Outdoors in Paradise

Springtime in Livingston and the Paradise Valley offers much more than just the coveted re-opening of the beefburger stand. In addition to those delectable milkshakes, cheeseburgers, and 1950s-style nostalgia, the Livingston area provides a cornucopia of outdoor adventures guaranteed to put color back into your pasty winter skin.

The obvious post-winter activity that captivates many a Montana resident is whitewater paddling on rivers swollen with spring runoff. The quiet, slow, winter trickle becomes a rushing, deafening siege of frothy liquid that sends tingles down every eager boater’s spine. And the beautiful Yellowstone River boasts some of the finest whitewater in Southern Montana. A short drive from Livingston plops you at Joe Brown Creek, the put-in for Yankee Jim Canyon. This five-mile section takes you through Class III rapids, an awesome, narrow canyon—and spits you out at the Carbella take-out with a smile on your face. A little further down US 89 and you arrive in Gardiner and the gates of Yellowstone National Park. After a sampling of yet another famous Park County cheeseburger—this time, it’s Helen’s Corral on the north side of town—toss your boat in the water for another Class III stretch: the eight miles from the Gardiner put-in to Corwin Springs. If you are not an experienced boater but would like to take a stab at the rapids, contact Yellowstone Raft Company or Montana Whitewater to safely guide you through the rollers.

For many climbers tired of frostbite and broken toenails from vicious ice climbing boots, the sunny Montana crags just can’t warm up soon enough. Thanks to the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition (SMCC), the sun-baked Allenspur crag south of Livingston has re-opened. Livingston native Kevin Hutchinson is responsible for most of the first ascents of Allenspur routes, put up in the mid 1990s. While the rock itself lies on BLM land, the access was through a narrow strip of privately owned land. After Allenspur increased in popularity, access to the rock was denied, thus closing the crag and forcing Kevin to remove the bolts and hangers he had installed only a few years before. After much work and diligence from many local climbers, Hilda Harper granted an easement through her property to access the rock. Local hangglider pilot Barney Hallin surveyed the area, long-time climber and attorney Bill Dockins put the finishing touches on the easement, and the culmination of everyone’s efforts erupted as the SMCC went to work building a trail last summer. With a generous donation of bolts and hangers from Northern Lights Trading Co., the crag is back in business and can be accessed by parking at the Carter’s Bridge fishing access. With its sunny location Allenspur is a great spring and fall (or even winter!) climbing destination.

Hangglider and paraglider pilots have been soaring off the Hogback for 25 years or more. I spent an afternoon hiking up the spine of this pronounced geographic feature with local paraglider pilots, listening to a resonating POP as their wings filled with air. They were able to silently soar along the ridge for a half-hour or more before softly landing on the green valley floor. All you need is a steady northeast breeze to launch and soar along the ridge and venture out into the valley. Many pilots can be seen following the Yellowstone River through the canyon, with typical flights lasting from one to four hours. However, pilot Andy Macrae of Bozeman Paragliding had his longest flight in Montana off of the Hogback, an astounding 3 hours and 47 minutes. Macrae also related an interested wildlife encounter he experienced while soaring through the sky. “I flew around for quite a while with a pair of mating golden eagles. They were hooking talons and doing that tumbling thing that they do when they are courting. They were only about 20 feet in front of me at one point.”

With the amazing backdrop of the snowy, jagged Absaroka Range, springtime recreation in the Paradise valley is well worth the drive over the hill. And with so many activities to choose from, you might want to get that beefburger to go.