Review of Yellowstone Valley Lodge (Livingston, Montana)
By Laura Kammermeier
Yellowstone Valley Lodge is a collection of ten small, contemporary ranch cabins and a gourmet restaurant situated on an old ranching property in the aptly named Paradise Valley, Montana. We stayed here our first three nights of our grand Yellowstone/Tetons adventure…and are still looking back at it with fondness.
Indeed, a peaceful setting, great views, and a five-star restaurant are the Lodge’s prime attractions. The comfortable lodging and tasty complementary breakfast didn’t hurt, either. The Lodge is a perfect basecamp for fishermen, hikers, and travelers through Montana, especially those on their way to Yellowstone National Park.
Fifteen miles to the north you’ll find Livingston, plus the main highway that takes you to Bozeman (west) or Billings (east). Forty miles to the south you’ll find the Mammoth Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. All around you’ll find the breathtaking mountain views associated with Gallatin National Forest and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area, which has endless hiking and birding opportunities.
The lodge hugs the banks of the Yellowstone River, which during our visit was swollen to flood stage owing to a record snowfall season. Flowing at 20,000 cfs (approximately four times its norm), the river was swift and powerful, commanding major respect.
This interplay of mountains and water sets a supremely relaxing tone here at the Lodge. At night, the rushing sounds of the river lulled us into a deep sleep. At dawn, the morning sun rose across the valley over the opposite bank of the river.
From the guest house, our eyes cast over broad grasslands before scrambling over majestic peaks of the Absarokas. If a wide-open view of Montana is what you’re seeking, you can find it here at Yellowstone Valley Lodge.
Each ranch cabin features pillow-top beds with soft sheets, a sitting area with a table and two chairs, a patio overlooking the river, an outdoor ice chest to store your cold beverages (a welcome benefit!), and an air conditioner (which you probably won’t need considering July temperatures frequently dip into the 40s F).
Complimentary breakfast is served at 7:30 am in the guest house where you can also watch TV, use the computer, relax on a leather couch, or chat with other guests on the back deck. The Lodge includes 38 acres of field and grasslands to roam. Birds such as Black-billed Magpies, Mountain Bluebirds, Red-shafted Flickers, American White Pelicans, Western Meadowlark, Common Ravens, and several sparrows can be seen on the property.
The on-site Paradise Valley Grill features a five-star, gourmet dinner menu where you can feast on beautifully prepared locally grown foods from a second story deck that overlooks the valley. We regret we did not sample the restaurant—we kept busy in the hills and other points of interest.
Speaking of which, we took three day trips from the Lodge. The first was an awe-inspiring hike to an alpine lake (Fairy Lake) in the Bridger Mountains (closer to Bozeman than Livingston, but worth the drive) and the second was a mile-long scramble up to Pine Creek Falls, a magnificent waterfall deep in the Absaroka Wilderness (15 minutes north of the Lodge).
On our third day, we did the tourist thing and went to Chico Hot Springs, which is a private hot springs contained by a cement pool with medium sized deck. Though it’s a bit crowded and hokey, the hot springs are a big local attraction and offer a refreshing pool-side experience and café dining. Of course our kids loved it. They are always game for water.
We really enjoyed our stay at Yellowstone Valley Lodge and highly recommend it. The cabins are comfortable and the setting induced major feelings of relaxation and contentment. Comfortable and rustic with great views, it was a perfect setting to launch our Yellowstone/Tetons adventure.
We had a few complaints: there are no coffee pots in the room and breakfast/coffee is not served until 7:30 am. Early risers, especially those arriving from the earlier time zones in the East, may have trouble waiting for that first cuppa jo. Lack of coffee in the rooms seemed not uncommon in the West but if this is an issue, inquire whether the staff can make special accommodations.
If you go:
Yellowstone Valley Lodge
3840 Highway 89
South Livingston, Montana 59047
Rates range from $99/night low season to $159/night peak season.
Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, I received a media rate in exchange for review purposes. While it has not influenced my review, readers have a right to understand this arrangement.
Laura Kammermeier is a freelance travel and birding writer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) Laura Kammermeier 2011