The Bozeman-Livingston-Three Forks area is one large intersection. Interstate 90 runs east to west through this region, and from it, three valley highways extend south or north. The westernmost of these highways, U.S. 287, passes through Three Forks, and runs 120 miles south along the Madison Valley to the town of Ennis (a fishing mecca) and West Yellowstone, the western gateway to Yellowstone National Park. From Bozeman, U.S. 191 parallels U.S. 287 down the Gallatin Valley, past the resort community of Big Sky, to West Yellowstone.
The third highway, U.S. 89, runs 57 miles south from Livingston through the Paradise Valley to Gardiner and the north entrance of Yellowstone. Though the area is populated primarily by ranchers and there are few developed attractions, it's a beautiful drive, especially through Yankee Jim Canyon.
Red Lodge can be reached a few different ways, but the most scenic is by taking I-90 to exit 408 at Columbus and heading south on Mont. 78 through Absarokee and Roscoe for 48 miles.
The Beartooth Scenic Byway
This loop drive takes you to altitudes of almost 11,000 feet, taking in the sights that led Charles Kuralt to call this the most scenic road in America.
Begin in Livingston. Drive south on U.S. 89, following the Yellowstone River through Paradise Valley, 53 miles to Gardiner, and then into Yellowstone National Park. Once inside the park, you can stop off at Mammoth Hot Springs, a geothermal wonderland just inside the park's northern boundary. Then, take the road from Mammoth Hot Springs east to Tower Junction, continuing east to the park's northeast entrance at Silver Gate to pick up U.S. 212 (this is the Beartooth Byway). From here, the road begins to wind upward along the Montana and Wyoming border for nearly 40 ear-popping miles until it reaches the Beartooth Pass (elevation 10,947 ft.). From that spectacular altitude, you'll see miles and miles of mountains across both Wyoming and Montana. The road then drops for 24 miles as the byway continues on to Red Lodge. From Red Lodge, drive north on Mont. 78 down into the high plains before heading back to the mountains of Bozeman, west on I-90. The entire trip takes between 6 and 8 hours, depending on the time of day you choose to drive it and the condition of the roads. Note: The Beartooth Byway is especially subject to the whims of Mother Nature; mudslides have closed the road regularly in recent history. For current information, contact the Montana Department of Transportation (tel. 406/444-6200; www.mdt.mt.gov).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.