By Melanie Pollard
When looking for a place to stay near Yellowstone National Park, don’t look any farther than Red Lodge, Montana. Our drive from Billings, Montana, toward the Beartooth Highway, took us through Red Lodge for a one-night stay at a haunted hotel near Yellowstone National Park.
A friend told us about a historic and haunted hotel named, “The Pollard Hotel,” where Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane had often visited. So, of course, we had to stop and investigate a haunted hotel with my last name.
Red Lodge, Montana, the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park
When planning a Yellowstone National Park visit, flying in and out of Billings, Montana can save you money on airfare. Billings is one of the larger airports near the park, and Red Lodge is a short one hour and 15 minutes away from Billings.
Your stay in Red Lodge will provide a small-town atmosphere at the entrance to the Beartooth Highway, the most scenic highway into Yellowstone National Park, and one of the most glorious drives in the entire United States. Plan on two and a half hours to drive from Red Lodge to Cooke City, the nearest entrance to Yellowstone, all while memorializing snow-tipped mountains, glaciers, and mountain views with your camera. Plan to keep your jacket handy for the windy and cooler conditions on the highway. The highway usually closes from September until May, so be sure to look up weather conditions before you go.
Welcome to the Pollard Hotel
Walking into the Pollard Hotel, we immediately felt a warm ambiance in the beautiful, polished wood surroundings.
Guests easily relax in comfortable surroundings at the Pollard Hotel. An open atrium makes you feel like you’re in a large open living room.
Breakfast at the Pollard was delicious and satisfying. It was a great way to start out the day looking forward to the Beartooth Highway experience.
The Hauntings at The Pollard Hotel
Apparently the hotel is haunted by a number of ghosts, both male and female, with the third floor granting some of the more notable ghostly sightings. Some people believe one of the hotel’s ghost visitors to be a prankster who frequents the bar regularly. A woman with a yellow dress has also been seen on the third floor.
Witnesses have reported smelling French perfume on the second floor. Those who enter Room 310 often find the light turned on. You can turn it off and leave for a number of minutes, but it will often return to the on position again. Some have heard unexplained noises in the basement.
A Ghost Monkey?
There are stories of the Pollard children having a pet monkey who escaped during a renovation. It is rumored the monkey might have been somewhere behind a wall during the renovations since he was never found. He now frequents the hotel in ghostly form. The staff told us how a housekeeper continuously cleaned the front door glass and came back, again and again, to find tiny handprints after just cleaning it. No children were staying in the hotel at the time!
I have to admit, ghost stories are intriguing, but ghost monkey stories own me!
Follow history to The Pollard Hotel
You can imagine how excited the townspeople must have been in 1893 when Red Lodge’s first brick building was built. The Pollard Hotel was originally named The Spofford Hotel and cost close to $20,000. It also housed the 1st State Bank.
Thomas Pollard bought the thirty-five room hotel in 1902 and renamed it The Pollard. He added twenty-five guest rooms, an ornate lobby, an intimate dining room, a lounge with a bar and card and billiard tables, one bowling alley, and a full-service barbershop.
The Pollard Hotel gained national attention and became the west’s gathering place for political, theatrical, cowboy, and business personalities in the late 1800s. Famous names such as William Jennings Bryan, the known silver-tongued orator, and William and Marcus Daly, the copper kings, signed the early registers.
Buffalo Bill Cody spent many nights in the lobby socializing with locals. Calamity Jane would occasionally interrupt the quietness of the hotel with her tall tales of sharp-shooting.
Stroll through historic Red Lodge
We found the town to have great restaurants from which to choose as well as colorful history and wildlife viewing.
Local residents try to protect their fauna from the plentiful wildlife visitors.
The downtown area is full of unique shops, a western saloon, and an authentic theatre. Looking closely, you see architectural designs from the 1800s.
We had a delicious meal at the Prerogative Kitchen on the main street, Broadway.
Fountain Park is home to quaint log homes
Just beyond the seven-block downtown district is a historic residential area called Fountain Park. Various European immigrant groups moved to Red Lodge in the 1880s to work in the coal mines. The original log homes in the park display small decorative touches of an immigrant’s homeland.
Red Lodge’s Most Famous Resident
Liver-Eatin’ Johnson (Jeremiah Johnson), a noted Indian scout who lived near Red Lodge, frequented The Pollard Hotel. His real name was John Garrison. According to historians, Johnson denied ever eating another person’s liver, but one time in a knife fight against a Sioux Indian, he stabbed the warrior, and a piece of his liver came out on the knife. The scout convinced a squeamish old man that he had eaten part of the liver –and the nickname stuck.
Johnson served as the marshall of Red Lodge in the 1880’s. His home, a log cabin, is displayed in front of the Red Lodge Visitor’s Center. Three families lived in this small one-room cabin during an especially harsh winter, thanks to Johnson’s generosity.
Discover Red Lodge’s small-town flavor
There are touches of whimsy in yards and front porches, showing artistic use of specialty items.
Visit Red Lodge, Montana and The Pollard Hotel during your next visit to the area. Located at the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park and the Beartooth Highway, you will find this small, historic town full of hospitality and charm.
A huge thank you to The Pollard Hotel and Prerogative for their generous hospitality. We enjoyed some services on this visit as professional bloggers, but as always, all opinions are our own.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a very small commission to help fund the Grans On The Go blog. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and we think will add value to our readers.