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Livingston, Montana

Livingston, MT may be the most famous small town in Montana. And while you may not have heard its name if you’ve ever seen the movie, A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, you most certainly have caught a glimpse of Livingston, Montana.

Livingston is considered the original gateway town to Yellowstone National Park. Incorporated in 1882 and named after Johnston Livingston, a stockholder, and director of the Northern Pacific Railroad (NPR).

When Yellowstone National Park was established, the NPR began heavily promoting its stop in Livingston as the ideal place to start a visit to the first national park.

Livingston has long been an agricultural community. And while Livingston still has remnants of the railroad boom that it started from, the town today is supported by a strong farming and ranching industry.

However, it is also home to many well-known artists and writers and is even the home of Montana’s poet laureate, Mark Gibbons (who is also a local farrier).

Today, Livingston is teeming with tourists, but still has that old west charm. Walk down Main Street and you’ll find cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and saloons.

The town still serves as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, but it also serves as the starting point for many other great Montana adventures.

Main Attractions

yellowstone river

Downtown Livingston

One of the best things about Livingston is its Downtown area. Many of the buildings in the downtown area were built in the 1880s, so they have plenty of history and they also lend to the “Old West” feel of the area. Walk the town and look for historic register plaques that tell the stories of the building and the community.

Some of the places Downtown that you don’t want to miss include the Sax & Fryer Bookstore which is the longest continuously operated book and stationery store in Montana.

The current location has been occupied by the book store since 1914, but the store was founded in 1883.

The Murray Block is another spot downtown that can’t be missed. Home to a great restaurant this spot is a popular hangout for locals and celebrities.

Yellowstone River

If there is one thing in particular that draws people to Livingston, it’s the Yellowstone River. The movie A River Runs Through It made fly fishing a hugely popular sport, and the mecca for fly fishing just might be the Yellowstone River and Livingston, MT.

The Yellowstone River is the longest, undammed river in North America outside of Alaska. In Montana, it is a blue-ribbon trout fishery, and a popular spot for water sports like kayaking, river rafting, and fly fishing.

The Yellowstone River runs along the outskirts of Livingston and is a popular place for recreational activities. Check out Meyr’s River View Trail, a short 1.5-mile walk that takes you to the river’s edge and gives you amazing views of the town and the river.

If you’re in the area to fish, the town has plenty of fishing outfitters that can provide equipment and guides.

Livingston Depot 

Most of the history of town is tied to the Northern Pacific Railroad. The town served as the middle point between Chicago and the west coast, making it an ideal place for the railway to perform maintenance and provide a stopping point for many travelers.

The Livingston Depot Center is a great place to learn about the history of the Northern Pacific Railroad, the town, and the agricultural roots of the area.

The Depot was built in 1902 and was sized to accommodate the large number of travelers that came to the area to experience the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park

Speaking of Yellowstone National Park… if you’re in Livingston you’ll want to make a day or two available to enjoy the scenic beauty of the park.

It is an hour’s drive south to Yellowstone, and you’ll enjoy the drive to the Park as much as you’ll enjoy everything that this country’s first National Park has to offer.

Recreation Activities

recreation activities

Fishing

As we mentioned previously in this article, the most popular draw to the area is fly fishing on the Yellowstone River. Thanks to Norman Maclean’s book and the movie it inspired, the Yellowstone River and Livingston is now one of the most popular places to fly fish in the world.

There are plenty of places to wade close to town, and the local fishing outfitters can help you find good spots. However, if you’re really looking for some secluded spots, hire a guide to show you the locals favorite spots to cast in.

Before you cast your first line, make sure that you’ve checked the Montana Fish Parks and Wildlife website for seasonal fishing regulations and to purchase your Montana fishing license.

Hiking

If you’d rather not fish, hiking is another popular recreation activity. The area has some really nice hikes that are great for families and folks that just want to get out and enjoy a nice walk. In town, check out the Meyr’s River Side Trail which takes you along Yellowstone.

If you want something a little bit different, but just as easy and enjoyable, try the hike to Pine Creek Falls. This short 2-mile hike takes you to the beautiful Pine Creek Falls.

The trail is busy on summer weekends, but if you head out during the week, you’ll enjoy a wonderful, peaceful hike.

For more of a challenge, many people take on Livingston Peak. This hike is long and challenging, but from the top of the peak, you’ll enjoy views of Livingston and Peaceful Valley.

Other great trails to check out include the Six Trails in Livingston, the Ramshorn Peak Trail, and Suce Creek Trail.

Skiing

Just a short hour drive from the town you’ll find one of the most popular ski areas for Montana locals. Bridger Bowl Ski Area is popular for downhill skiing, thanks to unpretentious visitors, great basic amenities, and some of the best snow in Montana.

If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, check out the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Mill Creek. This area is popular with the locals and is just a short drive from Livingston.

We recommend checking with the local outdoor equipment stores for information on snow conditions if you’re heading out for some cross-country skiing.

Water Sports

The Yellowstone River isn’t just popular for fly fishing. Many people coming to Livingston enjoy the thrill of white-water rafting, river kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and tubing.

The Yellowstone River has a range of water conditions that are perfect for a variety of water sports. Do check with local outfitters on the best places for the water sport you want to enjoy ensuring that you’re not heading for disaster.

Hunting

Hunting is another popular activity around the area. Many of the area’s ranchers and farmers will open their lands to local guides who can show you some of the best places to hunt for elk, deer, antelope, game birds, and other game animals.

If that doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of public lands that are open for hunting. Make sure that you know the Montana hunting seasons and regulations, and apply for a Montana hunting license through the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks before making plans.

Accommodations

accommodations

One of the things we love the most about Livingston is the variety of lodging options that the community has. You’ll find your chain hotels, but also locally owned hotels, motels and inns, boutique hotels, and plenty of vacation home rentals including bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs.

Special Events

Livingston is a very active community, and it hosts a wide variety of annual events that celebrate both the agricultural and arts communities within Livingston.

Activities Near Livingston

Recreation Activities

National Parks and Forests

County and State Parks

Museums

Performing Arts

 

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