Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States of America and is located in the northwest of the country. Besides Canada, Montana borders the states of Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota and South Dakota. Montana has a population of just over one million, making it one of the most sparsely populated states in the United States. It is hardly surprising that there are more animals than people in Montana.
Montana is crossed by the Rocky Mountains in the west and the Great Plains in the east. There are also many national parks and state parks. The best known and most popular is Glacier National Park. But also parts of Yellowstone National Park are located in tranquil Montana. In addition, Montana is the only state in the U.S. that, according to its constitution, respects the cultural heritage of the indigenous people of North America. It’s the perfect place to learn about the life and culture of the thirteen indigenous tribes living in Montana. We present you now the 16 best places to visit in Montana.
16. Great Falls
Great Falls is the third largest city in Montana and has a population of approximately 50,000. Located on the Missouri River, the city is the perfect place to completely immerse yourself in nature. North of the city is Freezeout Lake. Besides breathtaking sunsets, the place is perfect for bird watching. In addition, the name Great Falls says it all, because the Rainbow Falls are not far from the city.
Another highlight is Giant Springs State Park, which is home to the largest freshwater spring in the country. For active vacationers, there are numerous hiking and biking trails around the city, with something for every fitness level. In addition to the Missouri River, there are other rivers and also lakes that invite swimming, kayaking and of course fishing.
15. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a national memorial commemorating the Battle of Little Bighorn. The monument is located on the Crow Indian Reservation east of the town of Billings. Also located here is the Reno Benteen Battlefield Memorial, which commemorates the last stand, of the battle. In addition to an informative exhibit, there is also a video showing of the historic events.
On the way to Rene-Benteen Hill, there are numerous viewpoints along the road with information boards about the events. At said battle, the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment was devastatingly defeated by the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota Sioux tribes. This represents the largest defeat of the American Army in the Indian Wars. A total of 268 soldiers were killed and 55 soldiers remained missing. On the other side, there were 300 missing and 64 casualties.
Missoula is located in western Montana and is surrounded by five mountain ranges, which is why the city is nicknamed the “hub of five valleys.” With so many mountains in the region, it’s not surprising that the town is perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Especially recommended is the Montana Snowbowl ski resort. In summer, the mountains are perfect for long hikes and mountain bike tours. A short hike to the big “M” on Mount Sentinel can be started directly from the city area.
Once at the top, you can overlook Missoula and the surrounding mountains. But the city is not just for hiking enthusiasts. As the second largest city in Montana, it offers all the amenities you would want from a city in the US. The college town has a vibrant arts and culture scene. There are cafes with their own coffee roasters, craft breweries and art galleries. In addition, Caras Park, which sits directly on the Clark Fork River, hosts numerous festivals and concerts in the summer.
13. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
In the southwest of the state is Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, which is known for its limestone caves. These were discovered in 1892 by a local hunter and subsequently explored further and further. The caverns are the largest limestone cave system in the northwestern United States and form Montana’s first state park. The caves can only be entered by tour, which occur primarily during the summer months and in December. Two tours are offered.
The Classic Tour visits most of the cave, but this tour requires a good fitness level. The Paradise Tour takes you to the most beautiful room in the cave, where there are numerous stalagmites and stalactites to see. Away from the limestone caves, the park offers numerous hiking opportunities. There is also a campground and various picnic facilities.
Founded in 1864, Helena was declared the capital of Montana in 1889. A walking tour, which you can do on your own, takes you along Reeder’s Alley. The red historic buildings give a glimpse of the city’s beginnings. In addition to an old firehouse, the homes of gold miners and miners stand here. St. Helena’s Cathedral in the city center can be recognized from afar by its striking red roofs. But the church is not only worth a visit from the outside.
During a city tour of tranquil Helena, the Montana State Capitol, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century, should not be missed. The Capitol can be visited with a guided tour. The surrounding mountains can be explored on numerous hikes. The Mount Helena City Park is one of the most popular. From the top of the mountain of the same name, you have a magnificent panoramic view of the state capital.
Not far from the Canadian border and the famous Glacier National Park lies the small town of Whitefish. In summer, it is a perfect starting point for exploring Glacier National Park. You can also go fishing and kayaking in the surrounding lakes. The mountains of the region can be climbed either hiking, but also climbing.
For those who want to learn how to climb or would like to have a guide with them, there are various climbing schools on site. In winter, on the other hand, the ski slopes of the Whitefish Mountain Resort beckon. It is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, guided snowmobile tours and snowshoeing are also very popular.
10. Flathead Lake
South of Whitefish is the largest freshwater lake by area in the western United States, not including Alaska. Picnic areas on the shores of the lake invite visitors to spend the day here. But overnight stays at the numerous campgrounds are also possible. Besides swimming, it is also possible to kayak on the lake. In addition, sailing boats are becoming more and more popular.
If you have always wanted to learn how to sail, you have the chance to learn at a sailing school on Flathead Lake. For those who like high speeds, motor boating and water skiing are offered. In the summer, keep your eyes open along the roads as the surrounding farmers sell their homegrown cherries, apples and plums.
9. West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone is located on the Wyoming border and is one of the entrances to Yellowstone National Park. Although this is largely in Wyoming, three percent of the national park is in Montana. Yellowstone National Park is known for its wildlife sightings, which notably include grizzly bears, bison, wolves, elk and other bear species. In addition, the park has some extraordinary highlights to offer due to geothermal activity.
Geysers like Old Faithful and Steamboat Geyser, which is the largest active geyser in the world, are located in the national park. With the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest thermal spring in the USA is located in Yellowstone National Park. This is also the third largest in the world and can convince with its intense colors. Of course, there are also many hiking trails, campgrounds and even hotels in the park.
The city of Bozeman is located in southern Montana and is perfect as a base for exploring northern Yellowstone National Park. Just like the city of Missoula, Bozeman is a location of Montana State University and thus has the amenities of a college town. These include many cafes, bars and restaurants. There are also some very nice museums located in the city. The Museum of the Rockies has an extensive collection of fossils, which includes dinosaurs.
At the American Computer & Robotics Museum, you can see firsthand how much technology has evolved in recent decades and what, for example, the first computers looked like. Another common feature with Missoula is the big “M”, which is located on a mountain and can be reached on a hike from the city. Once at the top, you are rewarded with a magnificent view over Bozeman.
7. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is definitely one of the highlights of any trip through Montana. Located on the border with Canada, the national park merges with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. The high mountains of the Rocky Mountains, the glaciers and lakes combined with the deep trough valleys formed by the glaciers form a very unique landscape, which is also untouched in many places. Over seventy species of mammals live in the national park, including coyotes, wolves, cougars and, of course, various species of bears.
In addition, there are over 250 species of birds, including the bald eagle, the heraldic bird of the United States. Passing glacial lakes, waterfalls and dense forests, the “Going to the Sun Road” is one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the United States. The road starts at Lake McDonald, continues over Logan Pass, located at 2026 meters, to St. Mary Lake. In addition to guided hikes, it is of course possible to hike alone through the landscapes of the national park. The campsites invite you to spend a longer time in the national park and to explore it intensively.
6. Ringing Rocks
Not far from the town of Butte near Bozeman in the Beaverhead National Forest are the Ringing Rocks. The rocks were formed by erosion and water over thousands of years. The rocks are a natural phenomenon of a special kind because they produce a bell-like sound when lightly struck with a hammer. However, as soon as you remove the stones from this place, they no longer produce this sound. Thus, it is a highlight of nature, which can only be experienced on site.
On site, of course, you can borrow a hammer, so you don’t have to pack it in your luggage for your vacation. Why these stones, which by the way can be found in two other places in the USA, sound like bells is scientifically unexplained until today. Once you have climbed the mountain of ringing stones, you can also enjoy a beautiful view over the surrounding landscape.
5. Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is located in Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Framed by the high mountains of the Rocky Mountains, the largest lake of the national park is a beautiful sight on its own. But the lake, respectively the stones in the lake have something else to offer, because they are colorful. This is due to the different iron contents in the stones.
The stones were broken into smaller and smaller pieces by erosion and other environmental influences and washed into the lake, where they shimmer today in the different colors. Green stones, for example, have a low iron content. Of course, you can kayak on the lake and, if you are lucky, see wild animals on the shore.
4. Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley was formed by the Yellowstone River and is located in southwestern Montana. On one side of the valley are the mountains of the Gallatin Range and on the other the Absaroka Range. The breathtaking scenery of the valley can be enjoyed on the approximately 85 kilometer long scenic road along Highway 89. On the way, it is worthwhile to stop for a break at the hot springs and enjoy a bath in them. Especially popular are the Chico Hot Springs, the La Duke Hotsprings and the Hunter’s Hotsprings. Furthermore, the valley is an Eldorado for fly fishing.
In the far northwest of Montana lies the town of Libby. The town has gained sad notoriety because the mining of harmless vermiculite also released asbestos and this contaminated the land and people, resulting in many deaths. The mine was closed and the area was cleared of asbestos. Libby is located near the Kootenai National Forest.
This can offer many outdoor activities, from hiking and fishing to mountain biking and skiing. In addition, the National Forest is also suitable for wildlife viewing. Another ski area is Turner Mountain Ski Area. Where you can ski or snowboard down the slopes in the winter, you’ll find hiking areas in the summer. This area is home to grizzly bears and mountain lions, among others.
2. Big Sky
Southwest of Bozeman is the small mountain town of Big Sky. In the summer, hiking enthusiasts will be in their element here. Activities such as horseback riding, golfing and fly fishing are also offered here. In addition to countless festivals and events, the place is very well suited as a starting point for explorations in Yellowstone National Park. In winter, on the other hand, winter sports enthusiasts are in the right place here. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can also go cross-country skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing.
1. Virginia City
Virginia City was the first capital of the state of Montana. During the gold rush, it was an up-and-coming town with as many as 10,000 residents. Today, just 132 people live in the town, because after no more gold was found, people abruptly left. But still it is worth visiting, because Virginia City is a very well preserved western town. To soak up all the history of the town, it is worth visiting the Thomas Hickman Museum. Of course, you should take the chance to dig for gold on site. What better way to travel back in time than to stand by the river digging for gold and then visit the Bale of Hay Saloon.