Reasons to Visit Montana, such as this gorgeous river and mountain vista

Montana is More Than Just Big Sky and Yellowstone

Here are 5 Reasons You Should Book Your Trip to Montana Today

Montana is dubbed Big Sky Country due to the fact that the sky does seemingly go on forever, and that beauty is a big reason why people visit Montana.

Montana mountain peaks above Paradise Valley
Paradise Vally, Montana

But there’s so much more to the state than just panoramic views.

Despite being the fourth largest state in the U.S., Montana has one of the lowest number of residents of the 50 states. Less population means less smog; that and the expanse of wilderness keeps the air crisp and fresh. Montana is known for an outdoorsy culture and residents that foster a strong sense of community and pride for their state.

When visiting Montana, if you have the time try to travel through both the western side (mountains, waterfalls, and buffalo) and the eastern side (farm towns, fields, and the Badlands) to get a true sense of what Big Sky Country is all about.

Rolling hills and green fields in Montana
Southeast Montana

If you’re still not convinced that Montana should go onto your bucket list, here are five reasons to visit: 

#1 A River Runs Through Montana

Winding river in Montana with mountains in background

Make that lots of rivers, and there’s more to them than just fly-fishing like Brad Pitt in the beautifully shot film, A River Runs Through It (which takes place in Montana).

White water rafting is a popular sport with the locals. Though they may hit the water with their rafts in confidence, newbies to Montana’s waters should hire a guide to navigate you down the river as the currents and rapids can be unpredictable. Boating on the wider rivers is also a great way to spend a lazy day, while the calmer river parts are perfect for a day of standup paddle boarding or a leisurely kayak ride. Those aforementioned rapids can also be fun for experienced kayakers looking to race down some rapids.

Keep in mind you’re not on a lake, and the river currents can make swimming and other water activities very dangerous. Check with park or local officials beforehand to see if there are any safe areas on the river for swimming before you jump in.

#2 The Gorgeous National Parks

Montana is home to entrances to two national parks: Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.

Steaming geysers in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is so diverse and intoxicating with its fresh air, hiking trails, hot springs, and wildlife that even the outdoorsy locals of Montana visit on a regular basis thanks to great deals on season passes. 

Yellowstone National Park is more than just driving through looking for bison. For a memorable stay, find some trails to hike, visit Old Faithful – a huge geyser in the earth that shoots up water “faithfully” every 90 minutes or so, and try to spot an elusive grizzly bear (from your car preferably, you do not want to get too close to one. If doing a lot of hiking in Montana, invest in bear spray).

Another can’t-miss activity to do in Yellowstone National Park is to go swimming in the Boiling River, a part of the Gardner river where a too-hot-too-swim spring meets the too-cold-too-swim Gardner River, resulting in a pleasant hot spring atmosphere you can sit in.

Read More: What to Know Before You Go to Yellowstone National Park

Snowcapped peaks above a peaceful lake in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

Travel northwest from Yellowstone and you’ll come to Glacier National Park, a majestic park that is defined by its many jagged mountain peaks jutting up into the sky, creating the panoramic views visitors love to behold from the Going-to-the-Sun Road drive that goes through the park.

Glacier National Park also has several lakes that visitors can kayak or paddle board on. In addition, Glacier is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts with dozens of trails that range from easy to strenuous and short to multiple days.

Read More: Must-Do Activities in Glacier National Park

#3 Montana: The Land of Farming

Golden farmland in Montana
Montana farmland

Head east from Montana’s largest city, Billings, and you’re immediately in farm land. Though Montana is largely known outside the state for its mountains, dude ranches, and national parks, to ignore this side of Montana is missing out on a huge part of the culture and community that makes Montana so special.

In eastern Montana, acre after acre of farmland stretches across the flat earth. Visit in summer and hay bales, wheat, corn stalks, and dirt roads are a common sight, with hazy colors of burnt yellow, tan, muddled brown, and accents of deep green standing out in contrast to the wide blue sky.

The small towns that pop up amongst these farms are worth driving through and stopping in. Most towns have a local diner or bar and it’s there that you’ll get the taste of what true small-town living in America is like.

Read More: Why You Should Visit Eastern Montana

#4 Live Like a Montana Rancher for a Day

Horses running on a Montana dude ranch with a cowboy in the background
Montana dude ranch

But let’s not overlook those glorious Montana ranches. Thanks to the many vacation dude ranches around Montana, you can learn what it’s like to live like the Duttons in Yellowstone (minus all that murder and mayhem that happens in the show). Go on day-long horseback rides through the wide open spaces of Montana, try your hand at fly fishing, learn how to line dance, help take care of the horses and other livestock, and many more activities.

Dude ranches are great for families and often have kids programs, while couples looking for a romantic getaway can cozy up in a remote cabin. Most dude ranches have both a main lodge and remote cabins available for accommodations; some even have glamping tents, too!

Visiting Montana, but not staying at a ranch? Many dude ranches also offer day excursions you can sign up for even if you’re not a guest there, of which horseback riding is popular in summer while taking a horse-drawn carriage through the snow is a popular activity to do during Montana’s frosty winters.

#5 Embrace the Montana Snow

Skiing in Montana: A ski run at Red Lodge Mountain
Ski Run at Red Lodge Mountain

Montana is an excellent place for skiing. While Big Sky Resort is the name most people have heard of outside Montana, it’s often crowded and can get quite expensive.

Instead, head to one of the lesser known ski resorts that the residents of Montana frequent, such as Red Lodge Mountain (conveniently located about an hour’s drive away from Billings, Montana) or Bridger Bowl (near Bozeman).

Read More: The Best Ski Resorts in Montana

Dog sledding is another fun way to spend a snowy winter’s day in Montana. Since Montana is the land of wide, open spaces the cost of dog sledding in Montana is often cheaper than in other states due to the ease with which the dogs and dog sledding outfitters can get people on the snowy track through the trees. 

For a snow day with less equipment and is generally pretty cheap to partake in, go snowshoeing. In the winter, Glacier National Park even has free ranger-led snowshoeing tours on most Saturdays.

Beautiful Montana

Whether visiting in winter or summer, there is a huge variety of activities you can find to do in Montana. Just be sure to pack your best outdoors clothes, because you likely won’t be wanting to spend much time indoors when exploring Big Sky Country.

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