Yellowstone is the obvious first suggestion :-)
More details re: your timeframe would be helpful.
Take the short drive (less than an hour) and spend a night in Red Lodge. Wonderful town. Get up early the next day and head over Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone via the Lamar Valley. Spend a night in the park, then head out via Cody to get over to Mt. Rushmore.
You are getting close to snowy days, but arriving on 10/1 should keep you in good shape. Spend a night in Red Lodge for sure, and explore the area on the Red Lodge side of the pass that day. The next day, drive up the Beartooth Highway and then down into Yellowstone as suggested, then maybe over to Yellowstone before.
Alternately, go down the Chief Joseph Highway to Cody and skip Yellowstone this time. The Buffalo Bill Center there is well worth a visit.
From Cody, you can check out the Bighorn Canyon near Lovell, Thermopolis, and the Medicine Wheel Highway on your way east to the Black Hills.
The Red Lodge/Beartooth route is a great idea, but be aware that the Beartooth Highway could be closed by that time if enough snow flies. You can still access the park a few other ways. Just get out of Billings and head west if you want to see MT in all its splendor! With three days I'd suggest heading to the Yellowstone via Bozeman/Big Sky and West Yellowstone. Stay in the park if possible and head back to Billings via Cooke City and the Beartooth Hwy. if it's open, and Mammouth/Livingston if it is not. That would give you a good loop with stunning scenery and almost certainly some elk, bear and wolf sightings.
Thanks for all these suggestions. We have visited Yellowstone/Cody before and so are looking to see more of Montana and drive the Beartooth pass (if it's open) We are considering:
#2 Billings to Bozeman down to Mammoth over Beartooth Pass to Billings.
Which loop would have the best scenery or are there any other options. thanks:)
Bozeman connects to West Yellowstone
Livingston connects to Mammoth
Red Lodge connects to the Beartooth Highway.
You run a risk of the pass being closed, or the road from Old Faithful to Mammoth being closed, or the road from Mammoth to Cooke City being closed. You won't be able to tell in advance.
You will be able to get TO the park, just maybe not through it.
So if your #1 priority is to go to the Beartooth Highway, go to Red Lodge and spend the first night there. The next morning, go as far as you can. Even if the pass is snowy you can go up a certain distance safely. If the pass and roads are open, go on into the park and spend the night either in Mammoth or Old Faithful. They're both still open for lodging.
The drive from Old Faithful/West Yellowstone to Billings is pretty long. If you really want to see Montana, spend the third night in Bozeman or Livingston. You can make it to the Black Hills the next day if you're up for a fairly long drive.
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