ages and abilities. Yellowstone Zip has locations in Gardiner and Gallatin Canyon. Or check out Geyser Whitewater Exhibitions.
Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals
Stand up paddle boards are the perfect way to get out on the water without a lot of fuss. There are lakes of all sizes around Yellowstone Country. Explore small lakes such as East Rosebud, or larger lakes like Hebgen Lake or Hyalite Reservoir. You can rent boards in most towns, but it’s a good idea to reserve yours ahead of time if you know when you are visiting.
There’s nothing more western than a rodeo, and the sport is alive and well in Yellowstone Country. Some rodeos take place around local fairs, while others happen at specific times of the year (think: the Fourth of July).
- Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo, mid-June through the end of August, 2017
- Three Forks Rodeo, July 14-16, 2017
- Bozeman Stampede, August 11-13, 2017
- Fourth of July Rodeos in Livingston and Red Lodge, 2018
For the same rodeo action with a slightly different angle, check out these popular events:
- Bozeman Roundup Ranch Rodeo Invitational, July 22-23, 2017. For those who haven’t seen real ranch work, this competition demonstrates skills such as branding, wild cow milking and ranch saddle bronc riding.
- Big Sky PBR (Professional Bull Riding), July 26-29, 2017. Big Sky, Montana hosts 40 of the world’s top bull riders to compete in one of the state’s most beautiful areas. The week is rounded out with a golf tournament, concerts, local food and an art auction.
Craft beer is much more than a novelty in Yellowstone Country—we take our brews seriously. Breweries are continuously popping up, and if you can’t make it to each of them, their brews can be found in restaurants and bars across the region. All this means you can enjoy a Red Lodge Ale while dining in West Yellowstone!
Visit a State Park
State Parks are some of Yellowstone Country’s best kept secrets.
Known for excellent walleye and rainbow trout fishing, boating, water-skiing and scenic mountain views, Cooney Reservoir is the perfect choice for fishing and water recreation lovers!
Greycliff Prairie Dog Town is one of the more unique parks with opportunities to learn about the fascinating social systems of prairie dogs. Madison Buffalo Jump is the location of one of the state’s largest buffalo jumps, where Native Americans once ran buffalo over the edge of a cliff to harvest them for food, shelter and provisions. Or visit Missouri Headwaters where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers form the Missouri River. This was also a campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Find Local Foods
Enjoying local food is half the fun of vacation. Yellowstone Country is full of locally raised meat, fresh produce, cheese and eggs. Most areas have one (if not two) farmers’ markets. (Hint: These markets sell more than just fresh food. Generally there is a combination of Montana made products, music, food trucks and family-friendly activities.) Many restaurants throughout the region make a serious effort to buy locally, and some even grow their own veggies and herbs. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
Scout out Photo Opps
Each moment spent in Yellowstone Country is both a treasure and an adventure. Capture those moments, post your photos with the hashtag #BoldlyGoMT and we’ll publish our favorites!