18 Top Things to Do in Montana

Two moose in a lake in Glacier National Park

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

The majestic Rocky Mountains, wide-open prairies, and clear winding rivers make Montana a true vacation wonderland. The state's colorful human and natural history—touching on everything from paleontology and Lewis and Clark’s journey to Old West mines and mining towns—is the subject of many attractions that appeal to visitors from around the world.

Often referred to as "Big Sky Country," Montana is spread across more than 147,000 miles but is one of the least populated states in the whole country. For travelers seeking stunning vistas, beautiful natural parks, and fewer crowds, Montana is definitely a top destination.

01 of 18

Learn About Native American Culture and History

Museum of the Plains Indian

Museum of the Plains Indian

19 Museum Lp, Browning, MT 59417, USA
Phone +1 406-338-2230

Long before Europeans settled in North America, Montana was home to many Indigenous peoples, including the Lakota Sioux, Nez Percé, Shoshone, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Blackfeet, among other Native American nations. Celebrate the rich culture and history of the region at the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, located about two hours from Great Falls near Glacier National Park, or the Western Heritage Center in Billings, which also sprinkles in stories of the area's Pioneer past.

For a more somber look at Montana's history, visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield and Memorial, which commemorates those who were lost in the fighting between Lakota Sioux, Arapaho, and Cheyenne forces and the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry, led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer (this was also the site of Custer’s Last Stand). While the battle was a brief victory for the Northern Plains Indians, the tensions led to a stronger response by the U.S. government, resulting in the forceful relocation of any remaining groups into reservations. Today, the battlefield and its memorial, located about an hour outside Billings, are places of peaceful reflection.

02 of 18

Behold the Power of Nature at Earthquake Lake

Earthquake Lake in Montana

stellalevi / Getty Images

Earthquake Lake, Montana, USA

Located about an hour from Big Sky and 30 minutes from West Yellowstone, the Earthquake Lake Geologic Area and its visitor center make a great day trip for nature lovers and anyone interested in seismic activity. 

While it’s a popular spot for fishing, boating, camping, whitewater rafting, and other recreational activities, the site is best known for the massive 7.3 earthquake that occurred on August 17, 1959, causing a horrific landslide that formed Hebgen Lake and killed 28 people. Stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about what happened here and pay your respects to those who were lost at the Memorial.

03 of 18

Stay at a Dude Ranch

Woman on a horse at a dude ranch in Montana

Boogich / Getty Images

750 Lone Mountain Ranch Rd, Big Sky, MT 59716, USA
Phone +1 406-995-4644

For a truly memorable Montana travel experience, spend a few nights at an upscale Dude Ranch. These typically offer all-inclusive packages that cover luxury lodging, dining, and depending on where you’re staying, other amenities like fly-fishing, cookouts, horseback riding, sailing on the lake, stargazing, mountain biking, among other seasonal activities.

Those who prefer to get their hands dirty and indulge their inner cowboy or cowgirl can opt for a stint on a working ranch, where guests can get a hands-on experience of what it’s like to live and work on a traditional Montana cattle ranch. What you’ll get to do mostly depends on the time of year you're visiting—lambing and calving are springtime activities while gathering cattle and leading them back to the ranch is something that happens in the fall—but you’ll have access to hiking, photography, bird watching, and horseback riding opportunities all year long.

04 of 18

Get Outdoors at Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in Montana

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Montana, USA
Phone +1 406-888-7800

Glacier National Park is famous for its jagged snow-capped peaks, glacier-carved valleys, serene lakes, rushing rivers, and abundant wildlife. A handful of glaciers also remain here. One popular way to experience Glacier National Park’s beauty is by traveling along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a steep, winding, and amazingly scenic route. Enhance your trip by staying in grand historic lodges and taking part in your choice of outdoor recreation options ranging from easy to challenging.

Continue to 5 of 18 below.
05 of 18

Catch an Exhibit at Montana's Museum

Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana

Montana Historical Society

225 N Roberts St, Helena, MT 59620, USA
Phone +1 406-444-2694

Located near the capital city of Helena, the Montana Historical Society Museum, also known as Montana's Museum, is full of interesting artifacts from the state's past and present. Inside, the Mackay Gallery of Russell Art houses a fine collection of about 80 paintings, sculptures, and illustrated letters by prominent U.S. artist Charles M. Russell, while the Montana Homeland exhibit provides a timeline of interesting objects that take you through all phases of Montana’s history. Special and traveling exhibits change over time, covering topics that touch on the history of the state and region. Note that the museum is closed Sundays and holidays.

06 of 18

Follow the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis and Clark Trail

Wesley Hitt / Photographer's Chocie RF / Getty Images

Lewis and Clark Trail, Missoula, MT 59801, USA

In the early 1800s, Lewis and Clark of the Corps of Discovery Expedition found their way to many points in Montana with the help of their Lemhi Shoshone guide Sacagawea, while traveling westward across the country to the Pacific Ocean and on their journey home. Paddling or walking along the same route is a thrilling way to experience and appreciate this historic accomplishment. There are several Montana road trips you can take that are themed around attractions and activities; the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, located in Great Falls, is also a major highlight.

07 of 18

Take a Boat Tour at the Gates of the Mountains

The Gates of the Mountain Boat Tour

Angela M. Brown 

Helena, MT 59602, USA

The Gates of the Mountains, a gorgeous canyon along the Missouri River, can best be viewed on a boat tour, many of which are available just 20 miles north of Helena. Keep an eye out for interesting geology and varied wildlife, including birds of prey throughout the trip. 

The canyon was named by Lewis in July 1805 during the Corps of Discovery Expedition—you'll hear why on the tour, which also includes a stop at the entrance to Mann Gulch, the site of a tragic 1949 wildfire that is the subject of several books. This part of the state is officially called the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area, administered as part of Helena National Forest. Boating, camping, hiking, and picnicking are among the recreational activities that are most popular here.

08 of 18

Appreciate Cowboy Art at the C.M. Russell Museum

The C.M. Russell Museum

The C.M. Russell Museum

400 13th St N, Great Falls, MT 59401, USA
Phone +1 406-727-8787

Charles M. Russell is one of the great cowboy artists in the U.S., capturing accurate and compelling images of the West, covering its days as a wild frontier and into the era of homesteading and settlement during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The C. M. Russell Museum Complex in Great Falls, open daily, includes not only several galleries but the Russell's original home and log cabin studio. Highlights from the museum's permanent collection include hundreds of his paintings and sculptures, a selection of illustrated letters, and the Browning Firearms Collection. The Studio also contains an exhibit of artifacts from Russell's personal collection.

Continue to 9 of 18 below.
09 of 18

Paddle Down the Upper Missouri Breaks River

Cliffs in Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Angela M. Brown

920 NE Main St, Lewistown, MT 59457-4079, USA
Phone +1 406-538-1900

Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument is a unique stretch of the Missouri River that passes through remote and rugged canyons. Take a multi-day canoe trip along the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, which passes through the monument, enjoying the same scenery and wildlife experienced by Lewis and Clark.

The official Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center, located in the small historic town of Fort Benton, is where experts can fill you in on all the details you'll need to explore the Upper Missouri Breaks by land or water, whether you plan to take a guided trip or embark on your own boat or canoe adventure. While at the interpretive center, learn about the natural and human history of the region. Hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and camping are also available.

10 of 18

Get Spooked at a Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

Drummond, MT 59832, USA
Phone +1 406-329-3914

In 1898, about 1,000 people (many of which were gold miners) lived in the town of Garnet in the Garnet Mountain Range. The town east of Missoula grew to have a school, hotels, a doctor's office, and saloons, among other small-town services. Today, Garnet is the best-preserved ghost town in Montana, making it an interesting family field trip to check out the remnants of its beautifully abandoned buildings.

At Garnet Ghost Town in Drummond, you'll find a few trails to explore. Nearby, outdoor activities from camping and mountain biking to cross country skiing are fun ways to spend a day.

11 of 18

Drive Along Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway

Carol Polich Photo Workshops / Getty Images

Bear Tooth Pass Hwy, Wyoming 82414, USA

Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road that covers about 70 miles through the rugged Beartooth Mountain range in Montana and Wyoming. The Montana stretch of it follows U.S. Highway 212 from Red Lodge in the east to the Cooke City entrance to Yellowstone National Park in the west.

There are numerous places to stop and take in stunning mountain views along the way, whether from a scenic overlook, on a hike, or during a picnic. You'll also find clear lakes, waterfalls, a fire lookout tower, a general store, and, in autumn, colorful foliage. Beartooth Highway is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S. and you won’t want to miss it.

12 of 18

Learn About Dinosaurs at the Museum of the Rockies

T-Rex Skeleton at Entrance to the Museum of the Rockies ©Angela M. Brown

 Museum of the Rockies

600 W Kagy Blvd, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
Phone +1 406-994-2251

The natural and human history of the Rocky Mountain region is the focus at Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. While Montana's rich body of dinosaur fossils and the vast amounts of knowledge represented make the museum worthy of a visit in its own right, other exhibits cover aspects of Montana's human history, including Native Americans, mining, and transportation. 

The Museum of the Rockies has a lot to stimulate young minds; the "Explore Yellowstone" exhibit in the Martin Children's Discovery Center does an awesome job of introducing little ones to all the animals, geology, and outdoor recreation opportunities to be found in Yellowstone National Park. The Taylor Planetarium, a living history farm, and traveling exhibits are among other fun things to check out during your visit.

Continue to 13 of 18 below.
13 of 18

Explore Caves on the Lewis and Clark Caverns Tour

Lewis and Clark Caverns

AllAroundTheWest / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, USA
Phone +1 406-287-3541

See stalactites, stalagmites, and other interesting mineral formations at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, home to one of the largest limestone caverns in the Northwest, which can be experienced on one of many guided tours taking place from early May through the end of September. The park also offers hiking and biking trails, 40 campsites, a modern visitor center, an amphitheater, interpretive displays, a gift shop, and food and beverage concessions, as well as other activities like bird watching, viewing wildlife, and canoeing.

14 of 18

Sip Suds at a Local Brewery


 Justin Brockie / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

101 W Broadway St, Philipsburg, MT 59858, USA
Phone +1 406-859-2739

After a long day of sightseeing, relax at one of Montana's many local breweries. The Philipsburg Brewing Company, located inside a bank from the late 1880s in a historic town, is a fun stop. In Missoula, Big Sky Brewing Company is a popular destination, as is Bayern Brewing, the oldest brewery in the state, started in 1987 and known for being the only German brewery in the Rockies. In Billings, an unofficial downtown brewery district includes six breweries, two distilleries, and a cider house, all within walking distance. This map of state breweries will help guide your way to some enjoyable times.

15 of 18

View Historic Pictographs in a Cave

Pictograph Cave State Park

 AllAroundTheWest / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

3401 Coburn Rd, Billings, MT 59101-6420, USA
Phone +1 406-254-7342

History enthusiasts will want to head to Pictograph Cave State Park, a National Historic Landmark in Billings, where a loop trail leads to caves with paintings dating back 2,000 years. There, generations of prehistoric hunters who stayed in the area left behind about 30,000 artifacts (like weapons and stone tools) and more than 100 rock paintings, known as pictographs, in three main caves. The visitor center is a good place to start your day and learn about area history from interpretive displays.

16 of 18

Greet Wolves and Grizzly Bears

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

 Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

201 S Canyon St, West Yellowstone, MT 59758, USA
Phone +1 800-257-2570

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a not-for-profit, wildlife park and educational facility in West Yellowstone where visitors have a rare opportunity to see wildlife every day of the year. The animals cannot survive in the wild for a variety of reasons, and you'll be able to view three Yellowstone wolf packs and seven rescued grizzly bears in a large outdoor habitat. Educational programs for children and adults cover grizzly bear eating habits, encounters and pepper spray use, and onsite raptors like hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls.

Continue to 17 of 18 below.
17 of 18

Find Peace Among 1,000 Buddha Statues

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

gjohnstonphoto / Getty Images

34574 White Coyote Rd, Arlee, MT 59821-9076, USA
Phone +1 406-726-0555

If you’re looking for some inner peace, The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a botanical garden and public park known for bringing about positive change; approximately 2,000 monthly visitors of many different faiths and religious backgrounds show up during the warmer months.

Located 20 miles north of Missoula in Western Montana’s Jocko Valley, the garden boasts lovely Mission Mountain range views. Its information center is also a gift shop selling a mix of imported items from Nepal, local crafts, and Buddhist shrine pieces. While it is open daily, guided tours are only available from April through October; check the website for other seasonal particulars.

18 of 18

Time Travel at the American Computer and Robotics Museum

American Computer and Robotics Museum

American Computer and Robotics Museum

2023 Stadium Dr #1a, Bozeman, MT 59715-0613, USA
Phone +1 406-582-1288

With 4,000 years of artifacts related to the history of humans and technology, the American Computer and Robotics Museum, founded in Bozeman in 1990, is a place you won't want to miss. Exhibits cover diverse topics like historic cuneiform tablets, the first personal computers, and women in computing. Best of all, there is no charge to enter the museum unless you are on a reserved group tour.

Back to List

18 Top Things to Do in Montana