Explore the Northern Entrances to Yellowstone this Spring!

Lupine in the Beartooth Mountains Lupines in the Beartooth Mountains, photo by Enchanted Forest

The North and Northeast entrances to Yellowstone and the gateway communities of Gardiner, Silver Gate, and Cooke City are the places to be in the spring! Last fall, the roads were repaired from the historic flooding. The road between these two entrances is the only one open to vehicles during the winter, and visitors have been enjoying this area of the Park in its winter whites. It’s the perfect area to explore in the spring as the season transitions.

Spring in Cooke City and Silver Gate

February and March can be very quiet in Cooke City and Silver Gate, but this is one of the best times of year to visit! The snowpack is deep, and with the colder temperatures, the snow can stick around late into spring. Backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, and simply relaxing in the mountains make this a fantastic winter destination. 

Cooke City, Montana Cooke City, photo by Andy Austin

Once the warmer weather hits, there’s just as much to do! Skis and boards make way for hiking shoes, cowboy boots, and fishing rods. Silver Gate and Cooke City sit between the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone and the Beartooth Highway. In any direction, you’ll find an abundance of hiking trails, fishing accesses, scenic drives, horseback riding, rock climbing, and spectacular scenic drives, perfect for wildlife watching and photography. Please don’t underestimate the wildflower displays; they happen early and change as it gets warmer. The top of the Beartooth Highway becomes a blanket of color in the summer, and it’s breathtaking. 

For the size of the towns, you’ll be surprised at the variety and quality of the food and the quirkiness of the shops. Miners Saloon, Beartooth Café, and The Bistro Café offer great food, along with the Prospector Restaurant in Silver Gate. While you’re there, don’t miss, Stop the Car Trading Post, a unique but friendly little gift shop. Don't miss the Cooke City Museum, with great displays about mining, and the history of the area.

For accommodations, consider Silver Gate Lodging, just a mile from the Northeast Entrance, so it’s easy to get to the Park but far enough out that you can have a very serene experience. I understand cabins are booking quickly for the summer, so don’t hesitate to make reservations anywhere in this area. 

Baby red dog with mother bison. Photo courtesy NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Baby Wildlife Watching, Wildflowers, and Dramatic Photo Opportunities

This part of Yellowstone is excellent to visit when all babies are born in the spring! Red dogs (baby bison) are getting their bearings, along with bear cubs, baby elk, deer, and moose. The Lamar Valley is also home to most of the Park’s wolf packs. You’re most likely to see them early in the morning or late in the evening when they are most active, so staying in Silver Gate or Gardiner cuts down on time spent driving in the dark. 

Wildflowers start to pop as it warms up, and along with the rich greens, deep blue skies, and snowcapped mountains, there are some exceptional opportunities for photography! You may encounter a few spring storms, but they are dramatic and fantastic to curl up and watch. 

Roosevelt Arch, Gardiner, Montana Roosevelt Arch, Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Andy Austin.

 Visiting Gardiner, Montana

Gardiner, Montana, has its unique brand of adventure. You’re close to whitewater rafting, e-bike rentals, fishing, hot springs, horseback riding, and the famous Roosevelt Arch. They have a long list of outfitters, but I encourage you to book early, as prime spots fill quickly! If you happen to be visiting Memorial Weekend, catch the Hell’s A-Roarin’ Horse Drive. An annual event, cowboys and cowgirls run the herd of horses through town to the Jardine Fair Grounds for viewing before they head off to their summer jobs at Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters. Late afternoon more festivities commence, with a BBQ, open bar, auctions, raffle, and country western dancing to Jeff Muenuey. Net proceeds go to fund Action Track Chairs for disabled veterans. These custom-built chairs allow folks with disabilities to reclaim their freedom, independence, and mobility outdoors.  

Take a break from outdoor fun and explore the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, and Yellowstone Forever where you can learn about the cultural and natural history of the Park.

Yellowstone Hot Springs Yellowstone Hot Springs, photo by Sam Rouda.

Hot Springs

A trip to this neck of the woods wouldn’t be complete without a stop at one of the local hot springs. Yellowstone Hot Springs, just outside of Gardiner, has beautiful pools nestled between the mountain ranges. Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa is perfect for those looking to soak, with casual and fine dining options.

For more trip-planning information, order your free travel packet, or go to Visit Gardiner, MT, and Cooke City Chamber of Commerce