From hiking trails across the Northern Rockies to blues music in Billings, Montana has it all. Enjoy groomed ski trails, intriguing state parks, fascinating historic sites, renowned museums, small town rodeos, big time music festivals, and Santa on skis during a torchlight parade.
The Big Sky State seems to have been practically created with fun in mind – riddled with mountains, studded with lakes and rivers, and blessed with a four-season climate, there is not much that you can’t do here. There are national parks, national monuments, historic sites, state parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and more. Dip a line into famed trout-filled rivers like the Madison or hop on a mountain bike to rip tacky singletrack.
When you need a break from the trail, head to town. You’ll find a diverse landscape of cosmopolitan cities, historic settlements, and college towns, each with a unique character and friendly faces. In Montana, it’s entirely possible to ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon, and eat a five-star French meal in the evening, then stretch the night away at clubs, an opera, or a rowdy brewpub. Cities like Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula have top-notch art museums and outdoor sculpture gardens, and smaller resort towns like Whitefish are home to exceptional artists and crafters.
When it comes to parks, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park steal the show – they offer scenic drives, incredible vistas, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and wild animals that you thought only existed in story books. Montana’s state parks protect the area’s history, heritage, and landscapes – don’t pass by these gems on the way to a bigger name attraction. You can lose yourself in million-acre wilderness areas like the Selway-Bitterroot or play until the sun goes down in national recreation areas like Bighorn Canyon.
While Montana is home to buzzing cities, many of its towns are filled with ghosts. The relics of mining days gone by, you’ll find a host of ghost towns, some of which are well-developed and suited for visitors, while others are lonely outposts down bumpy roads which don’t appear on many maps.
The long history of Montana is not something squirreled away in museums. You can walk wagon trails, see where explorers Lewis and Clark struggled against the flow of mighty rivers, and spend the day in a real fort, where soldiers once helped settlers move into vast new lands. And if you like your history really old, Montana has that too – hop on the Montana Dinosaur Trail, which takes you to 14 museums where you can participate in programs, see exhibits, and witness active paleontology field digs. Many of the state’s greatest vistas serve as outdoor history museums detailing epochs – in spots like the Rocky Mountain Front near Choteau you can literally see where plates collided and mountains were born.
Snow blankets the state through the winter, so it should come as no surprise that the skiing if top-notch. From international class resorts to mom-and-pop hills, there’s something here for everyone and it’s all at prices that make family skiing affordable again. For a slower pace, grab a pair of cross-country skis and kick and glide across a shimmering frosty landscape. For something faster, rent a snowmobile and roar through deep canyons and across alpine meadows. You can also ice fish on frozen lakes, fat bike on snowy trails, or snowshoe to remote peaks.
And if you’d rather watch than participate, then Montana has you covered, too – sit down for a rodeo, cheer with the crowd at a college football game, or become part of the community at a minor league baseball game. Montana’s social calendar is full of small town plays, Native American pow wows, and art festivals attracting some of the biggest names in the business. When the days grow long in summer the state’s music festival season kicks into high gear, with some cities filled with outdoor stages and vendor booths.
One of the joys of being in Montana is simply hitting the road. Empty highways beckon travelers to roam across beautiful landscapes and find quiet moments in quiet towns. When the pavement ends the fun can really begin – adventurous dirt roads climb mountain passes, delve into hidden coves, wind along cottonwood-lined rivers, and lead to campsites where at night stars seem to fill the sky. Montana’s unofficial motto, the Big Sky State, is an apt descriptor of the heavens here. Montana’s other unofficial motto, the Last Best Place, gives you a hint at what’s in store for visitors.