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Montana : An Explorers Guide
Written by a native Montanan, this guide showcases some of Montana's Big Sky Country's finest places and attractions.
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Red Lodge, Montana : Information and Photos

Downtown Red Lodge, Montana
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Situated at the base of the Beartooth Mountains in southern Montana on Highway 212, the location of Red Lodge is hard to beat. With an elevation of 5500 feet, the soaring Beartooth Mountains provide a stunning setting for the town.

Due to being the county seat of Carbon County, as well as playing host to thousands of people during the summer who pass through town, Red Lodge has become a tourist destination in its own right. Although Red Lodge only has a population of 2500 people, the town has far more services and shopping options than other similar sized towns.

The downtown area of Red Lodge, along Main Street, is one of the nicest in Montana, full of well-maintained and very attractive red brick buildings. Dozens of shops sell everything from ice cream, to clothing to outdoor gear. Red Lodge also has a decent selection of restaurants, although happily most fast food joints are mysteriously missing.

The primary reason Red Lodge is so busy during the summer months is due to being the northern starting point for the fantastic Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive. The Beartooth Highway is a fifty-mile drive across a high-plateau in the Beartooth Mountains. Running between Red Lodge and the junction with Highway 296 in Wyoming, to the east of Cooke City, thousands of people every day take this beautiful voyage on their way to/from Yellowstone National Park.

Red Lodge also serves as a hub for outdoor recreation in the area. Just to the south of Red Lodge, some of finest camping in Montana is available along the base of the Beartooth Mountains. During the summer, and especially on weekends, these campgrounds attract hundreds of people from Billings and nearby areas who head out for a weekend in the mountains.

The hiking is also fabulous around Red Lodge. Numerous trails, both for day hiking and overnight backpacking, begin at the base of the mountains and along the Beartooth Highway.

Downtown Red Lodge
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Red Lodge has also become a busier place during the winter months, too, due to the increasing popularity of the Red Lodge Mountain Resort. This ski area, which has transformed itself from a sleepy little ski area to a full-fledged mountain resort complete with golf during the summer, has helped turn Red Lodge into a year-round playground for outdoor recreation.

Finally, Red Lodge has also benefited from the surge in second home development. The towns spectacular setting and relative ease to reach (Billings is just 61 miles away), brought a surge of second-home building to the area prior to the onset of the Great Recession. Although the recession toned down the frantic pace of building, Red Lodge seems destined to continue to attract second-home development well into the future due to its scenic setting and large supply of private land that is easily converted from rangeland to subdivisions.

Overall, Red Lodge is one of the nicest tourist towns in Montana. Seemingly destined to continue growing due to its spectacular location at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, the town of Red Lodge is well worth spending time in for those who are passing through on their way to/from Yellowstone National Park.

Photographs of Red Lodge

Northern Pacific Caboose Old Red Lodge Depot The Courthouse in Red Lodge

More Photographs of Red Lodge

Where to Stay in Red Lodge

Somewhat surprisingly for such a busy tourist town, lodging is a bit limited in Red Lodge. For this reason, during the summer months rooms fill up quickly - so make a reservation in advance if you know when you'll be in town.

There are plenty of camping options outside of Red Lodge, too. Just to the south of Red Lodge, in the National Forest, is a string of many large, developed campgrounds.

Lodging in Red Lodge

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