Out and about in Red Lodge, Montana

At an elevation of 5,555′, Red Lodge is set against some of Montana’s highest mountain peaks.  According to tradition, a band of Crow Indians left the main triage and moved west into the foothills of the Beartooth Range many years ago.  They painted their council tepee with red-clay, and this old-time artistry resulted in the name Red Lodge.

Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge, Montana

Although it’s a destination town as well as a home base for lots year-round activities, Red Lodge retains a laid back atmosphere, and we really liked that.  It’s also a gateway to Yellowstone National Park by way of beautiful Beartooth Scenic Highway, which we had driven just a few days previously.  It’s a quaint historic western town with a bustling main street surrounded by unspoiled beauty.

Broadway Street, Red Lodge Montana
Broadway Street, Red Lodge Montana

We always try to patronize small town businesses.  Here we bought scones at Wild Table and beer at Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co. (although we weren’t crazy about their beers), grabbed a few things at the natural foods store and got some hiking items at another small shop.

We learned that our friends Dave and Faye were not too far from Red Lodge, and we were happy to meet up with them for beer and pizza, and lots of exciting discussion about their upcoming Canada/Alaska adventure.  We’re so envious!

Dave and Faye
Safe travels to Alaska, Dave and Faye

We had fickle weather while here, thunderstorms and hail several afternoons and a storm that shut down the Beartooth Scenic Byway for a couple of days.  Fortunately we had already completed that drive.

On one of those bad weather afternoons, a wind microburst shook Betsy as we heard large tree branches breaking all around us.  Betsy got some scratches on one side, but we felt very fortunate one of those large branches didn’t fall on the roof and cause major damage.

Several of our neighbors came over and we all pitched in to cut up the branches with chain saws and move them into large piles.  It was really a mess that took park personnel a couple of days to clean up.

Perry's Campground
We lucked out – this branch could have caused a lot of damage.  In 20 minutes it was cut up and moved, thanks to good folks pitching in to help!

Our favorite entertainment here involved cute little piglets seven miles south of Red Lodge. For one evening we became small-time gamblers, doling out $10 to bet on “racing” pigs. Turns out the Bear Creek Saloon hosts these races, and also serves one of the best steak dinners we’ve had in quite a while.  After “pigging out” ourselves, we were excited to learn more about the races.

We learned that after a lengthy legal battle their Pig Racing was eventually made legal in House Bill 433 in 1993.  We’re glad, because we had a blast and got a lot of laughs – although our little piggy didn’t win.  The races are dubbed Bear Creek Downs, with proceeds funding local scholarships.  Good stuff, and be sure not to miss this attraction if it’s happening when you’re here.

Pig Races
And their off!
Bear Creek Downs
Coming down the back stretch our red piggy was looking good, but the blue one in front hogged the whole track!

The piglets are all between 5–6 weeks old and are “retired” at 10–12 weeks old.  They’re well-fed and taken care of, and they actually seem to enjoy the race and the attention of everyone urging them on.

Pig Races
Heading to the gates to duke it out.  A face only a mother could love!

Next we were culturally entertained.  We learned about a recently-opened music and art center founded by philanthropists and artists Cathy and Peter Halstead.  We’re not art exhibit types, but the location was intriguing and the price was right – FREE!  So we drove 40 miles on beautiful Hwy 78, which was by itself worth the trip.

The Tippet Rise Art Center is set on 11,500 acres, containing a working cattle and sheep ranch.  With the Beartooth Mountains rising from the west and golden prairies all around, it’s a nice backdrop for the unusual exhibits here.

Tippet Rise Art Center

Since the artwork is distributed throughout the vast and hilly landscape, the guided van tour took over 2 hours to complete.  Although we didn’t “get” the meaning of most of the exhibits, we enjoyed learning how they were created and constructed.

DayDreams by Patrick Dougherty
Daydreams by Patrick Dougherty – made from willows gathered from neighboring ranches and streams
Inverted Portal / Ensamble Studio
Inverted Portal by Ensamble Studio
Beethoven's Quartet / Mark di Suvero
Beethoven’s Quartet by Mark di Suvero
Tippet Rise Art Center
Foreground: Two Discs by Alexander Calder (on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum). Background: Olivier Barn by Alban Bassuet with Laura Viklund and Arup engineering
Tippet Rise Art Center
An unusual Port-a-potty blends in with the landscape

Our guide imparted that just as sculpture and architecture are designed to provoke surprisingly intimate connections with a vast terrain, the simplicity and small scale of the Olivier Barn’s music hall is designed to enfold listeners in the vastness of the musical encounter.  Whatever…

We were packed into very small vans for the tour, and it was difficult getting in and out of them repeatedly.  I realize it was FREE, but just saying that it might be better to pay a few bucks and get more comfortable transportation with some kind of PA so we could actually hear the driver.

Tippet Rise Art Center
Olivier Barn – a cozy all wood barn where concerts are held

And finally, hitting the trails – yeah!

Having been off the hiking trails for a month per doctors orders, I finally eased back into some treks here.  There are many trails near Red Lodge and along the Beartooth Scenic Highway, and for our first outing we chose Parkside Recreational Trail, an easy 3.8-mile gentle and mostly open terrain hike that led us to Greenough Lake.


Greenough Lake
Greenough Lake
My knees are ready to go!
I think the knee is ready for action!

Since I didn’t feel any pain after that easy jaunt, we went out for a longer trek on the Lake Fort Trail.  We followed it along the creek on a moderate uphill grade in the forest.  Since this was an out and back trail we turned around after 3 miles and stopped for lunch along the creek.

Lake Fork Trail

We spied a waterfall high above on the mountain
We spied a waterfall high above on the mountain
Rock Creek
We love hiking along rushing water
Rock Creek
Lunch with a view, complemented by an awesome soundtrack

While heading back to the car I heard a loud noise and turned to find a young American Dipper demanding food from its hardworking mama.  It was fascinating to watch mama bird bobbing up and down the creek, getting food and stuffing it into the noisy young one’s mouth.  It made my day!



Our last hike here was on the Face of the Mountain Trail.  At 5.6 miles it was a little shorter than the previous day’s hike, but more difficult with a 1,700′ elevation gain all the way up.

After driving a 3-mile dirt road that was chewed up badly in some spots (our trusty CRV pulled through again), we came to the trailhead on the right.

Face of the mountain trail
The gravel road crosses private land and residences

The first 1.25 miles of the ascent passed through private land consisting of sagebrush, but we were already beginning to get some nice views on the way up.


The remainder of the hike was on public lands through a mix of sagebrush and forested sections.

Face of the Mountain Trail
From the ridge the view is as far as your eyes can see

We really enjoyed the views of Red Lodge and beyond from atop the ridge on this cloudy but beautiful day.  Although the trail continued through the forest and up the mountain for several more miles, we completed our goal of reaching the ridge and started back. It was a good moderate hike, and the views from the top were worth the effort.

Face of Mountain Trail

The meadows and hillsides were adorned with all kinds of vibrant wildflowers set against thick sage brush.




Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge as viewed from our destination on the ridge
I’m so glad to be back on the trails!

There were many more trails to explore, but it was time to move on.




  1. I love your capture of the mama feeding her baby…so,sweet! What a real treat. Water and rushing creeks/rivers add so much to a hike. So happy your knee is AOK!

  2. Wow, I learned a lot from this post…about Red Lodge itself and about all the hikes I’ve never been on. I’ve only ever stopped for a picnic lunch there on the way up to the Beartooth Plateau. Looks like Red Lodge is worth a visit of its own some time!

  3. You get some amazing photos-right up there with Ingrid!
    Really enjoyed reading about your time here and seeing these fabulous trails! Glad you’re back on them.

  4. Great scenery, pig races and sculpture in the wild. What’s not to like 😊 Glad you’re able to get out on the trails again!

  5. So glad to hear you are back on the trail with no problems. You were so wise not to rush things as you will now probably have no future problems which can easily come about if you don’t wait. Your pictures of your hikes are fantastic. We’ve seen one of the poor mother dippers too. The babies look bigger than they are and constantly demanding. Great pictures. Interesting art tour. Those sculptures are all so big. Each one made me wonder how they did it.

  6. Loved this post, what a beautiful area. I think we would have enjoyed the sculpture “garden” but I agree there should be a better method of touring it. I’m glad your knee has held up to the hikes you planned, you’re on the way to perfection once again! Love watching harried mother birds try to fill their noisy little ones bellies. They never seem to get enough though, do they!

  7. I’m so jealous that you got to see a Patrick Dougherty creation! I checked where his works were to see if we were going to be near any but we aren’t. Darn! He is so clever. It looks like that “baby” bird should be feeding the mother. It was twice as big as she was! Great shot of the mouth open wide:) So nice to see you back on the trail. I bet it feels so good:) Sure looks like a great time in Red Lodge!

  8. We have enjoyed each of our visits to Red Lodge. I would have enjoyed that art exhibit but it doesn’t sound like the transportation was much fun. What lovely photos MonaLiza! Those dipper photos are wonderful.

  9. What a fun and beautiful area! So many things we would enjoy—hiking the trails, the wildflowers, the outdoor art exhibit, and the little pig races! 🙂 So glad to see you back out on the trails, ML. And I’m happy your motorhome wasn’t damaged in that windstorm. Love your wonderful photos of the dippers. They’re such cute birds—I’m always amazed to see them swimming underwater in search of food.

  10. Is redneck pizza any good? 😀 Hilarious name. I wonder if there are other food joints that have redneck on the title as well… something like redneck burger.
    I loved watching racing piglets when I go to fair in Ventura. It’s so enjoyable to watch. Plus, they are photogenic.
    You really had me going with waiting for any nature stuff. Glad to see nature views at the end. 🙂

  11. Oh, those racing piglets are just adorable. I never heard of such a thing, but they seem to be enjoying themselves. Dd they do a lot of grunting? Love that first sculpture. They are all so huge! Great photos from your hike and I love the baby bird pics. So glad that Betsy wasn’t damaged by the tree. A few scratches are a small price to pay, and how nice of everyone to rally round to move the branches. Great community spirit. 🙂

  12. I tried to comment the other day but our sketchy internet crashed while commenting. As usual it was great to see you both. Red Lodge is on our radar if we are ever back in that area again.Sure am missing our hiking but look forward to getting back on the trails with you two at Lake Louise.

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