The best things to do in Montana don’t stray too far from the western state’s collection of vast national parks and exceptional nature preserves. There are over a dozen wilderness areas that easily translates to endless possibilities for either action and adventure or tranquil nature retreats.

    Montana is a fantastic destination for spending a weekend or heading out on a road trip away from the bustle of the big cities. High-altitude routes open to breathtaking alpine views while low-lying plains have roads where you can drive by herds of bison and bighorn sheep. Check out all the great routes and must-visit stops in Montana through this guide below.

    1

    Glacier National Park

    Get up close with the stunning wilderness of Montana

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    Glacier National Park is Montana’s jewel in the crown which, despite its name, isn’t just alpine features and ice. The park is home to lush meadows and coniferous forests that are rich in wildlife, as well as some of the state’s most scenic lakes and hill roads that open to breathtaking views at every bend.

    You’ll need 2 days at the very least to truly enjoy the park’s highlights. Your next visit shouldn’t be the same as your last – there are about 700 miles of hiking trails and points to tick off your Glacier National Park adventure list. One is the Trail of Cedars that’s also wheelchair friendly. Other must-dos include the scenic drives Going-to-the-Sun Road and Logan Pass, as well as stops like Apgar Nature Center with its interactive exhibits loved by kids.

    Location: Crystal Point, Montana, USA

    Phone: +1 406-888-7800

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    2

    Lake McDonald

    Glacial activity gave birth to this stunning natural wonder

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    Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park and it’s also one of the most beautiful places to surround yourself with Montana’s lush nature. The lake is 10 square miles in size, so there are various ways you can enjoy the great outdoors here, be it swimming, camping or hiking.

    Lake McDonald’s namesake community is on the northeastern shore. Most make their way to Apgar Village on McDonald’s southern lakeside because of its complete range of facilities. There’s a dedicated campground and a scenic drive aptly named the Apgar Amphitheatre that opens to the spectacular view of the lake with its snow-capped alpine backdrop.

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    3

    Big Sky

    For thrilling downhill action in any season

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    Big Sky is both the name of the community in southern Montana’s Rocky Mountains as well as the prominent ski resort where great downhill action awaits. It also inspired the state’s nickname. The haven for powder skiers and snowboarders offers over 5,000 acres of seemingly endless skiable terrain. There are rugged and exciting mountain bike trails to conquer in the summer as well.

    There are ski runs for every skill level, with the main winter trail challenges down the slopes of Lone Mountain, which looms over the resort. Big Sky’s Bike Park at Andesite Mountain is open from June to September. Not into pedalling? Try zip-lining adventures and go whizzing through the incredible scenery.

    Location: Big Sky, MT 59716, USA

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    4

    Flathead National Forest

    Take on some of the best hiking trails in Montana

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    The Flathead National Forest lies at the intersection of Montana’s wilderness greats, namely the vast Glacier and Lolo national parks, and the Kootenai and Lewis and Clark national forests. As a cradle of unspoiled nature, it draws avid hikers to well over 2,000 miles of trails with stunning vistas and wildlife.

    The Jewel Basin Hiking Area is designated for experienced hikers, but an easy starter is the Holland Lake trail near Condon, which also leads you past streams and toward a waterfall. Hikers aren’t the only ones spoilt for choice – special trails cater to offroad adventurers, be it bikers, ATV riders, or snowmobilers.

    Location: Quintonkon, Montana, USA

    Phone: +1 406-758-5208

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    5

    Logan Pass

    The peak of your scenic drive through Glacier National Park

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    Driving through Logan Pass, especially along the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, is often the icing on the cake on road trips through Montana’s Glacier National Park. At well over 6,600 ft above sea level, this highest point on your drive across the Continental Divide treats you to great views, scenic nature trails, and a visitor centre that’s chock-full with info and exhibits on plants and wildlife.

    Hiking is the best way to take in the area’s true natural beauty – take either the Hidden Lake trail or the Highline trail and set out early to capture the dramatic alpine vistas, often with mountain goats and bighorn sheep grazing in the wildflower-covered meadows.

    Location: West Glacier, MT 59936, USA

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    photo by daveynin (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort

    Find in alpine adventures in the Rockies

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    The Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort is where you can slap on your pair of skis and let yourself loose in the Rocky Mountains. There’s fun for every skill level, and even elders and the physically challenged are well cared for so they can take in the breathtaking alpine scenery.

    But it’s not only about having the sweetest powder day up in the Rockies. Come summertime, there’s ziplining and treetop adventures to be had. Whitefish Mountain’s slopes bloom with wildflowers and greenery – choose a path to hike or a thrilling downhill trail that you can blaze through on a mountain bike.

    Location: 1015 Glades Dr, Whitefish, MT 59937, USA

    Phone: +1 877-754-3474

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    7

    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

    Learn about a major event in Montana’s history

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    The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a vast grassy plain in Montana’s southeastern region where a major defining battle took place between the US Army and Native American tribes. In the clash of 1876, the Lakota, Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne warriors came out as victors while General George A. Custer made his famous last stand.

    Unlike exhibits in a regular museum, at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, you’ll see episodes of the battle gradually unfold as you come across site markers and art installations set up in the fields that help visualise the fateful battle.

    Location: I-90 Frontage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 406-638-2621

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    8

    Museum of the Rockies

    Broaden your view of local history…and the universe

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    Drop by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman to complete your family road trip through Montana’s southern region with vast exhibits on regional history and a planetarium. Its Paugh Regional History Hall and Yellowstone Country exhibit will provide you with insights into the life and culture of Native Americans and the unique wildlife of the Rockies.

    The museum also has a fascinating paleontological collection, the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, which is among the world’s largest fossil collections. Besides admiring the magnificent displays of the T-Rex and Triceratops, wonder at the vastness of the universe at the Taylor Planetarium, which features multiple 4K digital projection shows daily.

    Location: 600 W Kagy Blvd, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 406-994-2251

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    9

    Mammoth Hot Springs

    Hike down to the dramatic travertine terraces

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    The Mammoth Hot Springs are unique travertine terraces and pools formed by one of the major geyser basins in Yellowstone. Behind the constant steam, you can make out the dramatic shades of dark red that gradually shift down to a pool of bright calcite white. The hike down to the hot springs is made easy by a paved trail from the parking area.

    While Mammoth is technically in Wyoming, it’s a stop not to be missed on your road trips through Montana’s southern region. It’s just a short drive south from Gardiner across the border with Wyoming – Gardiner itself serving as a gateway into Yellowstone National Park.

    Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA

    Phone: +1 307-344-7381

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    10

    Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

    Learn more about Yellowstone’s magnificent beasts

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    At Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, you can enjoy safe ‘close encounters’ with the apex predators of the region. The wildlife refuge provides educational tours for young and old to see animals that include their star resident grizzly bears – Coram, Grant, Nakina, Sam, and Spirit – frolicking in the snow, ponds, and grassy fields.

    Also on the site are several fondly named packs of majestic wolves, such as The Hoodoo Pack, the River Valley Pack, and the Fossil Butte Pack. Check out the Cute North American river otters playing in the ponds and sandpits at The Banks of the Yellowstone River riparian exhibit, or head to the birds of prey section to see a variety of eagles, owls, peregrines, vultures, and hawks.

    Location: 201 S Canyon St, West Yellowstone, MT 59758, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 800-257-2570

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    photo by Sesamehoneytart (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    11

    Giant Springs State Park

    Take in the magnitude of one of America’s largest freshwater springs

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    Giant Springs is the heart of the namesake state park in Montana and releases over 100,000,000 gallons of pure mountain water daily. The magnificent springs lie just northeast of Great Falls, with its 4 great waterfalls and hydroelectric dams.

    Besides the springs being the viewing highlight of the area, you can also check out the Giant Springs Fish Hatchery nearby and see – and feed – the rainbow trout swimming in the show pond, or go on scenic hikes along the 2 miles of trails available.

    Location: 4803 Giant Springs Rd, Great Falls, MT 59405, USA

    Open: Daily from 5.30 am to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +1 406-727-1212

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    12

    Lewis and Clark Caverns

    Walk through a natural gallery of stalactites and stalagmites

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    Touring the Lewis and Clark Caverns in Whitehall is akin to visiting an art gallery, but with magnificent limestone structures being the displayed works of art. You can enter the cave on a 1-mile, 90-minute guided tour and admire the dramatically illuminated columns of stalactites and stalagmites.

    On the half-mile portion of the tour, you’ll see the Paradise Room – the largest and most decorated part of the cave. Outside the cave are informatively marked hiking trails that enable you to go on a self-guided walk and learn more about the area.

    Location: 25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 406-287-3541

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    13

    Makoshika State Park

    Travel back to the Late Cretaceous Period at Montana’s largest state park

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    Makoshika State Park covers about 11,500 acres, with adventurous hiking trails and a barren plateau where fossils of over 10 different dinosaur species have been found. Makoshika’s landscape itself is otherworldly, with pinnacles topped by boulders and eerie sandstone caprocks that stand out among fluted canyons.

    Mule deer and cottontail rabbits roam among the ponderosas, where Tyrannosaurus Rexes and Triceratopses once clashed for survival some 100 million years ago. The onsite visitor centre shows you more about the history and features of the area through interpretive and interactive displays.

    Location: 1301 Snyder St, Glendive, MT 59330, USA

    Open: June–September: daily from 10 am to 4 pm. October–May: Wednesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 406-377-6256

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    14

    ZooMontana

    The only zoological and botanical garden in the Northern Rockies

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    ZooMontana is a must-visit for families going on a road trip with kids through Montana, spanning 70 acres that are home to over 50 different exotic animal species. The enclosures are well designed to closely simulate the animals’ natural habitats.

    Bruno the grizzly bear, Bert the bison, and the grey wolves Kali and Kahlua are just a few among ZooMontana’s residents representing local native species. The more exotic encounters include the Amur tiger sisters Sofi and Jasmine and a rescued pair of red-tailed boa constrictors. The park is stroller and wheelchair friendly.

    Location: 2100 Shiloh Rd, Billings, MT 59106, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 406-652-8100

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    photo by Montanabw (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    15

    National Bison Range

    Drive through a scenic prairie where hundreds of bison graze

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    The National Bison Range is a wildlife refuge and a great part of scenic drives through the Flathead Reservation’s plains in western Montana. Prepare for the wide-open views as you enter the range, with wildflower-covered roadsides and McDonald Peak as the backdrop.

    You’ll surely spot bison herds along the way, along with elk, deer, and bighorn sheep in the fields. More elusive native species such as bears, coyotes, and mountain lions are understandably nowhere to be seen but you can often see peregrine falcons and bald eagles circling high above the grasslands.

    Location: 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824, USA

    Phone: +1 406-644-2211

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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