We had aimed to stay in Gardiner which is a very small town directly outside the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park. In general I am very good at finding lovely accommodation and this is something I pride myself on. This time I wasn’t so lucky! The place I had booked for us turned out to be significantly different to what we saw in the pictures. In addition, Gardiner is mostly closed in winter – there were only 2 restaurants open (even though it boasts Yellowstone’s ONLY year round entrance). We stayed one night in Gardiner, but we were so disappointed by the town and the place that I emailed the owner of our rental and he very nicely refunded our whole stay. We hightailed it out of there and found a stunning hotel in Bozeman called Element Bozeman. What a little gem! I usually stay away from cities when on holiday, but Bozeman is without a doubt my favourite small city. If you find yourself in Montana, Bozeman is a must see!
Soldiers Chapel in Big Sky
Bridge leading to Ousel Falls
After our walk we decided to go for lunch at a local ranch called Lone Mountain Ranch. What a beautiful and cosy property! We had drinks and lunch in the Saloon and then spent some time playing with their horses. The horses here look so happy and content and two of them kept following us around!
Pearl – she was a flirt from the get-go!
Look at this beauty!
Look how happy these horses are!
Pearl was very badly misbehaved when we had to leave.
The following day was Christmas and we were so lucky to be blessed with snow! We had booked to go dog-sledding so set off for Chico which was about an hours drive from Bozeman. We booked through Absaroka Dogsled Treks and the pride and love they put into their dogs is abundantly clear. They have a total of 75 dogs in their kennel and Matt, the owner, told us that he and his wife look after them all alone! That’s a lot of work! I can barely look after 3 cats without getting stressed! There are three options to choose from: the Tenderfoot Trek which is a 6-mile round trek, The Yukon Trek which is a 10-mile round trip and the Denali Trek which is a full day trek. I booked back in September and the only option available was the Tenderfoot which goes to show how popular dog sledding is! At the end of the day I was glad we only did the short trek because it was another freezing cold day! While the trek is only 6 miles all round, it takes Matt 1.5 hours to set the dogs up and another 1.5 hours to pack them away, which means we were out in the open for around 4-5 hours. It’s not all glamour and racing – this is hard work for the owner, who did it with such patience and love!
The dogs are all Alaskan Huskies and are small – no more than 30 kg each. While most people think of Siberian Huskies and dog sledding, these huskies are usually very large and actually bring very little speed to their teams. Matt keeps his dogs in prime racing form and when they are brought out of the truck you can barely hear yourself think – all they do is bark and jump and go mad! I wish I could describe to you the quiet eeriness we heard when Matt gave them them the go signal. It went from utter chaos to pure stillness – all you hear are the dogs running and panting. Some people say dog sledding is cruel – but this is only true if the owner is cruel. These dogs live to race. We saw this with every step they took. If you find yourself in a snowy location I cannot recommend a dog sled trek enough. This was probably the highlight of my trip!
Eagerly waiting to go racing
We were only allowed to take pictures after the dogs had spent all their energy!
Matt with his dogs – who clearly adore him!
Below are some pictures of Chico and the surrounding areas we drove through to get to the dog sledding office.
The following day we had another full on day in the snow as we were going snowmobiling through Yellowstone National Park. Like Glacier National Park, the park is closed to wheeled traffic, except to snowmobiles and snow coaches. The tour was a full day tour. We stated out at 7 am and we only got back to our hotel at 9 pm that night. It was a pretty intense and cold day and although I head the best time I was glad when the day was over!
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Please have a look at Part 1 of our Montana vacation 🙂
Coming up is the last part of our December travels which took us to Colorado.