Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stand atop a mountain peak, gazing out over an untouched wilderness that stretches as far as the eye can see? If you’re craving that kind of awe-inspiring moment, Montana’s vistas are calling your name.
Let’s explore a variety of landscapes that showcase the best of Montana’s natural beauty. From the iconic peaks of Glacier National Park to the tranquil waters of Flathead Lake, I’ll share with you the top panoramas that have captured my heart and are sure to capture yours, too.
Expect to hear about hidden gems and popular lookouts alike, each with its own unique allure and story. Through my own experiences, I’ll give you a glimpse of what it’s like to stand amid these majestic settings.
- Related article: Plan a Visit to Montana
Join me as we delve into the stunning scenery that makes this state a photographer’s paradise and a nature lover’s dream come true. Keep reading, and let’s uncover the magic of Montana’s views together.
7 Key Takeaways on Montana’s Best Views
- Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park is a top pick for its postcard-perfect beauty and alpine journey.
- St. Mary’s Falls offers cascading water, stunning sunsets, and a chance to explore nearby Virginia Creek.
- Bighorn Canyon, with its towering cliffs and wildlife, is a testament to the raw power of nature.
- The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is a technicolor marvel, the largest hot spring in the park.
- Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park is a fjord-like beauty and the largest lake in the park.
- Logan Pass, the highest point in Glacier National Park, offers sweeping vistas, alpine meadows, and abundant wildlife.
- Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Missouri River, is a year-round adventure hub with clear waters and the unique Wild Horse Island State Park.
- The Rocky Mountains in Montana are a rugged and majestic range, offering unparalleled scenery and diverse activities.
- The Gates of the Mountains near Helena is a serene landscape where the Missouri River has carved through sandstone cliffs.
15 Best Montana Views
Montana’s vistas are the stuff of dreams, and narrowing them down to just 15 is no easy feat. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or prefer your views from the comfort of your car, these are the panoramas that will etch themselves into your memory.
Ready to have your breath taken away? Here are the 15 best Montana views you have to see.
1. Grinnell Lake
If you’re on the hunt for a Montana view that feels like it’s been plucked straight from a postcard, Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park should be at the top of your list.
The 10-mile (16 km) trailhead around the lake offers not just a walk, but a journey through alpine scenery, past wildflowers, and even by a few waterfalls. I remember feeling like every turn revealed a new, jaw-dropping vista.
To get to the lake, just hop on Many Glacier Road and keep an eye out for the marked signs for the Grinnell Glacier Trail. It’s a 3.2-mile (5.1 km) hike from the iconic Many Glacier Hotel, so you can start your day with a hearty breakfast and be at the lake by lunchtime.
As you ascend, the views only get better. The elevation gain is no joke, but trust me, it’s worth every step. You’ll be treated to panoramas of not just Grinnell Lake, but also Grinnell Falls and even the Continental Divide.
It’s the kind of hike that makes you feel small in the best possible way. Just make sure to bring your camera — trust me, you’ll want to capture this one.
2. St. Mary’s Falls (and St. Mary Lake)
If you’re a fan of cascading water and jaw-dropping sunsets, St. Mary’s Falls in Glacier National Park is an absolute must-see. These three-tiered, 35-foot falls are a showstopper, especially when the sky turns a fiery orange.
The St. Mary’s Falls Trail, a 1.7-mile (2.7 km) trek, is your gateway to not just St. Mary’s Falls but also other hidden gems like the lesser-known falls on Virginia Creek. Throughout the hike, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and, in the distance, the shimmering blue expanse of St. Mary Lake.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect on this scenic adventure:
- Trailhead – Accessible from Going-to-the-Sun Road and the bridge over St. Mary River.
- Top Views – The trail offers prime viewpoints of St. Mary’s Falls, perfect for that envy-inducing Instagram shot.
- Optional Extension – If you’re up for more waterfall wonders, continue along the trail to Virginia Creek, where you’ll encounter the 50-foot Virginia Falls.
- Distance – It’s a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) hike from St. Mary’s Falls to Virginia Falls.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just dipping your toes into the world of trails, St. Mary’s Falls and the extended Virginia Creek route are experiences that will leave you with a deep appreciation for Montana’s natural beauty.
- See the Top Instagram Spots in Montana.
3. Bighorn Canyon
Let’s journey to the southern reaches of Montana, where the Bighorn Canyon reigns supreme. This 55-mile (88.5 km) stretch of geological grandeur, which seamlessly extends into Wyoming, is a sight to behold. Carved by the Bighorn River and accentuated by a colossal dam, this expansive canyon offers a visual symphony of cliffs, water, and sky.
What to Expect at Bighorn Canyon:
- Dramatic Scenery – Picture this—a gorge with cliffs that soar over 2000 ft (609.6 m), creating a natural amphitheater of awe.
- Vast Exploration – The 70,000-acre Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is a playground for adventure. From hiking to fishing, camping to photography, it’s a multifaceted canvas.
- Wildlife Encounters – Keep an eye out for Bighorn sheep, which call this rugged landscape home. You might even spot a few of the famed wild horses from the nearby Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.
- Inspirational Immersion – The sheer expanse and beauty of this canyon are bound to leave you with a sense of wonder. It’s not just a view; it’s an experience.
The towering cliffs, the serpentine river, and the vastness of it all—it was a humbling moment. Whether you’re an avid photographer, a nature enthusiast, or just someone seeking solace in the arms of nature, this place has something for everyone.
4. Grand Prismatic Spring
As I stood at the edge of the Grand Prismatic, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park, I couldn’t help but feel like I had stepped onto the set of a Star Trek episode.
The sheer size of this natural wonder, measuring 370 feet (112.8 meters) across, was enough to take my breath away. But it was the striking and bright natural colors that truly made the Grand Prismatic a sight to behold.
The mesmerizing azure blue center of the spring seemed to draw me in, and I found myself completely transfixed by the vibrant hues that spread out from the center.
The hot water-producing algae created a spectrum of colors ranging from orange to green, adding to the spring’s visual appeal and giving it an otherworldly appearance that I had never seen before.
It’s easy to see why the Grand Prismatic is a must-visit when exploring Yellowstone National Park. Its sheer size and incredible colors make it truly unique, and the experience of standing in its presence is something that I will never forget.
5. Lake McDonald
As you embark on your Glacier National Park journey, one of the first natural wonders to greet you is Lake McDonald. This is no ordinary lake; it’s the largest one within the park, stretching an impressive 10 miles (16.1 km) in length.
Why is it so special? Well, let’s dive in:
- Accessibility – Situated just off the main artery of the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald is practically waving at you as you make your way in. It’s the perfect pit stop to stretch your legs and take in the grandeur.
- Fjord-like Beauty – Imagine a lake flanked by soaring mountains, its waters reflecting the sky like a mirror. That’s Lake McDonald for you. Its fjord-like appearance adds a touch of drama to the already breathtaking scenery.
- Trails and Viewing Points – The lake isn’t just for show; it’s also a gateway to some of the park’s most scenic trails. Popular ones include the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail. And let’s not forget the Apgar Lookout, a vantage point that offers panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings.
- Climate and Vegetation – Thanks to the region’s mild and damp climate, the area around Lake McDonald is a haven for flora like western red cedar and hemlock.
I remember my first glimpse of Lake McDonald. The mountains seemed to cradle the lake, and the air was so crisp it felt almost sacred. Whether you’re just passing through or planning a leisurely hike, this iconic Montana view is a must-see.
6. Logan Pass
Logan Pass in Glacier National Park is an extraordinary experience. As the park’s highest accessible point by vehicle at 6,646 ft (2,025 m), the views from atop the Continental Divide are simply breathtaking.
The scenery is bright, rugged, and vibrant, adorned with wildflowers and captivating wildlife that make the whole experience incredibly enriching.
The surrounding regions of Logan Pass are teeming with abundant wildlife, making it a popular spot for hikers to explore the diverse and stunning landscapes that stretch westward from the Visitor Center.
The combination of the majestic views, diverse flora and fauna, and the allure of the hiking destinations make Logan Pass a must-visit for anyone seeking an unforgettable outdoor adventure.
7. Flathead Lake
If you’re looking for a slice of paradise that’s as vast as it is stunning, Flathead Lake is your ticket.
Why Flathead Lake earns its spot on your Montana vacation bucket list:
- Size – 200 miles (321.8 km) of pure, unadulterated lake goodness. It is the largest natural freshwater body by surface area in the western U.S.
- Wild Horse Island State Park – You can also take a tour at Wild Horse Island State Park, this unique park is located in the middle of the lake, perfect for nature lovers.
Flathead Lake isn’t just a summer hotspot; it’s a year-round adventure hub. In summer, the lake comes alive with everything from swimming and boating to jet skiing and paddleboarding. Trust me, there’s never a dull moment at Flathead.
Whether you’re basking in the summer sun or marveling at the frozen lake in winter, this place is a feast for the senses.
8. The Rocky Mountains
When it comes to Montana’s mountain scenery, the Rocky Mountain Range in the state’s western region is a breathtaking expanse of natural beauty, characterized by its vast, rugged, and majestic rustic charm. The Central Montana region alone boasts over a hundred ranges that contribute to the allure of this stunning landscape.
At the heart of this majestic region lies the renowned Rocky Mountain National Park, spanning an impressive 415 square miles (265,807 acres). This expansive park showcases a spectacular range of mountain environments, offering visitors a diverse and immersive experience in the lap of nature.
The Rockies are globally celebrated as a prime destination for those seeking awe-inspiring scenery, thrilling adventures, and world-class skiing opportunities. Enthusiasts from all corners of the globe are drawn to the Rockies for its unique combination of picturesque landscapes and adrenaline-pumping activities.
Among the popular ski destinations in Montana, the Big Sky Resort along the Madison Range stands out, offering not just exceptional skiing but also a scenic mountainous setting that adds to the overall experience.
The Whitefish Mountain Resort is another highlight, attracting winter sports enthusiasts with its breathtaking mountain views and diverse slopes. These destinations promise an unforgettable winter wonderland experience, with mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.
For those who prefer a different kind of adventure, the Rockies offer an extensive network of hiking trails, covering over 300 miles (482.8 km). As you traverse these paths, you’ll be treated to unparalleled views of the rugged landscapes and encounter the region’s incredible wildlife.
The Rockies are also renowned for their wildlife viewing opportunities. The diverse ecosystems within the region harbor a wide array of animal species, making it a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
With its vast and rugged landscapes, this region promises an unforgettable experience, blending the thrill of outdoor activities with the tranquility of the wilderness.
9. Gates of the Mountains
I have been fortunate enough to explore some of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world. The Gates of the Mountains, located just 20 miles (32.1 km) north of Helena, Montana, is undoubtedly one of those wonders.
Carved by the Missouri River through sandstone cliffs, this renowned beauty spot is named after explorers Clark and Lewis, and managed by the Helena National Forest.
The area is characterized by prominent grey cliffs, narrow gorges, lush forests, and serene lakes, all populated by bighorn sheep. Towering limestone cliffs reaching heights of 1,200 feet (365.76 meters) add to the dramatic scenery.
The wildlife here is just as diverse as the landscape, with bald eagles, mountain lions, and black bears calling this area home.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the breathtaking natural beauty, boat trips are one of the best ways to experience the Gates of the Mountains.
Alternatively, some visitors choose to hike along Refrigerator Canyon to take in the pristine natural scenery. Whichever way you choose to explore this picturesque landscape, it’s sure to leave you in awe of the raw beauty and majesty of nature.
10. Lone Mountain
If you’ve ever dreamt of skiing down a mountain so vast it feels like you’ve merged with the sky, Lone Mountain is your dream come true. Standing tall at 11,167 feet (3,404 m) in the Madison Mountain Range, this iconic peak is the crown jewel of Big Sky Mountain Resort. You might even hear it referred to as Lone Peak—just a friendly local tip.
Why Lone Mountain is Worth the Journey
- Proximity – Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Lone Mountain is a must-see if you’re in the area.
- Skiing Paradise – As the focal point of Big Sky Resort, it offers some of the most expansive and exhilarating ski slopes in the country.
- Wildlife Wonder – Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife and natural wonders that call this area home. Lone Mountain serves as a towering yet welcoming landmark for travelers on U.S. 191, leading the way to Big Sky Resort.
As you ascend to Big Sky Resort from U.S. 191, Lone Mountain will gradually reveal itself, and let me tell you, the anticipation is half the fun. Once you’re at the summit, the panoramic views of the Madison Range and Gallatin Valley are nothing short of breathtaking.
Even if you’re not into skiing, the Lone Peak Expedition is a must-do, offering a scenic tram ride that’ll take you to the pinnacle of the mountain for an unparalleled view.
So, next time you find yourself in Big Sky Country, make sure to carve out some time to pay homage to this majestic pillar. You won’t be disappointed.
11. Kootenai Falls
Have you ever heard of Kootenai Falls? It’s this massive, undammed waterfall in Montana, and it’s a spectacle to behold. It’s located in Lincoln County, just off U.S. Route 2, and it’s easily one of the largest waterfalls in the United States.
The main falls stand at an impressive 30 feet (9.1 meters) high and can be accessed by crossing a “swinging bridge” over the Kootenai River. The falls hold cultural significance to the Kootenai Indians, adding a deeper layer of history and meaning to the visit.
The area surrounding the falls is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering trails that are perfect for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that the area also offers great opportunities for hunting and wildlife viewing.
And here’s the best part – you can experience all of this without any admission charge. So, add Kootenai Falls to your bucket list and get ready for an unforgettable adventure.
12. Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is a sprawling natural wonder, encompassing the Great Bear, Bob Marshall, and Scapegoat Wildernesses, all adding up to over 1.5 million acres.
The Flathead National Forest manages the largest portion of this expansive area, ensuring that it remains a pristine and protected landscape. Ranked as the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states, this area is teeming with diverse wildlife, offering a truly immersive experience with nature.
In the Bob Marshall Wilderness, visitors can expect to encounter a completely preserved mountain ecosystem, with rugged peaks, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, and lush meadows adorned with glistening streams.
The Scapegoat Wilderness boasts rugged ridge tops, alpine meadows, and heavily forested hillsides, while also providing plentiful opportunities for fishing in its 14 lakes and 89 miles (143.2 km) of streams.
The Great Bear Wilderness is home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, lynx, wolverines, deer, elk, moose, black bears, mountain goats, and mountain sheep.
With such a diverse and expansive landscape, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex offers an unparalleled opportunity for outdoor adventure and wildlife viewing in the heart of Montana.
13. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Nestled in the southeastern expanse of Montana lies the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. This hallowed ground serves as a poignant memorial to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an event etched into American history on June 25-26, 1876.
So why is it a must-visit? Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:
- The Visitor Center – Step into the modern visitor center, which acts as a gateway to the past. It houses a museum that delves deep into the battle and its key figures, like Lieutenant Colonel G.A. Custer. You’ll find exhibits showcasing weaponry, archaeological finds, and even glimpses into Plains Indian life.
- Custer National Cemetery – Adjacent to the visitor center, the Custer National Cemetery is a somber reminder of the sacrifices made in various conflicts. From the frontier military posts to World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, it serves as a final resting place for many brave souls.
- Self-Guided Tour – For a more immersive experience, take the 4.5-mile (7.2 km) self-guided tour road. The route connects the Custer Battlefield and Reno-Benteen Battlefield, offering interpretive markers along the way. Handicapped parking is available at key points, ensuring accessibility for all.
- Ranger Programs and Bus Tours – If you’re visiting during the summer, don’t miss the ranger programs that shed light on the battle and its aftermath. For a comprehensive tour, hop on the bus tours operating from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
- The Off-Season Film – Even if you can’t make it during the summer, the visitor center still has you covered. Catch the 17-minute documentary film that offers a condensed but enlightening overview of the battle and its historical context.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is more than just a place to sightsee; it’s a living tribute to a pivotal moment in American history.
14. Beartooth Highway
If you’re on the hunt for a scenic drive that’s as exhilarating as it is picturesque, the Beartooth Highway in Montana is your golden ticket. This stretch of road, part of the Beartooth Scenic Byway, is hailed as one of North America’s most jaw-dropping alpine highways. And let me tell you, the accolades are well-deserved.
What makes the Beartooth Highway so unique is that it’s not just a drive; it’s an experience. You can go from cruising to fishing, hiking, or even skiing in a matter of minutes. You might also spot a grizzly bear or a herd of mountain goats going about their day if you’re lucky.
For your convenience, here’s a quick breakdown of the two segments that make up Montana’s portion of the Beartooth Scenic Byway, U.S. Highway 212:
|Begins between Red Lodge and Gardiner, north of Yellowstone National Park
|Resumes 40 miles (64.4 km) later at the state line
|Traverses the Gallatin National Forest
|Passes through the Custer National Forest
|Ends at the state line
|Ends at Red Lodge, Montana
Just be sure to check the weather conditions before you go, as the highway is closed during the winter months. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this Montana marvel.
15. Four Dances Recreation Area
Nestled on a scenic plateau east of Downtown Billings, the Four Dances Recreation Area is a treasure box of unspoiled natural beauty.
This 765-acre (3.1 square kilometers) is a designated Special Recreation Management Area and an area of critical environmental concern. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Four Dances is a testament to cooperative conservation efforts.
Local landowners, the Yellowstone River Parks Association, and the BLM have joined forces to protect not only the area’s stunning vistas but also its native sagebrush/grassland, ponderosa pine outcrops, and cottonwood riparian zones along the Yellowstone River.
The BLM’s objective here is to safeguard open space and natural/cultural resources while promoting dispersed public recreation. You can hike, watch wildlife, snap nature photos, or even indulge in some environmental education.
Why You Should Go: For the Best Views of the Yellowstone River
If you’re looking to capture the essence of the Yellowstone River in a single frame, Four Dances is your go-to spot. Perched on cliffs that drop 200-500 feet (6.96 m to 152.4 m) to the river below, the views here are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Activities at Four Dances Recreation Area:
- Wildlife Watching – Keep an eye out for deer, eagles, and even the occasional fox.
- Hiking – Trails cater to all levels, from casual walkers to seasoned hikers.
- Nature Photography – Golden Hour at Four Dances is a photographer’s dream.
- Environmental Education – Learn about the area’s unique ecosystem and cultural significance.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of urban escapism, Four Dances Recreation Area offers a prime location to savor the best views of the Yellowstone River, all while contributing to its preservation.
Best Montana Views Final Thoughts
As I reflect on the diverse array of natural wonders in Montana, I am left in awe of the sheer beauty and richness of this state.
From the breathtaking Grinnell Lake to the majestic Rocky Mountains, the captivating Kootenai Falls to the stunning Flathead Lake, and the rugged Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana offers a wealth of stunning attractions.
The range of experiences available in Montana is truly remarkable. Whether it’s skiing near Lone Mountain, visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, or exploring destinations like Logan Pass and the Gates of the Mountains by boat, there is something for everyone.
But beyond the visual beauty, each destination offers profound insights into Montana’s historical and ecological richness. The allure of Montana extends beyond its scenery to encompass experiences, adventures, and stories within its pristine landscapes, catering to travelers seeking both solitude and thrills.
For those seeking a deeper connection with nature and a profound appreciation for the wonders of the world, Montana is a must-visit destination.
With its natural beauty, historical significance, and abundance of outdoor activities, Montana truly offers something for everyone.
Best Montana Views FAQs
1. What Part of Montana Has the Best Views?
The region around Glacier National Park in northwest Montana offers some of the most breathtaking views in the state.
The towering peaks, pristine lakes, and diverse wildlife create a stunning landscape that captivates visitors with its natural beauty.
2. Why Montana Is the Most Beautiful State?
Montana’s beauty stems from its vast, unspoiled landscapes that encompass diverse terrain, from the rugged Rocky Mountains to expansive prairies. Its abundance of national parks, like Glacier and Yellowstone, showcases stunning natural wonders like geysers, alpine lakes, and diverse wildlife.
The combination of these features makes Montana a top contender for the title of the most beautiful state in the US.
3. Why Do Tourists Go to Montana?
Tourists flock to Montana for its unparalleled outdoor adventures and stunning natural landscapes. The state offers world-class opportunities for hiking, fishing, skiing, and wildlife watching, drawing outdoor enthusiasts year-round.
Its iconic national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone also captivate visitors with their unique geothermal features, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking vistas.
Did you find this article interesting? Don’t miss out on other exciting Montana reads:
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- Why Go to Montana
- When to Travel to Montana
- Montana Transportation Services
- Books for Exploring Montana