While I’ve finished my ‘Western Adventures’ blog series on my June 2022 adventures in SD, WY and MT – we’re sticking in Big Sky country along The Yellowstone River for a few ‘scenic detours.’
I lived in Montana’s Yellowstone Country for many years, and while I’m currently based in NC – a part of my heart will always be in Big Sky Country.
Tragically a few days after my amazing trip to Yellowstone (June 2022) one of the worst flood events in Yellowstone/Montana history swept away homes, destroyed roads and ravaged communities like Gardiner, Red Lodge and Cooke City Montana. This devastation has caused billions in damage and Yellowstone, while mostly re-open is still closed in certain parts.
Many tourists have started to rethink vacation plans because the flood damaged gateway roads to the communities of Gardiner and Cooke City Montana, but I challenge you to seek out the opportunity to visit Montana’s northern ‘gateway’ communities. This is a perfect time to support the local businesses and wonderful people who are the heartbeat of Yellowstone country.
While I encourage you to donate to local non-profits like United Way, Gardiner Flood Relief and Yellowstone Forever...even better – plan a once in a lifetime trip to Montana – Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City and Red Lodge are ready for YOU.
Yellowstone is open for business and so are:
In the several posts I’m going to dive into perfect travel itineraries for you to enjoy the Paradise of Montana’s golden gateway towns.
In this adventure we’re going to drive from artistic cowtown of Livingston MT south fifty miles to Gardiner Montana.
If you are looking for heaven on earth – you’ll find a slice of it in Montana’s Paradise Valley. This pristine valley is guarded by the formidable Absaroka-Beartooths and Gallatin Mountain Ranges.
The wide open valley is carved by the mighty Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone River, which originates in Yellowstone National Park (near Yellowstone Lake) traveling north for approximately 670 miles to its terminus in North Dakota. The Yellowstone River is the longest free flowing un-dammed river in the United States.
It’s path through The Paradise Valley feels like God’s watering-hole as it gallops north from Gardiner MT (northern entrance town to Yellowstone) towards Livingston MT. Typically The Yellowstone River is a welcome companion for anglers and rafters – but unfortunately it became a dangerous beauty when the historic flooding occurred.
Fortunately the flooding has receded and Paradise is restored.
What I love about this road is the unbridled beauty of the open spaces of amarillo yellow grains waving like gold in the wind. Cattle and horses can be seen roaming roadside – this is Montana cattle country after all.
The area is not heavily populated but you will find quaint communities like ‘Pray’ and ‘Emigrant.’
I always stop for a second in Pray to just enjoy the view and thank God for His majesty. As an artist and writer I’ve long been inspired by scenes in The Paradise Valley.
The Paradise Valley yields its vastness to the narrow Yankee Jim Canyon as you draw nearer to Gardiner Montana.
It starts in Livingston:
The gateway to ‘Paradise’ is my favorite Montana town – Livingston! Livingston has long been a refuge for artists, musicians alongside of hardworking ranchers, and businesses.
Livingston is saturated with history from it’s early roots and golden era as Yellowstone’s original ‘rail hub’ for the Northern Pacific Railroad’s Yellowstone route, which brought thousands of tourists to Yellowstone in the early years of the park.
To learn more about the history of Livingston click here.
Livingston has an abundance of wonderful restaurants, funky bars, local shops and coffee spots.
When I worked as an artist manager/agent before my tech career – I enjoyed booking a few bands at the loud, but fun Murray Bar or rustic and refined Pine Creek Lodge.
I have been out of the music industry for nearly nine years now – but Livingston’s music scene continues to be on fire – with local festivals, events and of course local and beloved Pine Creek Lodge – just played host to several John Mayer concerts to raise money for Yellowstone Flood Relief (the guitar guru lives in The Paradise Valley).
One of my favorite local Livingston musicians is Little Jane – she rocks. (Little Jane and the Pistol Whips)
Speaking of Pine Creek – a hidden gem near Livingston is the trail to Pine Creek Falls. This 2.5 mile hike takes trekkers into the Custer-Gallatin National Park, where Pine Creek crashes gracefully over a rocky crag. This is an easy to access off the beaten path trail to access…afterwards you can check out local music and enjoy good food at Pine Creek Lodge.
My mom and enjoy spending half a day in Livingston – enjoying lunch, perusing the art galleries (or going to their Friday Art Walk) and hanging out by the Sacajawea Town Park – right on the banks of The Yellowstone River.
Lewis and Clark History – William Clark and Sacajawea passed through Livingston on the banks of The Yellowstone in 1806. Learn more here.
Livingston is the prettiest small town in America – but I probably shouldn’t advertise that so ignore my comment 🙂
Quick Fact: I was excited to donate the book sales from my novel ‘Solitude Lake’ (written under my pen name ‘Adele Darcy’) to flood victims in partnership with local bookseller extraordinaire Elk River Books – check them out for a fantastic read.
Livingston is an all-year destination, but my favorite seasons are summer and fall. There is nothing like a ‘Livingston Saturday Night’ (Jimmy Buffett was inspired by this MT community).
To get filled on all the Livingston happenings check out their tourism site.
Catch a line – at Paradise Valley Fly Shops: Livingston to Gardiner – The Paradise Valley’s Yellowstone River access is some of the best fly-fishing in the world. Dan Bailey’s and Sweetwater Fly Shop are two that I highly recommend (right in Livingston!)
So check into Livingston – enjoy the history, culture and good food – take time to fly fish and get off the beaten path – you’ll fall in love…
Next leg of our journey we’re heading south through The Paradise Valley to Gardiner MT.