Verdant plains, snow-capped mountains studded with wildlife, and wide-open spaces are what you’ll get if you visit Montana, the fourth largest state in the nation. In a destination with more cattle than humans, you’ll be able to explore without bumping elbows with too many tourists. Big Sky Country is home to vast amounts of land, and the National Park Service manages several natural wonders, parks, and historic battlefields across the state. Read on to learn more about the Treasure State’s parks, sites, trails, and monuments.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, the Crown of the Continent located in northwest Montana, is one of the most popular National Parks in America. Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road and see craggy mountains; alpine meadows; thick forests that smell so good you won’t believe your nose; waterfalls, including one that weeps; glassy lakes; and glaciers, many of which are disappearing. This National Park is a photographer’s dream, on the road and the trails.
Yellowstone National Park
While mostly located in Wyoming, part of Yellowstone National Park, America’s first National Park, touches the southwestern part of Montana. The geothermal activity here is off the charts. Watch Old Faithful Geyser shoot hot steam and water high into the air every 80 minutes, listen to the harrowing sound of Dragon’s Mouth Spring, plug your nose at Sulphur Caldron, marvel at the mud bubbling at Fountain Paint Pot, and snap photos of fumaroles and the Yellowstone Caldera. And, yes, it’s an active volcano. Just as exciting, Yellowstone is also home to 60 different mammals, including black and grizzly bears, gray wolves, herds of bison and elk, and mountain goats.
Nez Perce and Big Hole National Battlefield
The Nez Perce National Historic Park, which cuts through Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, consists of 38 sites. Visitor centers in Montana are located at Big Hole National Battlefield, near Wisdom and Bear Paw Battlefield, near Chinook. You’ll learn about the history of the Nez Perce people, including the 126-day forced trek as well as the battles they fought.
Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial dedicated to the Nez Perce people who fought and died. U.S. Army troops were forcing American Indians to relocate to reservations, and the Nez Perce were fleeing. This battlefield marks the site where military forces attacked them.
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Grant-Kohrs Ranch in Deer Lodge, Montana is a nod to the great American West and the cattle-ranching cowboy. What was once the home of a 10 million-acre cattle farm, is now a tourist site for guided tours of the main ranch house, bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, barns, and other outbuildings from circa 1860. Kids can take roping lessons and spend time visiting the horses, cows, and chickens, and everyone will enjoy the miles of hiking trails.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Located in southeastern Montana, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes fought to preserve their way of life. More than 250 U.S. Calvary soldiers were killed in battle by the native tribes.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Clocking in at 4,900 miles long, the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition through 16 states, from Pittsburg to the Pacific Ocean, including, of course, Montana. There are several sites and points of interest in Montana, including Camp Disappointment National Historic Site, Beaverhead Rock State Park, Missouri Headwaters State Park, Fort Benton National Historic Landmark, and Pompeys Pillar National Monument.
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
The end of the last Ice Age marked a succession of disastrous floods. Today, you can see the effects of those deluges on the earth by viewing Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail. See volcanic rocks, massive buttes, land ripples, valleys, and rock fragments.
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
For four decades, Fort Union was the most important fur trading site on the Upper Missouri River. Native Plains Indian tribes traded buffalo robes and small animal furs for other goods. Visit to learn about American Indian history and culture and to see what life might have looked like back in the mid-1800s. Participate in Rendezvous, the largest event of the year, with arts, crafts, reenactors, and music.