From hot springs to the courthouse: 10 stops on a ‘Yellowstone’-inspired road trip through Montana

The Duttons sure know how to make a lasting impression; follow in their footsteps on this Big Sky Country itinerary

Montana's Big Sky Country.

Montana is a driving state. When roadtripping through Big Sky Country, you can’t help but notice the vastness of the highways, the beauty of their clouds, and the seemingly endless amount of open spaces. On my 7-hour drive toward Montana from Seattle, I decided to listen to the official Yellowstone podcast

Fans of the Paramount Network TV series should know that there’s a city in Montana named Dutton. Originally a Great Northern Railway station, it was named for Charles E. Dutton, who was the railroad’s general agent in Helena, Montana. 

As we saddle up for season five of the popular series, here are 10 spots on a Montana road trip inspired by Yellowstone. Just don’t find yourself getting dropped off at the “train station.” The area where Dutton associates leave dead bodies is filmed on a real stretch of road along Highway 93 in Sula, Montana, according to the Glacier County Montana tourism board.


A scenic road winds its way through stunning view of mountains and towering trees.
Glacier National Park.

1. Glacier National Park

The best time to road trip to Glacier National Park, or Montana in general, is July through mid-September. From scenic drives, and views like the ones from the Dutton Ranch, to more than 1 million acres of terrain, there’s undoubtedly an epic selfie in there somewhere. Learn about the park’s Indigenous history on a tour with a Blackfeet tribal member.

Related Planning a trip to Glacier National Park


A strikingly blue lake stands in contrast to the lush trees and greenery that surround it.
Flathead Lake.

2. Flathead Lake 

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in Montana. It’s hard not to gasp when you approach the stunning, emerald-colored body of water. If you’re looking to stay in a non-fussy place with that million-dollar view, you’ll find the Polson / Flathead Lake KOA nestled in a hill to the side of the lake.


Steam rises from a hot spring that's surrounded by soothing mountain vistas.
Hot Springs, Montana. | Photo: Mandy Zelinka

3. Wildhorse Hot Springs

Visiting Wildhorse Hot Springs makes me feel like one of the Duttons, who are known to enjoy their scenic outdoor baths. During the day, you’ll find plenty of families, and you’re free to skinny dip after dark. The real beauty is the vastness of the surrounding nature preserve. You can also stay overnight in a teepee, cabin, or campsite.


4. Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort

This place books out a year in advance, and for good reason. As you drive down one of the most scenic highways in the U.S., looking to the right, you’ll see folks meandering about this property decked out in white robes walking with their morning coffee. Quinn’s looks like a place that would make the huckleberry juice worth the squeeze, and where Beth would take a mini-staycation.


Jackie Kecskes gives horse-whispering lessons.
Jackie Kecskes gives horse-whispering lessons. | Photo: Stuart Thurlkill, courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up

5. The Resort at Paws Up

In 1997, Nadine Lipson and her late husband, Dave, came to Montana and bought a working cattle ranch. Animals here include Black Angus cows, mustangs, quarter horses, and a large herd of bison. Together with their enterprising son, Larry, the Lipsons opened The Resort at Paws Up in 2005—it’s like visiting the animals on the Dutton Ranch, without the drama.

Related A Montana resort’s star-studded Cowgirl Roundup teaches women riding, roping, and respect for the land


A covered bridge spans across a rocky river.
South Yuba River.

6. Nevada City, Montana

According to the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce’s website, “If you know where to look, it’s not hard to find gold in Nevada County rivers.” Get rich quick (to fight off those greedy investors) at some of the most accessible gold panning locations: the South Yuba River at Bridgeport, Edwards Crossing, and Washington; and on the Middle Yuba River at Oregon Creek. These are public stretches of river so you don’t have to worry about claim jumping. All you need is your hands and a gold pan.


7. Chief Joseph Ranch 

The closest you can get to the fictional Dutton Ranch is by staying at the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana, which is where scenes from the show are filmed—just note that it closes for periods of time for filming. The ranch kindly allows fans to take photos at the entrance gate when the show isn’t filming. If you visit, be respectful and don’t block the driveway. 

Overnight guests can stay in Lee Dutton and Rip’s cabins and are offered tours of the ranch. Keep in mind it’s located about 4.5 hours from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  

Detour

Also in Darby, Montana, check out the Old West town and get a custom cowboy hat at Double H Custom Hat Company.


A winding road weaves through a landscape filled with mountains and a deep blue lake.
Earthquake Lake.

8. Earthquake Lake

Known as “Quake Lake” (not named after the explosive ending of season three), this body of water was created after an earthquake struck near the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park in August of 1959. The 6-mile lake has a maximum depth of 125 feet and is located mostly within the Custer-Gallatin National Forest


Grave markers line a grassy field.
Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.

9. Little Bighorn Battlefield 

Learn more about the state’s Indigenous history with a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield located in Crow Agency. Some scenes from the show are filmed at the Crow Reservation, where the national monument is located. To further your experience, go on an interpretive tour with Native American guides (seasonally), eat at the Crow Hop Restaurant, and visit the monument’s museum at the visitor center. This national monument participates in the Junior Ranger program.


A large building adorned with columns.
County Courthouse in Missoula, Montana.

10. Missoula, Montana

Season four finally brings the Paramount filming crew to Montana (as opposed to the other three seasons, which were mainly filmed in other locations, like Utah). According to the Glacier County Montana tourism board, scenes from the show were filmed at the Community Medical Center, Ruby’s Cafe, streets downtown, the Garlington Building, and the Missoula County Courthouse—which is open for self-guided tours. 


Remove Ads