Take the Scenic Route
You’ll be hard pressed to find a road in Yellowstone Country that isn’t scenic. Every switchback will surprise you. And each mile marker will reveal another place to pull over and rethink where you spend those hard-earned vacation days. From the well-known to the less traveled, you’ll find routes both rugged and relaxed, on and off the beaten path.
Yellowstone Country is home to the All-American Road Beartooth Highway, hailed as one of the most scenic drives in America. In search of Paradise? We’ve got that, too. Loop through our Paradise Valley, and you’ll never be the same.
Explore some of our top picks below, or surprise yourself and go your own way, because that’s just it…our open roads are wide open for wandering.
It's not always about how high you climb, but in this case, it helps. This All-American Road is the highest-elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. On the Road's Charles Kuralt called it the most beautiful drive in America. It's hard to argue with that. This route ribbons 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, lush forested valleys and cascading waterfalls. Added bonus: Both Red Lodge and Cooke City are impossible towns not to explore. If you have the time, you'd be ahead to do just that.
ROUTE: Red Lodge to Cooke City
ROADS: U.S. Highway 212
TIME: 3 hours
The road is typically open from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend until mid-October, weather permitting. Bring a windbreaker and warm clothing regardless of the weather; it can change quickly. Also, pack a snack.
The captivating Gallatin Canyon calls, with towering rock formations, deep forests and valleys for miles. If you're up for a little off-road exploration, you'll find hiking trails and mountain lakes on either side of the canyon. Or cast a fly rod into the blue-ribbon trout waters of the Gallatin River; also a great place to spot rafters and kayakers. Roadside Attraction Alert: Bighorn sheep. They're no stranger to this area, along with the occasional bear, moose or deer. Keep an eye out, they like to cross the road.
ROUTE: Bozeman to Big Sky
ROAD: U.S. Highway 191 S.
TIME: 55 minutes
The Inn on the Gallatin has cinnamon rolls you'll remember long after you've left. Also plan to build some Big Sky adventure into your trip, with lift-served mountain biking, zip-lining, shopping, dining and golfing at Big Sky Resort.
Take in the snow-capped Tobacco Root Mountains at the forefront and rolling hills and farmland on either side of the road. Once you hit the beautiful and famous Madison River, you'll wind through a small canyon and then carry on to Norris Hot Springs. From there, head southeast through Ennis to Quake Lake; formed by a massive landslide triggered by an earthquake in 1959. Shortly past Quake Lake, you'll reach Hebgen Lake, known for big trout and big waters perfect for watersports and sailing. Set up camp along the lake for an extended stay.
ROUTE: Bozeman to Norris
ROAD: State Highway 84 W.
TIME: 44 minutes
ROUTE: Norris to West Yellowstone
ROAD: U.S. Highway 287 S.
TIME: 1 hour + 30 minutes
Hit up the Happy Hour Bar in West Yellowstone for a cocktail and a famous garlic burger.
Wind your way westward along the wild Stillwater River from Absarokee to Nye through grasslands and a small burn area and into a narrow canyon stretch with jagged Beartooth Mountain peaks. This quiet road turns to gravel at the Nye Basin but stays open year-round. Bring your fly rod. The Stillwater fishing access sites are many and the rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout are as well. Follow Fishtail Creek right into the town of Fishtail. Fuel up at the Fishtail General Store, founded in 1900, which peddles everything but the kitchen sink; from fishing gear to gifts to hand-dipped ice cream.
ROUTE: Absarokee to Nye
ROAD: State Highway 420/Stillwater River Road
TIME: 34 minutes
ROUTE: Nye to Fishtail
ROAD: State Highway 419/Nye Road
TIME: 18 minutes
ROUTE: Fishtail to Absarokee
ROAD: State Highway 78 State Highway 419/Nye Road
TIME: 9 minutes
Take a food detour just south of Fishtail. The Grizzly Bar in Roscoe serves up craft brews from Red Lodge Ales and local beef burgers.
Follow 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 (13 miles from Livingston at mile marker 42), for what might be the most scenic part of the drive; the ultimate in Montana views. This aptly named panoramic river valley is the perfect place to get knee deep in a sleepy stretch of the river to cast a fly rod. On your way back to Livingston, take route 540 and stop in Pray, MT for a soak at Chico Hot Springs, a historic resort settled into the foothills of the Absarokas.
ROUTE: Livingston to Gardiner
ROAD: U.S. Highway 89 S.
TIME: 58 minutes
Explore downtown Livingston's shops, galleries and restaurants. If you're a live music fan, check out the schedule at Pine Creek Lodge for local and regional bands.
Take the long, scenic route from Gardiner to Cooke City, Montana through the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. First stop: Mammoth Hot Springs. Spend a day or more exploring steaming thermal features like hot springs terraces, hiking or biking, or touring historic Fort Yellowstone and the Albright Visitor Center. Next up: The unique rainbow-colored Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest thermal area in Yellowstone. From there, head to Canyon Village to witness Yellowstone's 20-mile-long Grand Canyon. Next stop: Yellowstone's Tower-Roosevelt area to visit Tower Falls, Calcite Springs Overlook, Lamar Buffalo Ranch and the Roosevelt Lodge. Last stop: Cooke City by way of the Lamar Valley.
ROUTE: Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs
ROAD: U.S. Highway 89 S.
TIME: 17 minutes
ROUTE: Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Geyser Basin
ROAD: U.S. Highway 89 S.
TIME: 1 hour + 23 minutes
ROUTE: Norris Geyser Basin to Canyon Village
ROAD: Norris Canyon Road
TIME: 21 minutes
ROUTE: Canyon Village to Tower-Roosevelt
ROAD: Grand Loop Road
TIME: 37 minutes
ROUTE: Tower-Roosevelt to Cooke City
ROAD: U.S. Highway 212 E.
TIME: 50 minutes
Eight miles (15 minutes) south of Canyon Village is Hayden Valley. The largest herd of free-roaming bison in the world hangs out in this wildlife paradise, and it's is also a prime spot to view the raptor migration.