On their historic journey with the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark struggled through this region, spending weeks carting their boats around the Great Falls of the Missouri. Today a highway does the trick for cross-country travelers, but history buffs can still walk in the explorers’ footsteps and even see where they slept.
Central Montana’s legacy is more than nation-defining travel, however. Cities like Great Falls are home to popular museums and sophisticated galleries like the one devoted to landscape artist Charles M. Russell. Helena is the state’s capital, home to the copper-topped capitol as well as world-famous bus-assisted mountain biking and a grin-inducing group of breweries.
The region is marked by great rivers – the mighty Missouri draws fly fishers from around the world. This area has both plains and mountains – the views from towns like Shelby seem to stretch forever, while the Big Belt, Little Belt, and the Rockies pierce the sky with jagged, fearsome peaks as well as endless swaths of mature forest.
Montana has the nation’s highest per-capita number of microbreweries – you’ll find them in larger towns like Helena and tiny hamlets like Belt. In between are rowdy honky-tonks, genre-defying artists, and ingredient-focused chef-driven restaurants.
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Roll the windows down and watch the countryside unwind when you hit the roads in central Montana.
Ribbons of asphalt head to towns like Augusta, where adventurers can find remote trailheads leading into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and plenty of true Montana watering holes.
Interstate 15 cuts across the state from Canada south to Idaho, while quiet back roads lead into the mountains around Choteau and famous snow geese stopovers.
Continental roamers Lewis and Clark struggled for weeks upstream against the strong currents of the Missouri Rivers. Today you can see and experience much of this same route by visiting Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.
Hike remote trails, flush grouse from the sage, and witness silent sunsets at this marquee park, though most who come here simply float the river. On-water adventures can range from a half-day to a week and lead past soaring white cliffs and untouched canyons.
Cap your trip off by learning more about the region at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center in historic Fort Benton.
Skiers and snowmobilers will find plenty of thrills in central Montana.
Showdown, near Neihart, offers some of the best snow in the state. Closer to Helena, Great Divide has more than 100 trails – and they offer killer deals almost every day of the week. Near Choteau, Teton Pass is famous for its incredible views and wide-open slopes.
Snowmobilers will find hundreds of miles of marked and groomed trails. The Big Belt Mountains north of Townsend showcase alpine peaks and hundred-mile views, while the Little Belts near White Sulphur Springs are marked by long roads and dense forests.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, on the steep shore of the Missouri River, illuminates one of the most crucial moments in American history.
Charged by President Thomas Jefferson with exploring the Louisiana Purchase, explorers Lewis and Clark followed the course of the Missouri River to its end, then went overland to meet up with the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. The three-year adventure offered plenty of hardships.
The interpretive center details the journey and the explorers’ way of life – see recreations of canoes and clothes the party wore.