Best Things to Do in Shelby, Montana
Shelby is located in Central Montana and is an unassuming little city that is worth the stop, whether you’re on your way to Canada (Shelby is located 35 miles south of the Canadian border) or heading across Montana from the east to Glacier National Park.
It’s located where two of the major highways in Montana meet: US 2 and I-15, making it a convenient stop for those traveling through the area no matter which way you’re going.
While many people just stop in Shelby to fill up on gas, we recommend you stay for a bit so you can experience the history and modern sites of pretty Shelby, Montana.
The Marias River runs through town, which provides outdoor activities alongside lovely views while the quaint downtown area of Shelby has shopping and eateries plus museums and other fun attractions.
Where to Stay in Shelby, Montana
The Best Western Shelby is located right off Highway 2, just west of downtown. The hotel has modern, updated rooms. Amenities include a pool and hot tub, snack shop, and complimentary breakfast.
Choose from 128 guest rooms or 56 large suites at Comfort Inn and Suites of Shelby. The hotel also has an indoor pool and hot tub, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary hot breakfast. A casino and restaurant are also located onsite.
The Best Things to Do and See in Shelby, Montana
Read on for the top things to do in Shelby, MT during your time there.
Marias Museum of History and Art
If you love learning about local history and dinosaurs, don’t miss out on a stop to Marias Museum of History. You’ll learn about homesteading in Central Montana and what life was like for early settlers in the area and other moments in the history of Shelby and Toole County.
You’ll even learn about the epic 1923 Dempsey Gibbons heavyweight championship fight that was held in Shelby. In addition, Marias Museum of History is home to a dinosaur exhibit that features dinosaur bones and fossils.
Address: 1129 1st St. N, Shelby
Hours: Double check opening times by calling (406-424-2551) before heading here as hours can be limited. Typically, between June and August, Marias Museum of History and Art is open six days a week (closed on Sundays), but from September to May, it’s only open on Tuesday afternoons.
—> Read More: The Best Dinosaur Museums in Montana
Carousel Rest Area of Shelby
If you don’t have much time to spend in Shelby, but still need a rest from your drive, then the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby is a must-do since it has a restroom, dining tables…and a carousel! Yes, really, a carousel. This isn’t your ordinary rest stop.
This charming carousel dates back to 1936. It was restored by a local farmer with help from the Shelby community in 2018. The carousel features hundreds of lights and hand-painted animals on which to ride. The building also houses a unique helicopter ride for kids.
It’s located entirely indoors, making it a great thing to do in Shelby even on a rainy or cold day.
If you want a cool treat during the summer, get a scoop of Montana-favorite Wilcoxson’s ice cream at the little onsite ice cream shop.
Address: 441 11th Ave. N, Shelby
Cost: $5 entry fee for the carousel; includes unlimited rides
Hours: Though the restrooms are open daily year-round, the carousel has limited hours in the winter and only operates from 12pm to 8pm on Saturdays. During summer, it is open six days a week (closed Sundays) from 10am to 8pm.
Shelby Splash Park and Pool
Near the Carousel is the Splash Park, a perfect park to visit on hot summer days if you have kids. The park has a playground and an excellent splash pad with fountains that is perfect for cooling off or running around to get some energy out after time spent in the car.
If it’s a rainy or snowy day, there is also an indoor, modern pool by the Splash Park that is open to guests for a small day use fee.
Marias Valley Golf Course
Nestled against part of the Marias River, the Marias Valley Golf Course provides a scenic, affordable place to hit some balls in Central Montana. The green includes 9-hole and 18-hole courses. The course is framed with cottonwood trees and some holes have river views.
Address: 1 Golf Course Rd, Shelby
Hours: Mon and Thurs 2pm – 9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm, Tues-Wed Closed
If you like river views, but don’t care about golfing, go to Williamson Park, located just south of Shelby. You’ll find a picnic table and an access point to the river.
Address: 72 Williamson Park Rd, Shelby
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
If the lake is more your scene than the river, head to Lake Shel-oole where you’ll find a campsite and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Lake Shel-oole is a popular place for fishing in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
Address: 1210 Oilfield Avenue
Cost: $25 to Camp Overnight, otherwise free
Roadrunner Recreational Trail
You can choose from two trail loops when doing a hike at the Roadrunner Recreational Trail. There is a roughly 3-mile loop and a 5.2 mile loop. The trailheads for both are in Shelby at the intersection of Main Street and Coyote Overpass. The trails then loop out into the prairie surrounding the town.
Roadrunner Recreational Trail is a paved trail that is good for bird watching, scenic views of Lake Shel-oole, and just some good old exercise! There are also interpretive signs along the off-road part of the trail, discussing parts of Shelby’s past.
You’ll stay on the bike path alongside the road going up Oilfield Avenue until you get to the turn off for the Campground, and then it becomes its own designated trail, still running parallel to the road. At Lake Shel-oole Access Road (just after Lewis and Clark RV Park), you’ll turn right, and then stay to the right to take the paved trail that loops around the lake.
For a shorter hike, start and end at the mid-loop trail by North Park Drive.
Address: Main Street and Coyote Overpass or North Park Drive.
Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk
Shelby, MT Main Street
For restaurants, eateries, and a Main Street with a western vibe, head to downtown Shelby.
Shopping and Dining Along Shelby’s Main Street
- Montana Club: Friendly bar with pool tables and a food menu serving up delicious burgers and sandwiches.
- Prairie Peddler: Get a cup of coffee or latte from the Espresso Bar and then browse, books, gifts, and more Montana souvenirs.
- Griddle: Great spot for a hearty breakfast.
- Alibi Lounge: Bar and pizza restaurant with a fun vibe.
- Northtown Drug: Not your average pharmacy! In addition to the pharmacy, there’s a gift shop and smoothie bar.
Shelby’s Aronow Park is located right in the middle of town and is a great place for families. It has a large grassy area right by a playground. There are also tennis courts.
Address: 700 Valley Street
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Toole County Library in Shelby
More than just a library, the Toole County Library is an excellent place to go to learn more about the Native American past in Central Montana with its Mountain Plains Native American collection, which is free to view and is part of the Montana Memory Project. The collection features historic documents, photographs, and other materials.
Address: 229 2nd Ave S, Shelby
Hours: Mon., Wed. & Thurs. 1:00-5:00; 7:00-9:00 p.m. Tues: 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. & 7:00-9:00 p.m. Friday: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. & 1:00-5:00 p.m. Saturday: 1:00-4:00 p.m. Closed: Sundays and Holidays
Sweet Grass Hills
If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, head 90 minutes northeast of Shelby to Sweet Grass Hills, a private nature reserve that is available to the public for a small fee.
Sweet Grass Hills is home to deer, antelope, elk, and grouse. Don’t forget to look up to see if you can spot a golden eagle or other bird of prey. If you’re lucky you might even spot a fox or bald eagle while at Sweet Grass Hills. The area gets its name from the ‘sweet grass’ that is grown there.
For more of a sure bet to see eagles and other raptors on the hunt, head to the Kevin Rim Area of Sweet Grass Hills.
Also, don’t miss seeing the Bear’s Den while exploring the Sweet Grass Hills. It’s a unique rock structure that consists of flat sandstone colored rocks framed by green vegetation while a deep crevice cuts through the middle of it.