Montana is an incredible state with unlimited outdoor adventures. Thanks to public access being such a high priority throughout Montana, everyone can come visit and enjoy the natural beauty. 

Day 1: Fly into Billings, Montana

Today fly into Billings and rent a car. 

Dinner: Tonight have dinner at the local favorite, Montana Brewing Company. Opened in 1994, Montana’s first Brew Pub features a brewery, full bar, and grill right in the heart of downtown Billings!

You should also grab a cider at The Last Chance. It’s a cool building, and their ciders are great. The Last Chance Cider House Billings, Montana

Stay at the Northern Hotel. 

Day 2: Rappelling and Biking

Rappelling in Billings, Montana at The Rims

Rappelling in Billings, Montana at The Rims

Billings has some fun outdoor recreation opportunities. At the rim, you can do rappelling and rock climbing off the sandstone cliffs that serve as the northern border of downtown Billings. Although I don’t mind rappelling, I found it nerve racking to rappel off of a random anchor in the rock. If that is bothersome to you, I would skip this and do the Billings Brew Trail or visit the Yellowstone Art Museum

Dinner: Tonight have dinner at Walker’s. 

For more things to do in Billings, check out 10 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Billings, Montana. 

Day 3: LivingstonLivingston, MT

Today you will start your drive. The Yellowstone River runs throughout the state, somewhat along I-94. Leave Billings and follow the Yellowstone River all the way into the park. Along the way, you will make a stop in Livingston. Plan to have either a late brunch here or lunch followed with some afternoon fishing or a scenic drive around the Paradise Valley loop. The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop is a paved, 62-mile “loop drive” that circles through the beautiful Paradise Valley of Montana

Livingston is an adorable little city that looks like it came out of the 1950’s, and it is easily walkable. It is home to lots of ranches, and for such a small town the real estate is expensive. Hunting and fishing are quite popular here, and they’ve got several fantastic art galleries. The Livingston Depot is a restored 1902 Northern Pacific Railroad train station that operates as a museum from about mid-May to early September.  Mark’s In & Out has great hamburgers for just $2. 

 

Stay the night at Chico Hot Springs. This is a full up resort with a spa.

Day 4: Gardiner, MT

Gardiner was officially founded in 1880, but the area has served as a main entrance to Yellowstone National Park since its creation in 1872. It looks like a town straight out of the wild wild west. Gardiner has lots of lodging for those wanting to go into the national park. Plus, there are lots of rafting companies located here. Wonderland Café & Lounge

Lunch: Have lunch at Wonderland Café & Lounge where they focus on organic & locally sourced food. It is located at 206 Main St., Gardiner, MT 59030.

After lunch: Check out the town and do a bit of shopping, or you can head into Yellowstone. On your way to into Yellowstone, be sure to take time to pull over and see the Roosevelt Arch. Roosevelt Arch

There are more things to do in this area than you might think upon first look. 

Day 5: Yellowstone National Park

Today you will dip out of Montana for a bit to visit Yellowstone National Park. While in Yellowstone, there are some must-see stops. In this itinerary, we are rushing through Yellowstone, but I recommend spending a minimum of 3 days in Yellowstone if at all possible. 

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

 

Porcelain Basin at Norris Geyser Basin 

Porcelain Basin at Norris Geyser BasinOld FaithfulOld Faithful in Yellowstone

They have a large sitting area where you can sit and wait for the eruption. Also worth seeing while in the park is Grand Prismatic Springs.

6 Things to do in Yellowstone with Kids

Day 6: West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone is part of Yellowstone Country. Yellowstone Country is smaller than Yellowstone park, but still sprawling. It is a collection of five counties in Montana surrounding the main park. 

Breakfast:  Three Bear Restaurant

After breakfast: Visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center after breakfast where you can see otters, wolves, and bears. They bring out various bears at different times, but you are basically assured to see at least one if not 3 or 4. I saw quite a few during my visit, and kids will get a huge kick out of the otters. The center is located at 201 S. Canyon St., West Yellowstone, MT 59758.

 

Check into Gray Wolf Inn & Suites located at 250 S. Canyon St., West Yellowstone, MT 59758.

 

After you get checked in you have some free time to explore West Yellowstone. There are lots of cute shops. 

DinnerCafé Madriz is an incredible tapas restaurant. The owner is originally from Spain, and it is evident in all of the food. I could not believe how fantastic all of it was. Cafe Madrid is located at 311 N. Canyon St., West Yellowstone, MT 59758.

Café Madriz

Day 7: Big Sky

Head to Big Sky, home to fantastic skiing in the winter with 5,850 acres of ski terrain which spreads out from the summit of 11,166-foot. In the fall, there are golden aspen and cottonwood trees,  and fly fishing for feisty trout and bugling elk. 

Lunch: Along the way have lunch at Horn & Cantle located at 750 Lone Mountain Ranch Road, Big Sky, MT 59716. You will need to make sure they are open and not closed for a private party. If possible at all make a reservation. 

After lunch: Go for a local hike. There are a lot of places to hike in this area including Ousel Falls Park.

Beehive Basin Brewery 

After your hike, pop into microbrewery Beehive Basin Brewery to try some interesting beers. They do not have any food available, but you are welcome to bring in your own food. They are located at 245 Town Center Ave., Big Sky, MT 59716. If you are grabbing food to go with you, I highly recommend sandwiches from Roxy’s Market Cafe. Montana Whitewater Zipline

If you have kids with you and do not want to take them to a brewery, head over to Montana Whitewater Zipline instead for some super fun zip lining.  Be sure to make an advance reservation for ziplining at Montana Whitewater Zipline. The activity takes about 2 hours start to finish. You will need closed-toe shoes for this activity. It is located at 63960 Gallatin Road, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730. 

@meaganwristen##ziplining at ##Montana Whitewater Zipline in Gallatin Gateway ##yellowstonecounty ♬ Stay – Kygo / Maty Noyes

 

The Wilson HotelTonight stay at the Wilson Hotel. They have comfortable suites in Big Sky’s Town Center. (This is a Residence Inn by Marriott so you can get some points.) They’ve got a great hot tub and pool with killer views. In the mornings they serve a hot breakfast that is included in your stay. The hotel is located at 145 Town Center Ave., Big Sky, MT 59716.Buck’s T-4 Lodge 

Dinner: Tonight have dinner at Buck’s T-4 Lodge one of the best steakhouses in Montana. It’s been around forever, and there’s a reason why. It is delicious. Buck’s is located at 46625 Gallatin Road, Big Sky, MT 59716.

Day 8: Fly FishingFly fishing the Gallatin River near Big Sky, Montana

Today will be an absolutely incredible day. If you’ve never fly-fished, I promise you it will be an extremely rewarding experience. My first time to fly fish was here and it remains one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. (Not to brag but I caught 15 fish. Okay, I am bragging.)

Breakfast: Kick off your day with an early breakfast, ideally you have breakfast at your hotel if it is available. If your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast stop by Hungry Moose Market & Deli for breakfast instead. It’s located at 52 Big Sky Resort Road, Big Sky, MT. 

After breakfast: Head over to Gallatin River Guides for fly fishing. It is located at 47430 Gallatin Road, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730. Their guides are top notch and know the area intimately ensuring you catch some fish. If you have kids with you I recommend not crossing the river. Even for an adult it can be difficult. A child will fall in. 

Lunch: After fly fishing depart for Three Forks and have lunch at Bar3BBQ.Bar 3 BBQAs a Texas girl, I must say I was very impressed. I often have extremely low expectation for bbq outside of Texas. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Bar3BBQ is located at 119 E. Main St., Belgrade, MT 59714.

Madison Buffalo Jump State ParkAfter lunch: Learn some history, and take a hike if you like at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park. At Madison Buffalo Jump State Park you can learn about some of the techniques Native Americans used to capture buffalo. The park is located at 6990 Buffalo Jump Road, Three Forks, MT 59752.

Sacajawea Hotel

Tonight stay at the cozy boutique hotel, Sacajawea Hotel, located at 5 N. Main St., Three Forks, MT 59752.

Sacajawea Hotel

Sacajawea Hotel

 

Dinner: Have dinner at the Sac Bar, located in the downstairs part of the Sacajawea hotel. 

After dinner: Hit a hot springs, Bozeman Hot Springs located at 81123 Gallatin Road, Bozeman, MT 59718.Bozeman Hot Springs

Day 9: Bozeman

Breakfast: Jam! located at 25 W. Main St., Bozeman, MT 59715.

Museum of the Rockies

Lunch: at Mountains Walking Brewery

    • 422 N. Plum Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715

Afternoon: Hike at Drinking Horse Mountain Trail

Dinner: 14 North Restaurant located at 14 N. Church Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715.

After dinner explore downtown Bozeman.

Tonight stay at Element Bozeman 

Other great places to eat while in Bozeman

Fielding’s – Casual upscale dining with American fare conveniently located just off of West Mendenhall Street, Fielding’s is the namesake of prolific Bozeman architect Fred Fielding Willson, who designed the original Armory building in 1941. Montana’s local flavors are infused into every dish thanks to partnerships with local farmers and ranchers such as Wickens Ranch and Daniels Meats & Sausages. Intentional ingredients are paired with attention to detail when it comes to signature menu selections such as pan-seared Sweet Potato Gnocchi with brown butter and fresh sage, as well as Lamb Shoulder Navarin presented with pomme puree and French petit poix, which is a medley of vegetables including peas, fava beans and pearl onions. 

Enjoy drinks here like “The Romeo” a spirit forward, Larceny bourbon based drink with Campari and Averna Amaro or “The Secret Garden” made with the restaurant’s house-made strawberry-balsamic gastrique with elder flower liqueur, basil, and lemon. 

Tune Up – A basement Bar & Live Music Venue located in the basement of the Kimpton Armory Hotel, but it’s far from a speakeasy. The cozy whiskey and beer bar is located in the space where the Armory band used to practice and will pay homage to its musical roots with regularly scheduled live performances. The back bar features a library of whiskey that ranges from locally made Bozeman favorites to rare and hard to find spirits. Tune Up has a wide range of craft beers from Montana microbreweries including hometown Bozeman Brewing Company. Classic and creative cocktails also don the menu from the Poms of Wrath to the Light My Fire, a sweet and spicy concoction that brings all the elements of a good concert in one glass. The cocktail features house infused pineapple-habanero George Dickel Rye Whiskey, Demerara Sugar, Peychauds Bitters and served in a rocks glass over a large ice ball. 

Sky Shed – Rooftop Lounge & Pool with a View
Set nine stories above Bozeman’s historic downtown, Sky Shed is an elevated social experience where guests can soak up the scene and enjoy boozy delights and light bites all year long. Unique indoor and outdoor spaces transform with the seasons, perfect for basking in the sun or getting cozy by the fire. 

Sky Shed’s extensive cocktail program showcases a creative collection of drinks with flirty garnishes. Local breweries support the beer program, while the carefully curated collection of rosé and sparkling rounds out the elegant wine list. Sample Rosé all Day on Sundays with $20 bottles or visit the Sky Shed mid-week for Golden Hour happy hour special from 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday including $1 off all draft and cocktails as well as $7 house wines by the glass. 

Day 10

Fly home. 

Montana Packing List

You will want to monitor the weather conditions leading up to your trip. The weather can change quickly.

Outdoor Clothing

  • Mid-weight fleece layer and winter jacket, a fleece or wool jacket/ pullover. (It can still be quite cold at high altitudes and in the mornings and evenings.)
  • Waterproof and windproof outer layers; lightweight/breathable jacket and pants recommended
  • Close-toed shoes
  • Pants or jeans
  • Hat, for sun protection 
  • Bathing suit

Other Necessities

  • Daypack with the capacity for things you may need during a hike.
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen/lip balm (Sun and wind can take a toll at higher elevations.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Bear Spray
  • Medicine

9 Day Summertime Montana Road Trip Itinerary