Montana, famously known as “Big Sky Country,” is an all-encompassing destination rich in diverse experiences, from cultural and historical value to pulse-quickening adventures, making it a travel enthusiast’s haven.
If you fancy the idea of frolicking through beautiful gardens, witnessing natural wonders, and observing wildlife in their natural habitat, Montana has much to delight you. The state beckons to both change chasers and tranquility seekers alike, with an extensive array of must-do activities that guarantee a vacation to remember.
Across our comprehensive journey in this article, we’ll unravel the top 29 things to do in Montana that you cannot afford to miss. From exploring the iconic national parks of Glacier and Yellowstone, biking the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road, to experiencing the local culture in towns like Bozeman, our route promises to be exciting, educational, and serene.
So, if you’re eager to truly understand why they call this place “The Last Best Place,” join us as we uncover the off-the-beaten-path delights and well-known attractions in Montana. The Big Sky state stands ready to compel us with all its awe with its evergreen allure and myriad of adventures.
7 Key Takeaways on Best Things to Do in Montana
- From river rafting to cattle driving, Montana offers a medley of experiences to captivate every traveler, blending nature, adrenaline, and relaxation.
- Explore Glacier National Park’s natural beauty, with its varied landscapes and visitor centers offer a rich and educational experience for all.
- Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world, is a diverse landscape offering activities for nature enthusiasts, thrill-seekers, and leisure travelers.
- Cycling through Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacier National Park is a picturesque and sometimes challenging experience, offering gorgeous views and the chance to immerse in natural beauty.
- Paddle over the tranquil waters of Lake McDonald, Montana’s largest lake located in Glacier National Park.
- Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the western U.S., offers a variety of water-based and outdoor activities, such as camping, sailing, and even fresh fruit sampling in the summer.
- Montana’s seemingly infinite possibilities, from wildlife encounters in its picturesque national parks to serene sunset views at Lake McDonald, create a tapestry of adventures.
Must-Do Activities in Montana for a Memorable Vacation
Montana, with its expansive wilderness, craggy mountains, and postcard-perfect rustic towns, is more than just a place to visit; it’s a destination to experience. It’s a place that never tires of surprising you; and as you stumble upon hidden gem after hidden gem, you’ll find yourself falling in love with it over and over.
The state has a charm and allure that’s tough to put into words, so it’s better to experience it firsthand. So, strap in for new experiences, become acquainted with old favorites, and maybe even add a touch of wanderlust to your life, all in the land of seemingly infinite possibilities.
1. Visit Glacier National Park
One of my all-time favorite places to wield a camera and embrace Mother Nature’s finest hour, Glacier National Park is a captivating blend of alpine wonderland and rich cultural history. It’s a hub of outdoor attractions and activities for travelers, including but not limited to hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.
Glacier National Park is also home to 3 visitor centers, each offering an array of exhibits and information for visitors, including:
- St. Mary Visitor Center – The St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side beautifully intertwines culture with nature, delving into the American Indian tribes’ connection with the landscape.
- Apgar Visitor Center – The Apgar Visitor Center on the west side of the park is staffed with volunteers and park personnel who can answer questions and help with trip planning.
- Logan Pass Visitor Center – Atop the Going-to-the-Sun Road sits the Logan Pass Visitor Center, featuring exhibits on alpine zone plants and animals.
Glacier National Park is a popular attraction not just for its spectacular beauty but also for the array of exhibits — both natural and human-made. Every trail feels like a step into a beautifully illustrated natural history book.
The park offers everything from contemplative fishing to heart-racing boating tours. If you’re the one who’s always gushing over the next perfect Instagram shot, here’s your eternal muse.
2. Explore Yellowstone National Park
What’s Montana without a visit to its show-stopping neighbor, Yellowstone Park? It’s like crossing over from the tranquility of rural life into an orchestra of nature’s best.
Some of the popular attractions in Yellowstone National Park include:
- Old Faithful Geyser – It’s the marquee superstar, renowned for its punctual, jaw-dropping eruptions that’ll have you setting your watch by it.
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – If the Colorado River garners a standing ovation, then this is its equally astonishing relative.
- Lamar Valley – Decked with wildlife, it’s like walking into a live-action wildlife documentary — seriously, no binoculars required.
You can’t discuss Yellowstone without mentioning it was the trailblazer, a genuine groundbreaker if you will, becoming the very first national park in 1872. It’s like the cherry on top of the natural marvel sundae — as it’s officially the place where anyone is invited to come and behold unique geologic features.
But don’t let the museum vibe fool you; Yellowstone is as excitingly varied as it is historic. From wildlife spotting to hiking, and from horseback riding to snow coach tours, you’ve got yourself a buffet of outdoor adventures served with a side of breathtaking landscapes.
In a city, variety can be the spice of life. In Yellowstone Park, it’s the entire banquet. The park’s diverse set of landscapes — from roaring waterfalls and towering peaks to whispering meadows — will have you writing exaggerated postcards to your friends, promising the sights are practically unreal.
3. Bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Pedaling your way through Going-to-the-Sun Road is like immersing yourself in a National Geographic cover. Seriously, you won’t believe how pristine and dramatic Glacier National Park looks from a bike saddle.
So, here’s the lowdown — Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50-mile (around 80 km) road masterpiece. Roll-flowing across alpine peaks, alongside glacial lakes, and through deep valleys, you’re effectively journeying on a path perfected by time and glaciers.
In terms of skill level, you should consider this popular route as suitable only if you’re already used to heavy vehicle traffic in both directions. Oh, and endurance. This isn’t a casual bike ride down the boardwalk.
Thinking about embarking on this one-of-a-kind journey? Always follow these biking principles: Wear a helmet (it’s non-negotiable), use hand signals as if you’re speaking to the cars passing you, and don’t even think about starting without bear spray, just in case your pedal path unexpectedly merges with a grizzly’s stroll.
Speaking of grizzlies, this animal is one of the iconic symbols for Montana and a breathtaking creature to behold. Nonetheless, you never want to be caught off guard when these magnificent beasts are on the prowl.
The awe-inspiring views, the challenging yet rewarding terrain, and the possibility of animal encounters — biking Going-to-the-Sun Road is every bit as unforgettable as you’d expect. Just make sure to be prepared, focused, and open to what Mother Nature might throw your way.
4. Kayak on Lake McDonald
Kayaking on Lake McDonald, the largest lake in Glacier National Park, isn’t just another item to tick off your adventure list; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in Montana’s pristine natural scenery.
As you paddle over the tranquil crystal-clear waters in Lake McDonald, the glorious backdrop of the glacier-carved basin and towering mountains is nothing short of breathtaking. And you don’t need to worry about lugging a kayak across the country; there are plenty of rental options available.
But it’s not just the visual feast that makes this experience a must. Lake McDonald is surrounded by mountains that act as a rain block, giving you calm water conditions perfect for a leisurely kayaking trip.
If you’re lucky, your eyes may feast on a wildlife scene, not just the stunning views. Imagine the thrill of catching glimpses of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, or even a black bear from the safety of your kayak.
After kayaking, a popular choice for a home base is the Lake McDonald Lodge. While it’s not the only place to stay, it’s convenient for quick access to the lake.
This isn’t just another kayaking spot; it’s an opportunity to experience Montana’s natural beauty at its grandest. And who knows, if you’re lucky, the incredible scenery might just be accompanied by a spectacular wildlife show, making your paddling adventure on Lake McDonald truly unforgettable.
5. Enjoy Outdoor Activities on Flathead Lake
One of the crown jewels of Montana’s landscape, Flathead Lake, isn’t just a picturesque spot for your Insta-feed. It’s the epicenter for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone looking to seriously unwind in nature’s embrace.
With 5 state park units encircling Flathead Lake’s stunning 191 square miles (307 square km) and 160 miles (257 km) of shoreline, camping, hiking, and swimming become intimate experiences among mature forests and Instagram-worthy views of the Swan Range and Mission Mountains.
“You can pick the vibe that suits you best,” says Jim, a local who’s practically part fish, spending every summer at Flathead. Here’s what you could get up to at Flathead Lake State Park:
- Camping – You can rough it out like an early pioneer or opt for more modern RV amenities.
- Sailing and Power Boating – Bring out your inner sailor or let your hair down with a powerboat — the cool breeze and placid waters are equally inviting.
- Roadside Temptations – In summer, the east shore of the lake is a fruity delight. You can munch on locally grown cherries, apples, and plums — think of it as sampling the best Montana has to offer.
In addition, you can also enjoy fishing, water skiing, or simply practicing the fine art of doing nothing while floating on gentle ripples. “Here, you’re not just on vacation; you’re part of a narrative that dates back centuries,” says Jim, and it’s easy to see why.
6. Experience the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
At the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, you’re in for a real wildlife treat. It’s like hitting ‘play’ on a National Geographic documentary, only this time you’re the director.
With naturalistic settings that allow these animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center provides a safe space for animals that can’t fend for themselves in the wild. You won’t just see them—you’ll appreciate the grizzly bears and applaud the wolves.
From playful pond splashes and joyful overland runs to observant scavenging and interactive feeding, it’s a live reel of nature you won’t soon forget. At the right times, usually early mornings or evenings, you might even catch the vibrant sound of active wolf packs howling into the crisp Montana sky.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center houses not only grizzlies and wolves, but also otters, ground squirrels, and birds of prey — there’s a whole cast of wild characters calling this place home. It’s less like a zoo and more like a wildlife sanctuary gone prime time.
Just be prepared, you might find yourself lingering a lot longer than you planned — it’s easy to get caught up in the magic of this place.
7. Hike to Avalanche Lake
This is no ordinary hike. It’s a journey that unfurls like a storybook, taking you through towering cedars, past crystal-clear waterfalls, and finally depositing you at the iconic Avalanche Lake.
“Alright, lacing up for Avalanche Lake is like preparing for an expedition,” I kidded when I first made my way through it. But in all earnest, it’s a hiker’s dream, especially for travelers who enjoy a touch of moderate challenge.
What’s in store for you on the trail to Avalanche Lake:
- Trail Length – 5.9 miles (9.5 km) round trip
- Starting Point – The Trail of the Cedars, a short 1 mile (1.6 km) trail
- Duration of Hike – About 2 hours and 28 minutes
- Most Scenic Months – June through October
- Key Points to Savor – Lush cedar forest, gushing waterfalls, and the lake itself, hemmed in by towering peaks
It’s a trail that offers a symphony of natural delights, from the rustle of leaves in the cedar forests to the roaring crescendo of the waterfalls. My first glimpse of the cerulean waters of Avalanche Lake felt just as breathtaking as a well-timed plot twist in a thriller novel.
The Avalanche Lake hike is an essential entry on the bucket list of any adventurous traveler. With its perfect blend of challenge, scenery, and not to mention, the bragging rights that come with it, why would you skip this gem in Glacier National Park?
8. Enjoy Swiftcurrent Lake
Get ready for a slice of heaven right here on Earth. Swiftcurrent Lake, nestled in the heart of Many Glacier Valley, is the kind of place Instagram dreams are made of.
The combination of the clear blue waters mirroring towering peaks, the chance to paddle under a wide Montana sky, and the hushed anticipation of bumping into the local fauna makes it a destination to remember.
The Swiftcurrent Lake area is part of Glacier National Park, which is a forever-trending hotspot that’s a must for any traveler, Montana or not. In this corner alone, you’re treated to Many Glacier Hotel, a splendid architectural marvel that adds to the lake’s allure.
Scenic boat rides are big here too, taking you not just around Swiftcurrent Lake, but across to the enchanting Lake Josephine as well. For the power voyagers among us, canoes, kayaks, and rowboats are at your disposal, allowing you to call the shots on how slow or fast you’d like to take in the scenery.
So, in a nutshell, Swiftcurrent Lake has more stories to tell than just the beautiful stills you will click. The variety of activities — be it hiking, an afternoon of bird-watching, rowing, relaxing on a boat, or simply taking a stroll around the lake — guarantee memorable experiences.
9. Explore Pictograph Cave State Park
The evocative Pictograph Cave State Park is like an open-air museum, and I guarantee this — your inner history buff will thank you.
A gentle three-quarter-mile (1.2 km) loop spirals around Pictograph Cave State Park, leading you through a living timeline of Montana’s prehistoric past. Following it is an expedition through the stories and daily lives of those who came before us, complete with artifacts and over 100 rock paintings.
Stepping into the visitor center is your ticket to time travel. It’s as if the artifacts and displays, curated over years of exploration, whisper tales of a Montana we never knew. They’ll also direct you to prime vantage points, where with the help of good binoculars, these faded pieces of art come to life.
These aren’t just cave paintings; they’re remnants of the daily lives of prehistoric hunters, etched in stone like an ancient Instagram feed. The park lets you be not just a spectator but a participant in this journey through time.
If there’s one thing I’d prioritize, it’s the rock paintings. The oldest is older than your great-to-the-n-th-grandma and dates back over 2,000 years, while the most ‘recent’ additions were made just 200 to 500 years ago. That’s older than most historical sites in the United States.
Pictograph Cave State Park honors the traditions of our ancestors. Each painting – be it a bison or a ritual scene – is a piece of the story of Montana. If you have an extra day in Billings, don’t skip this walk among civilizations long gone. It’s a haunting glimpse into a Montana that’s much more than just our present.
10. Discover Big Sky Resort
Sitting majestically in the heart of Montana, surrounded by the stunning Greater Yellowstone Region, Big Sky Resort beautifully blends the charm of vast open spaces with the commanding presence of dramatic peaks.
Get the chance to experience being on top of Lone Peak, at 11,166 feet (around 3,403 m) elevation, with panoramic views that stretch out to eternity. In the winter months, it’s a paradise for lovers of snow — Big Sky is decorated with over 400 inches of snow annually, perfect for exhilarating ski slopes and exciting winter activities like cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, sleigh rides, ice skating, and even dog sledding.
But let’s not forget the warmer seasons. The resort boasts a plethora of summer activities, from zip lines that send you flying over the mountains to scenic lift rides that offer a serene view.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as Big Sky is a destination for families too. Half of the ski terrain is perfect for beginners and intermediates, ensuring that everyone, young and old, can find their groove. For the more experienced thrill-seekers, the advanced ski terrain guarantees a challenge like no other.
Whether you’re speeding across the landscape on a thrilling sled dog ride or just relaxing with a comforting cup of hot chocolate between runs, there’s a warm invitation for everyone.
So for those seeking winter thrills or relaxing beneath the summer sun, Big Sky Resort is the ideal showcase of Montana’s year-round hospitality. Without a doubt, a visit to Big Sky Resort will be one for the books — or rather, the family photo album.
11. Tour the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is not only Montana’s oldest state park but also its best-known. Get ready to go subterranean because this park boasts the largest limestone caves in the Northwest, perfect for spelunking adventures through landscapes millions of years in the making.
While the big draw is, of course, the caves — which you can only explore through a guided tour, strap on those comfortable shoes because there’s more fun to be had.
Winding hiking and biking trails, a top-notch visitor center with interactive displays that shed light on the cave network, and even a gift shop. In the summer, the amphitheater comes alive with special interpretive events, giving you a glimpse into the rich geological and cultural history of the area.
If you’re someone who likes to pair adventure with a little history, you’re in the right place. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park isn’t just an outdoor playground. The caverns were once roamed by native tribes and hold a fascinating historical significance.
For die-hard explorers, the cave tours are available year-round, each season offering something unique. If you’re looking to pair your underground explorations with some above-ground fun, come in the summer when the interpretive events and special tours are in full swing.
Remember, it’s not just about the caves; it’s a giant park filled with hiking and biking trails, a state-of-the-art visitor center, and a whole lot of surprises. So, are you ready to delve deep into Montana’s subterranean wonders? I sure hope so!
12. Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort
When the snow falls, Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort is the place to be, offering a buffet of snowy delights. Spread over 3,000 skiable acres, it’s no surprise that this is one of the largest ski resorts you’ll find in both the US and Canada.
Come one, come all, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a total newbie, Whitefish Mountain Resort promises a downhill experience that is both exhilarating and inviting. And if skiing and snowboarding don’t quite hit the spot for you, how about exploring the pristine winter landscapes on snowshoes, or revving it up with guided snowmobile rentals?
Not exclusive to just winter sports, as the snow thaws and spring dances closer, Whitefish Mountain Resort morphs into an adventure park fit for the sun. Get ready for thrill rides of an entirely different kind.
Montana’s only Alpine Slide offers hair-raising fun at your own pace, while lift-accessed downhill mountain biking lets you conquer the slopes on two wheels. If you’re seeking a more relaxed experience, the Aerial Adventure Park, scenic lift rides, and the unique Walk in the Treetops are perfect for creating those priceless family memories.
The summer months at Whitefish Mountain Resort are as fantastic as the winter ones. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and that’s exactly what Whitefish Mountain Resort offers — a delightful array of winter and summer sports.
13. Relax by Whitefish Lake
One of my favorite ways to recharge in Montana is by spending a serene day at Whitefish Lake. This pristine lake, set against an incredible backdrop of mountainous views, offers a tranquil atmosphere that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and leisure seekers.
Adding to the allure of Whitefish Lake is its thriving fishing scene. The lake boasts populations of lake trout that rival those of nearby Flathead Lake, with catches often exceeding 20 pounds (around 9.1 kilos). Anglers can also pursue brown trout, and rainbow trout, making it a diverse and exciting destination for fishing enthusiasts.
Whether you’re into fishing, boating, taking a casual swim, or trying your hand at water skiing, the options in Whitefish Lake are as diverse as they are refreshing. The water is crystal clear, making it an ideal spot to cool off in summer.
For those who appreciate a more laid-back approach, Whitefish Lake State Park is a must-visit. Here, a mature woodland envelops the beautiful and secluded campground and beach, providing a natural setting for retreat and relaxation. With 25 campsites offering tent-only and RV camping, you can sleep under the stars with the gentle lull of the lake as your soundtrack.
Whitefish Lake is more than just a body of water; it’s a source of calmness and exploration that defines Montana’s love for the great outdoors. So if you’re planning a trip to Montana, this destination checks all the boxes for a blissful escape.
14. Expand Your Knowledge at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is like a living history lesson etched into the very land it stands upon. For all you history buffs out there, this is more than a “been there, done that” spot; it’s a journey to the very heart of an extraordinary moment in American history.
The Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, was a pivotal moment in both U.S. Army and Native American history. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is where the legendary Native American leaders orchestrated a stunning victory over the U.S. 7th Cavalry.
Walking the very grounds where these events unfolded is an undeniably sobering experience. The visitor center and museum offer a deeper dive into the strategies and roles of the different factions, making the historical narrative come alive.
Lesser known but equally moving are the Custer National Cemetery and the Indian Memorial, each telling a different side of the same story. The Indian Memorial, in particular, gives voice to the Native American warriors who fought and died here, providing a much-needed balance to the historical narrative. You can take also take a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) self-guided tour between two battlefields, the Custer Battlefield and the Reno-Benteen Battlefield.
But hold on — the surprises don’t stop there. Montana’s rich biodiversity leaves its mark even on this historic site. The monument is also home to a rich and diverse ecosystem, encompassing various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians native to this part of Montana.
So, in a single trip, you get to walk through the annals of American history, contemplate pivotal moments, and appreciate the intricacies of Montana’s natural world — that is simply mind-blowing to me.
15. Cattle Drive at a Montana Ranch
Ever dreamt of experiencing a day in the life of cowboys, herding cattle across open ranges and down dusty trails, just like in the old Wild West movies? Montana makes this dream an authentic reality, with ranches offering exhilarating cattle drive experiences amid the iconic backdrop of Big Sky Country.
Here are some of the best ranches in Montana where you can experience cattle drives:
- Dryhead Ranch – For an authentic old-west adventure, try their 50-mile (80 km) cattle drive along the old Sioux Trail.
- The Bar W Guest Ranch – Offers a Western Cattle Drive exclusively on their expansive 5,300-acre ranch.
- The Resort at Paws Up – Uncover the history of cattle driving and master essential rodeo skills.
- Bear Creek Guest Ranch – Delivers an authentic week-long experience moving cattle towards the Rockies.
The cattle drive itself is far from just a leisurely ride. Not only do you inherit the vast blue skies and the rugged panoramas, but you also pick up a bit of Montana’s rich history in cattle ranching.
If the idea of churning up dust tracks through vast plains, and herding majestic creatures under Montana skies stirs feelings of absolute joy, I’d say this experience is not to be missed!
16. Stroll Through Downtown Bozeman
Downtown Bozeman is like a time machine that swings you back to the Old West while adding a touch of modern flavor. As you amble down the streets, the blend of historic architecture and modern storefronts will keep your camera busy and your Instagram followers happy.
I often tell fellow travelers, you’ve not truly soaked in Bozeman’s local vibe until you’ve spent time strolling through Downtown Main Street. Immersed in an array of historic buildings, local shops, and tempting dining spots, it’s a vibrant hotspot brimming with history and culture.
Everything in Downtown Bozeman is walkable. If you’re the type that likes to take your time, your day can easily be spent wandering through local stores. And when hunger strikes, don’t miss out on the culinary diversity, offering everything from gourmet ice cream parlors to farm-to-table dining experiences.
And if, after your explorations, you need a bit of relaxation, head over to Bozeman Hot Springs located in the scenic Gallatin Valley, and immerse yourself in the state’s natural hot spring — a must-do experience in Montana.
My biggest advice? Keep your itinerary open. Bozeman’s downtown area has a way of pulling you deeper into its charm. The historic, the modern, the local, the new — they all intertwine to create an eclectic tapestry that’s distinctly Bozeman.
17. Drive the Beartooth Highway
Montana’s Beartooth Highway, a 68-mile (109.4 km) stretch of sensory overload, is like a rock-star road trip — high, glamorous, and abundantly scenic. This fantastic two-to-three-hour scenic drive, officially known as U.S. Highway 212, spans from Red Lodge to Cooke City and passes the Beartooth Mountain range.
Just to put a cherry on top, Beartooth Highway, dubbed as an “All-American Road” is the only road that touches the northeastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Cranking up nearly 5,000 feet (around 1,524 m) through lodgepole pine forests, the road serves as a VIP ticket to an enchanting alpine world.
In a world of ever-evolving beauty norms, Beartooth Highway isn’t a pageant contestant but a timeless classic. The scenery is equally staggering and offers unmatched photo opportunities with alpine lakes, peaks towering over 12,000 feet (around 3,658 m), glacially-carved cirques (those are like nature’s amphitheaters), and a riot of wildflowers.
When visiting this amazing road, be sure to remember that the best time to experience its utmost grandeur is generally between 10 am and 5 pm for that “natural filter” of alpine light. And just like the beats in your favorite song, dates for Beartooth’s opening and closing vary every year.
The best advice? Before you pack your camera and sandwiches, stop for a minute and check the official highway status. A bit of prep can save you from an unnecessary “road trip sunset”.
18. Tour the World Museum of Mining
The appeal of Montana’s World Museum of Mining isn’t just in the exhibits; it’s in the setting. Founded in the twilight years of Butte’s mining heyday in 1963, the museum is nestled within the Orphan Girl Mine’s actual mine yard, a place where nearly a century of hard-rock mining was carried out.
The World Museum of Mining proudly displays over 60 exhibits, including authentic artifacts and a sprawling recreation of a mining town from the 1890s. Aside from that, the guided tours allow you to delve beneath the museum and into the Orphan Girl Mine.
Let the prospect of going 100 feet underground not daunt you; this is a thrill worth experiencing. As we made our way through dimly lit tunnels and chambers, it was more than just a history lesson; it was an immersion into the challenges faced by the hardworking miners.
If you have even a passing interest in history, industry, or just understanding the culture and spirit that helped build this great state, the World Museum of Mining should be at the top of your Montana bucket list.
19. Check Out The Resort at Paws Up
Welcome to The Resort at Paws Up. Not just a resort, but a portal to nature’s grandest theater with 37,000 acres of sprawling property, an intricate network of 100 miles of trails or 161 kilometers, and the Blackfoot River stretching 10 scenic miles or 16 kilometers.
The Resort at Paws Up is all about family-friendly outdoor recreation, just a stone’s throw away from the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area; a staggering 1.5 million acres (around 6,070 sq km), mind you. Paws Up doesn’t just offer nature in bite-sized pieces; it serves up super-sized helpings right at your doorstep.
Year-round, the resort isn’t only a destination but a lifestyle. Its incredible selection of 28 vacation homes, each nestled within a forest of tall timbers and scenic landscapes, is like a ticket to Montana’s private show.
Paws Up is like a nature enthusiast’s dream come true. Ever considered an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tour across this expansive Montana property? Or perhaps something more traditional like horseback riding? The activities here are as varied as the landscape.
And if you like your adventure with a dose of luxury, why not try glamping? The Resort at Paws Up is North America’s premier Montana glamping resort, offering 6 camps with safari-style luxury tents.
What’s even cooler is that these glamping sites are designed for everyone. Whether you’re a family wanting to reconnect, a couple looking for a romantic rendezvous, or a large group itching to spend quality time together, there’s a perfect spot awaiting your arrival.
20. Admire the Ringing Rocks
Nestled 18 miles (around 29 km) east of Butte and just north of I-90 lies a geological oddity that’ll have your auditory senses piqued — the Ringing Rocks. A boulder field that, when tapped delicately with a hammer, produces harmonious tones that resonate through the air. It’s like Mother Nature’s very own xylophone.
This unconventional concert of nature offers a wonderfully interactive experience. “When I visited,” shares avid traveler Lucy, “I was giddy like a kid, trying out different-sized hammers on the rocks and listening as the tones changed. It’s like a musical scavenger hunt!”
If you’re planning a visit to the Ringing Rocks, here are things you must know:
- Expect an off-the-beaten-path adventure, perfect for a day trip from Butte.
- Not every rock serenades, but there’s a robust 1-in-3 chance of finding a melodious one.
- Feel free to explore the entire boulder field and engage in a little ‘rock concert’ of your own.
- A rack of hammers awaits you, so channel your inner rock star and try as many as you fancy.
The Ringing Rocks is a symphony of geology and acoustics, sure to strike a chord with nature enthusiasts and music lovers alike. So why not add this unique stop to your Montana bucket list? This isn’t your typical ‘rocky’ experience — both literally and figuratively.
21. See Wildlife at the National Bison Range
The National Bison Range isn’t just a place to glance at bison and check it off your “Montana Bucket List.” It’s a fascinating conservation area where you can get up close and personal with Montana’s native species.
The National Bison Range, home to around 350 bison, stands as a historical treasure. This sanctuary not only shelters a diverse array of Montana’s native species, such as birds, deer, elk, pronghorns, and bears but also offers an immersive experience through two scenic self-directed driving tours.
The primary Red Sleep Drive treats you to amazing views of the valley, and if you’re lucky, a bear or two. The Prairie Drive, on the other hand, gives you the best chance at bison spotting — think of it as a real-life National Geographic experience.
A helpful suggestion is to start your visit early. Animals are creatures of habit, and the early bird does catch the worm, or in this case, the bison.
As you leave the range, know that you’re carrying a bit of Montana’s heart with you. Wildlife sightings aren’t just Instagrammable memories; they’re a reminder of the delicate balance we must preserve between nature and humanity.
22. Appreciate Cowboy Art at C.M. Russell Museum
You might think your appreciation of cowboys and the splendor of big sky vistas is confined to watching old Western movies on repeat. But let me introduce you to an experience that’ll enrich your understanding and appeal to your visual sense at the same time — The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana.
I have to say, this is one museum you don’t want to overlook. As you step into C.M. Russell’s world, you’re diving deep into the imagery of the Wild West. Russell depicts cowboys, Plains Indians, and rugged natural landscapes like nobody else.
Stepping into the museum’s permanent collection, you’re virtually time-traveling through Russell’s life. You’ll see depictions of the daily lives of cowboys, scenes from Native American life, and his epic take on Montana’s landscapes. Russell’s art is a visual testament to the closing days of the Western frontier.
And it’s not just a static experience. The museum keeps things fresh with its rotating exhibits, often hosting works by contemporary artists who share Russell’s passion for the American West.
So go ahead, indulge your inner cowboy or cowgirl in more than just an Instagram selfie with cowboy boots and a fishing rod. Instead, come face-to-face with the revolutionary art of C.M. Russell. You might just find yourself looking at Montana in a whole new light — one that Russell himself would’ve been proud of.
23. Find Your Peace at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Encased in the gentle cradle of Montana’s scenic vistas, lays a gem of tranquil spirituality — the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. This public park and Buddhist center, following the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, is not just for the devout, but for anyone seeking spiritual solace or a peaceful disconnect from life’s noisy hustle.
As you stroll through the garden surrounded by indigenous trees and flowers, you’ll be greeted by 1,000 hand-cast Buddha statues, each unique in posture, expression, and story. There’s a magnetic draw towards the central figure of the Garden, the Great Mother.
The transformative aura of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas extends beyond its statues and foliage. Both a contemplative sanctuary and an outdoor museum, every step holds an opportunity for personal reflection.
It’s as if every pebble, every whispering tree, and every gaze from a Buddha statue conspire to prompt a closer introspection of your inner garden. Emphasis is not just on the garden’s aesthetic appeal, but rather on how it serves as a place of refuge and restoration for many.
The calmness of the garden seeps into your soul, making it a go-to place for those needing to hit the pause button on life or those actively searching for a spiritual connection. This isn’t a mundane stroll; it’s a chance to reconnect with yourself and your purpose.
24. Cruise the Gates of the Mountains
Midway between the iconic Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, there’s a lesser-known Montana gem that just demands to be explored. Cruising the Gates of the Mountains is like flipping through the pages of a living history book, narrated by Mother Nature herself.
Set in the heart of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, imagine an epic two-hour boat ride, where every bend in the placid Missouri River reveals a new and breathtaking vista. This spectacular journey doesn’t just prompt your jaw to drop; it also invites you to step into the shoes of the famed explorer Meriwether Lewis.
As the story goes, he named this awe-inspiring spot while navigating the river in 1805, marveling at how the towering limestone cliffs seemed to open like gates before him — a scene that’s just as arresting over 200 years later.
Don’t forget your binoculars, because alongside the historical magic, you’re in for a wildlife lover’s dream. From elk and deer grazing lazily in the forests to the more elusive mountain lions and bears who occasionally patrol the cliffs, every sighting feels like an exclusive backstage pass to Montana’s unspoiled beauty. And keep an eagle eye out for golden eagles, the monarchs of these Montana skies.
Gates of the Mountains, with its wooded slopes, craggy rock formations, and serene river, is a place where time slows down, allowing you to bond with nature. So if you’re intrigued by the untold stories etched into Montana’s landscapes or simply seeking a scenic reprieve, this historic landing is your intriguing mid-Montana interlude.
25. Encounter Dinosaur Fossils at the Museum of the Rockies
If you’re ready for a dash of prehistoric wonder, look no further than the Museum of the Rockies, acclaimed as one of the world’s top research and history museums. Nestled in Bozeman, this expansive cultural gem offers a window into Montana’s ancient past that’s impossible to ignore.
Home to one of the most extensive dinosaur displays on the planet, get set to step back in time in the Museum of the Rockies with their fully-mounted Montana’s T. rex skeleton, conducting a silent symphony from its prehistoric perch. And that’s just the tip of the fossilized iceberg — you’ll also marvel at the “Big Al” Allosaurus, a brother-from-another-era to the Tyrannosaurus rex.
Looking for a deeper dive? The museum doesn’t stop with its dinosaur wonders; it expertly weaves in Montana’s human history. Offering something for every type of history aficionado, the Museum of the Rockies delights visitors with:
- Displays of the native people of Yellowstone Country
- A pioneer log home from the late 1800s
- Changing exhibits from around the world including Western art
- Regional and natural history showcases
- Planetarium shows that are out of this world
- Educational programs for all ages
- Insightful lectures that open up new perspectives
- Benefit events for those who want to give back
- A museum store for souvenirs to spark their memories
It’s not just the Museum of the Rockies’ largest collection that’s a must-see; make sure to keep an eye on their rotating special exhibits. You never know if you might stumble upon the next great discovery — a sort of 21st-century dinosaur hunt if you will.
26. Visit Garnet Ghost Town
Located in west-central Montana, Garnet Ghost Town is a fascinating, well-preserved relic of Montana’s rich mining history. With over 30 structures left standing, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the town’s founding in 1895.
Garnet was more than a quiet place — it was a thriving hub with 7 bustling saloons, 3 hotels, and a daily stage between Bearmouth and Coloma. Imagine the hustle and bustle as you walk down its streets!
The town was named after the garnet rocks found in the area, which were prized as abrasives and semi-precious stones. And that’s not all – around Garnet, 50 active mines were sustaining the town’s prosperity.
Feeling intrigued? I know I was. When you visit Garnet Ghost Town, expect a well-organized experience. The Visitor Center is a great starting point, offering information on the town’s history and the people who once lived there.
For those who prefer a more interactive experience, there are interpretive signs as well as self-guided trails, letting you explore at your own pace. You can pick up books, cards, and other memorabilia to learn more about the past in this Montana time capsule.
27. Observe Wildlife at ZooMontana
At the junction of zoological wonder and botanical extravaganza, we’ve got ZooMontana, a wildlife sanctuary that doubles as a botanical garden. Feel the pulse of Montana’s diverse species across grasslands and appreciate their naturalistic habitats, all in Billings.
From the awe-inspiring Amur Tigers to the wily River Otters, ZooMontana houses over 100 animals of 56 species. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill creatures; we’re talking about Grizzly Bears, Wolverines, and Canada Lynx. Many of these animals are rescued, nursed back to health, and now thriving under the loving care of the zoo’s team.
Not just that, at ZooMontana, you’ll live the experience, as they offer hands-on, educational programs on Yellowstone’s ecosystem. Imagine, instead of a textbook, all the interpretive display becomes a real-life adventure.
So, for all zoology enthusiasts, or just an appreciator of natural beauty, ZooMontana is a must. Get ready to observe, learn, and walk away with a deeper connection to the rich wildlife of Montana.
28. Watch a Skijoring Competition at Big Sky
If you’re a snow lover and an adrenaline junkie, watching a skijoring competition in Big Sky is an experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s a winter sport where skiers are towed behind galloping horses, maneuvering through jumps and turns, all while racing against the clock.
Say goodbye to your usual winter plans and dive into this exhilarating spectacle. Skijoring not only takes your skiing skills to the next level, but it’s also a fantastic way to appreciate the harmonious blend of tradition and thrill.
Big Sky Skijoring hosts the Best in the West Showdown, attracting legendary locals and top skijoring teams from across North America. The event typically takes place in late January or early February. Clear your calendar and prepare to witness gravity-defying stunts and fierce competition in Montana’s winter wonderland.
In a sea of traditional winter activities, skijoring stands out as a captivating blend of speed, skill, and the unpredictable nature of these four-legged athletes. So what are you waiting for? Swap your ski poles for reins and let the thrill of skijoring show you a brand new side of Montana’s winter beauty.
Check out this fun video of skijoring in Montana!
29. Try Rock and Ice Climbing With Montana Alpine Guides
One of the experiences you can’t afford to miss in Montana, especially if you’re an adrenaline junkie like myself, is the heart-thumping adventure of rock and ice climbing. I dipped my toes into this icy world with the experts at Montana Alpine Guides, and let me tell you, no amusement park ride can come close to this natural high.
Based in Bozeman, Montana Alpine Guides is the golden ticket to Montana’s epic rock and ice climbing experiences. They’re so legit that they’re the leading guide service, offering a variety of courses and trips suitable for every level of expertise, including:
- Rock Climbing – Ascend Montana’s legendary granite walls are suitable for beginners and experts.
- Ice Climbing – Embrace the chill as you conquer frozen waterfalls and cliffs.
- Backcountry Skiing – Find your path off the beaten track in the stunning Rocky Mountains.
- Mountaineering – Seek new heights with guided ascents of Montana’s most iconic peaks.
Montana Alpine Guides doesn’t just help you climb; they cultivate a passion for Montana’s landscapes that you’ll carry with you long after you’ve left the mountain. So, if you’re prepared to kick your boundaries to the curb and rock and ice climb your way to uncharted territories, Montana Alpine Guides is your go-to.
Best Things to Do in Montana Final Thoughts
Montana, the treasure trove of outdoor adventures and cultural explorations, offers visitors a palette of experiences that stretches across its expansive vistas and quaint towns. Whether you’re exploring the architectural richness of Missoula or navigating the awe-inspiring Going-to-the-Sun Road in the ethereal Glacier National Park, there are unending delights at every turn.
By covering a wide spectrum of activities, Montana’s dynamic nature carves out a vibrant itinerary for every traveler. As you traverse this Treasure State, expect real connections with nature, unforgettable adrenaline rushes, and the enrichment of cultural insights.
Montana doesn’t just tickle your sense of adventure; it offers a symphony of experiences that linger in your memory long after you’ve left. So go ahead, and dive into this wonderland of seemingly endless opportunities, enriched with both grandeur and simplicity. There, your next great adventure waits.
Things to Do in Montana FAQs
1. What Is Montana Best Known For?
Montana is best known for its stunning natural landscapes, including the majestic Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, as well as its rich outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking, fishing, and skiing.
2. Is Montana Worth Seeing?
Montana is worth seeing for its breathtaking scenery, diverse wildlife, and outdoor activities, offering a unique and memorable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
3. Why Do Tourists Go to Montana?
People travel to Montana to enjoy its stunning natural beauty, which includes famous landmarks such as Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
They also come to participate in outdoor activities, like hiking, spotting wildlife, and exploring the diverse landscapes that make it a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.
4. Where Should I Go for My First Time in Montana?
If you’re traveling to Montana for the first time, you should check out Glacier National Park. It’s famous for its breathtaking scenery, crystal-clear lakes, and diverse wildlife. This park is a perfect introduction to the natural beauty of Montana and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.
5. What Are 5 Interesting Facts About Montana?
- Montana got its name from the Spanish word montaña, which in turn comes from the Latin word Montanea, meaning “mountain” or more broadly “mountainous country”.
- Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.
- There are over 10,000 miles (16,093 km) of underground tunnels beneath the city of Butte.
- There are more cattle in Montana than there are people.
- Montana was the first state to elect a woman to Congress in 1916.
Unlock new insights about Montana in the articles below:
- Gemstones in Montana
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- Montana’s Origins
- Montana Law Essentials
- Insights Into Montana Life
- Montana Size Facts