“Although I do love oceans, deserts, and other wild landscapes it is only mountains that beckon me with the sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty. They keep me continuously wanting to know more, feel more, see more. To become more.”
I cried. As we were pulling out of the drive of the sweetest cabin on the most gorgeous river surrounded by the most beautiful of mountains and valleys. Every summer the hubs and I usually trek off to California to one of our favorite places at a friend’s ranch outside of Mammoth Lakes, CA. This year, our plane tickets boasted Montana and our sights set on the small city of Gardiner. Sharing all the details about our love of the west and one of the prettiest national parks in the world.
Bozeman, Montana. If you have not been here, add to it your ‘must travel to‘ list stat. The downtown area is super cool with fun eateries and shops. Our first stop off the plane was to a local brewery with pretty mountain views called MAP.
A few of our other fav eateries here:
Montana Ale Works: I’ll be honest, I may have had the best burger (think wagyu beef, blue cheese, caramelized onions…yum) ever here
Toro: Best #guacandmargs period. Try the Huckleberry Margarita for sure!
Stuffed: Seriously wish we had one of these in Alabama. Stuffed crepes and waffles? Nuf said. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or heck, even dinner…except just a reminder that they do close at 3:30 most days.
Once we left Bozeman we head south for a quick stop in Livingston (roughly 45 minutes away but definitely worth stopping to see) for lunch and met up with my mother-in-law and father-in-law. We all then head to Gardiner which is roughly 40 minutes from Livingston.
Once in Gardiner, we made the turn to the address to our home for the week. The front of it reminded me so much of our cabin in North Alabama. So cozy, welcoming and comfortable. The back was a sheer drop-off of beauty overlooking the Yellowstone River and the famous north park entrance a few miles away.
This is the view from the Yellowstone River looking up at the house. It is actually a combination of 2 homes. The far left is the owner’s personal home + art studio and it connects to the smaller cottage on the far right that you are able to rent. By smaller, it is definitely deceiving as the interior has 5 bedrooms! Here is a peek inside…
Backyard views with Yellowstone in the distance
Hubs was in fishing heaven with the Yellowstone river in the backyard
Fishing right behind the house with my husband, nephews and brother-in-law
It was a bit of a trek back up the hill with the boys–check out the dirt on Grayson (the littlest one’s) face. We collected sticks (aka: their fishing poles) on the way back up.
Most of our days were spent exploring the park. If I could describe Yellowstone in one word it would definitely be magical. From the wildlife to the meadows painted with wildflowers and the rivers forging their way down the mountainside…around every bend and turn there was something beautiful and inspiring to see.
A few places I recommend adding to your must see list while in the park:
Old Faithful + Old Faithful Inn: We had lunch at the Old Faithful Inn and then hopped over to view OF. It really surprised me how crowded it was but there are literally thousands huddled, cameras in hand waiting for the natural water fountain to make its debut every 90 minutes.
Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley: You will have your best chance of spotting bear, wolves, moose, bison, pronghorn and more wildlife at these locations. Plus, they are super gorgeous to visit. Think: winding rivers and bustling meadows as far as your eyes can see.
Boiling River: Think of this as the perfect natural hot tub. Large hot springs enter the Gardner River, which in turn pushes the hot and cool waters to mix into the perfect medley. One side of the river is super chilly and the other side is very hot, but right down the middle where the hot meets the cool is the perfect place to sit (you can actually see the line in the river where the hot meets the cold in the image below) and enjoy the gorgeous views. We had an elk stand in the river around 20 yards in front of us as we sat here. Pretty amazing.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: We did not make it here but definitely added it to our must see for next time.
Yellowstone Lake: Beautiful to drive around the shoreline of the largest body of water in the park.
Tower Falls: A 132′ waterfall with gorgeous views. There are these really funky towering volcanic peaks around the top of the falls. One thing I found interesting but obviously we did not see is that supposedly the falls completely freeze in the winter.
Lower Geyser Basin: Get your geothermal fix here and see the natural geysers, hot springs and mud pools. Smells super sulphur’y but the kiddos thought it was cool.
More fun things:
Whitewater Rafting the Yellowstone River and Yankee Jim’s Canyon: We went through a group called Wild West Rafting and they were awesome. We did the full day which was around 18 miles and it included lunch on a beach on the river.
Junior Ranger Program: This is great for the kiddos in your group. They complete a variety of tasks and questions that helps them learn more about the park and are able to earn a patch to take home with them. Henry, our oldest nephew, loved it!
Right out of college my husband took about a 2 month road trip with one of his buddies across the country. One of his most fav places they visited was Jackson Hole and the Tetons so we definitely added these as a must see together on this trip. While it roughly was around 4.5 hours away from where we were in Gardiner it was neat to travel across the entire park of Yellowstone to the South Entrance leading towards Jackson and the views of the Tetons were something I will never forget.
Jackson Hole is definitely a must visit and I wish we could have stayed here longer. Lots of fun things for kids (and adults!) including these mountain slides and rollercoaster. Cute shops, eateries and nightlife as well.
A few of my fav images…
Tuning out of the busy and turning into the beauty of nature does some real good for the soul, friends. One of my other fav aspects about this trip? We all had limited cell service. That meant less time spent on the phone and more time outside, savoring each other’s company, breathing the mountain air and admiring the beauty all around us. And that’s what vacation is all about. So, back to the crying. All tears of joy for such a good time that was had. Cheers to new travels, friends!