17 Things to Know if You’re Moving to Montana

Are you considering a move to the breathtaking state of Montana? Well, buckle up, my friend, because I’ve got some juicy insider information that will make your transition smooth as silk.

In this article, I’m going to dish out all the important details you need to know before making the leap.

Now, I get it. Moving to a new place can be intimidating. Will the snowy winters be something you can endure? What about finding affordable housing in this expansive state? And are there any hidden expenses that could catch you off guard?

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. With years of personal experience and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I have scoured every nook and cranny of Montana to bring you the inside scoop.

This article is tailor-made for you, whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast, a nature lover seeking spectacular mountain ranges, or simply someone craving the rugged charms of Montana.

So, sit back, relax, and prepare to embark on a virtual journey through the wonders of The Treasure State.

Things to Know About Montana

A mountain is in the background of a meadow in Montana.

So, you’re thinking about packing your bags and heading to the wild and wonderful state of Montana. Allow me to guide you through this enchanting land of snowy winters and breathtaking mountain ranges. 

1. Montana Has an Effective Residential Property Tax Rate

A stack of coins and a calculator next to a house with the word tax in Montana.

Montana has an effective residential property tax rate.

While local governments and schools in the state heavily rely on property tax for revenue, the state’s effective tax rate for property tax is lower than the national average. 

Montana ranks 33rd in the nation with an effective residential property tax rate of 0.73%. This is lower than the national median of 1.05%.

It’s also important to mention that Montana does not have a sales tax like most other states.

In fact, The Treasure State generates a large portion of its total taxes from property tax of 40%, compared to the national average of 31%.

This means that homeowners in Montana enjoy relatively lower property tax burdens compared to many other states across the country.

The state’s effective residential property tax rate is one of the reasons why the state is often considered an attractive place to live.

With lower property tax rates, residents can enjoy the benefits of homeownership without being burdened by high tax bills.

2. Montana Is Retiree-Friendly

Nurse Helping an Elderly Man in Montana

Montana is a retiree-friendly state, offering a number of reasons why it is a popular choice for those looking to settle down and enjoy their golden years.

With its picturesque landscapes and abundance of outdoor recreational activities, it’s no wonder retirees flock to the state.

One of the key aspects that make Montana attractive for retirees is its wide range of recreational activities. From hiking and fishing to skiing and wildlife viewing, there is something for everyone.

The state is home to stunning mountain ranges, including the famous Rocky Mountains, which provide ample opportunities for adventure and exploration.

Montana boasts a good healthcare system, ensuring that retirees have access to quality medical facilities.

Premier hospitals and specialized clinics are well-distributed in the state’s bigger cities and major urban centers, providing a range of healthcare options to cater to diverse needs.

This provides retirees with peace of mind, knowing they can receive the care they need without having to travel long distances.

Another advantage of retiring in Montana is the favorable tax environment. The state has no sales tax, meaning retirees can stretch their dollars further when it comes to daily expenses.

Additionally, property taxes in Montana are relatively low compared to the national average. This allows retirees to enjoy the benefits of homeownership without being burdened by exorbitant tax bills.

3. Montana Is Surrounded by Canadian Provinces

Flags flying on the roof of a Montana building.

This state is truly unique as it is surrounded by the beauty and splendor of Canadian provinces.

Montana is bordered by Idaho to the southwest, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north.

Imagine being in a place where you can easily explore both the wonders of a state and the captivating landscapes of its northern neighbors.

You can experience the rugged charm of Alberta, home to stunning national parks like Banff and Jasper.

Or venture into the majestic wilderness of British Columbia, known for its breathtaking coastal climate and diverse wildlife. And let’s not forget about Saskatchewan, with its incredible Prairie sunsets.

That said, crossing Montana’s borders to visit its neighboring Canadian Provinces will still require you to comply with certain requirements when you pass by its ports.

So, before you embark on your exploration, make sure you have your travel documents in order.

Check the latest guidelines and regulations to ensure a smooth journey between the state and these incredible Canadian provinces.

4. Montana Has Extreme Temperature Swings

A fence with snow capped mountains in Montana.

Montana is a place of climatic wonders, where extreme temperature swings are a part of everyday life. In this vast state, climatic variations are as large as the landscapes themselves.

Half of the state, the southwest region, is dominated by towering mountains, while the northeastern half resembles the sprawling Great Plains, dotted with valleys and hills.

What sets Montana apart is the Continental Divide, which exerts a marked influence on the climate.

On the west side of the Divide, where a modified north Pacific coast type climate prevails, winters are milder, precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, and summers are refreshingly cooler.

The winds? Well, they’re lighter too.

But shift to the eastern side, and you’ll find a whole different climatic experience.

Here, the characteristics are decidedly continental. Cloudiness is more prevalent, humidity runs a bit higher, and the growing season is shorter compared to the plains in the east.

Now, let’s talk about those extreme temperature swings. 

Both Medicine Lake and Glendive have recorded 117 °F for the toastiest temperatures ever and on the flipside, Montana hit a bone-chilling low of – 70 °F near Helena in 1954. Talk about extremes!

5. Montana Winters Are Not for the Weak of Heart

An aerial view of a snow-covered highway and mountains in Montana.

Montana winters are an experience like no other. The extreme winter climate can leave even the hardiest of souls shivering in their boots.

Just take a look at the record-breaking temperatures this state has seen:

January 20, 1954Montana hit a bone-chilling low of – 70 °F near Helena, possibly even tying the national record of – 80 °F set in Alaska.
January 30, 1989Montana was hit with a disastrous Arctic air mass. Downslope winds gusted to 100 mph at Shelby, 102 mph at Browning, and 124 mph at Choteau.
December 24, 1924In the span of 12 hours, Fairfield near Great Falls witnessed a staggering temperature drop from a delightful 63 °F at noon to a bone-chilling -21 °F by midnight.
Winter of 1936Montana faced a relentless onslaught of freezing temperatures. Areas east of the mountains endured a mind-numbing 57 consecutive days below zero, with even a day at -10 °F being considered “warm.”

So, if you’re planning to brave a Montana winter, you better come prepared for the brutal Montana snow. The temperature swings are unpredictable, and you never know when a warm spell might turn into an Arctic onslaught.

It’s essential to have a winter survival kit, dress in layered clothing, and equip yourself with suitable gear.

And seasoned Montanans know all too well the importance of always being ready for anything, especially when it comes to surviving cold temperatures.

6. Montana Has One of the Best Skiing, Hunting, and Fishing Grounds

A person skiing down a snow covered slope in Montana.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Montana is the place to be.

This treasure trove of adventure has something for everyone, whether you crave the adrenaline rush of skiing and snowboarding or the serenity of hunting and fishing.

With its breathtaking mountain ranges and abundant wildlife, Montana offers unrivaled opportunities for outdoor recreation. The state boasts 15 ski areas and resorts, including the famous Big Sky Ski Resort.

Carve your way down pristine slopes and experience the exhilaration of flying down the mountainside.

Here are some great destinations for skiing in the Big Sky Country:

  • Whitefish Mountain Resort
  • Bridger Bowl Ski Area
  • Snowbowl
  • Teton Pass Ski Resort
  • Discover Ski Area

Skiing and snowboarding are not all that Montana has to offer. It also shines in the warm summers, offering golfing, hiking, and mountain biking amidst stunning landscapes.

Whether you’re chasing after a trophy-sized game or casting your line into crystal-clear streams, the state’s diverse flora and fauna ensure an unforgettable experience.

From deer and elk to trout and salmon, you’ll find it all here.

7. Montana Has Breathtaking Natural Wonders

A mountain range with pine trees in the background, perfect for exploring Montana.

One of Montana’s most popular features is its land which is full of awe-inspiring natural wonders that will leave you breathless.

The state is blessed with a diverse ecosystem, from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the sprawling grasslands that stretch as far as the eye can see.

This unique blend of landscapes provides the perfect backdrop for a wide range of outdoor recreational activities.

In the winter months, you can hit the slopes and experience the thrill of skiing and snowboarding in world-class resorts like Big Sky Ski Resort.

The powdery snow and challenging slopes make this state a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. But don’t let the snow fool you – this state truly comes alive in the summer.

Montana’s wide-open spaces beckon you to explore, whether it’s hiking in Glacier National Park, casting your line in pristine rivers for some world-class fishing, or simply soaking in the breathtaking vistas.

Speaking of parks, the state is home to some of the most iconic in the country.

Yellowstone National Park, with its mesmerizing geysers and abundant wildlife, is a must-visit. For an up-close encounter with grizzly bears and wolves, head to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

These natural wonders are just a taste of what the state has to offer.

One of the unique advantages of Montana is its limited population density.

Unlike bustling cities where you have to navigate congested roads and long lines, it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the stunning scenery without distractions.

It’s a place where you can truly escape and find peace in the great outdoors.

8. Montana Is Huge on Wildlife

A lynx is walking through the Montana woods.

This state is not just big in terms of landmass, it’s also huge when it comes to wildlife. Montana is a sanctuary for a diverse range of animals, from majestic mammals to soaring birds.

But with such a bountiful array of creatures, it’s important to be cautious as you traverse through its vast uninhabited areas.

In Montana, encounters with predators are not uncommon. Grizzly bears, black bears, wolverines, mountain lions, lynx, coyotes, and wolves call this place home.

While these animals are truly awe-inspiring, it’s essential to remember that they are wild and deserve our utmost respect.

Living near wildlife requires certain measures to ensure safety for both humans and animals. Properly securing garbage and food can help avoid attracting these magnificent creatures into residential areas.

Protecting gardens and homes from potential damage caused by animals is also crucial.

With its diverse range of wildlife, Montana offers a truly wild and untamed experience.

So, as you venture into this wilderness, be cautious, respect the creatures you encounter, and take the necessary measures to coexist harmoniously with the animals that call this great state home.

9. Montana Continues to Have a Thriving Ranching Tradition

A group of people riding horses in Montana.

Ranching is alive and well in Montana, where the thriving agriculture industry dominates the local economy and paves the way for a strong ranching culture.

It’s a place where the cowboy lifestyle still holds sway, and the love for the land runs deep.

In Montana, the land yields an abundance of farm products such as:

  • Certified organic wheat
  • Lentils
  • Flax
  • Dry peas
  • Honey

Sweet cherries burst with flavor, while seed potatoes and sugar beets provide the foundation for these fertile plains.

Montana’s beef is renowned for its quality, and hay is a staple crop for local farmers.

But pursuing a cowboy-style life and earning a living through ranching is not without its challenges. The rugged terrain and vast landscapes demand hard work and resilience.

The unpredictable weather patterns can test even the most seasoned rancher, and the isolation can be both a blessing and a curse.

However, for those who embrace the ranching culture, the rewards are abundant.

Montana’s ranching industry is vital to the state’s economy and deeply ingrained in its culture. It offers opportunities for those who are willing to put in the effort and commitment required to nurture the land and care for the animals.

In the state, ranching is more than just a way of making a living. It’s a way of life, a connection to the land and the heritage that defines this great state.

10. In Montana, A Car Is Almost a Need

A red truck driving down a mountain road in Montana.

With its vast landscapes and rugged terrains, getting around the state without a reliable set of wheels can be quite a challenge. And when it comes to choosing a car, 4-wheel drive is not just a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Montana’s tough winters can unleash some serious havoc on its roads. From chewed-up rural lanes to snowy highways, Mother Nature doesn’t hold back.

That’s where a trusty 4-wheel drive comes in – it can easily power through the snowy, icy, and uneven terrain, ensuring that you stay safe and mobile.

But what if you prefer not to own a car?

Montana might not be the easiest state to navigate without one. While there are public transportation options available, such as planes, trains, buses, and vans, they are often limited, especially in rural areas.

This means that owning a car becomes even more essential for those living in less urbanized regions.

And let’s not forget about the unpredictable weather.

In Montana, particularly in rural areas, power outages after storms and car battery failures in freezing temperatures are not unheard of.

Being able to rely on your own set of wheels can mean the difference between being stranded or quickly getting back on track.

Consider investing in a 4-wheel drive to ensure that you can confidently venture out no matter the road conditions. After all, in Montana, a car is not just a means of transportation – it’s a lifeline.

11. Montana Is Slow to Embrace Trends

A woman standing on a rock in Montana with her arms outstretched.

Montana is a place where trends move at a leisurely pace. In this state, people like to take their time and savor each passing moment.

While other places may be buzzing with the latest fashion fads and hipster hangouts, Montanans prefer to remain rooted in the practicality of their surroundings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Montanans have their own sense of style. But it’s a style that prioritizes comfort and functionality.

When you’re living in a place where enduring 8-month winters is the norm, you learn to prioritize warm, weather-appropriate clothing over the latest runway trends. 

And speaking of nature, Montanans’ love for the great outdoors means that they prioritize practicality over fashion. They’re not afraid to get a little dirty or embrace that rugged mountain aesthetic.

It’s all about being comfortable while hiking, skiing, or simply enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the state.

This state is all about embracing the timeless and practical, whether it’s in clothing choices or the love for comfort food and craft beer.

12. Montana Has a Low Population Density

Two women hiking in the Montana woods.

Montana is a state with such a low population density of 6.8 persons per square miles.

On the positive side, this sparsely populated state allows for a sense of tranquility and solitude that is hard to find elsewhere.

The open spaces and breathtaking landscapes provide endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Imagine having picturesque hiking trails and majestic mountains practically at your doorstep, without the crowds and congestion that are often found in more densely populated areas.

However, there are some downsides to living in a place with such a low population density. The limited access to amenities and services can be frustrating, as you may have to travel long distances to find necessities.

Additionally, finding housing can be a challenge, as the demand often outweighs the supply, leading to higher prices and limited options.

That being said, it’s important to note that Montana’s population is growing. As more people discover the beauty and tranquility of this state, the balance between solitude and community is shifting.

It’s an exciting time of change, but one that still allows for a unique experience in this sparsely populated state.

13. Montana Has an Affordable Housing Shortage

Houses on a hillside with trees in the background in Montana.

Finding affordable housing in the state can be a real challenge.

Montana is grappling with a serious shortage of housing options, which has led to rising prices and limited choices for families and individuals.

It’s a situation that has left many scratching their heads and wondering where they can find a place to call home.

Take Big Sky, for example. This picturesque town is a tourist hotspot, with stunning mountain views and outdoor adventures at every turn.

It’s no wonder people want to settle down here. But with a whopping 83% of the workforce commuting into Big Sky every day, it’s clear that finding affordable housing within its limits is no easy task.

If you’re in the market for housing in Montana, you’ll need to think outside the box.

Traditional options like buying a home or renting an apartment may not be feasible for everyone. But fear not, there are alternative housing solutions available.

From tiny houses to co-living spaces, there are creative ways to find a roof over your head that won’t break the bank. To navigate this challenging housing market, it’s essential to tap into the right resources.

Local realtors and property management companies can help you navigate the housing landscape and find potential rental options.

Online platforms and community groups can also be valuable sources of information and connections. In the end, the key is to be flexible and open-minded. 

14. Montana Is Home to Some Amazing Public Universities

A large red brick building in Montana.
source: commons.wikimedia.org

Montana is home to some amazing public universities that offer a wide range of higher education options.

As someone who values the importance of education, I believe that having access to quality educational institutions is crucial for personal growth and career opportunities.

Fortunately, the state has several options for those seeking to further their education.

Among the top universities in Montana is Montana State University, which is known for its strong programs in agriculture, engineering, and the sciences.

Another notable public university is Rocky Mountain College, offering a liberal arts education with a focus on professional programs like business and health sciences.

Carroll College is another well-regarded institution, providing a comprehensive education rooted in the Catholic tradition.

Beyond these universities, Montana has a diverse array of higher education institutions. 

There are 16 colleges and universities that provide accessible and affordable education for students looking to start their academic journey.

Additionally, 7 tribal colleges in Montana offer unique cultural experiences and educational opportunities for Native American students. They are:

  • Aaniiih Nakoda College
  • Blackfeet Community College
  • Chief Dull Knife College
  • Fort Peck Community College
  • Little Big Horn College
  • Salish Kootenai College
  • Stone Child College

In the state, education is highly valued, as it plays a vital role in the overall development of individuals and the prosperity of communities. 

15. Montanans Love Their Craft Beer

A mug of beer with a Montana flag.

Montana, like many Western states, is no stranger to the craft beer scene. With a craft beer culture that is as diverse as the state’s landscapes, Montanans take their brews seriously.

According to the Montana Brewers Association (MBA), there are 53 licensed breweries in the state, each bringing its unique flavors and brewing techniques to the table.

Not only do these breweries offer an incredible range of beers, but they also contribute significantly to the state’s economy.

The MBA proudly notes that Montana’s breweries employ over 500 individuals and have an impressive annual economic impact of over $60,000,000.

These numbers speak volumes about the passion and dedication that Montanans have for their craft.

If you’re looking to experience the best of Montana’s craft beer scene, there are a few breweries that stand out.

Bayern Brewing, known for its fine German-inspired lagers, is a must-visit. Big Sky Brewing is another popular destination, offering a variety of beers, including their famous Moose Drool Brown Ale.

Philipsburg Brewing Company is known for its small-town charm and delicious brews, while Bozeman Brewing Company is a local favorite, serving up a range of creative and refreshing beers.

With so many incredible breweries to choose from, why not go brewery hopping during your visit to Montana?

Take a tour, sample award-winning beers, and immerse yourself in the thriving craft beer culture that makes the state truly unique.

16. Montana Celebrates Huckleberry Season in August

A pile of Huckleberry on the ground in Montana.

August is an exciting time for all the huckleberry enthusiasts out there, as it marks the much-anticipated huckleberry season here in Montana. And let me tell you, it’s a frenzy of flavor that you won’t want to miss!

These petite purple powerhouses, often referred to as Montana’s state fruit, are the stars of the show during this time of year.

Governor Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 880 on May 10, 2023, to designate the huckleberry as the official state fruit.

Whether you find them in the wild or at a local farmers market, huckleberries are a true local delicacy. Imagine the perfect blend of sweet and tart bursting in your mouth with each juicy bite.

These little wonders have a mild flavor, somewhat reminiscent of a blueberry, but with their unique qualities. Red huckleberries tend to be tarter, while the darker purple, blue, and blackberries offer a sweeter flavor profile.

Montanans have truly embraced the huckleberry obsession, incorporating these flavorful berries into all sorts of culinary creations. From pancakes and pies to jams and syrups, huckleberries are the star ingredient that adds a special touch to any dish.

And let’s not forget about huckleberry cobbler and huckleberry ice cream – they need to be on your must-try list!

If you want to fully indulge in the huckleberry goodness, make sure to visit Montana during the annual Huckleberry Festival held in August.

This delightful event brings together locals and visitors alike to celebrate all things huckleberry.

You can sample a wide variety of huckleberry-themed foods and products, from huckleberry pancakes to huckleberry beer. It’s a huckleberry lover’s paradise!

Now, a word of caution. Grizzly bears can frequent Montana’s huckleberry picking spots, so be aware if you venture out to pick these treats by yourself.

So, keep your eyes peeled and proceed with caution – you might just encounter some furry berry enthusiasts!

17. Montanans Are Some of the Friendliest People You Will Meet

A group of friends walking together in Montana.

Montanans are some of the friendliest people you will meet. It’s just part of their nature.

You see, in this vast state of big skies and wide-open spaces, people forge connections with their neighbors and embrace the spirit of community.

Montanans are the kind of folks who wave to people as they pass them on the country roads, and they’re always up for a chat with strangers in cafes and diners.

If you’re new to Montana, especially if you’re coming from the hustle and bustle of the Northeast, you might be pleasantly surprised by how warm and friendly people in this state are.

Montanans believe in being good neighbors and lending a helping hand when needed. Whether it’s offering a cup of sugar or helping to clear a neighbor’s driveway after a snowstorm, people here take care of each other.

Things to Know About Montana Final Thoughts

A man and woman horseback riding in a Montana field.

Before deciding to move to Montana, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and consider your priorities and preferences.

While the warm and friendly nature of the people and the sense of community make it an appealing place to live, it’s worth noting that Montanans can be slow to accept change.

Integration can take time, but the reward is a tight-knit community that will support you for life. Consider the lifestyle you’re seeking, the course that you are planning to take, and the cost of living.

Montana offers breathtaking mountain ranges, reasonable property taxes, and a moderately retiree-friendly landscape.

However, it also has enduring 8-month winters and scarce affordable housing. 

In making an informed decision, it’s essential to do your research and visit Montana to get a sense of the place. 

Things to Know About Montana FAQs

1. Is Montana Expensive to Live In?

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), the cost of living in Montana is just right—not too high, not too low.

For the first quarter of 2023, the state ranked as the 34th lowest cost of living in the United States.

While that might still translate to a relatively high cost of living for the whole state, it is mainly due to high living costs concentrated in a few towns and cities rather than spread across the majority of the state.

2. What Is Montana Known for Producing?

When it comes to agriculture, it’s no secret that cattle and wheat are the stars of Montana. These 2 powerhouses account for a whopping 3/4 of the state’s agricultural cash receipts.

So, if you’re craving a slice of the Treasure State’s bounty, you can’t go wrong with some prime Montana beef or a hearty serving of golden wheat. 

3. How Do People Earn a Living in Montana?

Montana’s economy is driven by a diverse mix of industries, with a particular emphasis on the primary sector. This includes agriculture, forestry, mining, and energy production, which have long been vital to the state’s economy. 

4. Is It a Good Idea to Move to Montana?

The preference to move to Montana will depend on individual preferences and priorities.

The state offers a plethora of natural beauty, low population density, and a variety of outdoor activities but it also has a harsh winter and limited job market, especially in rural areas.

5. What Is Montana Best Known For?

Montana is known as The Treasure State because of its abundant natural mineral resources, diverse wildlife, and the natural beauty of its landscapes.

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Written by:

Ashley Smith
Hello there! I'm Ashley Smith, born on a chilly winter's day, Montana has been my playground since childhood. The first snowfall of the year always brings back memories of building snowmen and winter hikes. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was my way of sharing the magic of Montana's seasons with the world. While Chris dives deep into the landscapes, I'm obsessed with Montana's rich culture, from the local festivals to the tales passed down generations.

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