arty fish sculpture in livingston

Three-Day Itinerary for Gardiner, Paradise Valley, and Livingston, Montana

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in my disclaimer.

This post is sponsored by Montana’s Yellowstone Country

Since the North Entrance to Yellowstone is currently closed to vehicle traffic due to flooding and road damage, I want to show you how to have a great time in Gardiner, Paradise Valley, and Livingston without ever going into Yellowstone National Park.

We all love the world’s first National Park, but there is so much wildness and so much to do just north of the park. If you are like me, you can spend decades exploring and still find more.

Yellowstone's Roosevelt Arch is one of the things to do in Gardiner Montana

I crafted this three-day itinerary of my favorite things to do while the North Entrance to Yellowstone is closed and even when it reopens! 

Because there are so many things to do, I’ll share what I think a perfect day looks like and then add some extra activities you can swap out if you see something you like better.

You could stay in one place in any of the three locations or move around. For reference, it is about an hour’s drive from Gardiner to Livingston and the Paradise Valley lies in between. 


sign for Gardiner Montana with Yellowstone River below

Day 1 – Things to Do Around Gardiner, Montana

Start the day with a farm-to-table breakfast at the Wonderland Cafe

Take a “Saddle and Paddle” trip with Flying Pig Adventure CompanyYellowstone Raft CompanyWild West Raft CompanyParadise Adventure Company, or Montana Whitewater. You’ll spend a few hours horseback riding and a few hours whitewater (or scenic) rafting.

Grab lunch and a beverage at Red’s Blue Goose Saloon. The original building was destroyed in a fire a couple of years ago and they’ve reinvented themselves with a plaza of food trucks and a bar.

shopping in Gardiner on Front Street

End the day with a soak in Yellowstone Hot Springs. A dip in 4,000 square feet of mineral hot springs is guaranteed to leave you relaxed and refreshed for another day of exploring.

There are a lot of dinner choices in Gardiner. Try Yellowstone Pizza Company for something casual and delicious or Yellowstone Mine for Western fare like steaks, seafood, and pasta. All Gardiner restaurants are pretty casual so come as you are.

If you still have the energy to play, look for live music at Red’s Blue Goose Saloon or check the Gardiner events calendar to see what else is going on. Personally, I like to gather around a campfire and roast marshmallows after all that fun.

Where to Stay in Gardiner, Montana

two boys in bunk bed

There are more and more vacation rentals every year. If you need your own space and cooking area, they work out well. Check out VRBOs in Gardiner.

If you prefer a hotel, Booking.com and Expedia are where I find the best deals. 

Glamping is a fad I can get behind. The Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel is luxurious camping at its best. If you are nervous about camping this is the place to start. I booked a client here who was looking for an elevated experience and she loved it. 

Read more about things to do in Gardiner in this post. 


waterfall in paradise valley with boy in front

Day 2 – Things to Do in the Paradise Valley 

Breakfast at Pine Creek Lodge is my favorite summer activity in the Paradise Valley. On Sundays, there is live music and you can sit at the picnic tables under the pine trees listening to music while eating a yummy breakfast. 

If you aren’t too full, take a hike to Pine Creek Falls or Passage Creek Falls – two beautiful waterfalls in the Absaroka Mountain Range. For other hiking options, I like Robert Stone’s Day Hikes Around Bozeman, Montana, which includes the Paradise Valley. Or stop in at Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company in Livingston for great advice. 

Next, it’s time for another soak, this time at Chico Hot Springs. While you are there, belly up to the bar or get a massage in their spa. 

four kids jumping in hot springs pool

For a fancy, but casual dinner, Sage Lodge can’t be beat. We usually eat in Fireside Room as it’s a little more affordable than the Grill, but either way you will be blown away by the food and the atmosphere. 

In the evening, find great live music at Pine Creek Lodge or The Old Saloon.

Where to Stay in the Paradise Valley, Montana

inside of western lodge

If you want to stay in the Paradise Valley, a vacation rental is your best bet because there are so many more of them than hotels. See VRBOs in the Paradise Valley for prices and availability.

You could also consider staying at Yellowstone Valley Lodge, Chico Hot Springs Resort, or Sage Lodge

Read more about things to do in the Paradise Valley in this post. 


two people walking in front of brick buildings for things to do in Livingston Montana

Day 3 – Things to do in Livingston 

Depending on who in my family you ask, Faye’s Cafe, Trû North Café, Pinky’s Cafe, or Eastside Coffee is the best place for breakfast in Livingston. You may need to stay a few days just to try them all out. 

After breakfast, wander around our historic downtown popping in and out of galleries and boutique shops.

Next, float down the river with Yellowstone Wood Boat Tours. You’ll enjoy delicious food while taking in the spectacular scenery from the comfortable seat of a gorgeous boat.

family picnic on hill with mountains in back

The Yellowstone Gateway Museum offers walking tours three nights a week in the summer. Topics include historic bars (with beer tasting!), ghosts and ghost stories, and Livingston history. If it’s a Wednesday, join the party at the Livingston Farmers Market. On Thursday enjoy the outdoor summer music series at the Shane Center.

For dinner try one of our favorite restaurants – Neptune’s Taphouse and Eatery for sushi and more (where Anders is working as a prep cook!), The Murray Bar for gourmet burgers and wood-fired pizza, or Elemental Kitchen where each dish is thoughtfully constructed of parts (I don’t know what that means, but I do know I always enjoy my meal there!). 

Where to Stay in Livingston, Montana 

Again, there are a lot of options for lodging in Livingston. 

Read more about things to do in Livingston in this post. 

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