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Those looking for a scenic drive with their rental RV can’t do much better than the Beartooth Highway on the border between Wyoming and Montana. It’s frequently named “The Most Beautiful Drive in America,” and the roadway is a true engineering marvel, climbing almost 3,000 feet in the span of 12 miles to connect Red Lodge with the isolated town of Cooke City on Yellowstone National Park's eastern edge.
When you book an RV in Carbon County, you’ll have access to a wealth of excellent amenities too. The park has full hookups for your RV rental, including 50 amp electrical capacity and sites that can accommodate vehicles up to 70 feet in length. There’s also a small swimming pool to cool off in and a dog park for your four-legged friends to exercise. If you don’t feel like driving your campervan rental around Red Lodge’s narrow street, the RV campground offers bike rentals to cruise around.
In the winter months, the nearby Red Lodge Mountain is one of Montana’s premier ski areas, but one of America’s most unique ski hills is also close by. Beartooth Basin, near the top of Beartooth Highway, is the only ski hill in the country that is open during the summer months - and can only be accessed in the summer since the highway is snowed in all winter. It’s fairly small, just 600 acres, and has just two lifts to move skiers and snowboarders up a thousand feet of elevation, but you can’t beat how unique of a situation this is. If you need gear, there are a couple of shops in Red Lodge that keep their winter rentals out for just such an occasion.
Red Lodge is no slouch when it comes to hiking either, and when you rent a camper near Red Lodge KOA, you’ll definitely want to explore some of the nearby trails. The Lake Fork Trail to the west of town is one of the most popular in the area as it’s not too difficult and there’s always plenty of wildlife to spot along the way including deer, moose, and occasionally black bears (bring bear spray on all your hikes).
For a river adventure, check out the Stillwater about half an hour's drive to the northwest of Red Lodge near Absarokee. It’s been named a world-class fly-fishing destination, but even if you don’t have a rod in hand, this is a river you’ll want to explore. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and inner tubes are all available for rent in Red Lodge. You really don’t need gear to have a good time on the Stillwater River though; just swimming in a slow-moving eddy is a great way to beat the heat on a hot summer day.
Red Lodge is a classic ski town: small, welcoming, and full of great bars and restaurants to hang out in after a day on the slopes. Thanks to its role as a coal mining community at the beginning of the 20th century, Red Lodge also has a lot of history and beautiful turn-of-the-century architecture. The Carbon County Historical Society and Museum is a great place to take in some of the town’s rich past. A tour of it will probably take less than an hour, but the exhibits cover everything from the Native Americans who made the Beartooth Mountains their home, to the immigrant communities that sprang up during Red Lodge’s coal mining boom, to the town’s current incarnation as a tourist and adventure sports hot spot.
Animal lovers should plan a stop at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary on the northern end of Red Lodge. It’s home to over 40 animals, all native Montana species, like bison, mountain lions, and porcupines. Each of the animals has been determined to be unsuitable for release back into the wild, due to injury, emotional damage, or habituation to humans. The sanctuary provides a place for them to live out the rest of their lives in safety and good health while also giving visitors an educational experience.
With so many tourists descending on Red Lodge in the summer and winter, there are quite a few souvenir shops and art galleries to explore on its main street. For a more extensive shopping experience though, you’ll need to make the 90-minute drive to Billings, Montana’s largest city. There you’ll find a large shopping mall, big-box stores, chain restaurants, and just about everything else you’d expect from a medium-sized city. A more exciting aspect of the city is its Brewery District, a historic section of downtown that contains several excellent microbreweries, many of which have delicious food to accompany your pint.