Montana : Safety by City
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Gardiner is a small town in Southern Montana, just miles from the Wyoming border.
It’s more prominently known as the North Entrance location for Yellowstone National Park.
Imagine back to the early 1800s, when settlers found this place where the mud boiled, hot springs steamed from the ground, and big ole bears roamed by.
That was before Yellowstone became the first national park, but after 1872, Gardiner would forever be synonymous with this bucket list adventure.
Gardiner is one of the most popular entry towns to the park since it’s the only one open year-round.
You might remember the massive floods of 2022 in and around Yellowstone, where Gardiner was hit hard.
Roads are open again, and rehabilitation of the area continues, but there’s no reason to pause before planning a trip here.
“Tourism is one of Montana’s most important industries, and many of our tourism-reliant businesses in Yellowstone Country were hit hard,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman said.
“The Tourism Reliant Business Flood Assistance grant will give businesses in this area much-needed support to get them up and running, so they can give in-state and out-of-state guests their best possible Montana experience.”
While Yellowstone National Park has its own boundaries, Gardiner is not set to any limits, offering wilderness opportunities along two rivers and through the mountains of Park County.
Warnings & Dangers in Gardiner
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, but with so many tourists coming through, it's important not to let your guard down and be as smart in the wild as you are about crime. With proper education, you can truly have a lifetime of memories to cherish.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Rental cars are a great option to get around. Otherwise, you'll be reliant on tour buses or shuttles, and those costs will add up quickly. The town is walkable, but the park is not. The risk is low, but having your own car is the best plan.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The theft rate here is just a fraction of the national average, and while the potential exists, the risk is low.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
The floods of 2022 showed how vulnerable the region is, although it was a 500-year flood. Severe weather, winter storms, earthquakes, and a lesser risk of volcano action exist. The Park County Emergency Services Department offers great advice to stay prepared and safe.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Park County has seen just three robberies since 2000, giving it a very low risk. You're literally more likely to be robbed by a bear if you don't store your food right than another human being.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
While Yellowstone is a national treasure and always a potential target, there's no reason to pause your planning because of it. The risk is low, but it's important to stay aware of anything suspicious and report it.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
Any big tourist area should be treated with a medium risk for scams, and that starts the second you begin research. Don't use third-party websites like Craigslist to look for lodging, and use a certified travel planner vetted by the local Chamber of Commerce or state tourism organization. Never wire money to hold a reservation for rooms or tickets. If something seems suspicious, report it to the Montana Attorney General's Office.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women have a low risk here when it comes to crime, but provided they know wilderness and wildlife safety, there's a low risk there too.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Most tap water is from groundwater wells and would be tested by the establishment you're visiting. Since Gardiner is so close to Yellowstone, there are strict regulations about all touchstones of the water supply. The risk is low, but flooding incidents like the summer of 2022 can wreak havoc on the supply. Use the MT Department of Environmental Quality DEQ website to learn more information about water treatment in the state.
Safest Places to Visit in Gardiner
VisitGardinermt.com is the official tourism site for the city and a wonderful addition to your Yellowstone National Park trip.
The site includes dozens of tour options, from llama rides to private tours of geothermal features to tracking a wolf pack with local experts.
Use the NPS app and select Yellowstone National Park to get maps, alerts, and all kinds of safety information right from the park service.
Gallatin is also right next to the Gallatin Custer National Forest, which shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s not Yellowstone.
There are more than three million acres to consider.
Chico Hot Springs is a wonderful opportunity to soak in Hot Springs, as you can’t get into the geothermal waters of Yellowstone.
Two natural spring pools are available, and visitors who aren’t staying at the resort can get access.
The pools have no chemicals and are a safe temperature in a controlled environment.
Yellowstone Outpost Mall is a great place to explore the shops and pick up some outdoor supplies or souvenirs while soaking in stunning mountain views.
Gardiner’s largest store is Yellowstone Gifts & Sweets, with more than 500 types of candy, local arts and crafts, jewelry, and so much more.
Art lovers should check out:
- Yellowstone Gallery & Frameworks
- High Country Gallery
- Yellowstone Wild The Gallery
Tours and adventure companies offer guided opportunities for everything from hiking a summit, ziplining over bears, rafting down rough rapids, and fishing for several days.
Montana Whitewater is one of the most recommended vendors.
Yellowstone Roughriders is a woman-owned company that specializes in horseback adventures through the backcountry outside Yellowstone, with overnight trips available.
They are also the only company permitted to offer horseback rides in the park.
Places to Avoid in Gardiner
The town of Gardiner doesn’t have dangerous places or bad neighborhoods.
It’s a safe Basecamp for your trip.
The places to avoid are natural hazards that can be extremely close to safe places to visit.
Here are some Yellowstone National Park facts you won’t see in a travel brochure to help you avoid making bad choices:
- Bison are responsible for more human injuries in Yellowstone than any other animal.
- More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after falling into Yellowstone’s hot springs, including a gruesome tale in 1981 when a man jumped in to save a Great Dane who did the same. Neither survived.
- If you step off a boardwalk, you could think you’re stepping on solid land, when really it’s a thin crust with boiling mud or water underneath.
- If you aren’t familiar with the topography around a stream or river, you could be inundated with floodwaters or snow runoff.
- Trail markings can be vandalized, removed, or destroyed by fire. Always have a compass and a map you’re trained to use.
- Wyoming is known for its winds, and the NPS shared this information with us, “Calm, sunny mornings can abruptly turn into fierce, stormy days. Gusty, south-to-southwest winds are common in the afternoon.”
- Winter visitors could easily become dehydrated at this elevation (6,000′), and if water bottles aren’t insulated, the water supply could freeze.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Gardiner
- Law enforcement for Gardiner comes from the Park County Sheriff’s Office. If you’re looking for them on social media, be sure you got the one in Montana, as Wyoming and Colorado will come up in the first search results if you don’t.
- Also, follow Park County’s government on Facebook @ParkCoMT. This will keep you informed of additional safety information and guidance, like health alerts and traffic accidents that impact access to the park or the main road out of town.
- Use MDT511 for travel and road conditions throughout the region. You’ll get live maps of weather conditions, traffic backups, construction zones, and accidents. Live cameras are also available.
- Follow Inciweb for the latest wildfire activity in the region. It’s most important to know if there’s an active fire nearby, but also if other fires are impacting air quality or if prescribed burns are scheduled that could look like a dangerous fire but be under control.
- Carry bear spray with you at all times and know how to use it. You won’t be able to fly on a plane with it, but it’s available at most stores and throughout Yellowstone kiosks. The spray is only used if a bear is approaching you, not as a deterrent like bug spray.
- It is strongly recommended that hiking groups go with three or more people, for everyone’s safety, especially in case of a bear confrontation. A larger group means bears will smell human scents better, more human eyes to spot a bear, and more people to scream “HEY BEAR!” if a bear gets too close. In March 2022, an experienced hiker made the mistake of splitting up from a friend on the path and was later found dead of an apparent grizzly bear attack.
- I once drove through Wyoming with my dad, and we came around a corner to a giant herd of bison on the roadway. This kind of thing is prone to happen in Gardiner and Yellowstone. Do you know what to do if this happens to you? Do not do what I did as a precocious 12-year-old and get out of the car screaming at the bison to move their lazy backsides. Just sit in the car and wait. If you see wildlife while driving and want to get a look safely inside your car, pull all the way off the road and don’t slow down other traffic.
- No matter where you hike in this region, avoid doing so at dawn, dusk, and at night. That’s when bears are most active. Always carry food in bear-proof containers. Do not so much as leave a candy bar wrapper exposed.
- Should you be in this area when there’s a risk of flooding, backtrack to Big Sky or Bozeman. 10,000 people were evacuated from Yellowstone in the 2022 floods, and some were trapped while 87 had to be rescued. It’s not worth taking the chance, especially as full repair of damaged areas will take years to complete.
- Anglers need a fishing permit, and there’s a different one for fishing outside the park with a special permit needed inside the park. Use the NPS website and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Park.
So... How Safe Is Gardiner Really?
Park County has a historically low crime rate, especially considering the number of tourists who come and go each year.
In 2021, just 20% of violent crimes happened against strangers, lowering the risk even more.
The county hasn’t seen a homicide since 2014.
The rest of the risks here are largely dependent on how prepared you are for the weather, wilderness, and wildlife.
Don’t be shy when it comes to asking for help or guidance.
If you aren’t ready to explore alone, take a tour to get a lay of the land and some sage advice.
If you really need a wake-up call to the dangers, there’s a book called Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park that details some pretty gruesome ways to go.
It’s not to scare you away from the park, but as the author says, “We were talking about what books were important for tour guiding, and somebody suggested, ‘I know the book that ought to be written – a book about the ways people get themselves killed in the park.'”
Follow all warning signs and road condition notices when you’re visiting here, especially in the winter.
It’s really a safe place if you follow all the rules and study wildlife safety tips.
How Does Gardiner Compare?
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You'll need a passport and visa or visa waiver to get into the country if you're traveling internationally. You won't need to show additional ID at the state park, but you will need to give personal information to get a park pass or pay the entrance fee.
Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is allowed here, and most businesses will accept credit cards. Exchange currency before you leave your hometown or when you get to the airport, as currency exchange will be hard to find in this small town.
A robust all four seasons happen here, with winters being snowy and cold while summers can get near 90°(F). Bring layers of clothing with flexible fabrics and learn the basics of dressing in layers to prevent water or sweat from impacting the bottom layer. You'll want hiking or snow boots, depending on the season. Bug spray and sunscreen will be needed too.
The closest commercial airport is 83 miles away at Bozeman Yellowstone International. Billings has an international airport 167 miles away. You can also opt for Jackson Hole, Wyoming's airport, which is 165 miles away.
Whether you're booking individual reservations or doing a packaged deal, look for travel insurance that covers weather delays, emergencies, severe weather on the ground, or medical issues.
Gardiner Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Montana - Safety by City