Paradise Valley is a picturesque destination in Montana that sprawls upward from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It is a place of stunning natural beauty, with the Yellowstone River winding its way through the valley, surrounded by towering mountain ranges: the impressive Absaroka Range to the east and the ruggedly gorgeous Gallatin Range to the west.
Paradise Valley is home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and bison. This, combined with its natural beauty, makes it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Activities in Paradise Valley
The area offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors, from hiking and fishing in the summer to skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. Add in a couple of Montana’s best resorts and you’ve got a outdoor playground waiting to be explored.
Fly fishing is especially popular since the Yellowstone River flows through Paradise Valley with many access points a short distance off Hwy 89. Check out Grey Owl Fishing Access, Pine Creek Fishing Access, or Emgirant Fishing Access which has a dirt boat ramp.
Towns in Paradise Valley
Emigrant is the main town situated in the middle of Paradise Valley. It’s right off Highway 89 that runs between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park.
The tiny town of Pray doesn’t have much to do in terms of infrastructure, but there is a place to grab a bite to eat at Pray Cafe or a small grocery and gift shop at Points West Outpost. Both are open seasonally.
Pray’s main claim to fame is being the closest town to the iconic Chico Hot Springs Resort (more on that further down!).
For more non-outdoorsy shopping and entertainment, most people head north to Livingston.
As the largest town in Paradise Valley and located right off of the I-90 freeway, most visitors will drive through Livingston on their way to or from Paradise Valley. Livingston has a vibrant downtown area with a plethora of bars and eateries, including a couple breweries. It is a town rich in railroad history with train tracks going through town and a railway museum we highly recommend checking out.
Then there’s Gardiner, the town situated right by the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The north entrance is special because it’s the only one of Yellowstone’s five entrances that is open year-round. The north entrance is also where you’ll find the iconic Roosevelt Arch.
The small town of Gardiner does a great job welcoming visitors either on their way to Yellowstone or traveling north up through Paradise Valley. An assortment of shops, eateries, and places to stay line Main Street, with town parks and more lodges and camping spots on the edges of town.
Resorts of Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley is home to two of Montana’s most iconic resorts, one which has been around for decades and beloved by locals and visitors alike, while the other is newer and caters clientele looking for a luxury vacation vibe.
The first is Chico Hot Springs, a historic resort centered around a large hot spring pool. It is loved by all of us here at Travel Montana Now. Read our full review of Chico Hot Springs here.
After being privately owned by locals for decades, Chico Hot Springs was recently sold to a national hospitality company, so we’re all waiting to see with bated breath how that pans out for this special slice of paradise.
Just a couple miles away is Sage Lodge, which has ritzy rooms with fireplaces overlooking a pool and the gorgeous valley and mountain views. Sage Lodge is known for its 5-star service, delicious craft cocktails and gourmet restaurants, and array of excursions you can add on to your stay.
History of Paradise Valley
In addition to its natural beauty, Paradise Valley also has a rich history dating back thousands of years when it was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Crow, Shoshone, and Blackfeet.
The Crow and Shoshone tribes used to roam the valley hunting bison and other game, while the Blackfeet tribe used the valley as a trade route to the west. The arrival of the frontier settlers in the mid-1800s led to conflicts between the Native Americans and the newcomers, ultimately resulting in the displacement of the tribes from their ancestral lands.
The valley was eventually settled by ranchers and farmers who made their living off the fertile land and abundant wildlife. The discovery of gold in nearby Emigrant Gulch in the late 1800s brought a brief boom to the area, but it was short-lived.
Today, the valley is a popular tourist destination, known for its world-class fly-fishing, stunning natural beauty, and proximity to Yellowstone National Park. It is also home to a vibrant community of artists, writers, and musicians who draw inspiration from the valley’s rugged landscape and rich cultural heritage.