The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop
The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop is a paved, sixty-two mile “loop drive” that circles through the beautiful Paradise Valley of Montana. Located south of Livingston and dwarfed by the towering peaks of the Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west, the Paradise Valley is one of Montana’s most scenic valleys. With the Yellowstone River flowing through the middle of the valley, the Paradise Valley is also a premiere vacation destination in its own right.
The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop follows two roads as it tours the valley, US Highway 89 and East River Road (Highway 540). The US Highway 89 portion of the Paradise Valley Scenic Loop is, during the summer months, a busy road. Thousands of people daily drive between Livingston and Gardiner, on their way to/from Yellowstone National Park. As such, traffic is often heavy, with numerous RV’s and many vehicles pulling trailers.
By contrast, traffic on the East River Road portion of the route is sparse, allowing for a more relaxing yet not much slower drive than battling the traffic on US Highway 89.
The scenic drive begins five miles south of Livingston, at the junction of US Highway 89 and East River Road. Following the East River Road, the drive soon crosses the Yellowstone River and then begins a beautiful drive through the open fields and grasslands of the Paradise Valley. The Absaroka Range rises steeply and abruptly off the valley floor, while the views of the more distant Gallatin Range are superb.
After fifteen miles, the scenic drive reaches the junction with Mill Creek Road. Visitors who are time pressed can turn west at this junction to regain access to US Highway 89 that lies just a few miles away.
South of Mill Creek Road, the Paradise Valley Scenic Loop continues to meander through the Paradise Valley, with unending and beautiful views. After thirty-two miles, the East River Road ends at the junction with US Highway 89. Go south at this junction to head toward Yellowstone National Park and Gardiner.
The Paradise Valley Scenic Loop turns right at this junction and heads north on US Highway 89, back toward Livingston. The views of the Absaroka Range are excellent on this stretch of the drive, although the traffic can sometimes be less than exciting.
However, there is one spot that anyone in search of superb and unique vistas should visit, and that is Mallard’s Rest Fishing Access Site. This fishing access site is located right off US Highway 89, about thirteen miles south of Livingston and at milepost 42. Get off the freeway and follow the gravel road for about a block, then stop at the switchback in the road. The views of the Yellowstone River making a lazy horseshoe bend, with the high peaks of the Absaroka Range in the background, are spectacular – especially if the light is “just right.”
Overall, the Paradise Valley Scenic Loop is an enjoyable trip through one of the more beautiful areas of Montana. Those who are passing by Livingston on I-90 should consider spending the ninety-minutes required to take this very beautiful drive. For those who get off the freeway in Livingston, on their way to Yellowstone National Park, the East River Road portion of the drive provides a nice break from the traffic found on US Highway 89 and, in my opinion, provides nicer views, too.
- Length: 62 miles
- Highlights : Yellowstone River, Beautiful views of the Absaroka Range and the Gallatin Range.
- Road Type : Paved
- Nearby Towns : Livingston, Gardiner
- 4wd needed? : No, if roads are dry
- Traffic : Moderate to Heavy
- Trailers? : Yes
- Season : Year-round
Map of the Paradise Valley Scenic Loop
The map below shows the route and location of the Paradise Valley Scenic Loop, as well as several other nearby scenic routes.
Where to Stay & Other Services
There are numerous services along the route, as well as in Livingston and in Gardiner.
A beautiful campground is located at the Mallard's Rest Fishing Access Site. Several other campgrounds are located just off the route in the National Forest lands. RV Parks are also common along Highway 89.
Lodging is also plentiful. Livingston has numerous hotels and motels, although they are expensive and book up early during the height of the summer. In addition, a number of hotels and guest ranches are located along the drive. Finally, south of the route, Gardiner has plenty of hotels, too.