Livingston, Montana : Information and Photos
Livingston is one of my favorite towns in Montana. In terms of location, a person can’t really ask for more. After all, the Yellowstone River flows right along the edge of town. The scenery around Livingston is also tough to beat, with the Absaroka Mountains rising steeply to the south of town while the Bridger Mountains rise to the northwest.
Of course, what has helped really put Livingston on the map is its proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Livingston isn’t a true “gateway” to Yellowstone since it isn’t located right along the park border. Yet the town receives thousands of people a day who are Yellowstone bound due to its location along Interstate 90 and US Highway 89 (US 89 leads to Gardiner).
Since the junction of the Interstate and US Highway 89 is located on the southern end of town, well away from the downtown core, I suspect few visitors on their way to Yellowstone National Park ever even see the downtown area of Livingston. And that’s a shame, since the downtown area of Livingston is extremely nice.
Unlike so many small towns across America today, the downtown area of Livingston is full of stores with few empty storefronts. The numerous red brick buildings in the downtown area have been well maintained and restored. The downtown area is also very clean; the only thing a visitor is likely to see on the sidewalk is a painted trout.
Livingston is one of the larger “small towns” in Montana, with a population of 7300 people. Since Livingston is both the county seat and business center of Park County, and plays host to thousands of tourists a day during the summer, Livingston has far more services and stores than other similar sized towns. The one thing Livingston doesn’t have, happily, is a big box store. Visitors looking for a Walmart will need to shop downtown instead.
The one shopping experience that Livingston has no shortage of is, you guessed it, fly shops. The excellent Dan Bailey Fly Shop is located right across from the railroad museum and, for anglers, is a very dangerous place to spend too much time for those who hate spending money. Several other fly shops are also in town, either located in the downtown area or spread out along the Yellowstone River on US Highway 89.
Several excellent scenic drives are also located outside of Livingston. The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop begins just south of town and makes a gorgeous loop through the Paradise Valley. The West Boulder Scenic Drive is a scenic trip between Livingston and Big Timber. And, of course, Yellowstone National Park is just fifty-six miles away.
Railroad fans will also enjoy Livingston. The Livingston Depot, restored in 1988, now is home to a fantastic railroad museum. Open during the summer months, the Livingston Depot Museum has many exhibits about the town’s railroad history. The emphasis, as might be guessed, is on the history of the Northern Pacific in Livingston.
Visitors planning to spend the night in Livingston during the summer (late June to a week after Labor Day) should make their hotel reservations in advance. By advance, I mean just a day or two away from your expected date of arrival. It’s very common in Livingston for all hotel rooms to be booked by late-afternoon, and the rooms still available are usually available for a reason (hideous price or lousy rooms, or both).
As a warning, I’ll point out that hotel rooms in Livingston during the summer are very expensive (as is common not just here but in all towns near Yellowstone National Park). My advice to visitors looking for cheaper lodging is to do one of two things; smile and pay the bill for the hotel (after all, you’re on vacation), or head out into the mountains and find a nice spot to camp. While I’m far from a connoisseur of hotels, my preferred hotel in Livingston is the Super 8.
Overall, Livingston is a great town located in a beautiful part of Montana. The downtown area of Livingston is fun to visit and full of history. And the towns beautiful location along the banks of the Yellowstone River and at the base of the Absaroka Mountains make Livingston is an ideal destination for those seeking quality trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and camping.
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