As a traveler visiting Montana, you might be looking for something to do in the small town of Gardiner. This charming community is located just north of Yellowstone National Park and is filled with plenty of activities and attractions to keep visitors busy.
Gardiner, Montana, is a spectacular destination located near the northern border of Yellowstone National Park. The park attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. However, there are several things to consider about Gardiner before packing your luggage for a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
This corner of the world favors the outdoorsy type. The majority of the exciting activities in Gardiner are a mix of national park excursions and activities framed against stunning views of nature in Paradise Valley.
Paradise Valley is teeming with activities such as fly fishing, whitewater rafting, and camping that will keep you occupied all summer long.
Conversely, in winter, the thermal springs and travertine terraces still attract plenty of attention.
The biggest challenge that people have when visiting Gardiner on a short trip is figuring out what to do. With so many attractions and activities available, it can be tough to decide what’s the best for you.
You may be feeling overwhelmed as you try to plan your summer vacation.
Between finding the right destination, booking your flight and hotel, and preparing for all the things you’ll need to take with you, it can feel like there’s just too much to do.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Gardiner. This list covers a range of activities, from tourist attractions to outdoor adventures, so you can find something that’s perfect for your trip.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to do in Gardiner, MT
- 1. Explore the Town of Gardiner
- 2. Check out Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
- 3. Walk through the empty streets of Aldridge Ghost Town
- 4. Take a dip in the Boiling River
- 5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
- 6. Drive along the scenic Paradise Valley Highway
- 7. Visit Mammoth Hot Springs
- 8. Drive through the iconic Roosevelt Arch
- 9. Try zip-lining Montana-style!
- 10. Go horseback riding like a real cowboy
- 11. Climb the Sphinx Mountain
- 12. Hike in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area
- 13. Go fishing on the Gardiner River
- 14. Take a dip in one of Gardiner’s hot springs
- 15. Do some famous Montana fly fishing
- 16. Go whitewater rafting on the Yellowstone River
- 17. Spend the Night at a Campground
- 18. Hike to Emigrant Peak
- 19. Hike to Yellowstone Falls
- 20. Take a scenic boat ride on Yellowstone Lake
- 21. Go birdwatching in the wetlands
- Final Thoughts
- What are the best things to do in Gardiner, Montana?
- Is it better to stay in Gardiner or West Yellowstone?
- What is Gardiner, Montana is known for?
Fun & Best Things to do in Gardiner, MT
1. Explore the Town of Gardiner
Gardiner is a small town with a big personality. The town is home to a variety of shops, local restaurants, and museums. You can explore the town on foot, or take a bus tour. The town is also home to a number of historic buildings, including the Gardiner Museum and the Gardiner Library.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, there are a number of hotels and Airbnbs in the area. And if you need any help planning your trip, the Gardiner Visitor Center can assist you.
2. Check out Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
The Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center is an educational and cultural facility located in Gardiner near the park entrance, and it’s packed with fascinating exhibits featuring many hidden gems.
For example, the museum has an extensive collection of art, culture, and historical materials from Yellowstone and the surrounding area.
So next time you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, be sure to add the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Centre to your itinerary if you want to know more about this fascinating area.
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3. Walk through the empty streets of Aldridge Ghost Town
Aldridge Ghost Town is a 22-minute drive from Gardiner. This spooky mining town was founded in 1906 and provided coal and coke to the Anaconda copper mines.
The city had some good years, but eventually, the mining operations in the area stopped because of a lack of funds. Aldridge’s inhabitants then abandoned the village and moved away, leaving the area as an empty ghost town.
Most of the buildings are still standing, and some have been reconstructed and restored to look like their old selves. If you’re looking for a creepy place to explore on your next vacation, Aldridge ghost town is worth a visit but visit at your own risk!
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4. Take a dip in the Boiling River
The Boiling River can be accessed within three miles on North Entrance Road. This popular roadside attraction has a hot spring bursting along the Gardiner River’s shore. Note that limited space is available at trailheads, which restricts easy changing into bathing suits!
Swimming in the Boiling River is allowed year-round however, winter swimming can be quite brisk. There are no lifeguards on duty, and swimming is done so at your own risk.
The best time to come swimming is usually early in the morning when the water is still fairly hot from the previous day’s heat.
Bring your own food and drinks as there are no concessions available at this time. There are also primitive camping sites available first-come, first-serve basis for those who want to stay longer and enjoy this amazing geothermal feature in Yellowstone National Park.
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5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
As the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone is one of the most popular natural tourist destinations in the world.
The park is home to a variety of unique geological features, including the world’s largest hot spring and the world’s tallest active geyser. We could go on about this for ages. Actually, we have in a bunch of our posts. You can book a private Yellowstone National Park sightseeing to enjoy the beautiful experience.
Read these posts for more info and things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
6. Drive along the scenic Paradise Valley Highway
When you drive the scenic Paradise Valley Highway, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in Montana. You’ll have the gorgeous Gallatin Range to the west and the awesome Absaroka Range to the east, with the Yellowstone River running right down the middle.
The valley spans over 50 miles, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the great scenery. Keep your camera handy, because you’ll definitely want to take some pictures. And if you’re a nature lover, this is a great place to watch for wildlife. So take your time and enjoy the drive. You may never want to leave.
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7. Visit Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is famous for its dynamic travertine terraces that showcase natural hot springs. Thanks to the boardwalk trail, you can take a close-up preview of these thermophile-filled natural wonders.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a wonderful natural attraction that was developed over thousands of years from calcium phosphate deposits. The cascade columns provide an amazing backdrop and great pictures. Make sure you check it out from several Mammoth terraces to take in the view of the entire region and several areas of the park.
There are other land-based hiking trails that spread throughout the Mammoth Hot Springs area, including the scenic Bunsen Peak Trail. But if you think Mammoth Hot Springs is it, you will be awe-struck by the natural attractions in the Mammoth area beyond just the sprawling hot water.
The area is great for wildlife viewing. We saw plenty of elk and even a small family of grizzly bears. Elk can often be found near the northwest entrance to Yellowstone Park near Gardiner.
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8. Drive through the iconic Roosevelt Arch
The Roosevelt Arch is a stone arch that was built in 1903. The arch is located at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park and is a popular spot for photographs. It is named after Theodore Roosevelt and was originally built to welcome tourists coming by train to visit Yellowstone in around the 20th Century.
Serving as the northern entrance to the park, it still attracts travelers from all over who are seeking out a historic and picturesque spot to snap some memories. When you make the trip to Gardiner, be sure to stop by and see this one-of-a-kind spot for yourself. You can’t miss it!
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9. Try zip-lining Montana-style!
If you are into adventure, nothing beats zip-lining over the Montana whitewater rapids. There are several methods to appreciate the countryside, but zip-lining gives a sense of awe and pleasure when viewed from above.
The Stermitz Ranch is in the Cinnabar Basin, and a store is located in Gardiner, Montana. To go to their Gardiner shop, you’ll need to take a shuttle from there. It may appear tough at first, but it has several twists that will make you absolutely love this outdoor adventure.
From the top of the zipline, you can see the entire valley and even parts of Yellowstone National Park. The shop has a wide range of other activities, such as horseback riding and hiking, so you can make a day of it. This is easily one of the most exciting things to do in Gardiner.
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10. Go horseback riding like a real cowboy
Gardiner is all about its natural and scenic beauty and its mesmerizing landscape; therefore, you should not miss any opportunity to enjoy the classic Western landscape surrounding Yellowstone National Park and Gardiner.
So, what can be more enjoyable than a horseback ride to wander through and enjoy the countryside? Fortunately, you may find various horse owners offering rides both for children and adults. You can choose between one hour, two hours, half-day, and even full-day trips.
A number of rafting companies offer dual options called the “saddle and paddle” trips that allow you to enjoy half-day river rafting trips with a two-hour horseback ride.
So if you are looking to kill two birds with one stone, this is everything you need. Book one of these excellent horseback riding tours to make the most of your adventure when you visit Gardiner.
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11. Climb the Sphinx Mountain
Sphinx Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in the Yellowstone area, thanks to its distinctive curved head and red-brown hue. It’s also a great place to go climbing!
The mountain is quite conveniently located, especially if you’re coming from Gardiner.
It’s less than 10 miles from the Sphinx Mountain trailheads to Gardiner, so you won’t have to travel far to get to the peak. And when you get there, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. So if you’re looking for a unique climbing experience, be sure to add Sphinx Mountain to your list.
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12. Hike in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area
If you’re looking for a truly wild experience, hiking in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area is a must. This sprawling wilderness area covers over 944,000 acres and is home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and bighorn sheep.
Hiking in the wilderness is an amazing way to get up close and personal with some of the most iconic animals in North America. Plus, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Whether you’re hiking for a day or spending a week in the backcountry, hiking in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area is an unforgettable experience.
This is off-the-beaten-path compared to what is offered at Yellowstone, so be sure to bring bear spray and other key hiking essentials. You won’t find hoards of tourists here – which the bears prefer too! You can book a room at a hotel near Absaroka here.
13. Go fishing on the Gardiner River
The Gardiner River is a popular spot for fishing. The river is home to a variety of fish, including cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
Cutthroat trout are the most popular type of fish to catch in the river, and they can be found in both the upper and lower sections of the river. Rainbow trout are mostly found in the middle section of the river, while brown trout are mainly found in the lower section.
The best time to catch fish in the river is in the early morning or late evening when the water is cooler and the fish are more active. When fly fishing, it’s important to use an appropriate fly for the type of fish you’re hoping to catch.
Cutthroat trout are attracted to flies that resemble stoneflies or mayflies, while rainbow trout are attracted to flies that resemble midges or caddisflies.
Brown trout, on the other hand, are attracted to a variety of different types of flies, so it’s important to experiment until you find one that’s successful!
See Related: Best Things to do in Yellowstone National Park
14. Take a dip in one of Gardiner’s hot springs
The Chico Hot Springs and the newly restored Yellowstone Hot Springs are two of Gardiner’s most popular hot springs, which may be visited after a long day of trekking. Community members flock to Paradise Valley’s numerous hot springs for a relaxing bath.
For visitors who love visiting hot springs, the two most well-known hot springs in Paradise Valley, are Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa and the Yellowstone Hot Springs.
Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa, located about an hour’s drive from Gardiner, has been a local hot springs destination since 1900. With 26 rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and live entertainment on the weekends, visitors can enjoy all that Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa has to offer.
The Yellowstone Hot Springs, located in Gardiner is a newly restored hot spring that opened to the public in 2016. Yellowstone Hot Springs offers visitors a unique experience, as the water is sourced from a geothermal spring.
Visitors can enjoy the six different soaking pools, which range in temperature from 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The Yellowstone Hot Springs pools are open year-round, and there is also a sauna on-site. It is newly built and offers up-close views of the Gallatin Mountains. It is not associated with the national park and is right off the highway on your way to Gardiner from the north.
15. Do some famous Montana fly fishing
There is no way the list of Gardiner’s adventure opportunities doesn’t include fly fishing! People spend years mastering this art. If it’s your first visit, it is better to consult a bait shop or a local guide.
Some family-owned fly shops established in the 1960s still hold the same space and add a lot to Montana’s fly fishing heritage. They can also help you by offering walk and wade trips, powerboat trips, and casting instruction workshops.
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16. Go whitewater rafting on the Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River is one of the most popular spots for whitewater rafting in Montana. The river offers a variety of Class III and Class IV rapids.
The Yellowstone River begins in Yellowstone National Park and flows uninterrupted for over 600 miles into North Dakota. Though not the whole of the river might be ideal for rafting, the part closer to Gardiner is, fortunately.
The sight of the flashing water is thrilling, and it’s difficult to resist diving in! The safest way to enjoy the water is to board a boat with a professional guide and seek assistance. You can discover various companies providing half-day, full-day, and overnight rafting trips along the river. Here is one you can try out.
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17. Spend the Night at a Campground
While there is no match to the luxury of hotels and motels, still, the best way to enjoy your vacation in Gardiner is to set up your own tent and spend a night under the stars. With friends and family, you can make everlasting memories while pitching the tent and spending time inside.
If you have an RV, you may park it at a nearby campground and spend the evening. The finest places for you will be Yellowstone RV Park and Rocky Mountain RV Park, which are both located near the city center. Their best features are that they’re conveniently located near downtown and provide full hookups, including cable and Wi-Fi. For those eager to experience tent camping, Yellowstone RV Park may also offer the ideal experience.
You can also pitch your tents in campgrounds in the surrounding Custer-Gallatin National Forest designated by the U.S. Forest Service. The closest of these is the Eagle Creek Campground. The area allocation is on a first-come, first-served basis with basic amenities including pit toilets.
The closest campground to Gardiner is Mammoth Campground near the site of Mammoth Hot Springs, which has 85 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. And believe me, getting a site can be challenging at times. If you are visiting Gardiner, make early reservations.
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18. Hike to Emigrant Peak
Emigrant Peak is certainly a sight to behold. At 12,799 feet, it’s the tallest point in the Beartooth Mountains, and it offers hikers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The peak is located in the Emigrant Wilderness area of the Inyo National Forest, and it’s a popular destination for both day hikes and overnight backpack trips.
Emigrant Peak is relatively easy to climb, but it does require some basic mountaineering skills. However, the rewarding views from the summit are well worth the effort. So if you’re looking for an adventure in the Beartooth Mountains, be sure to add Emigrant Peak to your list.
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19. Hike to Yellowstone Falls
Yellowstone Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Yellowstone National Park. The falls are located on the Yellowstone River and offer stunning views of the river and the surrounding landscape. There are two main falls – Upper Falls and Lower Falls. Upper Falls is the taller of the two, at 109 feet, with Lower Falls being slightly shorter at 94 feet.
The trail to Yellowstone Falls is an easy hike and takes about 30 minutes to complete. However, the trail can be slippery and steep in places, so be sure to wear proper footwear and take your time.
Once you reach the falls, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views. Be sure to bring your camera, as this is a hike you won’t want to miss!
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20. Take a scenic boat ride on Yellowstone Lake
There’s nothing quite like a scenic boat ride on Yellowstone Lake. As the largest lake in Yellowstone National Park, it offers some of the best views in the park. You can fish, swim, and boat in the lake, and there are plenty of scenic spots to explore.
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, take a tour of the geysers and hot springs that dot the shoreline. You’ll be amazed by the power of the geysers and the beauty of the hot springs. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Yellowstone Lake is sure to please.
See Related: Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone, Montana
21. Go birdwatching in the wetlands
This one goes out to the birdwatching enthusiasts in the room. Where my twitchers at?!
The wetlands near Gardiner are home to a variety of birds, including herons, egrets, and several species of duck. The best time to see these birds is in the early morning or late afternoon when they are actively feeding. Binoculars are essential for getting a close-up view of these beautiful creatures.
Keep an eye out for the Great Blue Heron, which is the largest bird in the wetland. This bird can grow up to four feet tall and has a wingspan of six feet!
If you’re lucky, you may also spot a Bald Eagle or Osprey. These majestic predators can sometimes be seen hunting for fish in the wetland’s waters. So don’t forget your camera and binoculars on your next trip to the wetlands. You can book a ticket for a Gardiner wildlife adventure to experience this.
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If you’re in Montana, and looking for a charming small town to spend some time in, Gardiner is definitely worth checking out.
Just north of Yellowstone National Park, this little town is packed with plenty of activities and attractions that are sure to please visitors of all ages. Whether you’re interested in nature walks and hikes or fishing and boating on Yellowstone River, Gardiner has something for everyone.
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What are the best things to do in Gardiner, Montana?
Gardiner is a small town located at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is a popular destination for tourists who want to experience the beauty of the area and participate in outdoor activities.
Is it better to stay in Gardiner or West Yellowstone?
If you are more interested in geyser basins and the Grand Canyon, they are easy to reach from West Yellowstone.
But if you want to explore Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s northern region, Gardiner is a better choice.
However, when it comes to accommodations, West Yellowstone wins in terms of versatility and a wider selection of hotels.
What is Gardiner, Montana is known for?
Gardiner is a small town located at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The town is also known for its Roosevelt Arch, which is the first entry into Yellowstone National Park.