RED LODGE POST
Most visitors arrive at Yellowstone National Park during the summer months. This is expected as schools are not operating, and the weather is nice.
Is there any way to avoid crowds heading into Yellowstone? Maybe. Yellowstone has five entrances (East, South, Northeast, North, and West). Choosing one over others may be a tactic to get away from some of the congestion. A look at the number of visitors at each of the Park’s entrances is helpful in this regard.
During July (2019), 12.3% of visitors entered the Park from near Cody, Wyoming; 21.8% of visitors entered from near Jackson, Wyoming; 6.6% entered from near Red Lodge, Montana; 16.0% entered from near Gardiner, Montana; and a whopping 43.2% entered from near West Yellowstone, Montana. A total of 936,062 visitors entered Yellowstone at all entrances in July 2019.
These numbers depend on lots of factors, such as where visitors come from (home states) and nearby “feeder” cities. Bozeman is many miles from the northwest side of the Park, but many people fly into the Bozeman airport, then head south to enter the Park at West Yellowstone, Montana. Jackson, Wyoming likely draws many who take in Grand Teton National Park before heading north to Yellowstone.
Where visitors enter the Park depends on circumstances of their travel. Still travelers from the Northwest, Midwest, and Canada, may want to choose entrances near Red Lodge or Gardiner Montana. Both Red Lodge and Gardiner have lots to offer before heading to an official Park entrance.
Red Lodge is a charming town. Plus, Red Lodge is a starting point for travel up the amazing, scenic Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212) as it winds up into the mountains toward the Northeast Entrance to the Park. Inside the Park, the highway passes through the Lamar Valley, a scenic area, home to bears, buffalo, and other wildlife.
MTbest: In Red Lodge stay at the Pollard Hotel (406) 446-0001; dine at Carbon Fork Restaurant.
When entering the North Entrance of the Park at Gardiner, visitors are greeted by the famous Roosevelt Arch. A few more miles down the road is Mammoth Hot Springs.
Before heading to the North Entrance of Yellowstone, many travelers stop in Livingston, about 53 miles north of Gardiner. Time spent in Livingston is sure to please, since Livingston is such an attractive small town. Livingston has many art galleries, nice restaurants, a historic hotel, an amazing historical museum, and much more.
MTbest: In Livingston, stay at the Murray Hotel (406) 222-1350; dine at Gil’s Goods Restaurant.
The West Entrance of the Park, near the village of West Yellowstone, puts visitors close to the Old Faithful Geyser and lower geyser basin. West Yellowstone has an abundance of lodging and restaurants. Grizzly bears in captivity can be viewed at Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center at the east edge town.
MTbest: In West Yellowstone stay at the Hibernation Station (800) 580-3557; dine at Three Bear Restaurant.
Starting from Cody, Wyoming, visitors arrive at the East Entrance to the Park not far from Yellowstone Lake. The drive from Cody to the East Entrance is very scenic as the highway winds up into the mountains to the Park’s boundary. There’s lots of things to do in Cody. This makes the East Entrance ideal for entering or exiting the Park.
MTbest: In Cody, stay at the Chamberlin Inn (307) 587-0202; dine at Irma Hotel Restaurant.
The South Entrance is the gateway to Grand Teton National Park to the south and all the fun stuff in Jackson, Wyoming.