Your Trip to Montana: The Complete Guide

••• Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

Montana's diverse terrain ranging from the rugged Rocky Mountains to the vast Great Plains, makes it the ideal place to go for outdoor adventures. It’s all here for everyone to enjoy: hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, camping, horseback riding, skiing, and more. You’ll see an abundance of wildlife inside Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, as well as all over the state on trails and throughout the numerous green spaces. Plus, the food scene here is unlike anywhere else in America. Bison, elk and steak make an appearance on most menus. Visit the last frontier for wide-open, wild spaces with big and small adventures around every bend.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: The summer months experience the best weather, with the month of July peaking at an average of 85 degrees-Fahrenheit. January sees the lowest temperatures, averaging 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The best time to visit really depends on what outdoor activities you want to participate in, whether skiing and snowmobiling in the winter or hiking and swimming in the summer. It’s worth noting as well that the summer months are the most crowded in the national parks, and visiting during the shoulder seasons is better for experiencing nature—and seeing wildlife—without swarms of people.

Language: English is spoken widely throughout. If you visit a reservation or attend a powwow, however, you may encounter native languages spoken by local tribes.

Currency: Credit cards and the U.S. Dollar are used in Montana. Cash is preferred in many small shops in the less-populated towns.

Getting Around: You’ll need to rent a vehicle (one with four-wheel drive if visiting in the winter) to get around; however, there are public transportation options when visiting Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks. Taxis and ride shares are also available, however, you’ll have to factor in a considerable wait time in many cases, depending on where you are.

Travel Tip: Peak wildfire season happens during the summer months when the state experiences warmer weather, lightning, and bursts of wind; be mindful of the conditions before you book your trip and be extra careful regarding wildfire safety when camping.

Things to Do

No matter when you visit Montana, plan on spending lots of time playing in the great outdoors. Tour the National Parks; visit historic battle grounds; spot wildlife, like bison, bears, mountain goats, moose, or elk; pan for gold in a ghost town; and check out one of the many summer festivals.

  • Yellowstone National Park: Visit America’s first national park, home to Old Faithful Geyser, Fountain Paint Pot, Sulphur Caldron, and sixty different mammals.
  • Glacier National Park: Take a white-knuckle drive up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, stopping for Visitor Center pit stops, hiking, and picnicking.
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument: The memorial site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes fought to preserve their way of life, is a popular site to visit.
  • Flathead Lake: In the western part of the state sits Flathead Lake, the largest fresh-water lake where you can kayak and enjoy stunning sunset views.
  • Museum of the Rockies: If you have to spend some time indoors, visit one of the best dinosaur museums in the states, located in Bozeman.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best time to visit Montana, the weather in Montana, and the top 10 destinations in Montana.

What to Eat and Drink

Montana is quite the meat and potatoes type of destination; however, you’ll find that other fare is available as well. Huckleberries, blackberries, and other fruits grow wild and can be picked and eaten right off the bushes while hiking (be cautious of bears as you do). Bison, deer, and elk meat, as well as trout and bass, are also commonly available should you want to try something more locally derived. And, if you want something to write home about, check out Rocky Mountain Oysters (fried bull testicles).

Breweries and tap rooms are also quite popular throughout the state in all of the larger cities and towns. Some popular ones include Montana Brewing Company, Bozeman Brewing Company, Blackfoot River Brewing Company, Big Sky Brewing Company, Lone Peak Brewery and Taphouse, Kalispell Brewing Company, and many others around the state. Visiting a brewery is a great way to see a slice of the local culture through a lively and friendly atmosphere. (You haven't lived until you've tried a Moose Drool pint from Big Sky Brewing.)

Explore our article on 10 foods to try in Montana.

Scenic view of Glacier National Park.
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Where to Stay

If you want to visit Yellowstone National Park, rest your head in Bozeman. You’ll be 90 minutes from the park, but you’ll have access to a plethora of dining options, nightlife, shopping, and outdoor adventures in the state’s fourth largest city. Plus, the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is only 10 miles away from the city center. New accommodations in Bozeman include the Kimpton Armory Hotel, which is slated to open this July.

If you’re visiting Glacier National Park, however, you’ll want to stay further north in Whitefish, where you’ll find plenty of ranches, rentals, and hotels to suit your needs. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, for example, is an excellent choice for location, amenities, and indulgence (the spa is fantastic). You’ll be just 35 minutes outside of the park, yet close to a charming mountain town full of restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops.

Explore romantic getaways in Montana and read about our recommendations for the best RV spots and campgrounds in and near Yellowstone National Park.

Getting There

There are many ways to get to Big Sky Country, the easiest likely being through one of the many airports listed below. You could also take a Greyhound bus or travel on Amtrak, however these options take longer and can be rather pricey. 

  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport: This is the optimal airport to fly into when visiting Yellowstone National Park, Montana State University, or the city of Bozeman.
  • Yellowstone Airport: This is a tiny airport, located at West Yellowstone, two miles from the Yellowstone National Park entrance. Delta Airlines is the exclusive commercial carrier.
  • Glacier Park International Airport: This is the best airport to fly into when visiting Glacier National Park as it’s the closest, however, this airport, located in Kalispell, is smaller, with less flights coming in an out daily. It may be less expensive if you fly into Missoula International Airport, rent a car, and then drive two and half hours to Whitefish.
  • Missoula International Airport: This is the best airport for visiting the city of Missoula or the University of Montana. You may also want to fly into here for a less expensive flight when visiting Glacier National Park.
  • Billings Logan International Airport: Billings is one of the larger cities in Montana and the airport is located in the south-central area of the state.
  • Great Falls International Airport: Great Falls is a bigger city as well, located in the north-central part of the state.

Money Saving Tips

  • If you visit one of the national parks on January 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; April 18, start of National Park Week; August 25, National Park Service’s birthday; September 26, National Public Lands Day; or November 11, Veterans Day, then your admission will be free of charge. Students in fourth grade also get free admission while visiting national parks. 
  • For a decent bargain, purchase the Montana State Parks Non-resident Entrance Pass, which will reward you with free entrance and discounted camping fees. The one-year pass is $50 per vehicle. A seven-day non-resident pass is also available and offers some useful savings as well.  
  • One of the best things to do in Montana is hike and that’s an activity you can do for free in many places. A great resource for finding a hiking trail to suit your abilities, time constraints, and interests is the Montana Office of Tourism.
  • A fantastic way to learn about the state’s culture and enjoy a fun free night out, is to attend an art walk in either Bozeman or Missoula. You can interact with local artists and residents and view a wide-range of mediums.
  • Virginia City and Nevada City, well-preserved ghost towns, are free to roam. Start your adventure by visiting the Virginia City Depot and Visitor Information Center. 
  • City parks and public green spaces throughout the state are free to enjoy.
  • Visit Montana in the off-season, in the fall or spring, for great deals on hotels and dining.
  • Here are the top 10 destinations in Montana, most of which have discounted entrance days or are free of charge year-round.
Was this page helpful?