MONTANA OUTDOOR TRAVEL GUIDE
Montana is wild and adventurous. It’s one of the least densely populated states in the lower 48 which means more room for exploring vast untouched lands. It’s wide open spaces is the reason the state is often referred to as “Big Sky country.” It has 54 state parks, Glacier National Park, and a small sliver of Yellowstone National Park. Our favorite Montana towns to explore are small rugged mountain communities full of charm and genuine, authentic locals excited to share their love for Montana with visitors.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MONTANA
Montana is a year-round destination, but when you go will determine what you can do. If you are a skier or snowboarder, late February, and early March are your best bet for snowpack being at its peak. If you are looking to ride some rapids spring is best when water level are highs. And If biking and hiking are your vices it is best to hit Montana in the summer and early fall.
TOP OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN MONTANA
Hiking – Hiking & backpacking opportunities are endless throughout Big Sky country. From falls on the Ousel Falls Trail to glaciers on the Iceberg Lake Trail to high mountain routes on the Highline trail, there are all kinds of scenery just waiting to be explored.
Skiing & Snowboarding – Scattered all over the western half of the state are 12 incredible ski resorts that offer remarkable terrain. Montana’s boasts the largest skiable terrain in the US with no lift lines holding you back from exploring all day.
Fishing – There is a reason, “A River Runs Through It” was filmed in Montana. Crystal clear lakes and flowing streams are just waiting for you to cast your reel into some of the best fishing waters in the country.
Biking – Home of the “most difficult mountain bike race” in the country, the Butte 100 offers extreme mountain biking routes, that can be explored leisurely for those really wanting a challenge. Road cycling is also popular and Glacier National Park and Yellowstone both open their roads up to bikers only in the Spring for you to experience the tranquility and calmness of the parks without the buzz of cars.
Climbing – Ever wanted to ice climb a waterfall? Montana has your chance! From beginning bouldering to advanced routes Montana’s mountains and peaks offer thrills for all.
White Water Adventures – Whether by kayak or raft, Montana offers daily, guided whitewater trips from the Spring through the Summer.
GETTING TO MONTANA
Montana’s a huge state. You have a fewer larger airports to choose from which are in Bozeman, Billings, Missoula and Great Falls. There are also smaller commercial airports in Whitefish, Helena, and Butte that may cut several hours off the drive to your final destination. You really have to consider your Montana Itinerary before purchasing tickets and know that tickets to Montana can be pricey but the pristine, remote adventures that await once you arrive are definitely worth the airfare price.
MONTANA’S NATIONAL PARKS & MONUMENTS
Glacier National Park, commonly known as the “crown of the continent”, is in the northwest corner of Montana. Sitting on Montana’s border with Canada the park offers glacier-carved peaks alongside deep valleys. There remarkable wildlife viewing from grizzlies to mountain goats. Don’t miss the 50 mile Going to the Sun Road that travels through Glacier’s mountains. The Logan Pass Visitor Center offers unbelievable mountain vistas as well. Grinnell Glacier, located centrally in the park, is also top on our list to visit.
Yellowstone National Park has three out of its 5 entrances located in Montana, including the only entrance you can access by vehicle in the winter. If you venture into this section stop by the remarkable Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a sanctuary for animals who were orphaned by their parents or those who grew too familiar and comfortable with humans.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument commemorates the 1876 conflict between the US Army & the local Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. The visitor center, museum, and surrounding grounds are humbling in learning about this historic area.
OTHER MUST-SEE MONTANA DESTINATIONS
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, referred to as “The Bob” by locals, is our nation’s third largest wilderness area in the lower 48 and is comprised of three separate wilderness areas which straddle both sides of the Continental Divide. This wilderness offers white-water rafting, 1,000 miles of hiking and horseriding trails, and vast wildlife viewing opportunities.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park has one of the largest limestone caverns in the Northwest. Tours are offered from May to September as well as for the candlelight tours for the holidays in December.
Giant Springs State Park, just outside of Great Falls, is one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. The park offers great fishing, as well as hiking and biking trails.
Bannack State Park isn’t your usual “state park.” It is a historic ghost town with over 60 well preserved structures. You can visualize what the “real Old West” in Montana looked like in the time of the gold rush and territory battles.
Beartooth Highway is a 68 mile stretch of highway that runs from Yellowstone’s northeast terminus east to Red Lodge, Montana. The entire stretch of road is within National Forest and National Wilderness boundaries and is a great route for finding off the beaten path camping.
TOP MONTANA TOWNS TO EXPLORE
Bozeman, located in the southwestern corner of the state, is action-packed all year-round. Bozeman has some of the best food in all of Montana and remarkable museums as well. Don’t miss their natural history museum, known as the Museum of the Rockies.
Whitefish, located in the northwestern part of the state, is the ultimate idyllic Montana town. Set in the midst of the Rockies, it is a true rustic mountain getaway. It is the gateway to Glacier National Park as well and just a hop over the border to Canada. Whitefish Mountain Resort is nearby and is commonly argued to have some of the best skiing in all of Montana. Don’t miss the nearby Conrad Mansion which was built from the wealth of the railroad boom.
Big Sky is nestled high in the Gallatin National Forest just a few quick miles from Yellowstone Park. The Gallatin Divide and River offer everything from fishing to hiking to whitewater rapids to keep you busy in the Spring & Summer. Winter brings fresh powder to the slopes of nearby Big Sky Ski Resort, the largest ski/snowboard area in Montana.
Billings boasts Yellowstone River flowing right through town and is surrounded by six jaw-dropping mountain ranges. You’ll see biking and hiking trailheads within town limits. It is the biggest city in Montana, but has an incredible small-town feel to it. It offers a great mixture of festivals year-round, a booming micro-breweries scene, and great museums. It was recently named Outside Magazine’s Best Town of 2016.