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Montana:The Northern Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains on this spectacularly scenic drive on U.S. Route 89

Montana’s unbridled beauty is on full display as you wind from one great National Park to another on U.S. Route 89. From Yellowstone to Glacier, the history, home-style cooking and art of the West shine in this ode to Big Sky life.

Drive 381 miles, 7 hours, 24 minutes

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1. Gardiner

Starting Point

They call it “Paradise Valley” for a reason. As the only year-round entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Gardiner lives up to its nickname, offering visitors access to one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. The many outfitters in town will set you up with everything you need for fishing, hiking and rafting trips, but you can start exploring the area with a quick trip to Mammoth Hot Springs, just five miles from Gardner. A quiet town with frontier sensibilities, Gardiner is also a great place to steer away from the crowds and enjoy the pristine Yellowstone River, which cuts through town. It’s the longest undammed river in the lower 48, so you won’t have a problem staking out a slice of wilderness all your own.


2. Livingston

54.1 miles, 1 hour, 6 minutes

Fly-fishing enthusiasts will know the name. Renowned for the films it spawned and the fly-tying innovations created here, you’ll be hard pressed to match Livingston’s influence on the fishing culture. Make your first stop the Dan Bailey fly fishing shop on Park Street for the best fishing equipment. The Livingston Depot Center is a restored 1902 train station that now operates a museum and community center—stay for one of the talks to learn the singular history of the bustling town. It’s also an artist’s haven, with many writers, painters and actors making their home here. South Main Street has galleries and boutiques on nearly every corner.

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3. Great Falls

172.2 miles, 3 hours, 23 minutes

The third-largest city in Montana, Great Falls will seem like a relative metropolis compared to the other stops on this trip. The C. M. Russell Museum is a must-visit landmark highlighting the unique work of “Cowboy artist” Charlie Russell—it’s been called one of “America’s premier Western art museums.” Try hiking or biking on the stunning River’s Edge Trail, which runs for 48 miles alongside the Missouri River. Round out your visit with a stop at the O’Hare Motor Inn, home to the weirdly wonderful Sip ’N Dip Lounge, a tiki bar that features live “mermaids” swimming in tanks. Sip a tall tropical drink and relax.


4. St. Mary

154.7 miles, 2 hours, 55 minutes

The gateway to one-of-a-kind Glacier National Park, this lakeside hamlet is a popular stop for visitors. The historic St. Mary Lodge and Resort offers dinner and horseback tours in the surrounding countryside. Because most of your time will be spent exploring the rugged beauty of Montana’s backcountry, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Save some room for dessert—the Park Café & Grocery on U.S. Route 89 is known statewide as the place to tuck into some fresh huckleberry pie after a day outdoors.