Gardiner is a small but lively census-designated community in Park County, Montana.
For many, Gardiner is considered one of the gateways to the majestic Yellowstone Park.
Because of its proximity to numerous natural attractions, especially Yellowstone Park, Gardiner is a great place for outdoor adventure.
Founded back in 1880, this small community once served as the lone entrance to Yellowstone Park.
Today, it is still one of the most preferred entrances for most visitors in this world-famous park.
There are dozens of activities in and near Gardiner, mostly centered on outdoor activities like hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and others.
Regardless of your plans, Gardiner is an awesome destination for adventure in Montana, considering it’s a stone’s throw away from the United States’ top national park.
So, find your next unforgettable excursion with this post about the 20 best things to do in Gardiner, MT, and its nearby places.
Stop by the Roosevelt Arch
Before you even head inside the Yellowstone National Park, don't miss dropping by and taking photos with the Roosevelt Arch, which certifies your visit to this famous destination.
The Roosevelt Arch is located from the north entrance of Yellowstone, which is within Gardiner.
It was completed in 1903 and served as a welcome arch and an additional curbside appeal for visitors in the park until it eventually became an icon of its own.
In addition, there are many fascinating stories about the Roosevelt Arch that will make you appreciate its existence even more.
So, don’t forget to take the mandatory photo at the Roosevelt Arch as proof that you’ve visited Yellowstone.
Join Exciting Wildlife Viewing with Yellowstone Wild Tours
Gardiner is home to numerous companies that offer exciting tours inside the Yellowstone National Park.
One of the most trusted companies to hook up for wildlife viewing to Yellowstone National Park is the Yellowstone Wild Tours.
They specialize in various tour packages, including the family wildlife tour that offers an exclusive tour for you and your family.
Yellowstone National Park is abundant in different types of animals from wolves, bears, elks, caribous, cougar, bighorn sheep, bald eagle, and moose.
Its professional tour guide will take you to places that guarantee you the best spot to see these majestic animals closer.
So, before you head to Yellowstone National Park, make sure to hire the Yellowstone Wild Tour for an unforgettable wildlife viewing.
Watch Elks Hang Out at the Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park is abundant of elks that even roam beyond its boundary.
Many of them are regularly seen at the northwest entrance of Yellowstone Park near Gardiner.
So, when you’re in Gardiner, make sure to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs located in the area where many of these elks love to hang out.
Aside from the herds of elk, the Mammoth Hot Springs itself is a beautiful natural attraction that was created millions of years ago from calcium carbonate deposits.
The hot spring’s cascading columns make a gorgeous backdrop for excellent photos.
To further explore the Mammoth Hot Springs and get a closer look at these elks, you can proceed to its boardwalk that spans roughly two miles.
In addition, you can proceed to Fort Yellowstone, where a visitor center is found.
Visiting this place is a great way to introduce yourself to the many exciting things to come when you’re already inside the Yellowstone National Park.
Have Some Leisure Time in Gardiner
Gardiner might be a small community, but thousands of tourists’ flock there to stay as a jump-off area in the Yellowstone National Park.
With this in mind, it’s not entirely surprising that many businesses there thrived.
So, it would be nice to get yourself acquainted with Gardiner’s locality by shopping and dining at its local establishments.
The community has numerous souvenir shops and restaurants to visit.
To start off, visit the Yellowstone Wild Galleries to see charming photos of the wildlife and the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park.
On the other hand, check out the Yellowstone Forever Institute, which offers educational tours and workshops about various Yellowstone-related topics from wildlife photography, animal identification, and painting classes.
Plus, it has an amusing gift shop where you can buy souvenirs.
Meanwhile, the restaurants you need to drop by in Gardiner are Cowboy’s Lodge and Grille, Wonderland Café, and The Corral.
Each restaurant serves delicious food from American-classic comfort food and other cuisines in a casual fare.
Conquer the Yellowstone River with Montana Whitewater Rafting & Yellowstone Zipline Tours
The Montana Whitewater Rafting & Yellowstone Zipline Tours is situated along Scott St. W Street in Gardiner.
This locally-owned tour company is widely known for its whitewater rafting tours and other exciting activities in Yellowstone Park.
In addition, the company also manages the Gardiner Base Camp, which is an accommodation for those who want to explore Yellowstone.
The company has been operating in Gardiner for three decades already, which makes them one of the most trusted whitewater rafting tours in the Yellowstone River.
Aside from whitewater rafting, the company also offers other outdoor activity packages such as tubing, fishing, zipline, and horseback riding in and out of the Yellowstone National Park.
Cast Your Line at the Yellowstone River
Speaking of fishing, the Yellowstone River is a perfect spot to cast your line to catch some fish.
Yellowstone River is the most extensive river system in Montana.
It is also home to numerous tributaries abundant with different species of fish.
With that in mind, you should seize the opportunity to try some fishing or fly-fishing in the area along with visiting anglers who come from various regions in the United States.
One of the best ways to make the most of your fishing experience in Gardiner is to consult a bait shop or local guide to provide you with the best fishing spot on the river.
If you’re lucky, you can catch some arctic graylings, west slope cutthroat trout, and mountain whitefish on the Yellowstone River.
Drive through the Scenic Paradise Valley Highway
The Paradise Valley or Highway 89 is a scenic highway nestled in between two famous mountain ranges in Montana.
It connects Montana’s Livingstone and Gardiner and reaches the north entrance of the Yellowstone River.
The entire Paradise Valley highway stretches 53-miles filled with beautiful sceneries from the Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west.
Both mountain ranges create lush vegetation that follows the Yellowstone River’s meandering waters, while from a distance, you will see the snowcapped mountains.
The sceneries create a beautiful setting for nature photography and nature viewing.
Passing through Paradise Valley is an adventure on its own that you should not miss when you’re visiting Gardiner.
Warm Your Senses at the Yellowstone Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park is a volcanic caldera that is often referred to as a supervolcano, which is why it is abundant with hot springs.
There are numerous resorts in Gardiner to visit to experience its hot springs.
One of them is the Yellowstone Hot Springs along E Gate Rd.
This hot spring resort features a 4,000 square feet pool that uses the steaming water from Yellowstone’s hot springs.
If you’re cold, soak into this hot spring that can reach up to 104 degrees in some instances.
Visiting the Yellowstone Hot Springs is a relaxing way to end your day after exploring Gardiner’s natural attractions.
Check Out the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
If you want to explore the less-known treasures of the Yellowstone National Park, head to the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center just outside the park’s north entrance in Gardiner.
This facility houses some of the park’s hidden treasures that are well-preserved at its exhibit.
Technically, the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center serve as the park's museum.
It is situated along Old Yellowstone Trail S in Gardiner, MT.
It features a vast collection of archeological, cultural, and artifacts from its natural history.
In addition, the museum also has numerous skeletal remains of the first wolves that were reintroduced to the park.
Also, you can view Thomas Moran’s watercolor field sketches and William Henry Jackson’s photos at its exhibit.
Overall, the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center is an excellent place to visit, especially if you’re looking for more things to familiarize yourself with the history and facts about Yellowstone.
Enjoy Horseback Riding in Gardiner
Horseback riding is one of the most popular ways to visit Gardiner and Yellowstone Park's attractions.
To experience horseback riding in Gardiner, check out Paradise Rafting’s horseback riding tour.
It’s an exciting and more convenient way to explore the area’s beauty.
Paradise Rafting mainly hosts whitewater rafting adventures through the Yellowstone River.
But they also offer horseback riding tours and trips that take you to various trails, mountains, and other natural attractions in the area.
In addition, its horseback riding trips are open for ages seven and up, while its trips have a varied duration from an hour to full-day trips.
So, if you want a unique experience touring through Gardiner, visit Paradise Rafting for its horseback riding trips.
Watch the Wolves with Yellowstone Wolf Tracker
Have a thrilling and exciting experience watching the wolves through guiding services by Yellowstone Wolf Tracker.
This tour company has a good 10-year track record providing wildlife sightings to visitors in Yellowstone.
Developed by husband and wife, Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston who are both biologists, have been on the ground tracking wolves since their reintroduction to the park in the 1990s.
You’ll be assisted by experienced and personable wildlife biologists so you’ll have fun while learning about the wolves.
Through their expert guiding service, you’ll have the best chances to spot the elusive wolves and have a rich, educational, and unforgettable experience.
Yellowstone Wolf Tracker also offers Private Wildlife Tours, six-day Full Vacation Packages, and Guided Hikes you can avail for your family.
Browse Art Displays at High Country Gallery
See artistic displays that reflect Yellowstone's unique natural landscapes and wildlife at High Country Gallery.
The gallery is located at the Yellowstone Outpost Mall and has been an iconic location in Gardiner for the past 30 years.
Browse through different western fine art pieces and detailed curated sculptures made by legendary artists.
See the carefully crafted carvings by Tony Ramer, photography works by James Jones, and works on canvas by Nancy Glazier among others.
All these artistic works at High Country Gallery are sure to inspire you with Yellowstone’s majestic features.
Enjoy Tasty American Fare at Yellowstone Mine Restaurant
Dine out with the family and enjoy some classic American food at Yellowstone Mine Restaurant.
You’ll find this food stop at Scott Street, right beside the Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone; it’s open from Wednesday to Sunday from late afternoon until evening.
Enjoy your delicious meals with the restaurant’s Old Western ambiance and warm and friendly service.
You’ll have plenty to share with their Family-style Nachos, Quesadillas, Mozzarella Sticks, and other tasty appetizers and snacks.
Have a fresh House Salad or try handhelds like Chicken Wings and Chicken Caesar Wrap.
Want to build your own burger? Choose from grilled patties like Black Bean Burger,
8-ounce Beef Burger or Bison Burger laid on toasted buns and topped with onions, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and your choice of Cheddar, Pepper Jack, American, or Swiss.
They also serve meals for kids like Grilled Cheese, Hot Dogs, Burgers, and Mini Taco, all included with one side and a drink.
For dessert, try the Over 21, a warm sugar cookie on ice cream covered with 44 North Cream Huckleberry Liquor; you’ll also enjoy other desserts like Cookie Sundae,
Ice Cream and Apple Huckleberry Cobbler.
Set Up Camp at Bear Creek Campground
Get to enjoy more of Gardiner District’s breathtaking natural sceneries at Bear Creek Campground.
Located in West Absaroka Mountains, you can pitch your tents without any reservations.
The camping ground area is open from the middle of June to October with no fees required; open parking is also available for campers.
Prepare your camping gear and explore the wild forest areas; cast your lines on the river and enjoy stream fishing, or go on an adventurous day hike.
Have fun primitive camping at Bear Creek Campground.
Have a Pleasant Stay at Upriver Yellowstone Cabin
Situated on the banks of the scenic Yellowstone River and Yellowstone National Park’s north border, you’ll enjoy a comfortable and relaxing stay at Upriver Yellowstone Cabin.
This establishment has been serving visitors to Yellowstone since the 1970s offering great accommodations with amazing views.
You’ll be welcomed with homemade treats and staff will be there to help you plan your itinerary from restaurant reservations to outdoor activities like fishing and campfires.
Take a nap on the sleeping porch or just enjoy the view of the river and majestic Electric Peak.
You’ll feel relaxed in the homey cabin spaces built with local driftwood and decorated with country-style designs.
Yellowstone National Park’s north entrance is just a few minutes from here so you can avoid the rush and crowds when you visit the park.
Upriver Yellowstone Cabin can also help you plan a town day to let you discover many other local attractions in the area.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Climb the Sphinx Mountain
Sphinx Mountain is situated 25 minutes or 12 miles north of Gardiner.
It’s best known for its unique truncated summit, blocky shape, and reddish-brown color.
If you’re not that familiar, it’s one of the most distinctive natural attractions outside the Yellowstone area.
True to its popularity, more than 200 climbers have already reached the mountain’s summit from 1913 to 1976.
More and more climbers have climbed the Sphinx Mountain since then because of its unique and striking form.
Visiting this place is very convenient, especially if you’re traveling from Gardiner, which is technically a stone’s throw away from its trailhead.
Walk through the Empty Streets of Aldridge Ghost Town
A 22-minute drive or 12 miles north of Gardiner takes you to the Aldridge Ghost Town.
It was incorporated as a town back in 1906 and served as a mining town that supplied coal and coke for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s smelters.
The town had a brief period of success; however, the mining operations there halted eventually due to a lack of funds.
The end result saw Aldridge’s inhabitants abandoning the town for greener pastures, turning it into an eerie ghost town that remains empty today.
Most of the remnants, particularly the buildings in Aldridge are still standing up, leaving a trace of what it was back in the day.
Visiting this place offers you a unique experience that’s highly contrasting to the beauty of nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Discover the Majestic Beauty of the Yellowstone National Park
Lastly, your visit to Gardiner won’t be complete without setting an adventure to Yellowstone Park.
As the gateway to this world-famous park, Gardiner offers you the most convenient entrance to the park’s famous attractions inside.
The park sprawls across the basalt plateau, covering portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
Aside from its wilderness area, the entire park is filled with natural attractions such as the famous geysers in Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, Morning Glory Pool, Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, and Norris Geyser Basin.
For a quick and convenient tour, drive through the 142-mile long Grand Loop that offers some of the park’s most beautiful features.
Other attractions you can check out are the Tower-Roosevelt Valley, Lamar Valley, Mount Washburn, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Yellowstone Lake.
Hike through the Scenic Joe Brown Trail
A 15-minute drive or 13 miles north of Gardiner takes you to Crown Springs, where you will find the Joe Brown Trail.
If you’re up for more hiking, the Joe Brown Trail, which covers roughly eight miles, offers you a wonderful scenic hike featuring picturesque views of the mountains in between the trail.
Unlike Yellowstone National Park, the Joe Brown Trail has fewer trees to cover you from the sun.
So, it would be great to wear coverings and bring lots of hydration during the hike.
Overall, the Joe Brown Trail is a beautiful outdoor destination near Gardiner, with lightly trafficked out and back, making it easy for everyone to traverse.
Visit the Fort Yellowstone Historic District
A 13-minute drive south of Gardiner takes you to the Fort Yellowstone Historic District, which is a former United States Army base.
If you’re looking for a more fascinating backstory and facts about Yellowstone National Park, this is your go-to place.
It offers guided tours to explore the backstory of how Yellowstone became the world’s first national park.
Historically, most of Fort Yellowstone’s buildings were built during the late 1800s for the U.S. Army.
Amazingly, most of these buildings are still standing and well-preserved until today and function as offices for the National Park Services that houses employees and park rangers.
Overall, it’s a great place to explore to educate yourself more about Yellowstone’s history.
Yellowstone National Park is nothing short of amazing but Gardiner is also a great place to explore.
There are so many fun-filled things to do in Gardiner, making this small community more than Yellowstone's base camp.
So, whenever you’re planning to visit Yellowstone, make sure to make some of your time to check out Gardiner, MT, and discover its hidden gems.
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