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Ennis, Montana: Trout Rule

Main Street in Ennis, Montana, is only two-blocks long, but this quaint town near Yellowstone National Park leaves a big impression. 

an orange sculpture of a trout by Janet McGahan over looks a river in Ennis, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Stephen Saks Photography/Alamy
Photo caption
Janet McGahan’s art overlooks the Madison River.

Perched on the Madison River and surrounded by three mountain ranges, this hopping ranch town makes a delightful gateway to Yellowstone National Park, situated about 70 miles southeast.

  • Take the Ennis Outdoor Art Tour to see public art celebrating the area’s outdoor heritage. Large-scale works range from Jim Dolan’s 150-foot-long fly-fisherman sculpture at the town entrance to A.C. Lyon’s carved string of pack mules parading across the front of the Ennis Cafe. You can’t miss the leaping sculptures portraying trout scattered around Ennis, such as one by Janet McGahan.

  • At the RiverStone Gallery you may see Bern Sundell working on one of his giant paintings of brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. Can’t tote one home? Opt for the sparkling jewelry he makes with his wife, gallery co-owner Lexi.

  • Trout are totemic here, as evidenced by the city’s welcome sign (840 people, 11,000,000 trout) and all the fish art. With the Tackle Shop, outfitting anglers since 1937, take a guided fishing trip or a fly-fishing lesson.

  • To experience the water without donning waders, walk the trail in Ennis Lions Club Park to the river’s edge, where you can sit on a bench and watch the blue roll by.

  • Belly up to counter at the Gravel Bar, its walls bordered with horseshoes, for a craft beer (try the Cold Smoke Scotch Ale) with a smoked brisket sandwich.

  • In the Willie’s Distillery tasting room, cocktails may feature Bighorn Bourbon, Montana Moonshine, or Montana Wild chokecherry liqueur. Area musicians play on Friday nights.

  • Reserve ahead at the Continental Divide Restaurant & Bistro, where chef Eric Trapp highlights regional ingredients with cosmopolitan flair. Enjoy bison bourguignon or wild walleye crusted with macadamia nuts in a dining room facing the mountains.

This article was first published in Fall 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.