Silver gate: A personal favorite is the woodsy Pine Edge Cabins ($$/$$$, 406-838-2371), the only year-round lodging in this one-block village. The remodeled units are part of a collection that includes the Silver Gate and Whispering Pines cabins, which are open during the summer. The view from the Pine Edge Cabins is of towering Mount Republic, and during winter months, guests often see a menagerie of wildlife that includes silver fox, moose, and a lone bull bison affectionately named Jackson who arrives from the park annually. Through Pine Edge, groups can also rent the sprawling Range Rider Lodge, once a lively brothel and bar. The tight quarters with twin and bunk beds feature the names of the girls that plied the world’s oldest profession there during the mining era of the 1930s. Ask the managers at Pine Edge about the female ghost who reputedly haunts the site. Alternative Bunking
Absarokee: Paintbrush Adventures ($$$$, 406-328-4158) has a cushy cabin on the Stillwater River you can literally fish right off your deck that sleeps eight for $250 per night, with weekly and monthly discounts negotiable. Dividing the rate among eight makes this a steal. Located on the Barron Ranch, the home and apartment above the garage are part of Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations, a group that is trying to bolster local economies by offering authentic Montana experiences.
Belfry: Another Montana Bunkhouses offering is the Beartooth River Ranch ($/$$, 406-664-3181), just over the hill from Red Lodge south of Belfry. The lodge, located on the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, has 12 guest rooms including eight suites starting at an affordable $60 per night even during the summer high season.
Silver gate: Laurie Hinck, a full-time resident who was born in a log building in Silver Gate, has two traditional log cabins for rent at the Log Cabin B&B ($$, 800-863-0807, May Sept.), each with two double beds. The best part of the $99/night rate is that a full cooked-to-order breakfast at the neighboring cafe is included.
Camping: Campers and picnickers might like the shade of the towering cottonwoods drinking from the Yellowstone River at the Itch-Kep-Pe Park ($, 406-322-533) in Columbus, which has 13 campsites. The Custer National Forest in Montana and Shoshone National Forest across the border in Wyoming combine for 14 campgrounds with 226 campsites, most within close proximity to the highway. There are six on the Montana side before US 212 begins its precipitous switchback rise out of Rock Creek Canyon, two on the plateau, one each at Island and Beartooth lakes, three along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone, and three just outside Cooke City. Expect chilly nights any time of year and the higher the elevation, the chillier it’ll be. In Fishtail, another appealing choice is camping with quick and easy fishing access at Rosebud Isle along the banks of the West Rosebud Creek.
Columbus: Once dubbed “The Bloody Bucket” for its frequent brawls, the 307 Bar, Grill & Casino ($$, 406-322-4511, B[Sun.]/L/D) is now a family-friendly joint where log furniture and art on the walls sets the stage for wine and beer drinkers to imbibe side by side. The 307 serves good-enough-to-brake-for burgers; most favored is their mountain man burger steak smothered in gravy,
Mushrooms, and onions. Understated Whitlock’s Stillwater Steakhouse ($$, 406-322-8677, B/L/D) is a meat, potatoes, and fried-food kinda place that serves up everything from rib eye to walleye. absarokee: The unpretentious Rosebud Cafe ($, 406-328-6969, B/L, Fri.-Tues.) does everything right, from rancher-sized portions of steak, eggs, hash browns, and piles of buttermilk pancakes to chicken fried steak and sack lunches to go. Roger and Sylvia are known for their “small town America” hospitality and generosity.
Fishtail: Wrap your hands around a half-pound burger, halibut sandwich, or any number of appealing dinner choices at the Cowboy Bar & Supper Club ($$, 406-328-4288, B[Fri.-Sun./L/D; see Best Bars). If you’re in more of a hurry or even if you aren’t the Fishtail General Store ($, 406-328-4260) always has fresh made-to-order deli sandwiches, a pot of soup, slices of pizza, and gigantic chocolate-chip cookies.
Roscoe: The Grizzly Bar ($$, 406-328-6789, L/D) is one of Montana’s most iconic steakhouses, where sizzling steaks, prime rib, Alaskan king crab, and king-sized burgers make folks “growl with hunger”. The large patio is idyllic for outdoor dining in this little oasis of trees along East Rosebud Creek. Every so often on the Backroads, you’ll spy a bumper sticker that asks, “Where the hell is Roscoe?” The Grizzly is where they’re from You can order from the lunch or dinner menu at any time.