Red Lodge is one of Montana's most charming towns. Historic enough to have guests such as Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody, progressive enough to have some fantastic restaurants, and laid back enough to know the vast outdoor recreation is unequivocally the best thing about the area. We've compiled a list of our favorite things, but it's also lovely to stroll around, perusing shops and swapping stories with the locals, discovering what makes this town so charming.
Spend Time in the Mountains
Hiking, biking, and climbing are a big part of life in Red Lodge and a stunning treat for visitors. The Beartooth and Pryor Mountain ranges hold 41 of the highest peaks in Montana, including Granite Peak, which stands at 12,799 feet. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area makes up 65% of the Beartooth Ranger District. Wilderness areas are extra special because they are just that, wild. These big chunks of land are protected from development, industry, and degradation, allowing nature to remain pure. With this comes additional regulations, the most important being no motorized or mechanized uses, including mountain bikes. The great news is you can still hike, bike, backpack, horseback ride, camp, hunt, and fish!
These mountains are also home to over 300 lakes (perfect for alpine fishing) and have rock samples that date back 3.96 billion years ago. It's a geological wonder.
Please note: Most areas in the Beartooth Ranger Districts are open, with a few select areas closed due to flooding. Check https://www.visityellowstonecountry.com/ynp-status before you go for phone numbers and status updates. Sylvan Peak Mountain Shop also has up-to-date trail conditions.
Cool Off with a Whitewater Rafting Trip
There are two rafting companies in Red Lodge, with trips available on the Stillwater and Yellowstone Rivers. You don't need to be experienced rafters for these trips; they have all the gear, trusted guides and will teach you how to help manage the boat.
Keep an Eye Out for Wildlife
Red Lodge is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and home to the same animals in Yellowstone National Park; elk, deer, grizzly bear, black bear, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions, to name a few. Keep your eye out if you are driving around, and if you're in the mountains, always carry bear spray, and know how to use it. Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is a great way to learn about these wild animals. These rescued animals can no longer live in the wild and are well-cared for as ambassadors helping the public understand more about these exquisite creatures. For more wildlife watching spots, go to Beyond Yellowstone: Where to View Wildlife Outside the Park.
Watch for Community Events
Red Lodge keeps a busy social calendar, full of events as unique and varied as its residents. The Songwriter's Festival, Home of Champions Rodeo, Beartooth Rally, and Christmas Stroll are a few of the favorites but watch the Events Calendar. This community loves to celebrate, and everyone in town turns out!
While you do need to know where the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area boundaries are, there are still hundreds of miles that do allow motorized traffic. (The Beartooth Highway is one of the motorcyclist's all-time favorite rides.) In addition, ATVs are a great way to get deep into the backcountry in a short period.
Shopping and Dining in Unique Specialty Shops
Visitors are pleasantly surprised at Red Lodge's quality and variety of shopping and food. You'll find everything from locally raised, grass-fed beef to light and delicious vegetarian fare. (And kids of all ages love the Montana Candy Emporium!) Watch for live music at Snow Creek or Bull n' Bear Saloons, and Red Lodge Ales is an excellent spot for relaxing over a craft beer.
Drive the Beartooth Highway
Charles Kuralt called the Beartooth Highway "The most beautiful roadway in America," with due reason. The entire drive is 68 miles, climbing to 10,947 feet above sea level and one of the most rugged and wild scenic drives in the lower 48 states. It takes about three hours to drive, but we suggest building in time for a picnic or exploring the lakes close to the road.
Note: The Beartooth Highway is temporarily closed due to spring flooding road damage. The work is going better than expected, and the highway is expected to open within weeks.
For more trip-planning ideas, go to redlodge.com.