Elevation: 5314 FT
With a strong nod to the Old West (and not just because it's named after an outlaw fur trapper), Gardiner excels at being quaint but happens to be a full-service town specializing in wilderness, wildlife and western welcomes. The Yellowstone River runs right through this no-fuss community of 875 residents who are greatly outnumbered by
antelope, bison, deer and elk.
Part of Montana's aptly named Paradise Valley, Gardiner is a mere five miles from the park's impressive Mammoth
Hot Springs terraces with a stop along the way at the famed Boiling River, the only hot springs in the park you can
(despite its name) actually swim in. Gardiner will get you into Yellowstone via the iconic Roosevelt Arch in any
season, offering the only wintertime personal-vehicle entrance. The winter drive from Gardiner to Tower Junction
to Cooke City lets you experience the magic of the park's quiet off season: picture a lone bison standing resiliently
amongst a backdrop of towering mountains and pure white snow. Which means you can Nordic ski and sightsee and watch wildlife in the Lamar Valley–a hot spot for wolves in the winter. In the warmer months, bring your fly rod and your hiking boots.
Gardiner knows how to celebrate its roots. Each May, the town hosts the Hells A-Roarin' Horse Drive an authentic Wild West tradition followed by a barbecue with cowboy poetry and live music.