Alternative Lodging

Part of what makes Red Lodge so incredible is its proximity to not only the Beartooth highway and mountain range, but also the national forests and hiking spots located all over the area. There are definitely plenty of options to get outside and even save some money on a hotel room in town. (Just don’t forget your bear spray).

A 10-20 minute drive along a dirt road has potential to take you to some incredible places.

There are around 20 Campgrounds within the Beartooth Ranger District. The different grounds vary in terms of size, camper or trailer access, dates open, price, and whether or not they have bathrooms, water, hosts, etc. With so much variety, it is easy to find a site that fits specific need and wants of campers.

Due to my status as a broke college student, I focused on finding sites with no fees associated–and still managed to stay in some incredible spots.

The Palisade campground is located off the West Fork Road just a few miles outside of town. There are only four spots–so if trying to camp here during peak tourist season it is wise to get here and set up camp fairly early. While visiting in late May/early June I didn’t run into any problems getting a spot here later in the afternoon.

The view from the Palisades campground.
An abundance of trees and wildlife makes this spot feel calm and secluded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The area features many hiking trails and is friendly towards larger groups trying to camp in one spot. It is very ideal if you’re wanting to get away but still be able to reach town fairly quickly.

Grassy meadow makes an ideal spot to pitch a tent.

If you’re willing to drive a little further outside of town, or are coming from the scenic Beartooth Highway, the M-K site is another incredible, free option. It is off of the same road as two other campgrounds, so there are multiple options within the same area if you’re looking for something a little different.

This campground is not hosted and has no amenities aside from a rock fire-pit. It has about ten sites and offers some incredible views of the Beartooths, the mountain highway, and the night sky.

Mountain and highway views visible from the wooded tent site.
Whatever campsite fits specific needs of the camper, it is important to come prepared with a car that can get where you are trying to go and all the necessary supplies. (i.e. bear spray!)

Whether you’re trying to get away for the night and not looking to stay in a hotel, or are planning an intensive get away, Red Lodge and the surrounding area offers plenty of options that can fit a variety of camping experiences.

View from the M-K campsite.

 

Highway 212

If you’ve heard anything about Red Lodge, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the Beartooth Highway. Proclaimed “the most beautiful roadway in America” by “On the Road” correspondent Charles Kuralt, the highway offers unparalleled views and scenery as it acts as a pass between Red Lodge and Cooke City, and into Yellowstone.

A car makes it’s way past towering rock walls towards the beginning of a series of switchbacks on the pass.
One of many scenic overlooks that are easily accessed from the road.

The highway climbs to 10,947 ft. above sea level and features over 20 mountain peaks. It is also home to a plethora of wildlife and is home to over 900 alpine lakes and hundreds of miles of trails. Pull-offs along the way make it easy to experience the monumental sights or spend some time hiking–there is even a functional summer ski area near the summit that features one lift and a variety of terrain.

A cyclist makes their way down one of the early switchbacks.

The highway features many switchbacks and roadways that have the potential to keep drivers and passengers on the edge of their seat. That being said, it is also a hugely popular spot for motorcyclists–and was voted #1 motorcycling road in America.

About 24 miles into the drive (from Red Lodge) is the boarder between Montana and Wyoming. Though if you continue on the pass you will cross back and forth a couple times, this spot is significant because it is the 45th parallel and exactly between the North Pole and the Equator.

According to Red Lodge’s information center, this is the highest elevation state welcome sign.

Just after hitting the peak of the highway comes a somewhat unlikely attraction. The Top of the World store on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming is somewhat of a last-stop-shop for gas, food, and a restroom. It features a single old fashioned gas pump, outhouses, and various Beartooth souvenirs as well as snacks and drinks for purchase. The employees bring new stock to the store once a week from Billings. It’s definitely worth a stop even just to stretch your legs.

The Top of the World Store.
Gasoline option throughout the entirety of the pass.

After hitting these points it is essentially smooth sailing to Cooke City and then Yellowstone. This highway is incredible and after driving it it is easy to see what all the hype’s about. Incredible views and scenery unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Driving this highway is definitely a bucket list worthy activity and something that anyone in the area between May and August should consider. It’s more than just a pass or roadway–driving it is an experience in itself.

Switchbacks on the way down the mountain.
One of the impressive alpine lakes visible from the highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear’s Tooth–the small sharp peak visible from this point is the namesake of the mountain range and the highway.

 

Parks and Rec

More than just a popular tourist spot, Red Lodge is a community. There are several outdoor spaces dedicated to residents to enjoy some outdoor activities, or just take some time to escape and enjoy some fresh air.

The Lion’s Club Park is a centrally located community spot, right behind Broadway Ave. and the Art’s Guild building. On old train track sits on the edge of the space, and the open field features goal posts for a quick pick-up game.

Railroad features in between the Arts Guild and the Lions Park.
The park offers a calm location for visitors to hang out outside and get some fresh air.

 

 

 

 

Further down Broadway and a couple of blocks to the east towards the old mine sits a quiet area known as City Park. Less of a recreation spot, this park is a very scenic spot right next to the creek that runs through the town. This is a great spot to get out and experience nature without having to travel far at all. This is an ideal spot to picnic or even to just take a couple minutes to breathe in the crisp air and listen to the water run.

A bench offers a calm and convenient view of the scenery.

On the opposite side of Broadway from City Park is a small but significant skate park. It is a popular spot for local kids to hang out and skate, bike, and scooter. Though there are not very large features at the park, it is a valuable spot for some of the younger locals to improve their skills and get in some activity.

A young resident practices getting some air on his scooter.
Nick revisiting the park that he used to skate at as a kid.