Yellowstone North Entrance: a Definitive Guide for 2022
Not even two months after historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park, the tiny town of Gardiner, Montana, is re-open.
Gardiner, situated at the Yellowstone North Entrance, is the second-most popular of the park’s five entry points and the only one open year-round.
In a typical summer, there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic in Gardiner and a restaurant wait of less than an hour is a blessing. If you try to book accommodations in April or even March for July or August, you’re far too late.
This summer, the post-flood summer, the scene in Gardiner looks different. Although the community came together to re-open with miraculous fortitude (naturally; that’s The Montana Way), the north entrance to Yellowstone remains temporarily closed as road damage is repaired.
But this presents an opportunity like none other for park visitors, and I’m here to tell you — there’s never been a better time to visit Gardiner and North Yellowstone. No crowds, abundant wildlife, endless outdoor recreation, small-town charm, and the opportunity to stay in unique accommodations and campsites that typically book out well in advance — who could resist?!
Here’s what visiting the north entrance to Yellowstone looks like this year, as well as some amazing things to do in Gardiner MT (including some unique to this summer!).
The timeline for re-opening the Yellowstone North Entrance and Northeast Entrance is ever-changing. The park releases new information continuously, so while we do our best to keep this guide up-to-date, we highly recommend checking the official Yellowstone National Park flood recovery website before finalizing plans.
Is the Yellowstone North Entrance Open?
As of early August 2022, the Yellowstone North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, is not open to vehicle traffic. If you attempt to drive your car in through this entrance, park rangers will direct you to turn around.
However, visitors may enter the park on foot or bicycle, or with approved tours, guides, and outfitters (more on these options a little later!). Gardiner is also open, with dozens and dozens of activities, restaurants, shops, and unique places to stay.
Understand that the main park road remains washed out in several places near the north entrance of Yellowstone, so especially if you’re hiking or biking, your planned route may be impassable. Be patient and have an open mind, and think of it as a rare opportunity to explore some of Yellowstone’s less-visited areas in a way that few people ever will.
Yellowstone North Entrance Activities
Just because you can’t drive yourself into the park from the north entrance, doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of fun and adventurous things to do in Gardiner MT!
Drive to the iconic stone arch (just remember — you can’t drive into the park!) and stop to take obligatory selfies.
Yellowstone white water rafting
Whitewater rafting isn’t permitted within official park boundaries, BUT you can raft the Yellowstone River juuuust outside the park. In fact, you can practically see Roosevelt Arch and the Yellowstone North Entrance from many outfitters’ buildings!
There are several excellent outfitters in Gardiner situated right along the river, so you can very literally hop into a raft from downtown! We did the 8-hour Yellowstone white water rafting trip with Flying Pig Adventures and HIGHLY recommend it.
The trip takes 2-2.5 hours and this section of river is especially calm, so it’s one of the best things to do in Gardiner MT for families.
Yellowstone Fly Fishing
The Yellowstone River, along with the smaller Gardner (not be confused with Gardiner!) River that sits within park boundaries, offers some of the best fly fishing in Montana.
Both the Yellowstone and Gardner Rivers have returned to normal, pre-flood flow rates and clarity. With significantly fewer people fishing the rivers near the north entrance of Yellowstone, fishing is epic! Enjoy!
Where you go and the type of fishing you do (walk-wade or drift boat) depends on current river conditions and your experience level. Stop into one of the Gardiner fly shops like Parks’ and chat with local anglers to get the best recommendations.
You can also wade into the Gardner from the Yellowstone North Entrance. It’s an easy hike along the road and down to the river. You can go about 1.5 miles before encountering major road damage.
Exploring near the Yellowstone North Entrance on an e-bike is one of the best ways to experience this vast area. The bikes very literally cover a lot of ground in a short time, plus they’re allowed where vehicles are not.
Big Sky Ebike Tours & Rentals in Gardiner is the only outfitter offering e-bikes in Yellowstone. The owner, Jay, is an avid hunter and former hunting guide, so he knows the backroads better than just about anyone. Spending a day with him on a small e-bike tour is definitely one of the best things to do in Gardiner MT.
We took the 6-hour Bike & Soak Tour, which involves a 20-ish mile bike ride and ends with a relaxing (and much deserved!) soak at Yellowstone Hot Springs.
If hearing “20 miles” freaks you out, don’t worry! One of us had literally never been on an e-bike prior to our excursion with Big Sky Ebikes, and the other had only tooled around on one but never truly ridden. We did great! There are plenty of breaks (and more importantly, snacks!), and truthfully, the bike does most of the work anyway.
Even with limited park access, you can still explore several hiking trails near the north entrance to Yellowstone.
Inside the park, hikers can access Rescue Creek Trail from Gardiner. While part of the 8-mile trail is closed, you can still enjoy some of it. The Rescue Creek trailhead is exactly one mile from the ranger station at the Yellowstone North Entrance.
Slough Creek is also open, a popular hiking and fishing destination. Visitors can park at Tower-Roosevelt and then hike or bike, but you’ll need a $2 day-use ticket to drive to Slough Creek.
Just outside the park, some fantastic locals’-favorite hikes include:
- Eagle Creek Trail – 4 miles roundtrip
- Historic OTO Dude Ranch via Cedar Creek Trail – 2.6 miles roundtrip
- La Duke Trail – 4.3 miles roundtrip
Yellowstone Horseback Riding
It’s hard to beat exploring Yellowstone Country from the back of a horse. Riding is one of the best things to do in Gardiner MT and fortunately, there are several outfitters and ranches near the north entrance of Yellowstone.
On our July trip, we rode with Hells A-Roarin’ Outfitters and the OTO Dude Ranch. Both offer a variety of rides suitable for most ages, ranging from one hour to all day. In addition to these two, several other Gardiner-based outfitters offer horseback rides. You can usually even combine riding with a Yellowstone white water rafting trip!
Licensed Yellowstone tour operators are allowed into the park at specified times, carefully monitored so as not to disrupt construction.
Having more limited access actually comes with a long list of benefits. There are FAR fewer people in the northern sections of the park, so wildlife are out and about more than usual. Some outfitters who typically only do private tours are also offering group tours this summer, making the opportunity more attainable (and affordable!).
Check out this continually-updated list of Yellowstone North Entrance tour operators to book your tour!
Yellowstone Hot Springs
Looking for a unique experience to add to your Yellowstone itinerary? Just a few miles north of Gardiner and the north entrance to the park, Yellowstone Hot Springs is a must year-round. Situated directly on the banks of the Yellowstone River between the Gallatin and Absaroka mountain ranges, these hot springs are developed but have a more rustic vibe.
There are three pools: warm, HOT, and cold plunge. All three have incredible mountain views!
It’s not uncommon to have to wait for around two hours during peak season, so this is an excellent time to experience a therapeutic soak without the crowds. And amazingly, Yellowstone Hot Springs didn’t sustain any major damage in the floods (although a section of its RV campground did).
Where to Stay Near the North Entrance to Yellowstone
It’s usually impossible to get your choice of accommodations in Gardiner without serious advance planning. This is true of traditional hotels, lodges, Montana glamping, and campsites.
Take advantage of this and treat yourself to a stay at one of the many unique places near the Yellowstone North Entrance.
Top 5 Places to Stay in Gardiner MT
- Exceptionally highly-rated and walking distance to the Yellowstone North Entrance: Park Hotel Yellowstone
- River-view cottages with kitchens: Yellowstone Riverside Cottages
- Yellowstone glamping: Yellowstone Tipis
- Splurge-worthy stay: Sage Lodge
- Yellowstone dude ranch (summer only): Historic OTO Dude Ranch
Camping Near the Yellowstone North Entrance
No matter what type of camping you prefer, there are ample sites in and around Gardiner and the North Entrance to Yellowstone.
In addition to the developed campgrounds listed below, there are countless dispersed sites in the surrounding Custer-Gallatin National Forest. This Forest Service guide to camping near Gardiner is incredibly helpful. Always remember to practice Leave No Trace.
- Yellowstone RV Park
- Yellowstone Hot Springs (Tent and RV camping)
- Eagle Creek Campground (Tents and RVs; no hookups)
- Canyon Campground (Tents and smaller RVs; no hookups; first-come, first-served)
We hope this guide is helpful in planning your visit to the Yellowstone North Entrance! As a reminder, because the situation continues to evolve, be sure to check directly with businesses or lodging before finalizing plans.
Be safe, have a great time, and enjoy all the wonderful things to do in Gardiner MT! And be sure to SAVE this article on Pinterest for later reference!
So sad to hear that the park is still struggling with low tourist numbers! It sounds like it would be a great time to visit though with less crowds!
It was a very unique experience and definitely a bit bittersweet, knowing that peacefulness for visitors = distress for the businesses! But hopefully more people realize it’s an option, not just the other entrances!
I really hope Yellowstone and the community can recover from this tragedy! And thank you so much for sharing such a helpful guide 🙂
This is a part of America I’m yet to discover. I like the idea of the hot springs.
Horseback riding in Yellowstone seems like a fun activity, and relaxing at the hot springs – is an excellent way to relax your muscles after a hike.
Hopefully, the road damage is repaired quickly so that service can resume as normal.
What an awesome guide for people visiting Yellowstone. It’s gotta be so tough on businesses in the area until the roads can be rebuilt. I’d love e-biking through the north entrance, and doing some whitewater rafting or horseback riding. What a thrilling time to visit without the crowds!