These Must-See Towns in Montana Need to Be Added to Your Bucket List
It seems like every place in Montana is a small town; even our largest cities tend to have a small-town vibe to them.
Still, the charm of Montana is indeed found in the small towns dotted all over the state from east to west and north to south. With so many cool little towns it can be hard to figure out which are worth visiting.
We don’t like picking favorites, but we did so in our 10 best small towns in Montana article. But gosh, there are so many more amazing towns in Montana! So we expanded things in this article by highlighting all the small towns in Montana that should be on your bucket list, bringing the total to 30 towns you can’t miss seeing.
Montana is big, but many of these towns are close to others on the list, meaning you can visit more than one on a day trip from Kalispell, Missoula, Bozeman, or Billings. Or route them all out to visit on an epic Montana road trip!
30 Must-See Small Towns in Montana
So let’s get started. Here are the top 30 small towns in Montana you’ll want to add to your bucket list – and maybe your next trip itinerary.
Most people use West Yellowstone as a gateway city for Yellowstone National Park. West Yellowstone is right by the west entrance and is the park’s busiest entrance in the summer months. However, West Yellowstone has much to offer travelers beyond a place to sleep or stock up on snacks before entering Yellowstone.
West Yellowstone is a great palace to base yourself in for excursions to Big Sky and Earthquake Lake. In town, you don’t want to miss the wonderful Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where you can see rescued grizzly bears, wolves, birds of prey, and river otters play, feast, and rest in a habitat similar to that found a few miles away in Yellowstone National Park.
West Yellowstone also has a fun zipline and adventure ropes course right on the edge of town (next to our favorite hotel in West Yellowstone: Golden Stone Inn)!
Read More: Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone
Shelby is a little town in north-central Montana that serves as a good pitstop for people driving along the Highline (Hwy 2) from or to Glacier National Park.
Shelby is indeed a good place for a rest stop thanks to its memorable rest area that features a Carousel with an ice cream stand and other fun rides for kids.
If you have extra time, drive into the actual town of Shelby and cruise along Main Street where you’ll find The Prairie Peddler. This store is located right on Main Street, with antiques and collectibles perfect for remembering your trip to Shelby. For dinner, head to the popular Montana Club.
—> Read More: Ultimate Guide to Shelby, MT
Philipsburg is a small town in Montana that is known for its minerals. It has a silver mining past while geological finds still contribute to its culture today thanks to the mining of sapphires.
Philipsburg is a great place in Montana to get a yogo sapphire souvenir. A couple of the gem stores even let you sift through the dirt on your own to find a sapphire you can turn into jewelry.
Philipsburg is also close to Granite Ghost Town State Park, where you can learn more about the silver mining boom that occurred here in the late 1800s.
Read More: Ultimate Guide for Philipsburg, Montana
Terry is a less-visited Southeast Montana gem of a town. This tiny town is home to some incredible museums that teach you more about the history of the plains of Montana and the badlands surrounding Terry.
The Terry Badlands Wilderness area is certainly a huge draw for the small town so definitely do a drive around the badlands. Then take some time to experience the attractions along the streets of this little Montana town.
When driving across North Central in Montana toward Glacier National Park, Choteau is one of the last towns you’ll hit before reaching the Blackfeet reservation and the national park’s eastern entrances.
Choteau has a fun little downtown area and is known for its excellent water activities, including fly fishing and rafting. Choteau is also on the Montana Dinosaur Trail thanks to the town’s Old Trail Museum.
Virginia City is a great place to go in Montana for those looking to learn more about the history of the state and want to see remnants of that history firsthand.
The Virginia City Ghost Town area is an enthralling place to walk around and think about what life was like in the late 1800s during the gold rush boom. It’s also remarkably well-preserved thanks to a restoration effort for the buildings in the 1940s which saved them from going into further disrepair after the gold rush went bust.
Now over 150 of those buildings make up this national historical site that doubles as a place to eat, shop, and grab a drink.
If you love mountains, Lewistown is also a good town to visit for gorgeous mountain views. Its location in the Judith Basin of Montana gives it an enviable vantage point of being surrounded by five different mountain ranges: the Snowies, the Judiths, the Moccasins, the Belts, and the Highwoods.
In town, you’ll also find things to do, such as walking around the historic Silk Stocking and Central Business Districts, where you’ll see old homes and old factory buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Cooke City may have “city” in its name, but this is still a small town – though one with big importance in the summer months. Cooke City is the town that lies closest to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
During the summer months, Cooke City is bustling with tourists getting snacks or a bite to eat before heading into the park, or before starting their journey east along the Beartooth Highway, one of Montana’s most scenic drives.
In winter, the vibe of the town is completely different, with Cooke City feeling practically deserted. Cooke City is hard to reach in the winter, but for those who don’t mind some snow and offroading, Cooke City is an excellent winter destination thanks to its amazing backcountry snowmobiling.
Deer Lodge is located in Southwest Montana and serves as the county seat of the County of Powell. ‘The town’s tagline is “Montana’s Undiscovered Treasure.”
Deer Lodge is close to Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, which is an excellent place to visit to get more of an understanding of the history of cattle ranching in Montana.
Deer Lodge is also near the Montana State Prison, which is located 3.5 miles west of town, though visitors will want to check out the Old Prison Museum along Main Street, which is where the old prison was and is now an interesting museum about the prison’s history and also has a vintage locomotive exhibit.
Polson is located on the southern end of Flathead Lake. It has a gorgeous waterfront, especially along Sacajawea Park where ladders lead right into the water for some summertime swimming.
Polson also has shopping and eateries along its downtown area plus a couple of museums worth checking out.
—> Read More: Find out all our top things to do in Polson here.
Sidney is just ten minutes from the North Dakota border in the northeast region of Montana known as Missouri River Country. Because of its close proximity to Williston, ND, Sidney’s economy is dependent on the oil industry, in addition to farming and ranching.
For visitors, Sidney is a chance to immerse yourself in true small-town Montana life far away from tourists. Sidney isn’t easy to get to since it’s about halfway between Glendive and Williston, meaning it’s off the major highways people take to get into Montana.
Once you’re in Sidney, you can walk along its Main Street for shopping and dining. Cultural and historic things to do include visiting Mondak Heritage Center and Fort Union Trading Post Historical Site. Bird watching and agate hunting are also popular pastimes in the prairie land around Sidney.
—> Read More: Ultimate Sidney, MT Travel Guide
A more easily reachable city for those driving through Missouri River Country via Hwy 2 is Glasgow, MT. Glasgow is a small town known for being on Montana’s Dinosaur Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail. It’s also right next to Montana’s largest body of water: Fort Peck Lake.
Fort Peck Lake has an interpretive center that is interesting to check out. Though, most people visit to get on the water and do some boating, fishing, or paddling.
—> Read More: What to Do and See When Visiting Glasgow, MT
The little downtown area of Darby has an Old West vibe with wooden architecture and saloon-style bars and eateries. It also is known for its antique and candy shop (the Bitterroot Valley seems to have a sweet tooth!)
Darby’s other claim to fame is being home to Chief Joseph Ranch, one of the filming locations for the TV show, Yellowstone.
—> Read More: Travel Guide for Darby, Montana
Havre is an interesting small town in Central Montana due to the fact that its main attraction isn’t something you can see along the streets, but something that lies beneath them. If visiting Havre, signing up for an “Havre Beneath the Streets” tour is one of the coolest things to do.
In the early 1900s, a fire destroyed most of the buildings in downtown Havre. Not to be deterred, the shop owners moved their businesses into the underground cellars that weren’t damaged by the fire. For many years the people of Havre bought supplies, went to get drinks, and basically lived their lives under the street while the structures above were rebuilt.
Once things moved back up, these underground businesses were pretty much abandoned, but some of them are stuck in time and can still be toured today. It’s an interesting slice of history and a hidden gem in Montana for visitors.
Miles City is a town in southeast Montana that is located roughly halfway between Billings and Glendive.
The big claim to fame for Miles City is that it’s where the Bucking Horse Sale happens every year. If you’re in Southeast Montana in the month of May, it’s worth a visit to Miles City to see this incredible spectacle. It’s where ranchers and farmers come to purchase stallions and horses. There’s a rodeo that happens and lots of other festival-type activities around all the horse sale action.
Read More: What to Do in Miles City, MT
Dillon is located about an hour south of Butte. doesn’t seem too exciting if you only check out the part immediately off the freeway, but venture a little bit farther off I-15 heading south and you’ll reach Dillon’s cute little Main Street. This part of Dillon has an adjacent historic center that’s well worth checking out.
If you have extra time take a walk through the Beaverhead County Museum to learn more about the history of this small town and the surrounding region.
Dillon’s other claim to fame is that it’s home to a Patagonia outlet.
With an enviable position on the northwest corner of Flathead Lake, just steps from the lakefront and a short drive from Glacier National Park, Bigfork is easily one of the coolest small towns in Montana to visit.
Add to the great location a cute main street with lots of eateries and shops, and you have a place where you can easily base yourself for your whole vacation.
Bigfork is also close to river activities since the Swan River runs right by the edge of town, as well as hiking fun thanks to nearby Flathead National Forest.
—> Read More: Best Things to Do in Bigfork, Montana
Dinosaur lovers can’t miss a stop in Glendive. Located on the eastern edge of Montana, Glendive is close to Makoshika State Park and other badlands scenery where prominent dinosaur excavations have occurred.
Dinosaur fossils are still being unearthed to this day. You can view some of the uncovered skeletons and fossils in one of the several museums around town.
—> Read more about these museums and other things to do in Glendive in our ultimate Glendive travel guide.
Fort Benton is one of the best small towns in Montana due to the scope of its history, plus its lovely geographical location along the scenic Missouri River.
Fort Benton was once a prominent fur trading post, a bustling pioneer town, and even a stop on the Lewis and Clark expedition. You can learn more about this history at one of the museums in Fort Benton’s Historical District.
For an unforgettable time in Fort Benton, stay overnight in the historic Grand Union Hotel, the oldest continuously running hotel in Montana.
—> Read More: Best Things to Do in Fort Benton, MT
Livingston is the little cousin to Bozeman, often overshadowed by its cosmopolitan neighbor to the west. But don’t be fooled by Livingston’s small size and the location at the top of Paradise Valley. This Montana town has bars, breweries, museums, and parks to rival that of larger cities.
We love ambling down Main Street and checking out Murray Bar, Katabatic Brewery, and the Depot after a couple of hours spent at Sacajawea Park. We love that park for its cool playground and gorgeous views of the flowing river and mountains.
Livingston is known for its high winds and unpredictable weather so be prepared with layers even if visiting at the height of summer.
—> Read More: Local’s Guide for Livingston, MT
Whitefish is one of the premier resort destinations in Montana. It has gorgeous Whitefish Lake with a public city beach making Whitefish an ideal summer getaway. There are lakefront resorts and vacation rentals just a couple of miles from downtown.
The downtown area of Whitefish is also fun with a vibrant, artsy main street lined with lots of restaurants and souvenir shops.
At one end of downtown, you’ll find the historic Whitefish Depot with its gorgeous architecture, little museum, and a collection of old, vintage trains displayed outside to view.
Up the mountain, the vibe becomes quite different as you reach Whitefish Mountain Resort and its outdoor playground.
In winter, that “playground” consists of epic ski runs, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. In summer, the mountainside transforms into a paradise for mountain bikers, hikers, and even zip lining and alpine sledding.
Adding to Whitefish’s strong pull as a vacation destination in Montana is its close proximity to Glacier National Park; Whitefish is just 27 miles from West Glacier and the west entrance to Glacier National Park.
—> Read More: Best Activities to Do in Whitefish
Red Lodge is a darling mountain town closely tied to the adjacent Red Lodge Mountain ski area, a fair-sized Montana ski resort.
The long main street of Red Lodge has a true mountain vibe and this little town has rapidly grown to accommodate both day and weekend trippers looking for accommodation, good eats, and a cold beer after a long day of outdoor activities.
Red Lodge is also the last town before you head west on the stunningly scenic Beartooth Highway, which connects Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Cooke City, MT.
Libby is a little town in northwest Montana that is surrounded by soaring mountain ranges and roaring rivers. The streets of the town are known for their many eagle sculptures while right outside town is one of Montana’s most iconic river attractions: Kootenai Falls and Kootenai Suspension Bridge.
Walking across the bridge is a must-do if you’re driving through the Glacier Country region of Montana on Highway 2. But make sure to spend some extra time exploring the cute main street and little side streets of Libby, too.
—> Read More: Best Things to Do in Libby, MT
Stevensville is located in the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula and is often considered to be where Montana began. This is thanks to the St. Mary’s Mission, which played an important part in pioneer life in this part of Montana.
Visitors can walk around the grounds of the historic church and tour inside the chapel as well as the little museum located on the property.
Hamilton has the liveliest main street found in the Bitterroot Valley. Hamilton is just thirty minutes south of Stevensville and mixes in the mountain ruggedness, valley peacefulness, and artsy vibe of its inhabitants all into a fun, cool, and relaxing main street where you’ll want to spend some time grabbing a bite to eat, checking out local art galleries, and doing some shopping for artisan crafts.
Hamilton is also home to the Daly Mansion on the outskirts of town, which was the former home of one of Montana’s “copper kings.” The grounds are open to the public and tours of the mansion are also offered.
If you’re coming from northern Washington or the panhandle of Idaho, Troy is likely to be your first introduction to Montana. The little town is located right along Highway 2 a short drive over the Idaho/Montana border.
Because of this, Troy is often heralded as the “Gateway to Montana.”
Troy may be tiny but it packs a big welcome thanks to all the incredible outdoor wonders surrounding it. Troy is close to excellent hiking, snowmobiling, boating, and rafting. It’s also known for being a fun geocaching spot.
We can’t talk about previously mentioned West Yellowstone and Cooke City and the entrances to Yellowstone National Park without also including Gardiner on this list.
After all, Gardiner is where you’ll find the famous north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It’s the Park’s only entrance that is open year-round plus it’s the entrance with the incredible Roosevelt Arch that has this famous proclamation across it: For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People. Which is a great thing to read as you enter America’s First National Park.
Gardiner isn’t just a gateway to Yellowstone, though. It also has parks, restaurants, and lots of accommodation options from motels to cabins to vacation rentals.
Gardiner also is on the south end of the famed Paradise Valley. Long beloved for its peaceful beauty, Paradise Valley has been a pop culture talking point in recent years thanks to the hit show Yellowstone and its prequel mini-series 1883.
—> Read More: Must-See Spots in Yellowstone National Park
Cut Bank is a former railroad town in Montana. Its origins date all the way back to 1891 with the arrival of the Great Northern Railway to the area where the town presides.
Today, Cut Bank is known less for railway tracks and more for its plethora of animal-focused outdoor activities, including fishing, hunting, cattle drives, birding, and more. Cut Bank also has a brewery, restaurants, and a golf course.
Chico / Pray
Chico and Pray are two neighboring little towns in Montana nestled in the Paradise Valley a short drive from the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park. They are known for their epic scenery and being home to two of Montana’s most incredible resorts.
Stay at Sage Lodge for an uber-luxurious stay in the country.
For a more budget-friendly stay, book a room (or cabin or even a covered wagon!) at Chico Hot Springs where you can enjoy a soak in the resort’s naturally thermal heated pools.
So Many Wonderfully Cool Small Towns in Montana
So here are our thirty top picks for the Montana towns you have to see at leaston once! We could easily have kept going, but you gotta stop somewhere, right? What do you think of this list? Did we miss your favorite Montana town?