Montana in May: Weather, Things to Do, and Events

Are you considering a vacation in Montana for May?

I have all the essential tips that you need to know about visiting the state during this month, especially if you’re passionate about nature, outdoor adventures, or delicious cuisine.

Concerned about the weather? No worries, I’ve got the lowdown on what you can expect.

Planning your trip might seem daunting, but worry not! With my experience exploring Montana, I can provide expert guidance to ensure your visit goes smoothly.

This article is made especially for adventurous travelers seeking an incredible time in Montana. It’s all about giving you the best experience in this stunning state.

I can’t wait to share some hidden gems and exciting events that you won’t want to miss when visiting Montana in the Spring.

Montana in May: Reasons to Visit

Mountains in Montana

May is an ideal time to explore Montana. The state offers a wide variety of activities, attractions, and experiences for visitors during this season.

From hiking, biking, and fly fishing to whitewater rafting, there is no shortage of outdoor adventures in May. Montana’s national parks, hiking and biking trails, and wilderness areas are waiting to be explored.

In the Flathead Lake area, visitors can witness the blooming of cherry blossoms, adding a touch of natural beauty to their adventures.

Montana hosts various events in May, providing a taste of local culture and entertainment.

The weather in May is mild and pleasant, with longer days and warmer temperatures, making it perfect for outdoor activities.

However, it’s important to note that the weather in Montana is still generally unpredictable in May.

So visitors should plan accordingly and check daily weather forecasts to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Montana in May: Weather Conditions

A stream running through a vegetated area in a Montana mountain.

Montana in May is a time of unpredictable weather, with sunny skies one moment and sudden rain showers the next.

As the state transitions from spring to summer, temperatures can vary greatly from day to day, making it essential to pack layers for any outdoor activities.

The ever-changing conditions also mean it’s important to check the forecast regularly and be prepared for anything during your visit to the Big Sky state.

Average Temperatures During May

A blue truck driving down a street in Montana.

Like Montana’s April ambiance, May scenes come with mild and pleasant weather overall, with cooler evenings.

However, the state’s climate can differ widely, especially in higher elevations where temperatures tend to be cooler.

LocationAverage Temperature °F (°C)Warmest Temperature Mean °F (°C)Coldest Temperature Mean °F (°C)Precipitation (inches)
Miles City60.8°F (16°C)74.1°F (23.4°C)47.5°F (8.6°C)3.69″
Billings60.4°F (15.8°C)74.0°F (23.3°C)46.9°F (8.3°C)2.36″
Kalispell60.4°F (15.8°C)74°F (23.3°C)46.5°F (8.1°C)2.86″
Missoula59.1°F (15°C)73.2°F (22.9°C)44.9°F (7.2°C)2.98″
Bozeman56.6°F (13.7°C)69.4°F (20.8°C)43.8°F (6.6°C)1.63″
Helena56.5°F (13.6°C)69°F (20.6°C)44.1°F (6.7°C)2.10″
West Yellowstone46.8°F (8.2°C)63.5°F (17.5°C)30.2°F (-1°C)1.26″

Cities like Miles City, Billings, and Kalispell enjoy some of the most moderate weather in May, while places like Bozeman, Helena, and West Yellowstone tend to be a bit cooler.

West Yellowstone typically sees the coldest temperatures, while places like Miles, Billings, and Kalispell register some of the warmest average temperatures.

Regarding precipitation, West Yellowstone tends to receive the least amount, while Bozeman generally sees lower levels compared to other areas.

Billings, Kalispell, and Missoula fall somewhere in the middle, while Helena and Miles experience slightly higher precipitation levels.

May in Montana is a fantastic time to enjoy mild temperatures and explore the diverse climate across the state.

What to Wear in Montana During May

A woman in a sweater standing in a field at sunset in Montana.

When visiting Montana in May, be prepared for the unpredictable weather conditions that can go from sunny to rainy in the blink of an eye. This makes versatile clothing options essential.

I recommend bringing layers of clothing in May when visiting Big Sky Country, including a light jacket or sweater, as well as rain gear in case of showers. The key is to be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws your way.

Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots for outdoor activities, and if you’re planning on hitting up any hot springs or swimming holes, a swimsuit is a must.

And of course, a coat for those chilly evenings. Montana’s beauty is unparalleled, but the weather can be equally as unpredictable, so be ready for whatever comes your way.

Montana in May: 5 Fun Things to Do

A field of yellow flowers in Montana.

As a long-time traveler and outdoor enthusiast, I always find myself craving the rugged beauty of Montana in May.

With its crisp mountain air and stunning natural landscapes, this time of year is perfect for exploring the state’s abundant outdoor activities and cultural events.

1. Tour Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park offers visitors a stunning landscape filled with crystal clear lakes and extensive hiking trails, providing ample opportunities to observe abundant wildlife.

Springtime activities in the park also include exploring the beautiful scenery, encountering blooming wildflowers, and observing emerging wildlife.

Hikers can also expect some trails in Glacier National Park to be open in May such as: 

  • Avalanche Lake Trail – Located on the west side of the park, the Avalanche Lake Trail is usually clear by the end of May, providing hikers with the chance to witness stunning scenery and the serene Avalanche Lake.
  • Apgar Lookout Trail – Another trail on the west side of Glacier National Park, the Apgar Lookout Trail is often accessible in May, offering hikers panoramic views of the park and surrounding landscapes.
  • Trail of the Cedars – This trail which is also a wheelchair-accessible trail is typically open in May and provides a beautiful walk through ancient cedar forests and along the roaring Avalanche Creek.

Hikers and bikers can also enjoy a more relaxed pace on Going-to-the-Sun Road before it is cleared of snow and fully opens to vehicular traffic in June or July.

Whitewater rafting and boating in the rivers and lakes of Glacier National Park offer thrilling adventures for water enthusiasts.

The Spring Boat Swap & Tent Sale hosted by the Glacier Outdoor Center in May provides deals on boats and rafting accessories, adding to the excitement.

As mentioned, May also presents an excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing in the park’s meadows and forests, with fewer crowds allowing for an increased chance to spot active wildlife such as bears, elk, deer, and bighorn sheep.

Just remember to bring bear spray for safety, and be prepared for the possible fluctuation of weather.

2. Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in May

Yellowstone National Park stands out as a unique destination due to its distinction as the world’s largest concentration of geysers, including the famous Old Faithful, and the vibrant Grand Prismatic Spring.

Yellowstone is a haven for diverse wildlife in May; not just geysers. Bison, elk, bears, wolves, and various bird species roam freely, providing ample opportunities for observation and photography.

May is particularly special, as the park comes alive with newborn baby animals and abundant wildlife activity, making it the perfect time for wildlife viewing.

The landscapes here are equally captivating, with the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the expansive Lamar Valley, and numerous waterfalls and rivers waiting to be explored. It’s a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Visitors can also engage in a range of activities catering to nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. These include hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and participating in ranger-led programs.

Yellowstone National Park in May is the perfect destination to immerse yourself in nature’s wonders.

3. Take a Scenic Tour at Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake in Montana

Flathead Lake offers an incredible scenic tour experience, especially with guided boat tours to Wild Horse Island, showcasing crystal-clear waters and notable attractions like the Indian petroglyphs known as “painted rocks.”

May is an exceptional time to visit Montana as cherry blossoms bloom around Flathead Lake, painting the landscape with delicate pink and white flowers, and creating a picturesque display.

Easily reachable through Montana Highway 35, the lake provides a picturesque route for a scenic drive.

Cherry orchards in the area often offer “pick-your-own” experiences, allowing visitors to pick and enjoy the blossoms during this time.

If you’re looking for more activities, consider taking the complete loop tour around the lake using U.S. Highway 93, Montana Highway 82, and Montana Highway 35.

This route offers some seriously picturesque road trip views along the lakeshore. Trust me, it’s truly worth it.

4. Embark on a Fly Fishing Trip

A huge river in Montana

May is one of my favorite times to go fly fishing in Montana. The abundant mayflies hatching makes it a fantastic time for anglers to match the hatch and enjoy productive dry fly fishing for the entire month.

Montana’s top fly fishing options during May include the Missouri River, Yellowstone River, Gallatin, and the Madison River. The Missouri River takes center stage for anglers and the state’s fly fishing guides.

The robust hatches of Blue Winged Olive Hatch (BWOs), the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch, and March Browns create optimal conditions for some of the finest dry fly fishing of the year.

The quality of fishing available in small ranch lakes and still waters in May is exceptional, with increased fish activity as the ice recedes, offering consistent and predictable conditions for fly fishing.

However, anglers should be cautious about runoff conditions in late May and mid-June, as increased water levels might make wading difficult during that time.

If you’re considering a fly fishing trip in Montana, be prepared and plan in advance, this will make May a perfect time for a great angling experience.

5. Take a Trip to Downtown Missoula

Arial view of Downtown Missoula

Downtown Missoula offers engaging walking tours that bring the city’s distinct history and cultural heritage to life.

These tours not only provide an educational experience but also connect visitors with the community, offering a deeper understanding of this charming city.

For those seeking outdoor exploration, the Maclay Flat Nature Trail near downtown Missoula is a must-experience trail during May.

This scenic 1.8-mile loop along the water offers a leisurely outdoor escape, where visitors can immerse themselves in the natural beauty that surrounds the city.

Downtown Missoula’s vibrant urban center is a bustling hub of activity, with diverse attractions to please every visitor.

In this bustling area, you’ll find various options, from eateries and cafes to breweries and evening entertainment, catering to various preferences.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the downtown shops and local markets, including the farmers’ markets, where unique Missoula products and locally made items await.

By supporting local artisans and businesses, visitors can take home a piece of Missoula’s charm while contributing to the community’s thriving economy.

Montana in May: Events and Festivals

Wildflowers blooming on a picturesque hillside near a majestic mountain in Montana.

Montana in May is a vibrant and exciting time of year, with a variety of events and festivals to enjoy.

During this month, the Treasure State offers a diverse array of events, from vibrant music festivals to classic rodeos, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this picturesque state.

Bigfork Whitewater Festival

A man in a red kayak paddling down a river in May.

The Bigfork Whitewater Festival takes place in Downtown Bigfork, Montana, situated at the north end of Flathead Lake where the Swan River converges with Bigfork Bay.

Typically scheduled over Memorial Day weekend, the 48th Annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival occurred from May 26-28, 2023.

The festival offers engaging activities such as Boater-X, a thrilling kayaking competition, and exciting rafting races.

Spectators at Bigfork Whitewater Festival can get an up-close view of the whitewater action along the Swan River Nature Trail, providing an excellent viewpoint.

Beyond the exhilarating water events, Downtown Bigfork boasts diverse attractions, including a range of restaurants, shops, and galleries.

Visitors can immerse themselves in a vibrant and varied experience while exploring the town’s offerings beyond the excitement of the whitewater festival.

For more information, you can drop by Bigfork Whitewater Festival’s official website.

Garden City Brewfest

A crowd of people sitting on a grassy area in Montana.

The Garden City Brewfest, an annual event celebrated in Downtown Missoula, Montana, stands out as the largest brewfest in the state.

Last May 6, 2023, the festival unfolded at Caras Park in Downtown Missoula, attracting attendees with an impressive array of over 70 beverages.

The selection included beers, ciders, hard seltzers, and wines sourced from both local and regional breweries.

Admission to the festival was free, with an option available to purchase a 7-ounce commemorative glass, a wristband, and four tokens for $20 to sample the diverse brews. Additional tokens were also available for $2 each.

Amid the vibrant festival atmosphere, attendees were treated to live music performances by three local bands from Missoula.

Food options were abundant, featuring delights from local food trucks and vendors like Big Dipper, Clove Cart Pizza, M-80 Chicken, River City Eats, and the Sentinel Kiwanis Club, offering delicious brats.

As of now, schedules for the 2024 Garden City Brewfest have not been announced.

St. Regis Montana Flea Market

A large outdoor market set up with tents and tables in Montana.

The St. Regis Flea Market, an annual event held during Memorial Day weekend in St. Regis, Montana, is renowned for its diverse range of vendors and merchandise.

The recent 2023 event, held from May 27-29, 2023, over Memorial Day weekend, operated from daylight to dusk, spanning Saturday to Monday.

The flea market venues included the St. Regis Community Park on Mullan Gulch Road and the St. Regis Community Center off Highway 135 in St. Regis, Montana.

This celebrated event boasts over 200 vendors, marking it as Montana’s largest flea market.

Attendees at St. Regis Flea Market can explore an extensive array of merchandise, including antiques, collectibles, crafts, and various items.

The vibrant atmosphere of the annual flea market draws in bargain hunters and visitors seeking unique finds.

It offers a captivating experience where attendees can immerse themselves in the diverse range of goods while fostering a sense of community spirit.

For additional information, check out the official website of the St. Regis Flea Market.

Montana in May Final Thoughts

Glacier National Park in Montana.

May in Montana is an exceptional time to savor the great outdoors.

The month arrives with mild, pleasant weather, offering a tantalizing taste of summer.

However, it’s worth noting that Montana’s May weather remains delightfully unpredictable, occasionally surprising visitors with fluctuating conditions.

For adventurers seeking an adrenaline rush, May in Montana is a playground. Hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, and whitewater rafting in Glacier National Park present thrilling opportunities.

Meanwhile, Yellowstone National Park beckons with its geysers and various activities that come to life as the month unfolds.

The Flathead Lake area emerges as a picturesque wonder in May, with cherry blossoms adding a scenic allure to the already stunning landscape.

Driving around the lake during this time is a visually enchanting experience.

Montana’s May calendar sparkles with cultural highlights such as the Bigfork Whitewater Festival, Garden City Brewfest, and St. Regis Montana Flea Market.

It is an exceptional time for diverse adventures, scenic explorations, and cultural indulgences, creating great vacation memories.

Montana in May FAQs

1. Where to Fly Fish in May?

Some rivers that are popular for fly fishing in Montana in May are:

  • Yellowstone River
  • Madison River
  • Missouri River
  • Gallatin River

2. How Was the Weather Last May 2023?

May was a warm month, with average temperatures finishing in the top 8 at each of the National Weather Service’s stations.

Precipitation varied, with some locations on the dry side and others wetter than normal. Baker was the warmest and the 5th wettest May since 1998.

3. What Is the Wettest Month in Montana?

The wettest month in Montana varies depending on the location and year.

June is generally the wettest month in Montana, with May being a close second. However, this can vary from year to year.

4. What Is the Hottest Month in Montana?

The hottest month in Montana varies depending on the location.

In Billings, the warmest time of year is generally mid-July, where highs are regularly around 86.5°F.

The Western Regional Climate Center also reports that July is the warmest month in Montana, with average maximum temperatures ranging from 74°F to 86.5°F recorded in different locations.

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Written by:

Chris Hall
Hi, I'm Chris Hall, co-founder of Growing up among Montana's breathtaking landscapes ignited my passion for travel. While I've journeyed to many corners of the world, the allure of Montana's wild beauty always draws me back. To me, travel is about understanding the soul of a place, and Montana has a special place in my heart. It's where endless adventures meet raw nature.

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