Did the recent devastation from flooding in and around Yellowstone National Park suddenly change your travel summer plans?
We are so saddened to see what is happening in the north part of Yellowstone National Park plus its neighboring communities of Gardiner, Cooke City, and Red Lodge. These communities will be reeling from this horrible natural disaster for long after the waters recede and it will take many businesses and residents a long time to rebuild.
Because of this, it’s already been announced that Yellowstone National Park won’t be opening its north or northeast entrances this summer and the areas of Mammoth and Lamar Valley will also likely be closed to visitors for the entire summer.
Yellowstone National Park Service has also said a reservation system will be implemented for the lower half of the park (often referred to as the lower loop) in order to prevent over crowding. Details of how this will work have yet to be released.
Big Sky and West Yellowstone
If you want to stay near the scenery of Yellowstone National Park without actually going in the park, then exploring the area around Big Sky and West Yellowstone is an excellent option.
West Yellowstone is home to an incredible animal sanctuary for grizzly bears and other locally displaced animals, a fun ropes course, and multiple restaurants.
Read More: Things to Do in West Yellowstone (note that Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake have also been affected by flooding and may be closed to visitors).
From West Yellowstone, it’s an easy drive to Big Sky (or vice versa). Big Sky has a ton of incredible hikes and Big Sky Resort transforms into a summer playground in the warmer months.
Butte with a Day Trip to Bozeman & More
Bozeman is the much more famous city in Montana, but we love its big city neighbor to the west: Butte, located over a mountain pass less than 90 minutes from Bozeman.
There’s nowhere else in the USA quite like Butte. The city literally has a massive pit near it from the copper mining heyday at the turn of the 20th century.
In town, there are gorgeous mansions and architecture built by Montana’s “copper kings.” Plus, there are tons of restaurants and bars, including popular Irish ones since Butte has a strong Irish background and culture.
If you have kids, you’ll love Stodden Park in Butte, which has a carousel, ice cream and concession stand, mining themed playground, and a big water park.
Butte is a great place to base yourself during a trip to Montana because you can do some excellent day trips, including to:
Plus, Butte should actually have reasonably priced last minute accommodations. You’ll pay a minor fortune to get that in Bozeman.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Butte, Montana
Helena and Great Falls
Head farther north away from Yellowstone and you’ll reach the cities of Helena and Great Falls.
Helena is the capital city of Montana and has a vibrant downtown area. We especially like hanging out by the shops and restaurants along Last Chance Gulch — there’s even a little urbanized creek running through part of it that kids can play in!
Read More: What to Do in Helena, MT
Great Falls has beautiful river scenery that hasn’t been affected by the recent flooding. You can walk along viewpoint trails to see the series of dams and falls along the river in Great Falls.
Read More: Top Things to Do in Great Falls, MT
From Great Falls, there are several excellent day trips to small towns and historic spots:
Grand Teton and Jackson Hole, WY
If you had a plans for Yellowstone, but not Grand Teton, this is an easy national park to add onto your itinerary to make up for the days you can’t access the north loop of Yellowstone. Why?
Because Grand Teton is located roughly 30 minutes south of the southern entrance to Yellowstone.
Grand Teton is also a much smaller park than Yellowstone, making it easy to explore in just a day or two.
However, Grand Teton is already crowded in the summer and is probably going to get even busier now, so expect long car lines by popular attractions (such as getting into the parking lot for Jenny Lake).
Get up early to beat the crowds or spend time outside the park exploring Jackson Hole and Wilson. We really love the quieter nature of Wilson, a small town just east of Jackson Hole. It’s even where we saw a moose family after not seeing any in the park!
Red Lodge and Billings
If you’re up on the news, you might be thinking…but Red Lodge was just flooded! Yes, sadly it was.
Fortunately though, the waters have receded. But the businesses of Red Lodge are going to sorely need patrons to repair and be able to move on from the disaster. Especially since they won’t be getting expected summer traffic traveling over the Beartooth Highway between the northeast entrance of Yellowstone and Red Lodge.
We love Red Lodge any time of year. In summer, it’s fun to walk around Main Street and enjoy views of the mountains. If conditions allow, there is hiking at Red Lodge Mountain.
Red Lodge is a little over an hour from Billings, Montana’s biggest city. Billings has a fun downtown area complete with a craft beer walking trail.
In addition, it’s a close drive to excellent hikes and historic spots.
Read More: Local’s Guide to Billings, Montana
Day Trips from Billings:
- Pompeys Pillar (note, the area around Pompeys Pillar was also affected by flooding so double check it’s open before going)
- Battlefield of Little Bighorn National Historic Site
- Bighorn Canyon and Yellowtail Dam
- Big Timber
What’s Not on This List
You’ll notice Glacier National Park is not on this list, and that is because we do not recommend planning a last minute trip there this summer.
For starters, you’ll just stress yourself out. Accommodations in and around Glacier have been fully booked for months. If you want to travel on the famous Going to the Sun Road, you’ll need a separate vehicle ticket. Which basically means having to cross your fingers that you get one of the extra tickets when they are released 48 hours before your visit date at 8am. If you don’t get one you’ll need to arrive at the park’s east entrance by St. Mary (the side with very limited accommodations) before 6am, or wait to do the drive until after 4pm.
In addition, Glacier Country is experienced its own flooding in areas around the Flathead River, plus late snowfall which has delayed in roads being cleared.
We hope this list helps you to replan your trip to Montana if your Yellowstone National Park vacation has been affected in 2022!