Yellowstone Park has closed the North entrance at Gardiner, MT, and the Northeast Entrance at Silver Gate due to flood damage. While visitors to the area won’t be able to use these entrances to visit the park, there are still lots of great ways to enjoy a visit to this special area. Here are some ideas for an alternative to a Yellowstone Park Visit.
Most visitors look for private or national forest campgrounds when they visit the Gardiner, Livingston, Paradise Valley area in Montana. However, there are a few opportunities for free camping in this area just north of Yellowstone Park. Keep reading for our guide to free camping in Paradise Valley and along the Upper Yellowstone River.
Tom Miner Campground is in south-central Montana close to Yellowstone Park and the Yellowstone River. The campground is on the Custer Gallatin National Forest and has 16 campsites all available on a first-come, first-served basis. A trailhead from the campground leads to the Petrified Forest Trail as well as into the wild forests of the Gallatin Range.
Pine Creek rushes out of the Absaroka mountains just south of Livingston, MT in Paradise Valley. Pine Creek Campground is at the end of a 3-mile paved road leading into the national forest. The campground has 27 sites set in the forest near the creek. The Pine Creek trailhead is adjacent to the campground and leads to Pine Creek Falls and Pine Creek Lake.
The North Fork Deep Creek Trail (Forest Service Trail #45) takes hikers into the Absaroka Mountains near Livingston, MT. The trail climbs into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness for about 5.5 miles, ascending about 3,500 ft in that distance. The trail ends at an intersection with the Elephanthead Mountain Trail (trail #37) and the Blacktail Creek trail (trail #337).
George Lake is a small, rarely visited lake in Paradise Valley south of Livingston. The lake is only about 7 acres in size and sits at 7,900 ft elevation. George Lake is at the end of a 5 1/4 mile hike into the Absaroka Mountains in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The trail is open to mountain biking and is especially popular early in the season.
Suce Creek offers hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing access into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness near Livingston, MT. The primary hiking attraction is a 6-mile loop trail that takes you from stream bottom to a scenic ridgeline. For those seeking more, the trail continues on to Livingston Peak then connects with the backcountry trail system heading deeper into the wilderness.
Note: This is an account of a hike to George Lake I sent to a friend of mine. It is a lot more personal than most info here and I hope you find it useful. For more complete information we have a page on the George Lake Trail.
The South Fork Deep Creek trail provides great hiking just a few minutes south of Livingston, Montana. The trail provides access into the north end of the Absaroka Mountains and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. The trail is mostly used for day hiking but it connects to a trail network that offers great backpacking opportunities.