Epic Montana Activities to Make Your Getaway Unforgettable!
Montana is full of beauty, adventure, and fun — and that’s why we love calling it home! Today, we’re going to give you a local’s perspective on the top things to do in Montana, broken out into different categories depending on your interests.
Read on for our top 25 things to do in Montana, whether you’re looking for adrenaline-inducing excitement, historic attractions, or natural wonders.
Montana Things to Do for Water Lovers
Love being on the water? Here are some excellent water activities to do in Montana with tips on where to do them.
Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand up paddle boarding is the new craze in water sports, and the clear and calm lakes of Montana are the perfect place to do them.
Flathead Valley is home to numerous lakes that are perfect for paddle boarding: Swan Lake, Flathead Lake, and Whitefish Lake are a few of the most popular ones. You can also do some paddle boarding in Glacier National Park; just remember to get it inspected near the entrance if bringing your own – paddle boards count as a watercraft.
Want a bit more of a challenge? Go paddle boarding down one of the rivers in Montana (just stick to the calmer ones that don’t have crazily rushing rapids – you probably don’t want THAT much of a challenge!)
Do Some River or Lake Kayaking
Another great way to get out onto Montana’s rivers is via kayak. River kayaks are built to withstand the rapids and plunges of the water, but it’s best to go with a guide if you aren’t a skilled kayaker.
For a more leisurely kayak ride, head to a lake to do some kayaking. Flathead Lake even has a marine trail perfect for kayakers that leads you around the edges of the lake to some of the best spots for wildlife viewing and natural beauty plus campsites only for those accessing them via non-motorized watercrafts.
Go Boating in Lakes and Canyons
Montana’s lakes are usually delightfully void of crowds and often framed by majestic mountains or incredible canyons.
Some of my favorite places to go boating in Montana are Bighorn Canyon, Flathead Lake, Swan Lake, and Whitefish Lake.
Most lakes have boat rentals nearby or you can trailer your own – just have it inspected if coming from out of state (Troy has a boat inspection location if you’re coming from the west) or visiting the national parks (you’ll get a dated slip you’ll need to secure to your boat).
From fly fishing to boat fishing to fishing off the side of docks, you’ll find a plethora of fishing locations and styles in Montana.
The most quintessential of these is fly fishing – made famous by Brad Pitt’s character in A River Runs Through It. If you’ve never gone fly fishing before, it’s best to go with a guide who can teach you the tricks and take you to the best fly fishing spots in Montana for beginners.
Things to Do in Montana for Outdoorsy People
Montana is known for the outdoors and here are some of our favorite ways to get out into nature.
Visit National Park Sites in Montana
The National Parks in Montana are some of the most famous in the world: Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
Read More: What to Know Before You Visit Yellowstone National Park
Read More: Top Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Montana is also home to National Park Historic Sites like the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail, and Bighorn Canyon.
Take a Hike
If you are able to, do a hike while in Montana. It takes you right into the thick of nature and makes you feel like you’re truly experiencing the spirit of Montana.
Both Yellowstone and Glacier National Park have spectacular hikes, but don’t forget about the national forests like Lolo National Forest and Flathead National Forest, which are often less crowded and have spectacular vistas.
In the summer months, many of the ski resorts of Montana also have hiking trails going down the mountain – take the chair lift or gondola up and then hike back down for a fun way to get gorgeous views and a good hike in.
And remember – don’t forget your bear spray!
Pitch a tent and feel at one with the outdoors as you sleep and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Campgrounds tend to fill up fast in Montana, particularly in popular areas, like Montana State Parks along lakeshore and at Yellowstone and Glacier.
Be sure to follow camping guidelines, such as fire safety protocol (wildfires are a real risk in Montana during certain months), bringing bear-safe coolers and trash receptacles, and carrying easily-accessible bear spray.
Take a Scenic MT Drive
Montana is home to some of the most incredible scenic drives in the country. Heck, even just driving over the mountain passes on I-90 are stunning. But to really absorb the beauty of Montana’s best drives, whether it’s to see the National Parks or to see some of Montana’s pretty fall colors, you’ll want to get off the freeway.
Two iconic scenic drives in Montana are the Going-to-the-Sun road that cuts across Glacier National Park and the 68-mile Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
I also just love driving around the small town country roads in Southeast Montana.
Montana Activities for Adrenaline Enthusiasts
Like to get a thrill? Montana is a great place to achieve that. Here are some of the best things to do in Montana for heart-pounding, exciting adventure.
With such high mountain peaks, Montana is a great place to do some ziplining over the treetops. You’ll find zipline courses near both national parks.
There is a popular zipline course in the city of West Yellowstone plus a couple a bit farther north at Big Sky Resort and in Gallatin Gateway. In Glacier Country you’ll find zipline courses in Columbia Falls, Coram, and at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Raft Down River Rapids
If you want to spend some time on river rapids, then river rafting is the perfect way to do so.
Go on the lazier rivers in Montana for a relaxing day in the sunshine on just a sturdy inner tube, or get adventurous and sign up for a river rafting excursion down one of Montana’s exciting rivers, like Swan River, Flathead River, and Yellowstone River.
Go Mountain Biking in Montana
Get a thrill as you race down the side of the mountains on dirt trails especially tailored to mountain biking. You can do so at the ski resorts of Montana in the summer as some of the most popular ski mountains transform into warm weather adventure havens.
Both Whitefish Mountain Resort and Big Sky Resort have excellent mountain biking trails in the summer, with chairlifts operating that can take both you and your bike to the top of the mountain.
Go Rock Climbing
Montana has a thriving climbing community and a number of prime spots to go rock climbing. Some of the best spots to rock climb in Montana are Kootenai Canyon, Stone Hill, and Gallatin Canyon, but there are many, many more, including coveted spots for ice climbing, like Hyalite Canyon, an excellent day trip from Bozeman.
No time to hit the mountains to climb? Bozeman, Missoula, and Billings are all home to indoor rock climbing centers where you can work on your skills and exchange stories with other rock climbing enthusiasts.
Food and Drink Things to Do in Montana
Yes, eating counts as a thing to do! So does drinking, for that matter. So with that in mind, here are our top things to do in Montana that involve food and drink.
Montana Brewery Tours
Montana may not be as well known for breweries as some of its neighboring states to the west, but that may change soon as Montana brewers continue to develop new, exciting brews with fun tasting rooms located all over the state.
Do a self-guided brewery tour (such as the Billings Brew Trail), or join up with a guided brewery tour where you’re transported around to different breweries – ideal for cities where breweries may not be in walking distance to each other, like in Missoula, Bozeman, and Flathead Valley.
Eat Some Huckleberry Pie
…or anything Huckleberry.
Montana grows excellent huckleberries, a fruit that reminds me of a blend between a grape and a cherry due to its sweetness with just a hint of tart. Huckleberries are definitely one of the top foods to try while in Montana.
In Montana, you can find huckleberry pie, huckleberry ice cream, huckleberry lemonade, huckleberry jam, and so much more. You’ll likely see huckleberry products all over Montana, but if you want to go to the source, visit the Huckleberry Patch store in Hungry Horse, Montana; Huckleberry Patch makes many of the huckleberry products sold in gift shops around the state.
Walk Around a Local Montana Farmers Market
With so many nearby farms and ranches plus lots of artisans who call Montana home, a stroll through a Farmers Market is a top thing to do in Montana if one happens to be going on when you’re visiting.
Check with the local Visitors Center of the Montana town you’re traveling through to see if there is a Farmers Market going on while you’re there.
Montana isn’t just about the breweries. A number of craft distilleries are opening up all around the state where you can do a tasting or try a cocktail made with locally distilled whiskey, gin, vodka, and more liquor varieties.
My husband is a big whiskey connoisseur and loves Montana whiskies. I’m not a liquor drinker, but even found a huckleberry whiskey I liked at Glacial Distilling Company in Coram, Montana.
—> Read More: Must-See Hidden Gems in Montana
Things to Do in Montana for History Buffs
Montana has so much history than you might realize, from dinosaurs to explorers to early pioneers.
Montana’s Dinosaur Trail
Montana is the location where some of the most prominent dinosaur skeletons and fossils have been found. Which makes it fitting that Montana is home to the Dinosaur Trail, a fun road trip you can do that takes you to museums and locations all around Montana that have played important roles in the archaeology world for dinosaurs.
Follow the Lewis and Clark Trail
Here’s another iconic trail that’s a top thing to do in Montana.
You no doubt remember hearing about Lewis and Clark in elementary school: they are the two adventurers who set out into the unknown to chart the land purchased by the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
A large part of Lewis and Clark’s journey took place in Montana and you can follow the path they took by doing a Lewis and Clark road trip. Definitely don’t miss Pompeys Pillar, where you can see the place in a large rock where Clark carved his name.
Things to Do That Are Quintessential Montana
And lastly, here are some things to do that are just simply pure Montana.
There’s a popular misconception about Montana that “everybody owns a horse.” While this is far from true (though wouldn’t it be nice!), it is a fact that there are a lot of horses in Montana and many trails and wide open spaces where you can ride them.
The best way to have a horseback riding experience is to stay at one of many guest ranches in Montana, many of which provide an all-inclusive style of vacation. Some of these ranches also offer guided horse excursions for those not staying onsite that are just a few hours long.
Stay on a Montana Dude Ranch
A dude ranch is more than just horseback riding. A stay on a dude ranch can open your eyes to the way a working farm operates, plus let you experience fishing and camping excursions with locals who know the best spots, while in the evenings you’ll enjoy homecooked meals with local ingredients, along with so many more amazing experiences.
Dude ranches vary greatly in terms of cost, number of guests onsite at a time, and the luxury element.
Click here to read our more in-depth article on the best dude ranches in Montana and what to expect during your stay.
Attend a Rodeo
Montana is home to many annual rodeos. From small, outdoor ones in the county to large, traveling rodeos that perform in arenas in the downtown areas of Montana’s cities, there are many different types of rodeos to enjoy.
My favorite event to watch is the barrel racing, but the bronco riding is also always exciting to watch!
Walk Around Art Galleries and Festivals
When you think of Montana, you probably don’t think of art, but Montana is actually a haven for artists and has many burgeoning art towns with a strong artsy culture.
Some of the best cities for art in Montana include Whitefish, Missoula, and Hamilton. In particular, the annual summer Whitefish Arts Festival over the 4th of July holiday is one of the best I’ve ever been to!
—> Read More: Ultimate Summer Guide for Whitefish, MT
Visit Wildlife Sanctuaries
You can see grizzlies, wolves, buffalo, and more animals in their natural habitats at the wildlife sanctuaries located around Montana.
Two that stand out are the National Bison Range in Charlo near Flathead Lake and the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.
Things to Do in Montana in the Winter
While some of the above activities can be done year-round like brewery tastings, scenic drives, and dude ranch stays, there are others that can only be done in the winter months. Here are some of our favorite things to do in the winter in Montana.
Hit the Slopes at Montana’s Best Ski Resorts
Montana has some of the best skiing in the world. From world-class resorts like Whitefish and Big Sky to local resort faves like Red Lodge and Bridger Bowl plus several other smaller ski areas that locals love, there is likely a place to ski and snowboard in Montana that is just the right fit for you.
Go Cross-Country Skiing
If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, you might want to try cross-country skiing. There are several recreation areas in Montana that are just for cross-country skiers and are groomed daily.
—> Read More: Click here for our article that goes into more detail about downhill and cross-country skiing in Montana.
With so many open plains and valleys, Montana is an excellent winter vacation if you’re interested in snowmobiling. You can even take a guided snowmobiling tour through Yellowstone National Park to get a view of the park in the winter without all the summer crowds.
Mingle with Huskies and Go Dog Sledding
One of the most memorable things to do in Montana for animal lovers is dog sledding.
You can visit a dog sledding camp and learn more about the history of dog sledding, interact with the dog sled team, and even cuddle baby huskies if you’re there at the right time! But nothing beats the adrenaline thrill of being pulled through the crisp snow by a pack of powerful huskies.
Do a National Park Hike
Both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks have ranger-led hikes in the winter that take you along trails that can be accessed in the winter.
Rangers will teach you more about the history of the park and give you detailed stories about the sights you’re seeing and the animals that call the parks home.
Read More: Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park in Winter
In Yellowstone National Park, a great winter hike that you can do self-guided is Mammoth Hot Springs. You can’t bathe in these hot springs, but the incredible travertine formations and the thick steam coming up off them in the cold winter air is an unbelievable sight to behold – and without all the crowds that will be on the wooden platforms going around these hot springs in the summer.
A fun alternative to skiing is snowshoeing. Think of it like hiking, but with big, flat shoes on the bottom of your boots! Snowshoeing can be done along many of the hiking trails that are popular in the summer months.
During winter in Glacier National Park, park rangers even lead free snowshoeing excursions on the weekends and you can rent snowshoes from the Apgar Visitor Center.
Take a Snow Carriage Ride
Feel like you’re in a winter wonderland with a carriage ride through the snow pulled by a horse. Your time in a horse-drawn carriage will provide you with wonderful memories while taking in beautiful Montana winter scenery.
One of the best places to take such a snow carriage ride is around Yellowstone National Park and the Glacier Country area of Montana.
Hope You Enjoy All These Things to Do in Montana!
With so many exciting things to do in Montana, you’ll no doubt finding yourself wanting to extend your trip or coming back again someday to experience more of this vast, beautiful state.
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