Exploring Magnificent Gardiner, Montana | Wander With Wonder

Gardiner, Montana is a great base camp for exploring nearby Yellowstone National Park. The oldest national park in the country is only five miles away.

Long before the Yellowstone series came along, I wanted to visit Yellowstone National Park, but logistics were always an issue. Yellowstone is not the easiest place to get to. But the first national park in the country we visited is so worth the effort. The beauty of the area blew me away. Our trip built over a few days in Jackson, WY where we toured the amazing Grand Teton National Park, then three days in our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone. While we explored Yellowstone, we set up our base camp in beautiful Gardiner, Montana, just 5 miles from the park’s north entrance.

Gateways to Yellowstone

I spent a lot of time researching the area and figuring out exactly what we wanted to do and where we wanted to stay. Most people made their home in one of the gate towns near the entrances to the park. Yellowstone is so vast that there are five different entrances. The town of West Yellowstone, MT is the most popular entrance to the park and is located near the west entrance to the park. We chose to stay in Gardiner, Montana because we wanted a quieter stay with less crowds and near the northern entrance.

Gardiner, MT is a small town of less than 1,000 residents. That number increases exponentially during the busy summer season, so things are busy in town. We loved the small town atmosphere that Gardiner offers in addition to the gorgeous views of the Absaroka Mountains and the Absaroka Mountains. nearby scenic drives. With tons of hotels, casual restaurants, outdoor gear, and a killer gourmet grocery store, the Gardiner had everything we needed.

Fly to Bozeman on our way to Gardiner, Montana

Our epic road trip began when we landed at the Bozeman, MT, airport. It’s a small airport with zero hassles. We grabbed an Uber and quickly drove to an outside car rental agency. We chose off-site because the price was much lower than picking up a car from the airport. If you’re booking a trip to Yellowstone, keep in mind that summer is high in demand and low in supply for places to stay, cars, and just about everything else. Book your accommodations early or you may not get what you want.

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From Bozeman we drove to Jackson, Wyoming, toured Grand Teton National Park, and then headed to Gardiner. Once Gardiner, we checked in Roosevelt Hotel for our stay. We couldn’t have been more pleased to see a pronghorn grazing on the road. We were used to seeing them in the city. They cook at home.



A red car is parked in front of a brown motel in Gardiner, MT.

Roodevelt Hotel Gardiner, MT. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Roosevelt Arch House

Gardiner’s first order of business was to get to the iconic Roosevelt Arch which stands at the entrance to the park. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of this magnificent stone arch dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. This stunning arch is just as photo-worthy as you’d expect, so get there early before the crowds arrive and bring your camera. . I grabbed coffee every morning and walked down to the arch from our hotel. It was wonderful to be there alone, snacking with an oak tree in a nearby field.

Right across from Arch Park, we went to the visitor center and checked out the shops lining the street. You will notice signs advertising bear spray. Everyone told us it’s a good idea to have it and know how to use it if you’re going around the park. Better safe than sorry.

A stone arch on the road in Gardiner, MT.

The historic and iconic Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, MT. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Custer Gallatin National Forest in Gardiner, Montana

In addition to being the northern entrance to Yellowstone, Gardiner is also home Custer Gallatin National Forest. The Gardiner County portion of the 13 million acre forest borders the city of Gardiner and we wanted to see it. We drove up Jardine Road to see incredible lush, green landscapes and stunning mountain views. It was even great, even though it was a foggy, overcast day, the views were clear.

A wooden sign showing information about the Gallatin National Forest.

Gallatin National Forest sign in Gardiner, MT. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Gardiner food scene

Since Gardiner is a small town, the food scene is understandably limited. Massive flooding in the area in 2022 forced the closure of some local restaurants, further limiting the city’s choices. We went out for dinner one night The Corra:l, a longtime burger joint known for its buffalo burgers. This little place does a great business. there was a line even though we arrived early on a rainy night. My husband’s cheeseburger was fresh and satisfying. My Caesar salad hit the spot. A great alternative to visiting a restaurant is to purchase delicious gourmet fare Gardiner market. The market offers deli meals and a surprisingly large and favorable selection of beer, wine, liquor and everything else you need.

A line of people waiting to enter a small restaurant in Gardiner, Montana.

The Corral In Gardiner, MT. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Giddy Up in Gardiner

The highlight of our visit to Gardiner was watching a thrilling horse race through town. We were lucky enough to be in town annually Hell’s A Roarin’ Horseback Ride!held every year in May. Real cowboys transport horses from the Gardiner rodeo grounds to their home in Jardin, 7 miles up the mountain. Our hotel on Scott Street was the perfect vantage point to watch the cowboys wrangle the horses as they raced through town and up the mountain. Put aside Hell’s A-Roarin Outfitters, the horse race is followed by a live auction, dinner and dancing, with net proceeds going to fund Action Trakchairs for disabled veterans. This is a great event not to be missed if you’re in town.

A group of horses running in Gardiner, MT.

Horse Racing Gardiner, MT. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Other Gardiner activities

If you want to try any outdoor sports like fishing, fly fishing, river rafting, or horseback riding, Gardiner is the perfect location. There are also excellent Yellowstone guides stationed at Gardiner. We took a guided wildlife tour of Yellowstone Yellowstone Dreaming Adventures, which was the experience of a lifetime. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the park and tons of wildlife, including grizzlies, grizzlies, and wolves. These tour guides are absolute professionals.

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The next time you want to get away in outdoor paradise, look no further than Gardiner. I really feel like we barely scratched the surface of how to enjoy all that the Gardiner has to offer. Next time our trip will include e-biking, fly fishing, a hot spring soak and maybe a glamping experience. Can’t wait to go back! Let Wander With Wonder Be your guide when planning your trip to Montana or Wyoming.

Gardiner, Montana is a great base camp for exploring nearby Yellowstone National Park.  The oldest national park in the country is only five miles away.

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Gorgeous Gardiner Study, Montana

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