The Most Epic Montana Destinations for a Family Trip in 2022
Take a family vacation to Montana and introduce your kids to the beauty of the outdoors with epic mountain scenery and unforgettable activities.
Whether you’re planning a Montana family road trip or you’re planning to stick around one area, we’ve compiled some of the best places that you’ll want to visit if you’re considering a family trip to the state of Montana.
Keep reading to discover some of the best Montana family vacations. We picked these destinations because we’ve traveled there with kids and had a blast!
Missoula, Montana: Carousels, River Waves, and the “M” Hike
Missoula, Montana is a cool city with a close-knot community feel in western Montana. The Clark Fork River flows right through town, providing outdoor entertainment in the summer months, while the Montana Snowbowl Resort is a great alpine ski area just 12 miles north of Missoula.
But for families visiting Missoula it’s all about Caras Park. This is where you’ll find the incredible Carousel for Missoula, which is right by Dragon Hollow Playground (my kids LOVE this playground).
Walk up the riverside trail behind the carousel a short distance and you’ll come to a grassy area, where you can watch Brennan’s Wave in the summer. Brennan’s Wave is a manmade wave in the Clark Fork river that pretty much plays as a simulated wave machine. You can watch people actually surf and kayak right in the river, without going downstream! It’s pretty cool and kids get a big kick out of it.
The Mount Sentinel M Trail is a fun hiking trail that will take you up “Mount Woody,” just east of the University of Montana – my siblings and I did it when we were kids and I still remember how cool it felt to get up to the giant “M”!
Read More: 10 Best Things to Do in Missoula
Paradise Valley: Mountain Views, Livingston Fun, and Hot Spring Resorts
If you’re looking for a Montana family trip with majestic mountain views, cool towns, river fun, and awesome resorts, plan some time in Paradise Valley, Montana.
Paradise Valley is the valley situated between Gardiner (the northeast entrance of Yellowstone) and the appealing old railroad town of Livingston. As you travel through Livingston Valley, you’ll be wowed by the Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west.
Paradise Valley is also home to Chico Hot Springs, one of our favorite hot spring resorts in Montana!
Chico Hot Springs is a family-friendly resort that has a naturally-heated pools and onsite eateries. If you can, book early and try to nab one of the covered wagon accommodations — kids will love it!
Once you reach Livingston, spend some time exploring this cute town. It’s railway past is still evident in the large depot downtown (which has a family-friendly museum), but this town is much more than it’s past. Today, Livingston is one of the fastest growing towns in Montana and has a burgeoning beer scene and some excellent bars and restaurants.
Tip: I took my kids to Katabatic Brewing Company and they were very welcoming AND they serve food from the neighboring Mexican restaurant so I was able to get my kids snacks to enjoy while my sister, brother-in-law, and I enjoyed a pint.
Families also can’t miss heading to the east side of town and spending time at Sacajawea Park, which has a large grassy area dotted with leafy trees, surrounding an impressively built wooden playground. Across the street are pretty views of the Yellowstone River and Absaroka Mountains.
Read More: Top Things to Do in Livingston
Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake, Apgar, and GTSR
One of the most beautiful places in Montana, hands-down, is Glacier National Park. Every which way you look, there is a stunning panorama too perfect not to be captured – so bring that extra camera battery! The Rocky Mountains hug the shoreline of enchanting glacial lakes, creating a masterpiece of earth and water.
Try to venture out on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR), a 2-hour scenic mountain road where you’ll witness waterfalls and countless breathtaking mountain views, and which can take much longer than two hours to drive depending on how often you stop.
2022 Tip: You need a separate entry ticket for Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer. This is a $2 ticket in addition to the park pass. There is a limited number of tickets for each day. Find out more here.
The park has whitewater rafting, boating, swimming and fishing among other popular activities to do. There are also more than 700 miles of hiking trails through Glacier National Park.
For hiking with kids, we love the Trail of the Cedars, which connects with the Avalanche Lake Trail up to Avalanche Lake. If you’re not hikers, you can hang out on the shores of Lake McDonald, which is easy to access from Apgar Village or Lake McDonald Lodge.
The Top Things to Do and See in Glacier National Park
Ultimate Lodging Guide for Glacier National Park
Whitefish, Montana: Trains, Art, and Gondolas
Whitefish is a resort town just 30 minutes west of Glacier National Park. Whitefish boasts some of the best skiing slopes in the US in the winter months while summer is all about lake time. The artsy downtown area also has a fun main street with gift shops, restaurants and bars, and even art studios.
Depending on when you visit, Whitefish Mountain Resort has both summertime and winter activities that your family will enjoy.
Skiing is the number one sport during the winter at Whitefish Mountain, while dirt biking, ziplining, hiking, and alpine slides are popular during the summer.
Or in the summer, you can just take the Gondola ride to the top of the mountain for a leisurely view of panoramic views, lunch in the lodge at the top, and then ride back down.
Back down the mountain, families will love hanging out at City Beach in the summer, a public beach on picturesque Whitefish Lake.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Whitefish, Montana During Every Season
Yellowstone National Park: Geysers, Hot Springs, and Bison
You can enter Yellowstone National Park through Montana via three different entrances: the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, the North Entrance Road that runs through Gardiner, Montana, or the Northeast Entrance by Cooke City (we recommend taking the Beartooth Highway route from Red Lodge to Cooke City; it’s epic!).
Yellowstone is America’s first declared National Park and it has a number of neat features you won’t want to miss on your family vacation to Montana.
Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Tower Fall are just some.
My kids especially love seeing Old Faithful erupt. Just bring snacks and toys for the wait! Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook is also a bit of a long hike for little kids, but if your kids can do it, you’ll all be wowed at the top (I did this hour hike solo with a 3-year-old and 6-year-old and it was definitely worth it — just bring sunscreen, sunhats, and plenty of water in summer!)
Your family can enjoy wildlife viewing in both the Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. We recommend you visit in the early morning and just before dusk to see the most activity for the wildlife – which works perfect around nap schedules if traveling in Montana with little ones!
Read More: What You Can’t Miss Seeing in Yellowstone National Park
Big Sky Montana: Winter Activities Galore
Is your family big into winter activities, like skiing? Then Big Sky, Montana is quietly calling your name. Even if you’re not into skiing and snowboarding, there is something at Big Sky for everyone. For example, what would your kids say to exploring Big Sky Country by dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh ride? Probably a resounding heck yeah!
There are also snowmobile tours, snow coach tours, and cross country skiing trails. Big Sky also has a number of cute hotels, resorts, and lodging that are surrounded by awesome mountain views in your backyard.
Dude Ranches: Horses, Cattle, and Ranch Life
Montana has a diverse assortment of dude ranches, ranging from small and family-run with daily chores to uber-luxury ranch resorts with spas and multi-course tasting menus. Whichever is the best fit for your family, one thing is certain: dude ranches in Montana provide a unique family vacation experience with western hospitality.
Depending on which ranch you visit, your family can enjoy unlimited horseback riding, hiking, panning for gold, fishing, and you can even head out on a cattle drive just like a real Montana cowboy (or cowgirl!). Most include meals and snacks.
Check out this article that has our top picks for Montana dude ranches!
Bozeman, Montana: Dinosaurs,
Vacationing with your family in Bozeman, Montana is also a great Montana family trip.
Located in southern Montana, Bozeman has the Museum of the Rockies, which is home to a huge complex of dinosaur fossils and extensive research facilities. The museum is also connected to a planetarium (included with admission).
The Spanish Peaks near Bozeman not only are beautiful to behold, but they also have horseback riding, golfing, skiing, camping, and many scenic hiking trails to explore.
In the winter, many visitors use Bozeman as a base for skiing at Big Sky Mountain. In summer, you can do a day trip down to Yellowstone.
For some fun hiking fun, head south of Bozeman to Hyalite Canyon, located within Gallatin National Forest. Hyalite Canyon has a variety of hiking trails, bike trails, and a reservoir where you can canoe or kayak.
If your family loves Food Channel shows, try out the Sidewinders American Grill, (which has a sister location in Jackson Hole) that Guy Fieri visited during one of his episodes on the Food Network Channel.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Bozeman
Which of these Montana Family Vacations Sound Best to You?
There can be no doubt that the state of Montana is a gorgeous place to visit with so many different types of activities. Choose which destination makes the most sense for your family and interests and get ready for an epic family trip to Montana all ages will enjoy!