Ever experienced the uncertainty of navigating a new place? I’ve been there too. But fear not! Montana might be vast, yet mastering its transportation isn’t as daunting as it seems.
I’m here to save you from the frustration and confusion that often accompany unfamiliar travel routes. This comprehensive Montana transportation guide is your go-to for seamless journeys across the state.
Whether you’re exploring or commuting, I’ve got you covered with advice to ensure your travel through Montana is smooth sailing.
Explore a range of transportation modes, from airports like Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) to the iconic Amtrak’s Empire Builder train. This will equip you with essential tips, making your Montana travel both safe and enjoyable.
- Related article: Montana Travel Advice
So, whether you’re a first-time visitor, a student, or a local looking to navigate Montana’s vast landscapes, this guide will be your trusted companion. Are you ready to unlock the secrets of effortless Montana travel? Let’s dive in!
Transportation Options in Montana
Montana’s transportation system spans modern airports, highways, road crossings, railway services, and bus services linking cities and towns.
With airports serving as gateways to its natural beauty and the emergence of ride-hailing services, travel within the state continues to evolve for both residents and visitors.
1. Airports and Airline Services
The Treasure State’s aviation landscape is defined by its diverse airports catering to both domestic and limited international flights.
Major airports in Montana include:
- Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) – It is the busiest airport in Montana, situated in Belgrade. It serves as the entry to the southwest region of Montana, including Yellowstone National Park.
- Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) – The Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is a commercial airport situated in Flathead County. It serves as the entry to the northwest part of the state.
- Billings Logan International Airport (BIL) – The Logan International Airport (BIL) is situated in Yellowstone County. It serves as the entry to the southeastern part of Montana.
- Great Falls International Airport (GTF) – Great Falls International Airport (GTF) is a public/military airport situated in Great Falls in Cascade County. it serves as the entry to Central Montana and other central areas of the state.
- Missoula International Airport (MSO) – Missoula International Airport (MSO) is situated in Missoula, Montana. It serves as the entry to the western part of the state, including Missoula and surrounding areas.
Airports in Montana are served by a range of prominent airline companies including Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue.
These carriers offer diverse flight options connecting the state to numerous destinations across the country and occasionally beyond its borders.
2. Rail Transport Services
Montana’s primary and only passenger train service is Amtrak’s Empire Builder, traversing the Montana Eastern Railway.
This crucial route links Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, making stops in various cities across both North West and North East Montana, offering essential connectivity to the region.
Montana railway stations include:
- Browning Train Station (Browning)
- Cut Bank Train Station (Cut Bank)
- East Glacier Park Train Station (East Glacier Park)
- Essex Train Station (Essex)
- Glasgow Train Station (Glasgow)
- Havre Train Station (Havre)
- Libby Train Station (Libby)
- Malta Train Station (Malta)
- Shelby Train Station (Shelby)
- Belton Historic Train Station (West Glacier)
- Whitefish Train Station (Whitefish)
- Wolf Point Train Station (Wolf Point)
- Hanover Boarding Station (Lewiston)
Efforts and discussions have been underway to revive other passenger rail services in Montana’s southern region, focusing on routes like the historic North Coast Hiawatha, which has remained dormant for decades.
These initiatives highlight a growing interest in expanding train travel options across the state, potentially enhancing connectivity and transportation alternatives for residents and visitors alike.
3. Bus Services
Big Sky Country benefits from various bus transit providers that offer public transportation options in Montana.
Bus services in Montana encompass both intercity connections and localized routes, providing vital links between cities and towns while ensuring convenient travel for residents and visitors.
Some of the state’s intercity bus services:
- Jefferson Lines
- Salt Lake Express
- Express Arrow
Additionally, here are the Treasure State’s local bus services:
- ASUM Transportation, Missoula
- Mountain Line, Missoula
- MET Transit, Billings
- Great Falls Transit, Great Falls
- Eagle Transit, Whitefish
4. Shuttle Services
The Treasure State’s diverse shuttle services cater to various transportation requirements, offering amenities such as airport transfers, personalized guiding, and transportation services for special events.
The following Montana shuttle services serve as convenient and flexible options for travelers seeking tailored and efficient transportation solutions across the state:
- Mountain Shuttle – Provides shuttle services to and from Glacier International Airport in Northwest Montana, serving all airlines and flight times with clean, modern, well-maintained vehicles.
- Montana Adventure Shuttle – Specializes in private guiding services for solo travelers, offering shuttle services for backpackers, trailhead shuttles, and group shuttles for outdoor activities.
- Venture Shuttles Montana – Offers immediate and advance booking for shuttle services, including pick-ups to/from Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) and shuttle services to specific locations.
5. Taxi Services
Taxis in Big Sky Country are reliable transportation options available in most cities and towns, with competitive pricing prevalent in larger urban areas.
However, it’s crucial to conduct prior research on the availability of taxis, particularly in smaller towns in Montana where ride options might be limited.
While taxis offer convenience, it’s advisable to have contingency plans in place due to potential limitations in availability, ensuring reliable transportation options at all times.
List of taxi and ride-sharing services in Montana:
- Lone Peak Taxi
- Bridger Taxi, Bozeman
- Mining City Taxi, Butte
- Uber, Montana-wide
- Lyft, Montana-wide
- Yellow Cab, Missoula
- Huckleberry Express Taxi, Bitterroot Valley
- Helena Taxi Company, Helena
- Bozeman Airport Taxi, Bozeman
- City Cab, Billings
- Kalispell Taxi Company
- Kalispell Airport Taxi, Kalispell
Learn more in our guide to Getting an Uber in Montana.
Driving a Car in Montana
Owning a car in Montana is almost a necessity, given the relatively limited transportation options in Montana, especially in non-urban areas.
It provides the flexibility to commute and travel long-distance road journeys, particularly in remote or less densely populated areas where public transport may not be available.
However, driving a car in the Treasure State comes with certain responsibilities and requirements.
The legal driving age in Montana is 15 years old with a restricted permit and 16 years old with a full permit.
Familiarizing oneself with the state’s speed limits and traffic rules is crucial for safe driving.
More information on speed limits and traffic rules can be found on the Montana Department of Transportation’s website.
Montana’s severe winter conditions pose driving challenges. Prepare by allowing extra time, keeping your car clean, and ensuring windows, mirrors, and lights are free from snow and ice for safer winter travel.
During the winter season, combined with the end of daylight savings time, there are extended periods of darkness and reduced visibility on the roads.
However, it is also possible to live or visit Montana without a car, especially in urban areas like Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena.
These cities offer public transportation options, including buses, bike-friendly infrastructure, and pedestrian paths, making it feasible to navigate without a personal vehicle.
Montana is a good place to drive if you own an electric car because there are over 900 charging stations, including private and public charging ports.
Most charging stations are located in cities along the Interstate 90 corridor, such as Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula, as well as in the Flathead Valley, including Whitefish and Glacier.
Learn more in our Electric Car Travel in Montana guide.
Montana Transportation Final Thoughts
From air travel to rail transport, bus, shuttle, and taxi services, Montana offers a range of options for travelers to explore Montanas vacation ideas.
With five operational airports, including Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), Missoula International Airport (MSO), and Great Falls International Airport (GTF), getting to and from Montana is relatively accessible.
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) particularly stands out as the busiest airport in the state.
While the current passenger train option is limited to Amtrak’s Empire Builder train on the Montana Eastern Railway, there are discussions about potentially restoring passenger rail services across the southern part of the state in the future.
There are also various shuttle services and taxi companies operating in the state, although availability may be limited in less urbanized areas.
For those considering driving in Big Sky Country, it’s important to familiarize oneself with the state’s driving guidelines.
However, with a well-connected public transportation system in more urbanized areas, it’s entirely feasible to live in or visit Montana without relying on a private car.
Montana Transportation FAQs
1. Are There Passenger Trains in Montana?
Yes, there are passenger trains in Montana. Amtrak’s Empire Builder route passes through the state, offering passenger train services across various cities.
However, note that it is the only passenger train available in the state.
2. Why Do People Get Cars in Montana?
In Montana, owning a car often provides a sense of autonomy and convenience due to the state’s expansive landscapes and relatively limited public transportation options, especially in non-urban areas.
Due to the state’s geography and distances between towns or cities, owning a car is often seen as a practical necessity for commuting, running errands, and traveling long-distance road journeys.
3. Can You Live in Montana Without a Car?
Yes, it is possible to live in Montana without a car. While having a car is essential for traveling between distances of towns, it is not mandatory for living in cities like Missoula and Billings.
These cities have public transportation systems, bike-friendly infrastructure, and walkable neighborhoods that make it possible to get around without a car.
4. How Good Are Montana’s Road Conditions?
Montana boasts a well-maintained network of roads, including interstates, U.S. highways, and state routes overseen by the Montana Department of Transportation.
Yet, road conditions fluctuate with the seasons; winter brings snow and freezing temperatures, often necessitating chains or four-wheel-drive vehicles for safe passage through mountainous areas.
These weather-related factors can pose hazards for drivers, particularly in snowy conditions.
Eager to learn more? Explore our Montana section for further insights: