By E.J. Daws Explore Big Sky Staff Writer

LIVINGSTON – Many of Montana’s best treasures are hidden in plain sight.

Such is the case with the Yellowstone Valley Lodge, which offers visitors and locals a lodging and gourmet dining experience on the banks of the Yellowstone River in stunning Paradise Valley. With an affinity for, as its website notes, “falling asleep to the sound of the river and a weak spot for high-count linens, fishing packages and microbrews,” the lodge delivers a perfect rally point for southwest Montana adventurers.

The lodge’s 36 sprawling acres are a stone’s throw from Bozeman, while Yellowstone National Park sits essentially in its backyard. To the east and west lie the Absaroka and Gallatin ranges respectively, and in between winds the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48, the Yellowstone.

These blue ribbon waters are the lodge’s main attraction, as it’s catered to fly fishers since it opened as a guest ranch in 1978. The property, which has operated as a lodge since it came under new ownership in 2008, is set on a bluff above the river, surrounded by open fields and stands of tall cottonwoods. Caddis hatches offer a barometer for what’s biting on the river, so you never need to leave your seat around the cozy outdoor firepits, or set down your Cabernet to know if the hatch is on. If that’s not enough, maybe the drift boats that pass every 10 minutes with rods bent in half can serve as a cue.

While many anglers fish until sunset, some try to balance their addictions by experiencing the epicenter of Yellowstone Valley Lodge – the dining. Executive Chef Marcos Mustain has quietly built a destination restaurant with an exquisite menu.

Focusing on farm-to-table fare, the menu at the Yellowstone Valley Grill is as varied as the surrounding scenery. From bison filet with local veggies and Shields Valley pan-seared chicken, to Hawaiian tuna or Peking duck wraps, Mustain offers a diverse menu served with fantastic presentation.

The quiet indoor or outdoor dining atmosphere affords a chance to recap the day while savoring a choice from the broad wine list or a refreshing microbrew.

If you’re lucky enough to book a reservation for one of the private, newly renovated cabins, you’ll find it well worth your while. Lined on a bluff approximately 40 feet above the river, each cabin offers a private deck overlooking the alpenglow-soaked Absarokas, and modern amenities to take the edge off any “roughing it” you may have experienced that day.

Like so many Montana treasures that go unnoticed, you’ve probably driven by the lodge on your way from Livingston to Gardiner. Next time, whether you’re just coming off the river or rolling home from the park, slow down. Allow yourself to stare at the jagged peaks, listen to trout slurp their dinner off the river surface, and enjoy yours at the Yellowstone Valley Lodge.

Find more at yellowstonevalleylodge.com.