The Dinosaur Museum in Montana You Can’t Miss!
Museum of the Rockies might sound more like a geological museum, but trust me — you’re mostly just going to be thinking about dinosaurs when you leave.
For my sister, living in Bozeman, Montana, comes with its perks — like living by one of the best dinosaur museums in the world. When she heard I’d never been to the Museum of the Rockies, she was shocked! So last fall I made sure to go, and couldn’t believe after my years of living in and frequently visiting Montana, I’d never been there.
It is for sure one of the best places to visit in Montana and should be on every dinosaur-lover’s itinerary. (And I mean, really…who doesn’t think dinosaurs are cool??)
Where is the Museum of the Rockies?
Before I get more into those dinosaurs and the other exhibits you’ll see at the Museum of the Rockies, let’s discuss location.
Museum of the Rockies is located in Bozeman on the outskirts of the Montana State University campus, which is on the city’s southern end. As for Bozeman, it’s one of Montana’s best cities and is located about an hour from Big Sky Mountain. Bozeman is roughly a 2.5-hour drive from Billings, 3-hour drive from Missoula, and about an hour and 45 minutes if coming from West Yellowstone.
You’ll quickly realize you’re in the right place thanks to the massive dinosaur skeleton in front of the entrance to the Museum of the Rockies.
Is it Just a Dinosaur Museum?
Nope! The Museum of the Rockies also has a planetarium onsite. The Taylor Planetarium requires a separate ticket purchase, but it’s worth it to see the incredible shows on a massive screen that makes you feel like you’re right in the thick of nature or the solar system or whatever the current films are showing.
The films are rotating and there are even often children’s shows (though these are usually just shown at select times on the weekend). On Monday through Friday, there aren’t as many showing times, so just the newest film is shown. Check times as they can change, but times are usually at 11 a.m, 1 p.m, and 3 p.m. during the week and every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the weekends.
Museum of the Rockies also has an onsite gift shop, which is the perfect place to pick up a dinosaur-specific souvenir.
In addition to the dinosaur exhibits, there are also a couple other permanent exhibits about Montana’s past, and a temporary exhibit (last time we were there, it was an exhibit about Ghengis Khan.)
Making the Museum of the Rockies even more special is that it’s the only Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Montana.
The Layout of the Museum of the Rockies and Where to Find the Dinosaurs
You’ll get a map of the museum with your ticket, but I’ll make it easy for you. Just turn right after the ticket desk and you’ll be starting at the right end, aka the dinosaur end.
But before you get to the dinosaurs you’ll walk through the Landforms & Life Forms exhibit. This will give you some ancient history knowledge of the earth before you head on into the prehistoric era.
Siebel Dinosaur Complex
The dinosaur exhibits in the Museum of the Rockies are located in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. It’s home to the largest collection of dinosaur fossils found in and around the state of Montana. Siebel Dinosaur Complex is where you’ll find the Hall of Giants, the Mesozoic Media Center, the Hall of Growth and Behavior, and the Hall of Horns & Teeth with the Tyrant Kings exhibit (my favorite).
Let’s dive into that a bit more.
Hall of Giants has some information about the Allosaurus and other lesser known dinosaurs like the Deinonychus and Oryctodromeus, plus some other prehistoric animals like the woolly mammoth.
I thought it was fun that they had some recreations of dinosaurs that imagined what they looked like complete with hair and even feathers! Scientists believe dinosaurs were colorful, similar to how many reptiles nowadays are colorful.
The Mesozoic Media Center had videos and images about paleontology. There was also an area with windows looking onto the bones of dinosaurs in a lab like setting. Certain days and times have actual people working in there on the fossils.
The Hall of Growth and Behavior was another favorite section of mine. Babies! In fossilized eggs! Incredible!
Then you turn the corner into the Hall of Horns & Teeth and *bam*! You’re face to face with a dinosaur .
Ok, a dinosaur skeleton.
But it’s definitely a striking setup and commands your attention. The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and triceratops are located in the center of the room and around the perimeter are more skulls and informational boards telling you about these species, that made up the Hall of Horns & Teeth part of the exhibit.
I particularly found one board interesting that talked about the theory that T-Rex wasn’t at the top of the dinosaur food chain due to the numbers scientists believe there were; they compared them to hyenas, which left me wondering…who were the lions of the dinosaur age?!
Yellowstone & Enduring Peoples Exhibit
Once I was able to pull myself away from the dinosaur fossils, I was impressed with the next exhibit, which was the Yellowstone & Enduring Peoples exhibit.
I liked learning more about the more recent animals that walked these plains, such as the buffalo, and the importance they played to the native people.
Seeing the artifacts and memorabilia from the native people on display was also incredibly interesting, especially learning more about how the culture endures today.
Paugh History Hall
The other permanent exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies is the Paugh History Hall. This is an excellently set up room that has everything from horse-drawn carriages to fancy old cars to some of the early airplane models on display.
In addition, there are rooms set up to reflect the housing of the Montana frontier when it was first being settled, which were interesting to peer at.
Is the Museum of the Rockies Family-Friendly?
Yes! My young kids loved it. There were tables with dinosaur toys on it and several hands-on exhibits.
Even though they weren’t quite old enough to truly comprehend the era of the dinosaurs, they knew about dinosaurs from TV and were completely in awe when we walked into the Hall of Horns and Teeth and they saw the monstrous T-Rex and Triceratops. It was so fun to see them wowed by the wonder of history and these magnificent creatures of the past!
On the upper level of the museum you’ll also find the Martin Children’s Discovery Center, where kids can have hands-on experiences and play in a way that teaches them more about Yellowstone National Park. It even has a mock geyser eruption at certain times throughout the day.
Anything Else to Know About the Museum of the Rockies Before You Go?
It’s a must-see thing to do in Bozeman! Ok, you probably gleaned that already.
Keep in mind this is a big tourist destination so it will be busy on weekends and during peak travel times, so plan on getting there as soon as it opens if you want to avoid the crowds or go during the week in shoulder season or winter. I was there toward the end of September on a weekday afternoon and there was hardly anyone else in the exhibits.
Important Note: For the foreseeable future, online tickets with a reservation for an arrival time are highly recommended as capacity will be strictly limited for the museum and walk-in tickets aren’t guaranteed.
Also, leave extra camera equipment in the car. You can of course bring your camera, but you are not permitted to use tripods, monopods, or selfie sticks in the museum.
Also, if visiting the Museum of the Rockies in summer, make time in your Bozeman travel itinerary to visit the Living History Farm on the property next door. It is an old homestead house that is affiliated with the museum. Skilled actors present a day in the life of a working farm in the 1800s and show you what it would have been like to live on the farm as you walk around the grounds.
Museum of the Rockies Quick Tips
Who: Montana State University runs this museum and it is also affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum.
What: An in-depth dinosaur exhibit complete with a T-rex skeleton, exhibits about past life in Montana, and a planetarium, plus rotating temporary exhibits.
When: Open year-round. Open year-round. Opening hours vary depending on season and day of week so check the museum hours page for opening times when you’re visiting.
Where: 600 W. Kagy Boulevard, Bozeman MT
Why: To see massive dinosaur skeletons and learn more about Montana’s