Scenic drives are easy to find around Gardiner. Whether you're looking for an after-dinner jaunt or a full-day excursion, you'll find beautiful scenery, nearly guaranteed wildlife sightings, and plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs.
Hwy 89 through Paradise Valley
Highway 89 is one of the most scenic drives in or out of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. From Livingston, Montana, head south on U.S. Highway 89 through 53 miles of breathtaking mountain views along the the Gallatin and Absaroka-Beartooth mountain ranges. Travelers often spot a variety of wildlife year-round along this scenic cooridor, including elk, mule and whitetail deer, and even the occassional moose. Osprey and eagles are often perched in trees lining the Yellowstone River – the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states – which winds its way alongside the highway. The road continues on to Gardiner through Yankee Jim Canyon and the Gardiner Basin. The journey ends in Gardiner, Montana, and the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.
Gardiner to Jardine
This dirt road is suitable for most highway vehicles, though RV's and busses are not advised. The first five miles of this road is suitable year round for all vehicles, 4X4 advised in winter months.
This drive starts out of Gardiner on a county road heading northeast. It passes through the small community of Jardine, a former mining community, before ending at the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness access. From Gardiner, it's approximately 11 miles to Bear Creek Campground (follow the signs), one of several campgrounds with hiking trailheads along this route.
Old Yellowstone Trail - Gardiner to Yankee Jim Canyon
This dirt road is suitable for most highway vehicles on major sections. Characterized by history, scenery, and wildlife, the route runs parallel to the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Begin the drive in Gardiner at the historic Roosevelt Arch and head northeast. Look for pronghorn, elk, bison, and hiking trailheads along the way. This drive also follows the Yellowstone River with options to fish or splash around at several public river accesses. The route ends at the Custer-Gallatin National Forest in Yankee Jim Canyon. Currently, the road is washed out in Yankee Jim so stop at the cattle guard. This is a nice spot to park the car and take a stroll before turning around to meet back up with Highway 89.
This twelve-mile Park County dirt road is suitable for most highway vehicles.
The drive takes you through a high mountain basin with wildlife, scenery, and a Custer-Gallatin National Forest campground at the end of the road.
Beginning 19 miles north of Gardiner, just past Yankee Jim Canyon, head south onto Tom Miner Road from Highway 89. The dirt road winds through the mountains with beautiful vistas and opportunities to see wildlife. Be sure to stay on Tom Miner Road. By staying right once on Tom Miner Road, you will end up at Tom Miner Campground. The trailhead to the Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail and Ramshorn Peak are located at the end of the campground.
East River Road
This is a two-lane frontage road that passes through Paradise Valley paralleling Highway 89 and the Yellowstone River. Starting from Gardiner, head north on Highway 89 for approximately 22 miles. Turn right onto East River Road and continue driving north for 31 miles before returning to Highway 89 just outside Livingston, Montana. The speed limit on this road ranges between 45 and 55 MPH, making it a slower-paced road to take in the views in Paradise Valley.
The Grand Loop, Yellowstone National Park
The famous Yellowstone National Park loop is arguably one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich drives in the world. This 142-mile drive weaves a figure eight around Yellowstone National Park, passing by the park's most popular and breathtaking natural features. There are several ways to go about driving the entire Grand Loop Road, but we'd recommend beginning your journey in Gardiner, Montana as early in the morning as possible. (The trip will take you all day and is best split into two days if possible).
Enter at the park's North Entrance and head south five miles to Mammoth Hot Springs, stopping to explore the Mammoth Terraces or observe the resident elk population. From there, head east for Tower Junction along Yellowstone's wildlife-rich Northern Range. Continue on past Tower Fall and onto Duraven Pass, a high-mountain road with spectacular views of the northern section of the park. Descend down into the Canyon area, where you'll veer west for Norris Geyser Basin (you'll have a chance to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on your way back!)
From Canyon Village, drive west towards Norris Geyser Basin. Between Norris and Old Faithful (the lower part of the figure eight) you can explore the majority of the park's thermal features at Midway Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots, and the Old Faithful Area. From there, continue southeast towards West Thumb Geyser Basin on picturesque Yellowstone Lake. Follow the shoreline of the lake north towards Fishing Bridge. Continue north through Hayden Valley until you find yourself back in the Canyon area. This time, be sure to stop and take in the sights at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!
Take the quick drive west once again from Canyon to Norris Junction (the center of the figure eight). This time, head north back towards Mammoth Hot Springs across Swan Lake Flats, stop to look for grizzly bears and sandhill cranes in one of the many pullouts. You'll complete the end of your journey when you find yourself back at Mammoth Hot Springs. Time for a late dinner and good night's rest back in Gardiner!