Montana may be famous for the Glacial National Park, but there’s just so much to do and see here. The “Treasure State” is renowned for its numerous mineral and natural resources: copper, manganese, gold, sapphire, oil, zinc, and lead.
Montana may have lost a goodly chunk of its natural resources like oil. Still, it remains a goldmine for tourists looking for a mix of parks, wildlife, city attractions, and more!
15 Best Places to Visit in Montana in 2023
If you’d like to experience the authentic West at its original best, there’s no better place to be. This Wild, Wild, West State still lives its historical past and is famous for its incredible natural spaces.
The state is the 4th largest by land mass and has one of the lowest populations for those who’d like to drop off the grid. Big Sky Country is suitable for writers, explorers, and other nature enthusiasts looking to live in nature.
Let’s be clear; outdoor places of interest dominate many other Montana activities. It will help if you put on your adventure hat to discover Montana’s best places to visit.
1. Glacier National Park
Many tourists wish to visit the Glacier National Park at least once in a lifetime. Believe the hype because this park is incredible with abundant wildlife, crystal-clear waters, and the most picturesque stars you can ever see.
Glacier National Park is unspoiled, unsullied nature at its most natural form. You can spend your entire vacation here without exploring half of what this incredible park offers.
Lake McDonald is the largest park lake and perhaps the clearest. The lake is roughly ten miles long, with a backdrop of the surrounding mountains that makes it perfect for a photoshoot.
The lake is unmissable, especially if you drive in through the entrance at the West Glacier. Besides, you can find several designated picnic areas to stop by to enjoy the lake’s beauty.
Hikers would love the formidable challenge of the Highline Trail, which starts at Logan Pass. The last trail mile is quite steep, but the incredible views at the end are memories that will last you a lifetime.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
2. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon is one of the most convincing reasons to stop by the Treasure State, with its unrivaled natural splendor. It has a recreational area covering 120,000 acres with vast forests, deep gorges, wetlands, valleys, and the renowned Bighorn Lake.
Interestingly, the Yellowtail Dam established Bighorn Lake, which is one of the main attractions in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
The 60-mile-wide lake touches the boundaries of Wyoming and Montana, providing exceptional fly fishing opportunities. You will also enjoy boating, camping, and biking at the Bighorn, with 27 miles of scenic trails to hike.
Most tourists to Bighorn Canyon prefer to fish and boat at the Bighorn River and Afterbay Lake, with excellent brown and rainbow trout fishing areas.
Bighorn Canyon makes this list because it’s not overcrowded like Yellowstone National Park. It averages 250,000 tourists annually, ensuring some alone time for you on the trails.
3. Virginia City
It’s common for people to mistake Virginia City for the State of Virginia. However, this historic Montana town used to be a gold haven in the 1800s, with approximately $90 million in gold extracted from the area worth $2.06 billion today.
The city isn’t the hustling, bustling mining town it was before. However, it’s still home to over 100 historic structures decked with artifacts, exhibits, and furnishings from the 19th century. The choices were to adapt or die, but Virginia City went a step further to flourish.
Visitors to this town feel like they’ve been teleported into the days of the Old West, and the city lore and history make the area even more unique.
The city provides various ways to experience the heydays, with stagecoaches and narrow-gauge railroads a common sight. The Mark Twain Watering Hole was the favorite saloon for the great humorist who used to drink there.
You’ll love stopping for a chat with the locals wearing period clothing, and they’re sure to give you the best suggestions for a meal or drink. Try Grandma’s Fudge Factory to taste the most delicious caramel apple in the entire West.
Montana’s capital balances the historical past with an exciting present. It’s safe to say Helena offers a balanced representation of the state’s offerings through its places of interest.
Your first port of call is the Montana State Capitol, bedecked with comely hillsides in a serene neighborhood. The Capitol Building evokes a stately aura thanks to its neoclassical architecture. Still, true craftsmanship and beauty are hidden within the building.
You can tour the interior within regular operating hours. Places worth checking out include the Capitol Rotunda, Old Law Library, and the various works of art that you can find in the entire structure.
In addition, you can visit the more posh neighborhoods of Last Chance Gulch, where the city was established.
Prospectors of the distant past struck gold in this area and thus began the early beginnings of this timeless city. Adolescents and little kids will enjoy the Big Dipper Ice Cream.
At the same time, the Gulch offers excellent dining areas and patio seating for culinary connoisseurs. The town also has a thriving nightlife scene that bursts into life when the sun falls.
Livingston is a few minutes away from Bozeman. It oozes a rustic charm most people overlook for its wealthier neighbors. However, there are many great activities in store, including museums, outdoor activities, and a budding art scene!
You can head out with the family on a trip down the Yellowstone River. The water is warm in the summertime, and you can swim alongside the boat.
If you arrive in fall, you can do the same thing, only this time you get to watch the snowfall! The scenic views down the river are a soothing balm for the soul no matter what time of the year you show up.
Besides swimming, the river is an excellent location for fly fishing. Remember to get your fishing license, and only two people can fish from the boat at one time.
Besides water-based activities, the Yellowstone Gateway Museum offers a fascinating way to live through Yellowstone’s history with many authentic artifacts and memorabilia.
Missoula is arguably one of the best places to visit in Montana and the state’s second-largest. The city is breathtakingly beautiful, but you can also lose your breath due to its high elevation at 978 meters above sea level.
The Garden City is rightly so-called because of the spectacular wilderness areas that offer fantastic hiking, biking, and camping opportunities. Also, three rivers meet here, making this confluence city the best place for kayaking, boating, and swimming.
The Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium will give you a fascinating insight into the world of butterflies and other insects.
Beer lovers will enjoy chugging a jug at the Bugs and Brews Program, where you learn about the various insects while sipping a cold brew. Missoula has one of the most delicious eats in Montana, and you can stop by Caras Park to enjoy cuisines from different parts of the globe.
Whitefish is a charming small town in Flathead County and is popular because it’s near Glacier National Park. You can spend a few days at the Whitefish Mountain Resort with lots of mountain biking and hiking in summertime or skiing and snowboarding in winter.
The resort spans 3000 acres, with many hiking trails to explore. The excellent idea is to go with the family on a daycation to the Glacial National Park.
This option allows you to enjoy the best Whitefish offers while crossing the world-famous park off your list. Whitefish City Beach provides non-motorized boating opportunities, especially during the warm seasons.
Anglers can stake out the water for lake trout, and if that’s not your scene, you can head to the Whitefish Lake State Park for some camping and hunting. Veteran golfers and newbies will enjoy practicing their swings at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club, a stone’s throw away from downtown.
8. Yellowstone National Park
There could never be a list of the best places to visit in Montana without including Yellowstone National Park. The sheer size of this national park makes it larger than Delaware and the State of Rhode Island combined.
It’s roughly 2.2 million acres and accessible through Idaho and Montana, with a large proportion of its territory in Wyoming. You have two choices to enter the park from Montana.
Your first option is the North Entrance which is another adventure on its own with many gateway communities to explore. On the other hand, you can drive through the West Entrance, which takes you through geyser country.
Some of the iconic geysers worth visiting include the Steamboat Geyser and Norris Geyser Basin. There are other more popular geysers to explore, including the world-famous Old Faithful situated to the South.
The park has the largest concentration of hot springs on earth and is home to large buffalo herds, wolves, and grizzly bears.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park
9. Chinese Wall
Do you know there’s a Great Wall of China in the United States? And it’s in our very own Montana! This Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is as impressive as the original and accessible through the Benchmark Trailhead.
The Chinese Wall isn’t an artificial structure but a colossal limestone barrier over 1000 feet and stretching for miles. Unfortunately, not everyone can get to see this Wall because of the highly challenging hike.
It’s a backpacking adventure consisting of a 40-mile trail for the experienced hiker. The course starts from West Augusta.
You’d have to camp at several different sites before getting to your destination. An excellent option is to go on a guided tour with experienced professionals to make your backpacking journey more pleasurable.
10. Makoshika State Park
Makoshika State Park is so aptly named because of the barren landscape that spans Eastern Montana. Tourists who stop by this park are often stunned by its surreal beauty.
Millions of years of wind erosion carved up the badlands as it is today, and the park has two sections. The Lower Section is easier to hike, allowing you to explore the sparse flora and fauna in Cains Coulee.
You can also find the primary campground in this area, including designated picnic spots and the Gabriel Trailhead.
The level road goes on for five miles before inclining upwards until you get to a level that takes you to the Upper Section. The vistas in this section are a magnificent sight to behold, and it’s advisable to explore this terrain using the maintained roads.
The Upper Section will take you through the Artist’s Vista Campground. You’ll find the Makoshika Amphitheatre in this section.
Other areas of interest include The Pine On The Rocks Campground and the Cap Rock Trailhead. Makoshika State Park has many dinosaur fossils, including Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex, all discovered in the area.
Read Next: Best National Parks in the United States in 2023
11. Big Sky Resort
If you’re visiting Montana in winter, then you’ve got to pack your gear for some of the best skiing of your life at the Big Sky Resort. The resort averages 400 inches of snow annually and attracts skiers from the US.
Big Sky Resort has close to 6,000 skiable acres, and some of the activities worth trying out include:
- Nordic Skiing
- Nature Zipline
- Adventure Zipline
- Enchanted Forest
- Snowshoe Tours
Winter is a fantastic time to visit, but summer also provides various fun activities. Golf and mountain biking are notable events in the warm seasons. You can also enjoy Scenic Lift Rides with family and friends.
Lace up your hiking shoes to go on a voyage of discovery with experienced basecamp guides who’ll teach you basic survival skills for thriving in the wild.
12. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is in West Yellowstone – a short distance from the park’s Western Entrance. It was founded as an animal sanctuary and features gray wolves and grizzlies in their natural habitat.
The non-profit center provides a unique opportunity to learn about these animals, including their feeding habits, social behaviors, and history. You can visit all year round.
Other animals in this controlled environment include frogs, river otters, snakes, and fishes native to the area. Kids receive a better understanding of the Yellowstone wildlife through the numerous educational programs.
13. World Museum of Mining
The World Museum of Mining is one of the few worldwide that’s located in a real mine – the Orphan Girl Mine. Interested visitors will find this museum in Butte, Montana, on the city’s outskirts.
Despite its location away from downtown, the mine plays a significant role for the locals. First established in 1875, The Orphan Girl was known for its silver production, staying in operation for 75 years.
Today, the museum provides essential knowledge about the daily life of miners in Butte. Most of the equipment is in excellent condition. Visitors can ride the cages miners use as they descend into the mine’s dark depths.
You should set aside time for this trip because the museum houses 15 historic buildings, including many exhibits and artifacts from the early 20th century. Other areas of interest when visiting Butte include:
- The Dumas Brothel
- Berkeley Pit
- Mai Wah Museum
- Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur
The museum hosts an underground tour up to 100 feet. You can check out the Miners Memorial Wall erected in honor of the men who lost their lives working underground this Butte mine.
14. The Museum of the Rockies
If there ever was a doubt Bozeman is one of the best places to visit in Montana, The Museum of the Rockies makes it a no contest. This museum isn’t all about dinosaurs – it also features a planetarium on the premises.
However, you’d need to buy another ticket to spend time at the Taylor Planetarium, which showcases the solar system and other films on an immersive screen.
You’ll receive a museum map with your ticket, which makes the entire museum easy to get around. The MOR is known for its dinosaur fossil collections, and you can check it out at the Siebel Dinosaur Complex.
Other exciting areas of interest in this complex include:
- The Mesozoic Media Center
- The Hall of Growth and Behavior
- Hall of Horns and Teeth
- Hall of Giants
The MOR also has a gift shop which is the best place to purchase a dinosaur gift for family and friends.
15. Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater body in the West and is 28 miles long. At 185 miles, the shoreline is farther than the eye can see. Even though the lake is famous in the region, it’s still a mystery for many unwary visitors to Montana.
Flathead lake is the ultimate playground for water-based activities. You can do anything from kayaking to motorboating, sailing, swimming, and fly fishing.
In addition to watersports, there are numerous recreation activities like camping, hiking, and hunting. Visitors are spoilt for choice with the sheer number of state parks on offer in this region, including:
- Flathead Lake State Park
- Big Arm State Park
- West Shore State Park
- Yellow Bay State Park
- Finley Point State Park
It’s worth pointing out that the lake’s southern half is on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the dwelling place of the Kootenai and Salish Tribes. Ensure you collect a tribal permit before fishing in these waters.
Things to Consider: Best Places to Visit in Montana
When it comes to visiting The Treasure State, there are a few things worth considering. It doesn’t matter the time or season. Abiding by these tips will give you the best value for your vacation.
Flying Is Easy
The Glacier Park International Airport in Flathead County provides a stunning backdrop of the Swan Mountains and a regional hub for local and international flights. You can fly into Montana from anywhere across the country using major airlines like:
- Sun Country
- Alaska Allegiant
However, keep in mind some flights are season dependent and may not be available when you plan your trip.
Road Trips Anyone?
Some of the best ways to enjoy Montana are by road. The entire state is picturesque, with scenic mountains, pleasant hillsides, and crystal-clear lakes to fill your trip with endless wonder.
Book Rental Vehicle on Time
There’s indeed a shortage of rental vehicles across the country. If you’re visiting Montana, we recommend reserving your car as soon as possible.
Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry
It’s true. Vehicle owners traveling through Camas Road, West Glacier, and St. Mary will have to buy a ticket. The ticketing system is caused by the upsurge in national park interests, increasing the number of vehicles plying these roads.
It would be best if you scheduled your Montana vacation around the offseason to beat the crowd and enjoy the stunning views to yourself.
Most visitors to Montana explore The Treasure State by themselves. Still, it’s in your best interest to travel with an experienced guide to get the best bang for your buck.
Iconic attractions like Flathead Lake, Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacial National Park require an experienced guide.
Using a guide will allow you to enjoy the most incredible experiences while ensuring your safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Montana is the perfect getaway for the wanderlust traveler looking for an outdoorsy adventure! If that’s you, and you’ve got a few questions, here are the answers to some FAQs:
What is the prettiest place in Montana?
Arguably the prettiest place in Montana is Lake McDonald. It’s the largest lake in the Glacial National Park, with mirror-like waters and colorful rocks that create a magical atmosphere.
What is the top attraction in Montana?
The Glacial National Park is undoubtedly Montana’s number one attraction. It’s a potpourri of verdant forests, enchanting waterfalls, and incredible mountain ranges.
Is Montana safe to visit?
It doesn’t get any safer than Montana when touring the United States. Whether you’re on a day trip to a remote rural town or backpacking through the various trailheads, you’ll have a safe and wonderful experience in The Treasure State.
What is the most beautiful town in Montana?
The most beautiful town in Montana is Hamilton. The city is in the Southwest of Montana and the seat of Ravalli County.
What is the best month to visit Montana?
Summertime in Montana happens between June and August. These warm months are the best times for a vacation. However, these months are peak season and often overcrowded.
The Best Places to Visit in Montana in 2023
The spectacular scenery and constantly changing landscapes make Montana a magic land for many tourists and locals. The Big Sky Country is home to numerous attractions like Bighorn Canyon, Whitefish, and The Chinese Wall.
The list above is the tip of the iceberg when you consider the endless possibilities you can unearth in The Treasure State.