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Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a force of nature that should be on everyone’s bucket list, but make sure you hit some of Montana’s other funky bits of Americana while you’re there.

Yellowstone National Park offers a ton of entertainment, restaurants and sights while providing a gateway to the glorious Yellowstone experience. (Most of the park is in Wyoming, with sections in Montana and Idaho.)

Bozeman:

If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park this year, chances are you’ll fly into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

At Yellowstone National Park, your first impulse might be to hop into your rental car and take off.  But, if you do, you’re missing an opportunity to explore a great little mountain town. Downtown Bozeman is a vibrant spot with a Main Street full of retail, coffee shops and restaurants to keep you engaged.

While you are in Yellowstone National Park, stay a night or two in the C’mon Inn.  You’ll be surprised at the comfort and rustic ambiance this hotel provides. You’ll lose count of the hot tub Jacuzzis located throughout the expansive lobby, in addition to their ample pool. Relaxation is key here. This is a convenient spot close to the airport if you have an early morning departure.

Take in the Museum of the Rockies in Yellowstone National Park. Check out dinosaurs, crocodiles and a detailed explanation of how Old Faithful works. The American Computer and Robotics Museum provides historical information from Ancient Greeks to ‘70s video games to the present and beyond. This free museum is entertaining for adults, kids and video game geeks alike.

Beer is a big deal in this town, which is celebrated each May with Bozeman Craft Beer Week. The Bridger Bowl Ski Area is an affordable choice for a winter ski weekend.  Rafting on the Gallatin River is good summer option.

The choices are vast in  Yellowstone National Park, so don’t just use Bozeman as a gateway. C’mon in and stay awhile.

Ennis:

About an hour’s drive from Yellowstone National Park lies the quaint town of Ennis. It’s all about fly-fishing in this region’s Madison River. With mountains looming in the distance, the rivers are abundant with trout.

Ennis provides all the gear you need for a successful day on the water (and the resulting fish fry at night). Throw in a visit to Willie’s Distillery for a taste of Montana Moonshine or Bighorn Bourbon and your day is complete.

Art plays a big part in the Ennis experience. With outdoor bronze sculptures dotting the streets and painted walls depicting the town’s western heritage.  Ennis is well known for its passion for fly-fishing. The Outdoor Art Tour – Backroad to Yellowstone National Park is a great way to discover the many talented artists. They create masterpieces located up and down Main Street as well as some of the side avenues.

Virginia City:

A stampede of gold seekers created this mining camp in 1863 and neighboring Nevada City. Later known as Virginia City, Calamity Jane was a longtime resident here.  This town might best be known for those who are buried on Boot Hill.

Five members of the notorious Plummer Gang are interred here—having been hung on the same day by a vigilante group.

Virginia City is said to be the best-preserved example of mining camps and commercial architecture from the mid-nineteenth century in the Rocky Mountains. The town provides a fun-filled day of exploration.  It is a great source of education about life in the 1800’s. Children can learn what it was like to live and survive in the wild west.

Big Sky:

A generous dose of skiing in the winter or wonderful hikes and river rafting in the summer. Big Sky Resort provides it all. Less than 50 miles from Yellowstone’s National Park west entrance, lodging choices range from affordable, family-friendly hotel units to five-star luxury penthouses and private homes.

This resort was the brainchild of Chet Huntley—ask your grandparents who he is: one-half of NBC’s famous “Huntley-Brinkley Report”— and opened to the public in 1973. (Mr. Huntley passed away the next year, unable to truly enjoy the resort he envisioned.)

In addition to the lodge’s many activities, check out Ousel Falls at the end of a 1.6-mile hike from the parking lot. You’ll switchback into a canyon and find a footbridge crossing the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River. Eventually, you spot the South Fork Cascade, then the actual falls upstream another 400 yards, (which are impressive).

Take time to enjoy the beauty, as you will have to conserve some energy to hike back up to the start of the trailhead.

Set aside a few days to explore the nearly 3,500 square mile wilderness. Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin are easily accessible at this entrance, as well as hot springs, waterfalls, mud pots and fumaroles forming steam vents—the hottest hydrothermal features in the park.

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