For anyone visiting Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman, MT may seem like an unlikely destination.
Although it’s not officially a gateway city, Bozeman’s proximity to the Park makes it an ideal destination. And given that it hosts an international airport, it’s a popular fly in destination for travelers.
Of course, Bozeman is much more than an airport.
This itinerary is bare bones, slow going and very easy: just a short jaunt from Mammoth north to Bozeman.
Honorary Gateway City: Start in Mammoth Hot Springs, Go to Bozeman, Head Back to Mammoth Hot Springs
Suggested Starting Time: 10 a.m.
Bozeman is approximately 90 minutes away from Mammoth Hot Springs, depending on weather and road conditions. There’s absolutely no need to roar out of Mammoth in the wee hours of the morning.
Given the amount of time you have on your hands, don’t bother grabbing quick eats from the General Store. Stop by the Terrace Grill for continental breakfast, or enjoy a sit-down/buffet breakfast at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room.
Mammoth Terraces/Liberty Rock/Albright Visitor Center
Since you don’t have to be on the road until around 10 a.m., you should pop over to the Mammoth Terraces. Although you can reasonably walk to the Lower Terraces and Liberty Rock from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the Upper Terraces has some of the more interesting features.
Otherwise, if terraces don’t suit you, plan on stopping into the renovated Albright Visitor Center, featuring exhibits on Yellowstone history (both human and natural) as well as a Yellowstone Association bookstore.
Hitting The Road
It’s only five miles to the North Entrance from Mammoth and besides some lovely views of the Gardner River as you curve along, this area is short on major attractions. Keep an eye out on the slopes though—it’s bighorn sheep range.
The Roosevelt Arch, constructed in 1903 and dedicated to (and by) then President Theodore Roosevelt, marks the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. A looming basalt structure, the Arch makes for a great photo opportunity.
Between Gardiner and Bozeman
The general scenery of this drive can be summed up in three words: mountains, mountains, mountains. It’s hard to understate how beautiful this portion of the West is; the scenery rivals Yellowstone National Park, though don’t expect any roadside geysers this far north.
The road (US-89 N) follows the Yellowstone River all the way to the outskirts of Livingston, MT before it joins I-90 W/US-191 S.
Bozeman, on the whole, is just bursting with great restaurants, ranging from choose-your-own-noodles (Naked Noodle) to fried chicken (Roost) to bison burgers (Ted’s Montana Grill). Our top recommendation would be either MacKenzie River Pizza Company or The Garage Soup Shack & Mesquite Grill, although feel free to explore.
A Bozeman Afternoon
Depending on your tastes, there are multiple things to do with your afternoon in Bozeman.
Main Street, for instance, is home to several charming cafes (Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot is an exemplary example) along with a cozy record store (Cactus Records), art galleries, and—believe it or not—the largest independent bookstore in Montana, Country Bookshelf.
In terms of museums, two come to mind: Museum of the Rockies and the Gallatin History Museum. The latter, located on Main Street in the old county jail building, is full of artifacts from Bozeman’s frontier past—everything from clothes to guns to an old fire engine—as well as information on women’s suffrage in Montana. The Museum of the Rockies, meanwhile, offers visitors an extensive overview of the Earth’s history, a rich collection of dinosaur fossils/displays and local/western history. It also hosts traveling exhibits as diverse as Napoleonic artifacts and rare geckos. The site is also home to a living history site: a farmhouse, complete with tool shed and root cellar.
Otherwise, if you’d like to cool off with a drink somewhere, there are several good microbreweries around town (Bridger Brewing by the university and Bozeman Brewing Company off North Broadway Avenue) as well as Lockhorn Cider House.
Bozeman Dinner (Optional)
Depending on what time you want to get back to Mammoth Hot Springs, you can either leave Bozeman around four (to get back to the Park around dinnertime) or scrounge up dinner in town.
All the aforementioned lunch places stand as great dinner destinations, but there are a few other places you should consider. Montana Ale Works is a perennially popular dinner destination—they open at 4 p.m. and reservations are highly, highly recommended—that offers hearty fare like meatloaf and grass-fed steaks, as well as 40 beers on tap. Otherwise, Plonk Wine offers upscale, decadent fare like duck schnitzel, squash perogi and peppered sturgeon.
Mammoth Hot Springs Dinner
In Mammoth Hot Springs, dinner will look a lot like breakfast in terms of destination. If you want a quick burger or chicken sandwich, you should go to the Terrace Grill. For a proper sit down meal, head to the Dining Room. Otherwise, if you’re tired after a long day out and about, consider grabbing something from the General Store.
Other than the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the only lodging in the area can be found in the campground, just to the north of Mammoth.