Montana is a vast, beautiful state with a lot to see and do. It’s home to some major tourist areas and also some more under-the-radar locations. Montana is a trendy destination right now, but in some ways, it’s not for the faint of heart.
For example, if you’re planning a trip to Montana in the winter, you’ll need a vehicle equipped with high-quality tires that are made for challenging weather. You’ll also need to understand how to drive in heavy snow and ice and prepare to give yourself plenty of extra time.
Beyond the possibly hazardous driving conditions, there’s plenty more to know about a trip to Montana, and the following are some things to get you started.
Deciding Where You’ll Go
The hardest part of planning a trip to Montana might be figuring out where you want to go. There’s a lot to see and do. You won’t be able to do it all, so you’ll have to prioritize.
The best way to see as much of the state as you can is on a road trip.
A good time to visit is typically in either late August or early September. Any earlier and you’re going to see big crowds in places like Glacier National Park, and any later and you’re increasing the likelihood of bad weather. Even in late September, there’s a chance Glacier National Park will start shutting down due to snow.
If your primary area of focus is western Montana and Glacier Country, you should try to fly in and out of Missoula.
Glacier National Park features glacial likes, plenty of hiking, and mountain peaks.
Another major destination for tourists in Montana is Yellowstone. You can go to West Yellowstone, which is a town that is the gateway to the park.
The Badlands are in eastern Montana, and you’ll find rock stacks of sandstone everywhere you look.
For water lovers, head to Bighorn Canyon or Flathead Lake.
There are cities, although they’re relatively few and far between.
Helena is the capital, and it’s a pretty city that’s home to a downtown area and a university.
Billings is a city with a food and craft beer scene, and there’s Bozeman, which is in the Gallatin Valley in the southern part of the state. It’s also where you should go for the most accessible entry to Big Sky Resort for winter sports.
Road Trip Ideas
Again, the best way to see as much of Montana as possible is to plan a road trip, and you have so many itineraries and specific options available to you.
Yellowstone Country itineraries would take you around southern Montana and also into Yellowstone National Park. You could start in Bozeman for this road trip if you prefer. You might drive along the Beartooth Highway, an All-American Road that connects Red Lodge to the northeast Yellowstone entrance. This highway which is open from late May to mid-October takes you past dozens of peaks that are more than 12,000 feet.
If you wanted to focus on bison and buffalo, you might start at Great Falls International Airport, and from there, to Fort Benton to see the great plains.
Some of the other things not to miss that we haven’t mentioned yet include the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the trail of Lewis and Clark.
What About Skiing?
If you do like winter sports, Montana has plenty of skiing and snowboard options.
For example, Whitefish Mountain is often ranked as one of the country’s best ski destinations. There usually aren’t long lift lines, and the snow is deep. The central peak of this resort is more than 3,000 acres, receiving more than 300 inches of snow a year.
The Mountain Village is less than 20 miles from Glacier Park International Airport.
Big Sky Resort is one of the most famous ski areas in the state. There are 5,850 skiable acres with a 4,350-foot vertical drop.
The Lone Peak Tram will take you up to 11,166 feet.
Montana Snow Bowl features great views and sunsets, and it’s the ideal place to go if you’re an extremist.
As far as winter sports, you can find something for everyone in Montana, including beginner options up to black diamonds.
Overall, Montana is a beautiful state with a lot of natural, outdoor beauty, sporting options, and also some charming cities and towns that are worth visiting. A road trip in the summer or skiing in the winter might be just what you’re looking for.