Montana Vacation Ideas for All Types of Trips
Montana is BIG. In fact, Montana is the fourth largest state in the U.S. — meaning you probably won’t have the vacation time to traverse all across the state and will need to narrow down your Montana vacation spots if you have limited days to spend in this beautiful state.
We’re here to help.
Our family has lived in Montana for five generations and we love exploring this gorgeous state we call home. Here are the best Montana vacation spots for a variety of interests.
Best Skiing Vacation Spots in Montana
There are plenty of ski runs in Montana, but if you want to make a vacation out of it, then you’ll want to head to one of the resort towns centered around the ski life. For this, it’s hard to beat Big Sky Resort and Whitefish Mountain.
Big Sky Resort
Located an hour from Bozeman (which is conveniently home to Montana’s busiest airport), Big Sky Resort is the preeminent ski resort in Montana due to its sheer size and luxurious amenities.
Big Sky Resort may be ritzy down below thanks to a town center full of restaurants, wine bars, and luxurious accommodations (including ski-in and ski-out lodges), but when you get to the top of the mountain you’ll feel a world away as it’s you and the snow as you make your way down one of Big Sky’s many runs, including its famous bowl.
Big Sky Resort is great for families, too, thanks to a ski school you can put your kids in for the week, or lessons for a day. Which then gives parents the chance to hit up those black diamonds instead of spending the day on greens!
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Another excellent place to vacation in Montana with skiing in mind is Whitefish Mountain Resort. This resort is located close to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, though it’s the slopes that will keep you fantasizing about this vacation spot long after you leave.
Whitefish Mountain Resort has world-class skiing with ski-in and ski-out accommodations, onsite restaurants and bars, and a short drive down the mountain to one of Montana’s most artistic small cities, marvelously showcased by lovely downtown Whitefish.
Read More: Click Here for Our Guide to the Best Ski Destinations in Montana
Best Dude Ranch Vacation Spots
If you want to travel into the mountains atop your steed, then looking for a dude ranch in the valley of central Montana is your best bet. Stick to ones close to lake towns nestled within the mountains like Whitefish and Flathead Lake for even more scenic trail options — plus opportunities for recreational opportunities.
We have a list of our recommended Montana dude ranches in our detailed article on the subject that also includes tips on what to pack, etiquette practices, and what to expect on a Montana dude ranch. ——-> Click here to read this article on Montana dude ranches!
Best Montana Vacation Spots for Natural Wonders
Looking for majestic scenery and exciting wildlife? Then spending your Montana vacation at one of Montana’s national parks is a must-do. Montana is home to two national parks: Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, the latter of which was the United State’s very first national park.
If you have two to three weeks you can fit in both parks, but if you only have a week or less, it’s best to just choose one to focus on.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is one of the most popular vacation spots in the whole country so it can get quite crowded during peak months, such as July and August.
Still, for those who want to see the power of Old Faithful, the colors of wildflowers in spring, and the roaming bison spotted all around the park, then it’s worth dealing with the crowds to see.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is also more busy during July and August, but has a different vibe than Yellowstone since Glacier is more focused on hikes and lakes.
Glacier is also known for its scenic drives, such as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which you takes high up a mountain for incredible views of the surrounding Rocky Mountain Range. Glacier is also a hiker’s paradise — just remember to bring bear spray!
—-> Click here for our complete guide to choosing a bear spray.
Families with smaller children may like the slower pace of Glacier, while those with older kids may enjoy introducing them to the geological wonders of Yellowstone.
Read More: The Ultimate Lodging Guide for Glacier National Park
Vacation Spots Beyond Montana’s National Parks
Keep in mind that Montana is much more than just its National Parks when it comes to nature.
The Lewis and Clark Caverns is a geological delight located beneath the surface of the earth near Bozeman.
In eastern Montana, you can discover the Montana Badlands and its unique rock formations in Makoshika state park.
Read More: All About Montana’s National Parks and Historical Sites
On the other side of the state, in southwestern Montana is the Bitterroot Valley, where you’ll find sprawling ranch land framed by jagged mountain peaks in the distance.
A personal favorite of ours is the Beartooth Highway that stretches from Red Lodge to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone and is a perfect drive for those who want jaw-dropping scenery away from the crowds of the National Park routes.
Best Vacation Spots for Beer Lovers
If you want to try a number of craft breweries, then both Missoula and Billings are great options for you.
Missoula is located in western Montana and is a bustling university town right smack dab in the middle of the mountains, while Billings in the southeast part of Montana is the state’s largest city, yet is surrounded by valleys and farmland.
In Missoula, you’ll find breweries with hippie flair and inventive brews. If traveling with kids, Missoula is also great for some brewery tasting thanks to places like Highlander Beer – Missoula Brewing Co., which has a play area just for kids.
Another great options is the incredible A Carousel for Missoula and its adjacent Dragon Hollow playground, which is right across from Tamarack Brewing Co. and is in walking distance from Conflux Brewing Co.
Billings has many breweries located within its small downtown area that it now has developed the Billings Brew Trail, a map of breweries all located within walking distance of each other that was put together by the Billings Tourism Board.
Stop by the Billings Visitor Center to pick a map up (or download it here) and you’ll be on your way to experiencing some of Billings’ best breweries!
Best Montana Vacation Spots for Water Buffs
If you love being on the water and don’t find any vacation complete without some boating, then Montana is a great vacation spot for you.
Two of the best places in Montana to find water bliss in Montana are Flathead Lake in western Montana and Bighorn Canyon in eastern Montana.
Flathead Lake is located about an hour south of Glacier National Park, and most people typically use it as a brief lunch stop on the way to Glacier from Bozeman airport.
But those in the know are aware Flathead Lake is an incredible destination in its own right, and many Montanans spend vacations or weekend getaways at this gorgeous lake that is filled with leftover glacial water from the ice age.
Flathead Lake is known for its crystal clear water and the cherry tree orchards that grow along its shores — if you’re there during cherry season be sure to pick up a bag of Flathead cherries from one of the numerous roadside stands you’ll see!
While in Flathead Lake you can also do waterskiing, boat to an island that is home to a herd of wild horses, go kayaking, do some fishing in Flathead Lake, and camp for the night at campsites that are only accessible via the water, and visit one of Flathead Lake’s many beaches for some swimming.
Just be aware that the water is cold even at the height of the summer, so if you’re a wimp like I am, you may want a neoprene rashguard to stay warmer if you plan on being in the water a lot.
- I got this one before I went to Flathead Lake this past summer and the two pieces were so convenient and comfortable! My mom even bought one, too, after seeing mine.
——> The Wetsuit Jacket
——> The Wetsuit Bottoms
Flathead Lake has a number of accommodation options, from airbnbs to lodges located right by the water. Two of the most popular places to stay are in Polson on the southern end of the water, or Bigfork on the northeast side, but you can find campgrounds, hotels, and vacation rentals all around the lake.
Best Lakes in Glacier National Park
Day Trip Guide to Visiting Swan Lake
Another locally loved water recreation spot is Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area, located about 90 minutes southeast of Billings.
There is a campground, which can fill up quickly during the summer, and not many hotel options. Instead, stay in Billings, and do a day trip to Bighorn Canyon.
—> Read More: We have more information about visiting and boating on Bighorn Canyon here.
Start Planning Your Trip to Montana’s Best Vacation Spots
What type of Montana vacation spot sounds the most fun to you? Or is there a different style of vacationing we missed that you’d like to know more about for Montana? Let us know in the comments below!