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    Yellowstone’s North Entrance (Gardiner, MT): Everything you need to know

    image of roosevelt arch
    Roosevelt Arch stands tall at the North Entrance to Yellowstone

    by Matt, Jan 2022

    If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, you’ve probably realized by now that it’s a BIG place, and it can be confusing. Just choosing an entrance might be a big decision for you!

    So, what do you need to know about Yellowstone’s North Entrance?

    Yellowstone’s North Entrance is one of five entrances to the park. It’s located in Gardiner, Montana. It is the second most popular entrance to Yellowstone. The most popular attractions near the North Entrance are Roosevelt Arch and Mammoth Hot Springs.

    But there’s a lot more to know about the North Entrance, so I’m going to cover it all in this article.

    Northern Yellowstone: where the wild things roam [Lamar, Roosevelt, Beartooth, Mammoth & More]
    This video is a must-watch if you want to see the North Entrance as well as Mammoth & Gardiner!

    How many entrances to Yellowstone are there?

    There are five entrances to Yellowstone. Although more than 90% of the park is in Wyoming, three of the entrances are located in Montana.

    Here they are, in order of popularity (most to least):

    1. West Entrance, near West Yellowstone, MT
    2. North Entrance, near Gardiner, MT
    3. South Entrance, near Grand Teton National Park
    4. East Entrance, near Cody, WY
    5. Northeast Entrance, near Cooke City, MT
    5 entrances to Yellowstone

    What is the closest city to the North Entrance?

    The North Entrance is located right next to Gardiner, Montana. Literally, the Gardiner town boundary touches the park boundary.

    Entering the park through the North Entrance

    The North Entrance is unlike any other entrance to the park because there are actually TWO ENTRANCES here:

    • Roosevelt Arch, a ceremonial entrance
    • The North Entrance park ranger booth, the actual entrance

    The Roosevelt Arch is the ceremonial entrance to Yellowstone National Park, and it’s located right on the border of the park and the town of Gardiner.

    Roosevelt Arch was constructed in 1903 as a ceremonial entrance to Yellowstone. It was named after President Theodore Roosevelt because he happened to be visiting the park while it was being constructed, and he gave a speech from the arch.

    Visitors arrived in Gardiner by train, then hopped on a Yellow carriage pulled by horses, and excitedly drove through the arch!

    Yellow carriage used by early Yellowstone Tourists

    Today, the arch is bypassed by Highway 89, so you actually don’t have to drive through the arch to get into the park. But you CAN if you want to! I drove through it on my most recent trip there.

    In fact, Arch Park is located right next to it, and there are parking spots as well. It’s common to take pictures in front of the arch. You can even walk inside the arch columns.

    The actual North Entrance park ranger booth is located just 1/2 mile south of Roosevelt Arch, within the park boundaries. This is where you pay your entrance fee or show your park pass to enter.

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    A drive through Gardiner, MT
    This is just a drive through the tiny town of Gardiner, MT. No audio. It follows the map below.

    Map of Gardiner, MT

    Here’s a screenshot map of Gardiner, MT. The blue line is the route I drove in the video above.

    What can I do in Gardiner, MT?

    Gardiner, MT is a small town — it only has about 900 residents. The town was actually founded 8 years after Yellowstone was set aside as a national park! Its sole purpose is to be a gateway town for the park.

    Take pictures of the park entry sign

    Always a popular thing at national parks, gather together and take a happy picture at the park entrance sign.

    You can also be like one of the awesome families who purchased my Yellowstone Travel Guide and take a “sad” picture upon leaving the park!

    image of family at park sign
    “Sad” family leaving the park

    Visit the Roosevelt Arch

    This is located right by the park entrance sign. You can park and walk to the sign and Roosevelt Arch.

    As mentioned above, you can drive through this, take pictures next to it, and walk inside of it.

    River Rafting

    The Gardner River flows north, out of Yellowstone and through Gardiner, MT.

    You cannot raft the river inside Yellowstone, but there are many companies that offer guided river rafting trips outside the park.

    Fly Fishing

    Yellowstone and the surrounding region are famous for fly fishing, and there are also many companies that offer fly fishing trips near Gardiner.

    Yellowstone Hot Springs

    Not to be confused with Mammoth Hot Springs or the Boiling River (see below), Yellowstone Hot Springs is a business. Here you can soak in natural but developed hot springs.

    Chico Hot Springs

    More developed, and perhaps more famous, Chico Hot Springs is not actually in Gardiner, MT. It’s located 40 minutes north in Pray, MT.

    Chico is a full resort with a saloon, dining hall, lodges, glamping, horseback riding, fly fishing, rock climbing, spas, beautiful gardens, river rafting, painting classes, and more. It’s also open in the winter and offers activities like skiing and snowshoeing.

    Oh ya, and it’s most famous for its hot springs, which you can enjoy year-round!

    It’s definitely worth taking a side trip to Chico, or visiting it on your way into or out of Gardiner, MT.

    Take a shower or do laundry

    If you’re tent camping in Yellowstone, showers can be hard to come by. But Gardiner has you covered!

    The North Entrance Washtub has a public pay shower and laundromat. For more places to get a shower, see our Yellowstone Camping Guide.

    Is the North Entrance open in winter?

    Yes! Not only is it open, but the northern road that extends through the park from Gardiner, MT to Silvergate, MT (the Northeast Entrance) is plowed year-round.

    The Northeast is technically open, but the road approaching it, the Beartooth Highway, is not. You can also enter in the West and South entrances, but only by snowmobile or snow coach.

    So basically, Gardiner is the only entrance you can drive through in the winter.

    Where can I eat in Gardiner, MT?

    The Yellowstone region isn’t known for having great food. But some places in Gardiner that have good reviews are:

    • Mountain Tacos
    • Wonderland Cafe & Lounge
    • Tumbleweed Bookstore and Cafe
    • Grizzly Grille
    • Yellowstone Pizza Company
    • Iron Horse Bar and Grill
    • Yellowstone Grill

    Where can I stay in Gardiner, MT?

    image of hotel
    Absaroka Lodge, with the river nearby

    There are many hotels in Gardiner. Some are quite historic since Gardiner was the original gateway to Yellowstone.

    • Absaroka Lodge. The rooms are OK but the views of the river are fantastic!
    • Park Hotel Yellowstone. This has wonderful ratings, but it comes at a cost.
    • Hillcrest Cottages. Perhaps the best value.

    We have only stayed at the Absaroka Lodge, and we really enjoyed it.

    Yellowstone usually requires very long days to see the park, and thus, you won’t spend much time at a hotel. Go for basic accommodations.

    We always use booking.com to find the best value when we travel.

    Where can I camp in Gardiner, MT?

    There are many Forest Service campgrounds in the surrounding area, as well as some private campgrounds. Here are a few in or close to Gardiner.

    Forest Service:

    Private:

    What can I do in Yellowstone near the North Entrance?

    The North Entrance is the closest entrance to the Grand Loop Road, which has most of the attractions in Yellowstone.

    Boiling River

    image of swimmers in river
    Boiling River

    This is a little spot where the Boiling River (scalding hot) meets up with the Gardiner River (freezing cold). Together, they form the perfect temperature to sit in!

    Mammoth Hot Springs

    image of mammoth hot springs
    Travertine Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs

    This is a massive geothermal area perched upon a hill. There are many interesting formations, but the defining feature is the travertine terraces, which kind of look like the inside of a cave.

    Depending on water levels, sometimes water flows down the terraces, and sometimes it’s more steam than anything.

    These are something to look at as you walk on the boardwalk, not to soak in.

    Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District

    The park headquarters are located next to the hot springs. As a result, this is a town, with a gas station, hotel, visitor center, and restaurant.

    Fort Yellowstone is also located here. The army was stationed here in the early days of the park to prevent illegal activity like stealing geothermal features and hunting animals.

    Horace Albright Visitor Center

    Located in town is perhaps the largest and best visitor center in the entire park, the Horace Albright Visitor Center, named after an early park superintendent and the second director of the National Park Service.

    Tower-Roosevelt

    image of waterfall
    Tower Fall

    Tower-Roosevelt is located about 30 minutes away from Gardiner. There are a few things to do at this stop:

    • See Tower Fall (as it sounds, it’s a towering waterfall)
    • Get ice cream
    • Fill up on gasoline
    • Eat at the Roosevelt Lodge
    • Do the Roosevelt Old West Cookout, where a horse and carriage will take you into a nearby valley for a steak dinner.

    Lamar Valley

    image of bison on road
    Bison Jam in Lamar Valley

    Located about 45 minutes to an hour away from Gardiner, Lamar Valley is the best place in Yellowstone to see wildlife. Bison, wolves, moose, and bears frequent this valley.

    If you want to visit Lamar Valley, the best places to stay are Gardiner, Mammoth, Roosevelt Lodge, Canyon Village, or Cooke City.

    Where can I eat in Yellowstone near the North Entrance?

    The two closest locations to eat are Mammoth and Roosevelt.

    Mammoth:

    • Mammoth Terrace Grill
    • Mammoth Hotel Dining Room
    • Mammoth Hotel Map Room Bar
    • Mammoth Pizza
    • General Store

    Roosevelt:

    • Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room
    • Roosevelt Old West Cookout
    • General Store
    image of campfire
    Roosevelt Cookout

    We’ve eaten at Roosevelt Lodge and we’ve done the Roosevelt Old West Cookout. We loved BOTH of them.

    map of dining locations in yellowtone

    Where can I stay in Yellowstone near the North Entrance?

    The closest hotel inside the park is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. It’s open year-round, as the road from Mammoth through Lamar Valley is the only road open in Yellowstone in the winter.

    I haven’t stayed here, but it would be a delightful place to stay. You can just walk outside the hotel and see elk grazing on the grass in town.

    The next closest hotel is the Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins. I also haven’t stayed here but it’s the best place to stay to see Lamar Valley.

    • Yellowstone lodging can fill up quickly, don’t leave it to the last minute. Use booking.com.

    Where can I camp in Yellowstone near the North Entrance?

    The closest campground is Mammoth Campground, which is also open year-round. It has 85 sites and it’s one of the best campgrounds in the park for larger RVs (most of Yellowstone will not accommodate RVs larger than 30 feet).

    There are also two campgrounds that aren’t that far from the North Entrance:

    • Norris Campground. This has 111 campsites, and it’s centrally located in the park.
    • Tower Fall. This has 81 campsites, and it’s located at the Tower-Roosevelt junction. It’s named after the nearby waterfall.

    If you’re camping, make sure to check out our post and video all about camping in Yellowstone.

    How far is the North Entrance from Yellowstone’s other major attractions?

    Old Faithful

    The nice thing about the North Entrance is that it’s the closest entrance to the Grand Loop Road. So that reduces driving time.

    LocationTime to get there from North Entrance
    Old FaithfulAbout an hour and a half
    Grand Canyon of the YellowstoneAbout an hour
    Grand Prismatic SpringAbout an hour
    Yellowstone Lake (West Thumb)About 2 + hours
    Lamar ValleyAbout 30 minutes to the Valley, then it takes another 20-30 minutes to drive to the end of the Valley.

    Resources

    21 Tips for YELLOWSTONE

    ABOUT US

    We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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