Montana offers some of the best outdoor destinations in the world with large swaths of untouched wilderness. It’s the only place I know of where you can hike or ski in the backcountry without seeing a single person, soak in hot springs and finish with a fantastic meal or microbrew.
I would describe Montana’s people as friendly, passionate and outdoor-centric. Most people you find spend a great deal of time playing or working outside and they wouldn’t have it any other way! Montanans will wave to you as they pass on the state’s country roads and they are always happy to chat with strangers in cafes and diners.
My favorite mountain destinations to explore in Montana are, by far, Glacier National Park and the Beartooth Scenic Highway outside Red Lodge. They are relatively uncrowded and offer incredible natural beauty and fantastic sightseeing opportunities.
Capturing the Beauty of Montana’s National Parks
After high school, I loved the idea of traveling to beautiful places and being able to capture these locations for others to see. I traveled frequently while attending Montana State University, while slowly crafting a style and learning to edit photos better.
The best national parks to photograph and explore in Montana are Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. These are the two biggest tourist attractions here. They offer immersive and accessible wilderness experiences unlike anywhere else.
I used to split my weekends between each park, shooting photos and hiking or fly fishing with friends. Yellowstone is the place to be if you want to watch wildlife or see unique thermal features, whereas Glacier offers sweeping vistas and massive glacially-carved peaks.
One of my absolute favorite experiences in Montana was watching a pack of wolves take down a bull elk! I was soaking in hot springs one winter, when the pack came barreling down a hill after the big fella. It may sound gruesome, but many people go their whole lives hoping to see wolves and witnessing them in person was bucket-list worthy.
Best Destinations to Visit in Montana
Recommending the best destinations in Montana can be a little tricky, as I don’t want to get myself in trouble, since all Montanans are passionate about their hometowns. My personal favorites are Bozeman, Missoula, Red Lodge and Whitefish!
Bozeman is an outdoorsy, fast-paced college town. It features nearby skiing, blue ribbon fly fishing rivers, local boutiques and the best college football team in Montana (Go Cats!). Missoula is similar, but offers a more hipster feel. It features the only river surfing in Montana.
Red Lodge is my favorite small town. Situated right at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, this quirky town offers surprisingly fine dining options. An uncrowded ski resort and access to Yellowstone National Park allow for different opportunities depending on the season.
Whitefish is a highly-accessible ski town, right at Glacier’s doorstep. In the summer, spend a day on the lake or spend your time exploring Glacier National Park. But always make sure to finish with a beverage downtown.
What Time of Year Should you Visit?
Montana is a fantastic place all year-round. While the parks remain closed (for the most part) in the winter, people tend to frequent our numerous ski resorts and hot springs. With world class skiing, ice climbing, and breweries right around the corner, it’s easy to customize any winter trip.
The parks begin to open in late spring, offering more accessibility for visitors. The lowlands thaw out and turn green, while the peaks remain covered in snow. It’s a great time of year to beat the crowds and visit a more laid back Montana.
Summer is the prime season to visit. National forest accesses open up between June and July. If you want to avoid summer crowds in the National Parks, these locations are nearby and offer solitude while camping, hiking or sightseeing.
Around late September and early October, Montana explodes with Fall colors! Reds and golds dominate the landscape. It’s a truly unique time of year and one that most people miss out on!
Tips for Exploring the Best Destinations of Montana
I think the biggest thing to be aware of is the distance between gas stations. Montana features incredible locations that are often a bit off the beaten path. When traveling into the mountains, always pay attention to your gas and don’t be afraid to take things a bit slower!
The majority of the roads into our national forests and mountains are unpaved. Seasons have a huge impact on what is accessible at the time, but Spring and Fall offer opportunities to have a truly bespoke experience. When you’re in the mountains, remember that it will be a bit colder and inclement weather may pass through at any time.
Thanks for reading my article on the best destinations to visit in Montana! I hope to see you in Big Sky Country someday soon.