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5-DAY YELLOWSTONE COUNTRY MONTANA MUSEUM TOUR

Yellowstone Country

DAY 1: RED LODGE AREA

Begin your Yellowstone Country Montana museum tour in the quaint town of Red Lodge at the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum, housed in a Labor Temple building on the National Register of Historic Places. Pore over the Greenough and Linderman rodeo collections, the Waples family gun and projectile point collection, an interactive coal and hard rock mine exhibit, and much more.

From Red Lodge, head about 40 minutes northeast through the scenic, rolling foothills and historic landscape of State Highway 78 to the tiny town of Fishtail where you find the Tippet Rise Art Center. This 12,000-acreworking ranch weaves art into the Beartooth Mountain landscape with large-scale outdoor sculptures and musical performances. Before you head out of town, make sure to stop at the historic Fishtail General Store for lunch, hand-dipped ice cream, and a dose of western hospitality.

Head back through Red Lodge and drive out to the Smith Mine Historic District in Belfry, home of the most devastating coal-mining accident in Montana’s history. Thirty-nine corrugated metal structures mark the site of the mine, and stand today as a reminder of a tragic event in Montana’s mining past.

Head back to downtown Red lodge for dinner, drinks, and an overnight at the historic The Pollard Hotel.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Yellowstone Country arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Yellowstone Country

DAY 2: COLUMBUS & BIG TIMBER

In just under an hour from Red Lodge, you’ll land in Columbus. You can either head up U.S. Highway 212 or take the Beartooth Front Scenic You Drive. Explore Stillwater County history at the Museum of the Beartooths, with exhibits that include the Stillwater Mining Company, a history of the second Crow Agency, and the 1938 Frank Robideau hanging (the second to the last legal hanging in Montana). Also witness the T.T. Brown Schoolhouse, the Albert Johnson Tack Shop, a blacksmith shop, large collections of antique farming equipment, a 1960s Northern Pacific caboose, and military memorabilia.

Make your way to Big Timber and visit the Crazy Mountain Museum for an intriguing look at the history of Sweet Grass County. Exhibits include a Cobblestone City diorama featuring a miniature replica of Big Timber as it existed in 1907, a replica Norwegian stabbur, a teepee, and a one-room schoolhouse. On the museum grounds, the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden features interpretive displays and native Montana plants that William Clark noted in his journals during the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1806.

Dine and overnight in Big Timber at The Grand Hotel & Restaurant. Built in 1890 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Grand Hotel offers turn-of-the-century décor and fine cuisine, including locally raised meat and fresh seafood (flown in daily). Mosey into the hotel’s 1890s saloon for a nightcap.

Yellowstone Country

DAY 3: LIVINGSTON

About 30 minutes south of Big Timber (25.7 miles south on State Highway 298) visit the Natural Bridge Falls Scenic & Picnic Area in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Less than three miles south of the scenic falls area you’ll find the Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station, which is likely the oldest facility in the U.S. Forest Service System, now restored into a house museum, including interpretive staff, depicting the living and working conditions at a once-remote ranger station.

From there, make your way to the idyllic town of Livingston for turn-of-the-century charm along the Yellowstone River. You can get to Livingston by heading back up to Big Timber and then traveling west on Interstate 90, or you can take the scenic, West Boulder Backcountry Drive from McLeod to Livingston. Once you’re there, your first stop is the International Federation of Fly Fishing Museum to learn about the culture and history of fly fishing and the environmental and public-policy issues affecting the sport.

The historic Livingston Depot Museum is known as the “architectural anchor of downtown Livingston.” Serving as the Northern Pacific Railroad's original launching point for travel into Yellowstone National Park, the Depot’s museum is a perfect spot for railroad buffs. Permanent and rotating exhibits range from Rails Across the Rockies to Film in Montana.

Next stop, the Yellowstone Gateway Museum of Park County is a treasure trove of Yellowstone area American Indian history and culture, as well as exhibits on pioneer life, travel into the park, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and the regions’ military history, plus a one-room schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop.

From there, visit Fort Parker, the first Crow Indian Agency and now an important historic site just east of Livingston. In fact, it is one of the first sites of the early reservation period of the Plains Tribes to be nationally recognized.

End your day with a stay The Murray Hotel, a downtown Livingston icon offering authentic western charm and modern amenities.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Yellowstone Country arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Yellowstone Country

DAY 4: BOZEMAN

Bozeman is just a half hour from Livingston. Start your day in this bustling university town with some good old-fashioned American home cooking at the Western Cafe. Then head to the Museum of the Rockies, a Smithsonian Affiliate recognized as one of the world’s finest research and history museums. The renowned museum boasts an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including the mounted Montana's T. rex skeleton. Also discover the largest collection of T. rex specimens anywhere in the world.

The Living History Farm at Museum of the Rockies is a must as well, featuring a working Montana homestead circa the late 1800s. Costumed interpreters provide a glimpse into Montana’s past by cooking over a wood-burning stove, tending to the Heirloom Garden, and forging iron in the blacksmith’s shop.

Next up, the American Computer & Robotics Museum—described as “Inch for inch the best museum in the world.” Exhibits span 4,000 years of human history and include Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, the Space Race, Cracking the Enigma Code, and more. Witness artifacts like original cuneiform tablets and the first personal computer.

If the kids are in tow (and even if they’re not!) they’ll love the hands-on exhibits at the Montana Science Center, including a Circuit Studio, a Farmers Market, It’s a Bug’s World, and the Physics Place Playground for the Mind.

For a unique glimpse of Gallatin Country’s heritage, visit the Gallatin History Museum. Witness jail cells and hanging gallows, the famous Big Horn Gun, a pioneer cabin, 20,000 historic photographs, and exhibits on Gallatin women, agriculture and music.

Overnight at the Lehrkind Mansion Bed & Breakfast, built at the turn of the century by German-born master-brewer Julius Lehrkind, owner of Bozeman Lager Beer.

Yellowstone Country

DAY 5: THREE FORKS

Drive to Three Forks and begin your final museum tour day at the Headwaters Heritage Museum. Discover the history and culture of the area surrounding the Headwaters of the Missouri River, including American Indian art and artifacts, Lewis and Clark memorabilia, and artifacts related to fur trade, railroad, mining and agriculture. Don’t miss the museum’s barbed wire collection!

Trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at the Missouri Headwaters State Park situated at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers—where they merge to form the Missouri River. This scenic park is a National Historic Landmark offering foot trails to points of interest and interpretive displays of the area's cultural and natural history.

At Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, experience incredible views of the Madison River Valley and witness a limestone cliff once used by American Indians as a buffalo jump site. Interpretive displays explain how buffalo were stampeded over the cliff for nearly 2,000 years, and used for food, and to make clothing and supplies. Buffalo bones still lie buried at the base of the cliff.

Head to downtown Three Forks for an overnight at the Sacajawea Hotel, a Historic Hotels of America destination and favorite lodging place of history buffs. Make sure to enjoy a cocktail on their expansive front porch.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Yellowstone Country arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Trip Tips

Always check road reports and weather conditions when traveling through Montana in the wintertime.

If you’re flying in:
Glacier Country Airports
Yellowstone Country Airports

If you’re renting a car:
Glacier Country Car Rentals
Yellowstone Country Car Rentals