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35 Best Places to Visit in Montana

35 Best Places to Visit in Montana

Looking for places to visit in Montana? Frequently known as Big Sky Country, the western state of Montana offers a diverse landscape of rugged mountains, desert plains, rivers, and hot springs. Yes, hot springs. Who knew?

Whether you’re heading to northwestern Montana, southern Montana, or the Rocky Mountain region of western Montana, you’ll find a wide variety of activities and attractions for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and fans of art and culture, dinosaurs, and the Wild West. We like to think dinosaurs go well with the Wild West.

Cowboy in a Dinosaur

Speaking of wild things, you’ll want to keep an eye out for elk, bison, buffalo, moose, and grizzly bears (the state animal, by the way) while vacationing in Montana. There are more cows than people in Montana, so there’s that.

Montana – sometimes called the Treasure State due to the gold, copper, silver, coal, and sapphire mining – is the only U.S. state to border three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Round up your crew and let’s check out some of the best things to do in Montana. Watch out for the dinosaurs!

Glacier Country

Northwest Montana’s Glacier Country is all about lake life, ghost towns, and idyllic river scenes (all backed by the glacier-carved mountains, forests, and lakes of Glacier National Park). Towns in Glacier Country include Missoula, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell.

1. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Whether it’s glacier-carved peaks, pristine lakes, rugged trails, or local wildlife, you’ll find all of it at Glacier National Park. Lake McDonald is the largest in the park and a kayaking and canoeing destination.

Book a whitewater rafting trip on the Flathead River, which features Class II rapids. You’ll have magnificent views of John Stevens Canyon and Glacier National Park as you careen down eight miles of rapids.

You’ll also find the Continental Divide, which separates the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. The entire trail is 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada. There are 110 miles of it within the park. You can hike along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) as it curves along the Lewis Range to Flattop Mountain and beyond.

Glacier Park has another interesting formation known as the Triple Divide, as some of the waters can flow in three directions (the Atlantic, Pacific, and Hudson Bay).

So, there’s your geography lesson for the day.

2. Visit a Ghost Town

Ghost Town

Montana ghost towns are a must-do when in Big Sky Country. While there’s not much left of their heyday, it’s interesting to see the remains and imagine what once went on there. Keystone, Beartown, Pardee, Taft, and Garnet are a couple to add to your list.

Garnet is one of the best and most preserved. It was well-known for gold, and ruby-colored stones, in the 1850s. You can actually rent a cabin (primitive, yes, but still a cabin) during the winter and enjoy walking among an old schoolhouse, a jail, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, and a post office.

Originally called Carter, Keystone was the source of gold and silver. There’s not much left today, save for a few crumbling buildings.

Taft was once described as “the wickedest city in America.” Now, it has a few unoccupied buildings that may have been saloons, dance halls, and gambling houses – as well as houses of ill repute!

See Related: Best Leech Lake Resorts in Walker, Minnesota

3. Lewis and Clark Trail

Lewis and Clark Trail
Image by Bureau used under CC BY 2.0

The famous Lewis and Clark Trail starts somewhere around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and winds all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.

The Lewis and Clark Trail enters the state in northeast Montana at the North Dakota border where it splits off and runs to the southeast and northeast across the state into Idaho.

And when did these intrepid explorers take their mighty journey? That would be 1804 to 1806. You should read The Journals of Lewis And Clark for a really wild ride.

And there’s your history lesson for the day.

4. Clark Fork River

Clark Fork River
Image by Urdangaray used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the longest rivers in Big Sky Montana, the Clark Fork River runs for more than 280 miles to the Idaho border.

It’s one of the most popular fly-fishing destinations in the country. Not into fishing? Go kayaking, rafting, and river surfing as your Montana travel guide takes you across the region.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Rolla, Missouri

5. Missoula Art Museum

Take a break from the rugged landscape and check out contemporary work by Montana artists at Missoula Art Museum. Opened in 1975, it has eight exhibition rooms, an education center, art galleries, and a library.

Additionally, the museum features rotating exhibits from other nations as well as international artists and hosts a number of interesting outreach programs.

Need a place to stay nearby? Lolo Hot Springs is an excellent choice for accommodations near Missoula. An all-in-one resort and activities site, there are indoor and outdoor thermal springs, a restaurant, a bar, and a casino as well as a golf course, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.

6. Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Located in Flathead County, Flathead Lake in Flathead Lake State Park offers fishing among 200 square miles of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River.

Reel in rainbow and cutthroat trout or just spend the day cruising around Flathead Lake, which separates two branches of the Flathead River. You’ll also find the stunning Flathead Indian Reservation along the Flathead River.

Looking for a hotel near Flathead Lake during your visit to Montana and the Rocky Mountains? Best Western Plus Flathead Lake Inn and Suites is a terrific choice for the whole group.

There’s an indoor swimming pool, a business center, and a daily hot breakfast.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in St. Charles, Missouri

7. Blackfoot River

Blackfoot River

Glacier Country’s Blackfoot River is the setting for A River Runs Through It (either the book by Norman Maclean or the 1992 film starring Brad Pitt, pick whichever you prefer) an early 1900s tale about two brothers growing up on the riverfront.

Funnily enough, the movie was actually filmed in Livingston and Bozeman on the Upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers. Presumably, Blackfoot River didn’t look enough like Blackfoot River.

Either way, we’ve probably all dreamed of casting a line or two here. Grab a license and start angling!

8. Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Located within the Flathead National Forest, Whitefish Mountain Resort has 3,000 acres and 111 marked trails. It’s one of the best places to visit in Montana for downhill, bowl, and tree skiing.

Prefer summer sports? You can also go mountain biking, hiking, soar on a zip-line, or experience an aerial adventure park at this national forest destination.

Looking for accommodations near Whitefish Mountain and the national forest? Check out this ski-in walk-out condo at Whitefish Mountain Resort. It can accommodate three adults and features a kitchen, a ski locker, and a cozy fireplace.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the US

9. Whitefish Lake

Whitefish Lake

Get out into the great outdoors at Whitefish Lake! Mountain peaks rise above the clear alpine waters of Whitefish Lake where visitors can take part in boating, fishing, biking, swimming, and waterskiing.

There are 25 sites for RVs and tents, making it one of our favorite places to visit and sleep under the stars in Montana.

Southwest Montana

The Southwestern Montana region is home to the Montana state capital of Helena as well as whitewater rafting, state parks, and cultural sites.

Butte is called the “richest hill on Earth” due to gold, silver, and copper mining. Other towns in southwest Montana include Dillon, Lincoln, Jackson, Philipsburg, and Virginia City.

10. Great Divide Ski Area

Great Divide Ski Area

Located about 22 miles from the Montana state capital of Helena, the Great Divide Ski Area is one of the best places to visit in western Montana.

It offers freestyle terrain for all levels of skier. You can rent skis, bindings, boots, and snowboards, which frees you up from lugging around bulky ski bags while traveling through airports.

See Related: Best Skiing Resorts in Minnesota

11. Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park

Who wants to go to a ghost town? Yes, please! When wondering what to do in Montana, ghost towns are a must.

This Montana park features more than 60 log-framed structures that are part of an abandoned mining town and main street. It was the site of Montana’s first significant gold rush discovery in 1862.

The town is the most preserved of any Montana ghost town. You can walk around and explore the colorful local history. Check out mercantile stores, a hotel, a church, and a masonic lodge/schoolhouse in this old west town, which is a National Historic Landmark.

There are also bike trails, picnic sites, and campsites for RVs and tents within the state park.

12. Big Hole National Battlefield

Big Hole National Battlefield

Part of the Nez Perce National Historical Park (which stretches into Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), Big Hole National Battlefield is the site of a battle that took place in August 1877 during the Nez Perce War.

The 655-acre national parks site has a visitor center with exhibits and four trails that lead around the park for self-guided tours.

There is a ton to explore here so you might want to spend the night. Located in Big Hole Valley (near Maverick Mountain Ski Area, Bannack, and Big Hole National Battlefield) Jackson Hot Springs Lodge makes unique and comfortable accommodations for a trip to Montana.

There’s a bar and a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are a few pet-friendly rooms, so bring along those four-legged travelers. They’ll want to check out what to see in Montana along with you.

Soak in a relaxing pool of geothermally heated water, sleep in a cozy pine cabin, or go fishing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. You can also take it easy with shuffleboard and billiards. The pool is open to the public if you’re not interested in spending the night.

See Related: Most Beautiful Valleys in the US

13. Black Sandy Hauser Lake State Park

Black Sandy Hauser Lake State Park
Image by TripAdvisor

Black Sandy Hauser Lake State Park, located in Lewis and Clark County, is one of the best places to visit in Montana for boating enthusiasts.

Fishing, swimming, mountain biking, picnicking, and camping are also popular in the 43-acre park.

14. Go Rockhounding at Crystal Park

Go Rockhounding at Crystal Park
Image by TripAdvisor

The fancy-sounding pursuit of “rockhounding” is just the activity of searching for and collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils. Still, it’s surprisingly fun!

Crystal Park is one of the most popular and scenic spots. It’s located along the Pioneer Scenic Byway near the Wise River. You just might find amethyst and quartz to add to your collection.

See Related: Proven Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms

15. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Image by Troy Smith used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Channel your inner explorer among the beautiful limestone caverns at the 3,000-acre Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Discovered in 1892, Clark Caverns is Montana’s most famous state park.

Enjoy hiking along 10 miles of trails or take guided cave tours of Clark Caverns State Park to check out stalagmites and stalactites. Clark Caverns is considered one of the most incredible natural wonders in Montana. Meriwether and William would be proud.

16. Take the Alder Gulch Shortline Train

Take the Alder Gulch Shortline Train
Image by tjflex2 used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you don’t take a train ride, have you really been to the Wild West? Sure, but trains make everything more fun! Choo-choo!

The Alder Gulch Shortline train, a 30-inch narrow gauge railroad, travels about 1.5 miles from Virginia City to Nevada City past several ghost towns and stunning western scenery. Don’t forget your camera!

See Related: Best Places to Live in Virginia

17. See a Show at the Virginia City Opera House

Virginia City Opera House.jfif
Image by Vivaverdi used under CC BY 3.0

For a taste of comedy, culture, and drama after a day of rugged cowboy activity, mosey on over to the Opera House.

This replica 19th Century historic building makes the perfect backdrop for performances by the Virginia City Players. Performances only take place during the summer months – and they are about the most American thing you’ll ever see.

18. Granite County Museum & Cultural Center

The Granite County Museum offers a look at mining, ranching, pioneer life, and the Montana gold rush through exhibits, photographs, and historic structures.

It’s run entirely by volunteers that manage an ever-expanding array of displays. It’s open daily during the summer and by appointment only in winter.

See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit

19. The World Museum of Mining

Still hungry for mining knowledge? I thought as much!

On 22 acres of land that was once an actual mine yard, the World Museum of Mining features more than 50 exhibits, artifacts, and mine yard exhibits. There’s also an underground mine tour that takes you 100 feet into the Orphan Girl Mine!

Central Montana

Tucked in between Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Canadian border, central Montana offers a wide-open region of wildflower fields, mountain biking paths, and western frontier history. Towns in central Montana include Havre, Lewistown, and Great Falls.

20. Castle Museum in White Sulphur

Castle Museum in White Sulphur

Built in 1892, Castle Museum is a stunning example of Victorian architecture inside and out. A former home, the Castle Museum is made from hand-cut granite blocks from the nearby Castle Mountain in this Montana town.

Here you can stroll through rooms filled with original hardwood floors, plush Belgian and Oriental rugs, gorgeous Italian marble, and stunning crystal fixtures, admiring the lot of it.

See Related: Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

21. Giant Springs State Park

Giant Springs State Park
Image by Montanabw used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Giant Springs State Park, located just outside of Great Falls, sits along the Missouri River and has one of the largest freshwater springs in the U.S. If springs ain’t your thing, go fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and birdwatching during your visit in Montana.

Open for more than 50 years, Deep Canyon Guest Ranch is located south of Glacier National Park in the Teton Canyon. It’s about an hour from Giant Springs State Park and makes a terrific spot to base your Great Falls Central Montana vacation.

Choose from three log-cabin-style duplexes with private bathrooms or a guest house with three private rooms. There’s also an A-frame cabin with a kitchen and dining area that’s perfect for families on an extended vacation.

Enjoy homecooked meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Take part in activities like horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and tubing the Teton River. For a genuine Montana dude ranch experience, it can’t be beaten!

Another lodging option in Great Falls is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Great Falls. There’s an indoor pool with a slide as well as a hot tub, a fitness center, a business center, and laundry facilities.

22. Travel the Montana Dinosaur Trail

T-rex fossil
Image by Tim Evanson used under CC BY-SA 2.0

No need for safari vehicles or Jeff Goldblum on this dinosaur tour! The trail consists of a series of 14 museums, sites, and attractions that can be found throughout central and eastern Montana.

It’s a dino nut’s heaven!

Travel to Montana to visit some of them, including The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, the Upper Musselshell Museum in Harlowton, the Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, the Blaine County Museum in Chinook, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, and the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka.

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Running Trails in America

Yellowstone Country

Yellowstone Country is found in south-central Montana and features a diverse scene of natural springs, iconic parks, and outdoor recreation along the Yellowstone River.

Top towns to visit include Gardiner, Livingston, West Yellowstone, and Bozeman, which is home to Montana State University.

23. Spend a few days at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone’s most famous faithful friend, Old Faithful, is in the Wyoming section of the park. It’s only about 40 miles from Gardiner, so it may be worthwhile to go while you have the chance. The west entrance is the closest to Old Faithful. Even if don’t go, you’ll still be able to check out waterfalls, western landscapes, and wildlife such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Take a guided wildlife tour of Yellowstone National Park to get a real insider’s point of view. Tours start in Gardiner and offer the chance to see bears, bison, moose, and more as you learn about the area from knowledgeable guides.

Yellowstone is one of the best places to visit in Montana, so you’ll want to savor the chance to explore as much of this national parks wonderland as you can. Check out the hiking trails, the Yellowstone River, and the Rocky Mountains of West Yellowstone.

Looking for accommodations near West Yellowstone?

Surrounded by mountain peaks, Yellowstone Village Inn and Suites has an indoor pool, a lounge area, a picnic area, a sun deck, and free Wi-Fi. Guest rooms have a fridge, a coffeemaker, and flat-screen TVs. Breakfast options are available.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, named after the nearby springs and located in Yellowstone, offers suites, deluxe rooms, frontier cabins, and two-room cabins. Where else will you see elk grazing right outside your door?

24. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Wolf Discovery Center
Image by Mariomassone used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located in West Yellowstone, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a fun way to learn about local wildlife, particularly the once-endangered grizzly bear and gray wolf.

It’s one of the best places to visit in Montana for wildlife enthusiasts. Here you can visit grizzly bears, gray wolves, river otters, and birds of prey up close while vacationing in Montana.

If you need somewhere to stay nearby, Gray Wolf Inn & Suites is conveniently located near the Discovery Center. It has an indoor heated pool, a sauna, and a hot tub.

Guest rooms have a mini-fridge, a coffee maker, a microwave, and free Wi-Fi. Pets are welcome at no extra charge.

See Related: Different Types of Hotel Rooms

25. Gallatin Canyon

Gallatin Canyon

Take a Sunday (or Monday or Tuesday) drive along the scenic Gallatin Canyon. Enjoy views of Montana scenery like Quake Lake, Madison Valley, and Lone Peak as you follow the Gallatin River.

The Gallatin River area is popular for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking trails, and fly fishing. When you’re searching for things to see in Montana, pencil some of them into your itinerary.

26. Bozeman Hot Springs

Bozeman Hot Springs
Image by Matt Lavin used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Relax in indoor and outdoor pools fed by natural springs. There are 12 different pools ranging in temperature from 59 to 106 degrees. There are dry and wet saunas and a gym. It’s convenient to Gallatin, so if you’re taking a drive along the canyon, stop in for a float.

Big Sky Resort, one of the best Montana vacation spots, is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all interests. Whether it’s downhill skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, ziplining, or golf, Big Sky Resort has it.

Several different accommodations include the Summit Hotel, Huntley Lodge, the Village Center Hotel, and the Shoshone Condominium Hotel.

See Related: Ways to Get Paid to Travel and Take Photos

Missouri River Country

For rodeos, river rafting, and wildlife refuges, there’s no greater place than Missouri River Country. Base yourself in towns such as Glasgow, Sidney, or Scobey to enjoy Montana’s attractions.

27. Missouri River

Missouri River

The Missouri River is one of the best places to visit in Montana for the anglers in your crew. They can cast a line for walleye, northern pike, sturgeon, and lake trout till their arms fall off (we hope they don’t, though).

28. Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station

Opened in 2008, the aforementioned Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station has tons of dinosaur fossils and fascinating prehistoric exhibits.

Check out the triceratops, stegosaurus, and sauropod that were found in the area! It’s one of the premier sites on the Montana Dinosaur Trail, and a great day out for any budding paleontologist.

See Related: What to Bring on a Camping Trip with Friends

29. Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge

Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge

Once roamed by dinosaurs, Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge (CMRNWR) is the second largest wildlife refuge in the continental US. With 1.1 million acres of prairies, forest, and rivers, it can’t be beaten for nature viewing, birdwatching, boating, and fishing.

The largest population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, outside of the Rocky Mountains, can be found at CMRNWR.

Sorry, no dinosaurs. Bighorn sheep will have to do.

30. Check out a Montana Rodeo

Girl in Montana Rodeo

When in Big Sky western country … it’s rodeo time! Annual rodeos by the Professional Bull Rider (PBR) or Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) take place in June, July, and August.

A couple of rodeo venues include the Richland County Fair & Rodeo in Sidney and the Daniels County Fair & Rodeo in the Montana city of Scobey.

See Related: Best Hot Air Balloon Rides Around the World

Southeast Montana

Discover a heaping helping of western hospitality (same as Southern but with cowboy hats), dinosaur fossils, cowboy culture, and ranch life in Southeast Montana. Towns like Billings, Miles City, and Glendive are ready to welcome you in with things to do in Montana Big Sky country.

31. Makoshika State Park

Makoshika State Park
Image by Larry D. Moore used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Montana’s largest state park, Makoshika State Park has T-rex and triceratops fossils as well as thousands of pine and juniper trees backed by badland formations.

Just what are “badlands,” anyway? Good question.

The word “badlands” refers to arid terrain with rich soil that’s been eroded into stunning formations. Examples include canyons, ravines, scrub desert, dry prairies, and gullies. It’s a bad land for farming or building. The more you know.

Activities within the park include hiking trails, mountain biking, hunting, campsites, a scenic driving trail, an outdoor amphitheater, and a picnic area.

32. Range Riders Museum

Founded in 1939, the Range Riders Museum, in Miles City, has lots of great exhibits from dinosaurs to the present day. You learn all about Native Americans, pioneers, ranchers, and railroads across Montanan history.

Kids can discover more about the past through the museum’s collection of photographs, and artifacts. They have a huge collection of antique weapons, saddles, arrowheads, carts, and even whole historic buildings!

See Related: Tourist-Friendly Native Indian Reservations to Visit

33. Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum

Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum

The 20,000-square-foot Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum is home to more than 23 full-size dinosaur fossils. Fossils are arranged in tune with Biblical history, which makes for a unique concept. Check out an 18-foot-tall T-rex, a mastodon, a dire wolf, and a giant sea turtle.

You can also sign up for a fossil dig in the badlands areas near the museum.

34. Go Ice Fishing at Bighorn Lake

Bighorn Lake

Put a challenge in your angling game by going ice fishing. The season runs from December to early March in Barry’s Landing area of the lake. Of course, you can always go fishing at other times of the year too.

35. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

The site of Custer’s last stand, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the national parks site of the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn (known to Native Americans as the Battle of Greasy Grass) and one of the most well-known attractions in Montana.

It’s a memorial to the lives lost among the US Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes and the site of Custer National Cemetery.

Explore photo galleries and the national park’s battlefield. There’s a 4.5-mile road tour where you can pull over and read historic facts relating to the battle. You can also listen to a narrative on your cell phone as you drive.

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