When you think of Montana you imagine scenes from A River Runs Through It or the Horse Whisperer, locations that are breathtakingly beautiful. As mentioned in previous posts, that’s not necessarily what you’ll find in southeastern Montana (or specifically, Billings). Though we live in a less picturesque locale, we are close enough to mountains and majesty to get our scenic fix whenever we have a free afternoon or day. One such place to travel is Red Lodge. Located at the entryway of the Beartooth Pass, Red Lodge is a main point of entry into Yellowstone National Park.
Fun Things to do in Red Lodge, Montana
While the town isn’t very large – you won’t find even a single stoplight – there are still a number of fun things to do while visiting.
During the winter months, Red Lodge Mountain is an ideal place to hit the slopes. Bigger destinations like Big Sky or Bridger Bowl in Bozeman draw the bulk of the tourist population, so while RLM is a great place to ski you’re more apt to find locals or visitors from Billings or another close city. The mountain boasts up to 70 slopes of varying levels of difficulty to suit skiers from beginner to advanced. With a restaurant and bar at the base of the mountain as well as the Midway Chalet halfway up the mountain, you’ll find a variety of foods and beverages to quench any appetite as well as a place to rest your legs after a hard day on the slopes.
Main Street Red Lodge is comparable to what you’d find in small resort towns across the country. As you stroll along, you’ll find boutique shops, outdoor equipment stores, dive bars, upscale restaurants, rock shops, and a fun-filled candy store. We always have fun perusing the different shops and trying out the local fare, the last time we went we enjoyed some giant slices of pizza at Red Lodge Pizza Company and some delicious tacos a local favorite, Mas Taco. Red Lodge is keeping up with the times with the addition of local farm to plate style food and a local brewery, Red Lodge Ales, which has locally-brewed beers on tap.
I recently had the chance to revisit the pig races at the Bear Creek Saloon. Located just 7 miles from Red Lodge, it’s a quick trip for a unique experience. We decided to go for dinner (it’s located behind a steakhouse) but you can go for just the races and a cold beverage. Betting on the winning bovine isn’t the same as you’d find at common racetracks, instead, your name goes onto a squares-style board (think Super Bowl betting) and if your name matches the winning pig you win some cold hard cash. There’s also a small playground there for the kids (if adorable running piggies isn’t fun enough) and a lot of outdoor seating ala picnic table.
Hiking, Biking, and Fishing
Red Lodge has a vast number of trails in the surrounding areas. Depending on the level of difficulty, you can find just about anything to suit your comfort level. We’ve spent many days fishing at Wild Bill Lake, a stocked pond surrounded by an easily accessible trail. It’s a nice way to guarantee fishing success, even though the fish are tiny and you have to throw them back. It’s an easy way to have some family fun.
Yellowstone National Park and the Beartooth Pass
Red Lodge is the northern entrance of the Beartooth Pass, a scenic highway leading into to Northeastern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The distance from Red Lodge to the entrance to YNP is only 68 miles but the drive takes much longer because of the multiple switchbacks and scenic opportunities. We’ve made the trip over a number of times because it’s breathtaking beauty, wildlife opportunities, and easy access to Billings.
Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wildlife Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization set up to house injured or domesticated wildlife. Visiting is a great opportunity to see bears, bison, wolves, and other wild animals up close without the fear of attack. With the number of tourists that continue to approach wildlife to either touch them or get a photo opportunity in YNP, the sanctuary gives a great option to take a photo or learn more about the animals without fear of injury. The sanctuary even offers ‘up close and personal’ opportunities so you can have a unique experience with a wild animal and a great story to tell your friends and family.
Red Lodge has a number of fun holiday-inspired activities throughout the year. We’ve visited for the Fourth of July parade where the kids received candy from various parade entries and sodas from the Pepsi truck. We also got to see a man ride by on a large bull, not an everyday occurrence. The town also hosts a Christmas stroll, a rodeo, Oktoberfest, and is the home of the Beartooth Rally, a large motorcycle ride over the Beartooth Pass. The rally is an annual occurrence featuring hundreds of motorcycles, concerts, and various events throughout the course of a fun-filled weekend.
When traveling through Montana it’s amazing the different small towns and locations you’ll come across. Red Lodge is one of my personal favorites because it’s easily accessible and has so much to offer. My kids continue to ask for overnight trips to stay at Rock Creek Resort to swim in the pool and go on a day hike. Our favorite restaurant, Old Piney Dell, is located on Rock Creek directly in front of the hotel and offers amazing food, wine, and atmosphere. Whether winter or summer, Red Lodge really is a lovely small town with a lot of Montana to offer.