A Livingston Loop

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by Sarah Kmon

Them’re some straight up sonsuhbitches,” was the way one Montana cowboy described the mountains that flank the gateway to the Paradise Valley.  They loom ominously over Livingston.

Not the previously mentioned mountains, but a random photo taken in Meagher County.

This is yet another travel post.  I don’t think you really appreciate all the gems that Montana has to offer.  But you will.  I am about to take you on a driving loop and show you a few more.

Start in Livingston.  We can discuss the importance this later.  Just know that this loop will take more than a day if you stop at every one of the places I mention.  The only rule for following this loop is that you HAVE TO stop at Red Ants Pants.

Livingston the home of the artists and poets of Montana.  The writers, the thinkers, the left-brainers. Also home of Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid and Batman.  I think.  If that’s changed, I’m going to be very disappointed.

I haven’t spent much time in Livingston, and can only recommend one place to eat because is the only place my husband and I eat in Livingston.  And, it is the only place in Montana that I have eaten Mexican food that comes anywhere close to tasting like the food that I miss in New Mexico.  I long for New Mexico food about every other minute.  Even if I’m eating chocolate chips. Also the bathroom has been clean every time.  That racks up the brownie points for me.  Also, the food and the plates are boiling hot.  So while it may not be everyone’s taste, I get my green chili fix and my husband gets a hot meal in his tummy.  The restaurant is Fiesta En Jalisco.  Oh and they didn’t have exactly what I wanted on their menu, but they made it for me anyway.  Can you say high maintenance?

Head north from Livingston on Hwy 89.

You will hit Clyde Park and then Wilsall.  In Wilsall check out (but don’t drink and drive), the Bank Bar in Wilsall, and the Wilsall Bar & Cafe.  The latter is run by the Rooney’s who also own Cloud Nine Farms, from which we get our summer CSA share of veggies.  They are excellent veggies.  Another place to check out is Val’s Deli.

Drive north, on up to White Sulphur Springs.  You can stay in one of the four hotels in town.  Make sure you get a chance to soak in the Hotsprings.  Come visit us at Red Ants Pants.  Even if you don’t buy a pair, you can try them on so you know your size.

From White Sulphur, head East towards Harlowton.  You will drive a very similar route to the one that T.C Bruce rode on the train from WSS to Two Dot, in the most excellent book Ride the Jawbone, by local author, Jim Moore.

Anyway.  Before you get to Harlowton, you will pass the turn-off to Lennep/Martinsdale.  Take that turn and visit/stay at/eat at the Crazy Mountain Inn.  I recommend (through other people’s recommendations) that you have the Chicken Fried Steak and the Lemon Cream Pie.

Also in Martinsdale is the Bair Museum.  It is one of the most talked-about tourist spots for this area during the summer months.  The Museum is open Memorial Day through Labor day.  Memorial Day is just around the corner so you don’t have to wait too long.

Okeydoke.  On to Harlowton.   In this pretty little town, many people are yard-proud (though some are not) and I get scared when I drive through late at night and I look at the old courthouse and imagine there are ghosts in the black windows, looking at me looking at them.

But apart from imaginary ghosts there is also Snowy Mountain Coffee.  We drink their coffee.  We love their coffee.  We buy their coffee in bulk.  And we eat their treats.  Yum.  You should try it all. But don’t throw up.

Harlowton is also the home of Cream of the West.  Did you eat your porridge this morning?  Was it Cream of the West?  It should have been.  Did you know they have an entire organic selection?  Check it out.

After you have looked around Harlowton, drive south to Big Timber.  Soak up the gorgeousness of the Crazy Mountains during your drive.

Once in Big Timber, there are a number of places you can go.

Big Timber recently won a bid to become the home of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center.  GO BIG TIMBER!

Blake Nursery is one of our favorites.  We have mentioned them before.  You can also get your nails done by Darlene at Sam’s Hair Salon.

Big Timber dates for you to mark in your calendars:

  • Saturday May 12th.  Bull-a-rama (do not ask me what a bull-a-rama is) at the Rodeo Grounds. 6pm.  Call 406-932-5131 for info.
  • June 8th, 9th and 10th.  The Big Timber Gun Show.  Channel the right-winged, conservative militia in you.  (I’m being funny.)
  • June 29th and 30th.  The Sweetgrass Festival and Big Timber Rodeo.  Check it out.

Once you have soaked up all that Big Timber has to offer, head west, back to Livingston, along the interstate.  I know that I told you we would discuss the point of why we need to start in Livingston.  But I don’t want to.

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