11 Jaw-Dropping Montana Nature Attractions

Are you ready to discover the hidden treasures of Big Sky Country? Any seasoned outdoors adventurer or nature lover may wonder: what are some awe-inspiring Montana nature attractions?

Now you, as a curious and intrepid traveler, might share a kinship with those who yearn to explore the undisturbed beauty spread across Montana’s vast landscapes. The allure of unspoiled wilderness and stunning vistas has inevitably pulled me in, cultivating a passion to uncover the charm of Montana’s lesser-known natural wonders.

This article is poised to immerse you in a journey through the hidden gems of Montana — a guide that will take you from the majestic limestone formations of Makoshika State Park to the serene shores of Flathead Lake, unveiling the state’s most enchanting secrets.

So grab your boots and your spirit for adventure as we embark on a quest through Montana’s untouched natural habitats. There’s so much more to see in this state, and our guide is your key to unlocking the beauty that Montana’s best-kept natural attractions have to offer.

7 Key Takeaways on Montana’s Natural Attractions

  1. Montana offers a variety of awe-inspiring natural attractions, from the iconic Glacier National Park to the impressive Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone.
  2. Glacier National Park is a must-see, offering a diverse range of activities and stunning vistas, including the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  3. The Lewis and Clark Caverns and Upper Geyser Basin provide unique geological experiences with guided tours and educational displays.
  4. For a more rugged experience, the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and Gates of the Mountains offer outdoor activities in stunning, less-traveled locations.
  5. Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, is perfect for a relaxing day trip with boating and cherry orchards to explore.
  6. Each destination is strategically located, making it convenient for visitors to explore multiple natural wonders on their Montana adventure.
  7. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or outdoor adventurer, Montana’s natural marvels offer something for everyone, promising a journey of discovery at every turn.

Best Montana Natural Attractions

A waterfall in the middle of a rocky canyon in Montana.
source: flickr.com

Montana is a treasure trove of natural splendor. From pristine lakes to dramatic mountain landscapes, this state epitomizes the American frontier and offers a variety of awe-inspiring locations just waiting to be explored.

This travel guide will serve as your North Star across landscapes that vary from majestic to hidden. Why go anywhere else when you can let the state surprise you at every turn?

1. Glacier National Park

A mountain range with snow covered mountains and a lake.
source: flickr.com

Glacier National Park, ladies and gentlemen, is the heavyweight champion of Montana’s natural crown jewels. As you’re pulling a mesmerizing Rose Quartz Stone straight out of Mother Nature’s jewelry box, let me tell you – it’s incredible.

  • Diverse Plant Life – This park, part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, is not only vast but also teems with a mind-boggling array of plants. All thanks to Glacier’s varied ecosystems and elevations, you can wander through thickets of wildflowers or sweep across wide-open valleys.
  • Hiking Trails Offering Alpine Magic – Are you a fan of alpine scenery, but don’t want to spend hours Googling “Is this safe to hike?” Look no further – Glacier’s got you covered. Trails like the famed Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier, and Highline offer a front-row seat to Montana’s epic beauty.
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road – A scenic drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road is like trying to predict a lover’s mood – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Yet, every twist and turn unravels breathtaking views of pristine lakes, glacial-carved valleys, and towering peaks that are snowcapped even when it’s sweltering at the foothills.
  • Kaleidoscope of Activities – The park caters to visitors year-round. From snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the hushed hibernation of winter to wildlife viewing and boat tours when spring breathes new life – you’re always in for an adventure.

Glacier National Park is much more than a one-trick pony; it’s more like a pony that can also do card tricks while juggling. It’s a destination that nature lovers simply can’t afford to miss, offering an ever-evolving medley of experiences throughout the year.

Plus, it’s the world’s first international peace park! Now that’s a feat even the savviest traveler can appreciate. So go ahead, let this magnificent park beckon to the explorer in you.

2. Lewis and Clark Caverns

A cave with many stalactites and stalagmites, nestled in Montana.

Just 12 miles east of Whitehall, Montana, nestles a natural masterpiece inside Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Branded as one of the most ornate limestone caverns in North America, the underground theater is adorned with a mesmerizing collection of stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites. 

You know those hot days when a perfectly air-conditioned room feels like heaven? Well, these caverns are Nellie Olesons of the natural world. You’ll be strolling through naturally cooled hallways lined with structures that have been growing and evolving for 325 to 365 million years. 

But don’t expect to wander this natural dreamland freely. Guided tours only, folks. And that’s a good thing. Knowledgeable guides whisk you through the caverns, turning an already jaw-dropping stroll into a full-blown educational adventure.

Outside the cave, the park offers a diverse array of pursuits to enjoy. Whether you’re up for a 10-mile hike through jaw-dropping landscapes, love a good interpretive display, or just want to roast marshmallows by a campfire, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park has something for everyone.

Holiday season addicts, prepare to be indulged. Summer in the park brings live interpretive shows, gift shops worth writing home about, sprawling campgrounds, and hiking and biking trails that let you explore the over 3,000 acres of Montana beauty at your own pace.

Why Lewis and Clark Caverns Should Be on Your Bucket List:

  • Take a break from scorching summer days in the naturally air-conditioned cool of the caverns.
  • Expand your brain (and Instagram posts) with guided tours that turn a cave stroll into a geological field trip.
  • Swap the cave for camp. The park offers numerous camping facilities among other outdoor activities.

While short, this section of our Best-Kept Natural Attractions series does the Lewis and Clark Caverns justice. So next time you’re in the neighborhood, ditch the urban hustle or the deadpan office and immerse yourself in this awe-inspiring and cunningly cool underworld.

3. Upper Geyser Basin

Geyser springs in Yellowstone National Park.

If you’ve ever thought that volcanoes are just for science textbooks or disaster movies, think again. The Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park is sitting on an active supervolcano. That’s like Mother Nature dialed the drama up to a 10 right in her living room – amazing and slightly terrifying all at once!

I remember my first visit to the Upper Geyser Basin, and perhaps you can relate – it was under the guise of making cultural small talk at a family reunion about a vacation that went off the beaten path.

The thing is, the Basin boasts the highest concentration of geysers anywhere on the planet, including the revered Old Faithful – the celebrity performer of the thermal world.

Just when I thought I had seen its performance, it spurted up again, keeping its promise to visitors waiting in bated breath around the geothermal stage. I went from casual spectator to unapologetic fan in a matter of seconds.

Popular Spots to Check Out:

  • Old Faithful – Yes, this is the geyser that gave rise to the term “Old Faithful”, not just in geology, but in everyday life.
  • Grand Geyser – Picture Old Faithful’s more unpredictable cousin – it doesn’t have a set schedule, but when it goes off, it’s a show-stopper.
  • Castle Geyser – It spouts tall and proud and looks like a castle, hence the name.
  • Daisy Geyser – It’s delicate and gentle, like a, well, daisy.
  • Riverside Geyser – Takes a river view, if you will, and makes it a feature.
  • Morning Glory Pool – An exquisitely colored hot spring, named after the pretty flowers you’d see in a cottage garden.

Think of the Basin as a living, breathing textbook, giving you a peek into the gentle forces underneath our feet that shape our world. Every gurgle, every puff of steam, and every splash of hot water tells the story of the geological processes happening beneath the Earth’s surface.

Take advantage of guided walks in the Upper Geyser Basin. Rangers provide insights into the ecological and geological significance, turning your visit into an interactive and educational experience.

Whether you’re a geology enthusiast, a lover of natural wonders, or someone who gets a kick out of the Earth’s inner workings, a trip to the Upper Geyser Basin will leave you in awe.

Witness stunning geothermal displays and delve into the intricate relationship between geology, ecology, and humanity. Don your walking shoes for a journey into the earth’s natural symphony.

4. Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

A river flowing through a picturesque landscape adorned with trees and cliffs.
source: flickr.com

If you’re listening to Montana, but haven’t absorbed the rustling of its rugged canyons and the heady scent of its expansive grassy plateaus at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, you, my friend, are missing a trick.

Designated as a National Monument in 2001, the Missouri Breaks is a natural gem nestled in Central Montana, cohabiting with the untamed yet breathtakingly beautiful Missouri River.

The Missouri Breaks isn’t just some fancy name slapped onto this piece of Central Montana; it’s a geologic fingerprint, the result of millennia of action by the untamed Missouri River.

Here, you’ll find cliffs, deep coulees, and those expansive plateaus I mentioned earlier, all carved, rather artistically, by the erosive power of the Missouri River. This place pretty much looks like nature was showing off, and who can blame it?

Designated in 2001, Missouri Breaks National Monument boasts rugged canyons, expansive plateaus, and the wild Missouri River. This monument not only showcases natural beauty but also preserves a rich cultural and historical tapestry. A must-visit for those seeking both scenic splendor and cultural depth.

Practically speaking, you don’t just come here to admire the view, although that’s a legit reason too. Fishing, canoeing, camping – there’s something for everyone along the winding Missouri River.

And don’t worry; you’re not limited to just deepening your connection with Huck Finn. Hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking – this place is like a natural amusement park for the outdoorsy.

As you breathe in the clean, sharp air and brace against the sometimes equal, sometimes telling embrace of the wind, you’re sharing your experience with diverse wildlife.

Bighorn sheep, elk, and golden eagles count the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument as home, and by the good graces of its National Monument status, we get to share the turf with them.

If you’re planning a visit, here’s what you can expect from this untamed masterpiece:

  • Recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, and camping
  • A habitat for diverse wildlife like bighorn sheep, elks, and golden eagles
  • Diverse landscapes and the scenic Missouri River for a complete natural experience

You see, the Missouri Breaks National Monument isn’t just a nod to environmental and historical preservation; it’s an expansive playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether a lifelong resident or a passing visitor, the Missouri Breaks is a testament to Central Montana’s unique charm—a rugged, picturesque landscape offering diverse outdoor activities within a scenic and challenging embrace.

5. Gates of the Mountains

A scenic road leads to this breathtaking site, where visitors can gaze upon the majestic mountains.

Imagine that it’s a sunny Montana afternoon, and you find yourself gently gliding through the cool waters of the Missouri River.

The high canyon walls rise up on either side of you, seemingly parting to welcome you into this breathtaking natural amphitheater. This is the jaw-dropping experience brought to you by the Gates of the Mountains, located just a stone’s throw (well, 20 miles) north of Helena, Montana.

Highlights of Gates of the Mountains:

  • Offers boat tours and activities
  • Home to boat tours operating since 1886
  • 150 private docks, boat ramp, and dinner cruises
  • Boat Tour Capacity: 30,000 annually
  • Conveniently located halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

You can’t talk about Montana’s best-kept natural attractions without mentioning the Gates of the Mountains. If boats could talk, these would spin some pretty fascinating yarns.

This slice of paradise has been drawing in explorers and sightseers since 1886, offering a glimpse of unspoiled nature and the storied history that echoes within its cliff walls.

Gates of the Mountains isn’t just about passive sightseeing. Here, you can opt for anything from standard boat tours to dinner cruises, showcasing a distinct feature of mother nature.

The location is particularly strategic for anyone planning an exploration of Montana’s other natural gems. Perched right between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Gates of the Mountains makes for a no-brainer stop on your Montana itinerary.

Not to be outshone by its wilder neighbors, Helena itself offers a plethora of experiences, from the historical Montana State Capitol Building to the tranquil Spring Meadow Lake State Park within the Helena National Forest. The cherry on top? Don’t miss a spin on the Great Northern Carousel.

It’s not just convenience or a pretty view that should draw you to the Gates of the Mountains. It’s the perfect marriage of location and experience that’s certain to make for a memorable chapter in your Montana adventure.

So if the call of nature and a bit of boating expedition beckon, why not start or end your journey at the Gates of the Mountains? After all, some of the best things happening in Montana are the ones that occurred hitherto.

6. Flathead Lake

Flathead lake, located in Montana, is renowned for its breathtaking beauty as one of America's largest freshwater lakes.

When I say Flathead Lake, think “Montana’s aquatic jewel.” The lake’s like another world altogether, something out of a fairy tale – that might be where they got the inspiration for all those mermaid stories.

  • Take Sailing Lessons – “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Sailing lessons on the expansive 197 square miles of Flathead Lake can supercharge your journey. I tried it myself, and let me tell you, the feeling of wind in your hair and the serenity around is unparalleled.
  • Wildlife Watching and Hiking – To fully explore the lake’s beauty, ample hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities exist. Soak in the diverse flora and fauna, from vibrant alpine wildflowers to the majestic bald eagle.
  • Try Horseback Riding – Saddle up! Horseback riding around the lake offers a unique vantage point, literally and metaphorically – and lets you dive into the natural wonder.
  • Vacation Rentals with a View – “Wake up, smell the pine, and soak in the view.” Many vacation rentals offer these stunning views across the pristine waters. A comfortable base for exploration, what more do you need?
  • Land and Water Activities – So, whether you’re zipping across the azure expanse under a billowing sail or trekking along its verdant shores, Flathead Lake serves it all. It’s a universe of activities in one spot, perfect for crafting your special wilderness adventure.

There you have it – a cocktail of sailing, culture, horseback riding, and scenic stays all rolled into one picturesque package. Flathead Lake: it’s not just Montana, it’s Mother Nature’s work of art.

7. Grinnell Glacier

An off-the-beaten-path trail in Montana beside a body of water.

Grinnell Glacier is one of those breathtaking spectacles that, when you see it laid out in all its natural glory, it’s like the Earth itself is unfolding a red carpet for you.

In Glacier National Park near Kalispell, Grinnell Glacier isn’t just ice; it’s a dynamic piece of history. Amid rugged peaks, jagged ridges, and alpine meadows, it’s a living, panoramic painting.

On your way to Grinnell Glacier, you’ll stumble across vibrant alpine meadows delicately cradling a rolling, blue-tinted sea of ice, and if your legs can carry you a little higher, you’re in for a treat.

Its nature trails are like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, and the path to Grinnell Lake often pops up as a beloved sidebar to the main draw of Grinnell Glacier.

The lake boasts an almost supernatural emerald hue, compliments of something dreamily dubbed ‘glacial flour,’ the suspended sediment that infuses the water with its otherworldly tint.

If wildlife is more your scene, the surrounding area is known for large mammal sightings. Keep an eye out for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and even the elusive grizzly.

If you want to experience the full, undiluted majesty of Glacier National Park, Grinnell Glacier and its surrounding attractions are a must-visit. So grab your hiking boots, slap on some sunscreen, and get ready for an adventure that’s breathtaking in every sense of the word.

8. Morrell Falls

A waterfall nestled in the middle of a wooded area in Montana.

If you’re captivated by the mere idea of a waterfall hike like I am, then you’re in for a treat with Morrell Falls! Located in the stunning Seeley-Swan Valley of Montana, this cascade is the kind of natural gem that’s too good to keep a secret.

  • Accessibility – It’s not just its beauty that sets Morrell Falls apart; it’s fantastically accessible too. The trailhead is only a hop, skip, and jump from the town of Seeley Lake, just about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) north of Highway 83. That’s a manageable drive, even if you’re not a morning person, trust me!
  • Trail Description – Let me set the stage for you. Morrell Falls is a star in its own right, situated within the Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail. This 5.4-mile (8.69 km) round trip path is well-maintained and (dare I say) relatively easy, offering a delightful balance of challenge and leisure. 
  • Unique Landscape – Once, this tranquil forest had to weather a forest fire, and it’s fascinating to see how Mother Nature worked her magic. New growth has flourished, showcasing the splendid, cyclical nature of life.
  • Standout Feature – And just when you think it can’t get any better, Morrell Falls itself steps in to steal the show. This dazzling 70-foot cascade, swimming in crystal-clear pools, is the kind of stuff your Instagram dreams are made of.
  • Multiple Choices – Oh, and did I mention that horseback riders and mountain bikers can join the waterfall party too? Morrell Falls is one of those rare spots that caters to different outdoor passions, making it the ideal playground for nature enthusiasts of all stripes.

Morrell Falls leaves a lasting impression. Whether you’re a hiker, or mountain biker, or prefer horseback views, the experience is both remarkable and accessible. I can’t wait for you to see it.

9. Bighorn Canyon

A stunning canyon with a river flowing through the middle in Montana.

Bighorn Canyon, a Nature Lover’s Paradise Bighorn Canyon isn’t just another pretty face in the realm of Montana’s natural wonders. Nope, it’s a multifaceted playground where nature shows off its A-game, leaving you in relentless awe.

Your Itinerary: What to Do and What to See From its deep canyon walls to the vast expanses of upland prairies, mountain terrain, and wetlands, Bighorn Canyon seems to have borrowed assets from several different postcards. Its landscape diversity alone will have geologists doing cartwheels.

As if that weren’t enough, the area houses a United Nations of wildlife – I’m talking bighorn sheep, wild horses, coyotes, oh my! And that’s not all – Mule deer, snakes, small mammals, mountain lions, and bears also call this place home.

Let’s Not Forget the History This Montana treasure has more than just good looks; it’s got a rich backstory too. The construction of the Yellowtail Dam is the stuff of Montana legends. It didn’t just create a magnificent Bighorn Lake; it’s also the quiet architect behind transforming a busy river into a tranquil sanctuary for all kinds of outdoor fun.

This Is a Real Adventure Whether you’re into hiking, horseback riding, or even pitching a tent, Bighorn Canyon is a dream come true for you.

Bighorn Canyon is a place where history, wildlife, and natural beauty come together to make something truly special. The Yellowtail Dam might be a man-made wonder, but it has only added to the allure of this magnificent spot. So, if you want more than just another pretty vista for your Instagram, make sure you stop by Bighorn Canyon. Your inner geologist, history buff, and wildlife enthusiast will thank you.

10. Makoshika State Park

Makoshika state park, located in Montana is a stunning destination renowned for its unique geological formations and breathtaking landscapes.

I must implore you to make your way to Makoshika State Park, situated in Eastern Montana near Glendive. This destination is renowned for its unique badlands, dinosaur fossils, and striking geological formations.

As Montana’s largest state park, it encompasses 11,531 acres at an elevation of 2,069 feet, providing a diverse and expansive natural area for exploration.

The park’s landscape is a marvel, boasting badland formations, hogback ridges, fluted hillsides, pinnacles, gullied slopes, and caprocks, creating a visually stunning and geologically significant environment.

Makoshika is also home to the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and other prehistoric life, making it a haven for paleontology enthusiasts and those interested in the region’s ancient history.

Visitors can partake in a variety of recreational activities at Makoshika State Park, such as hiking, bird watching, and identifying diverse flora and fauna in the unique ecosystem. There are miles of trails, a disc golf course, and a visitor center with educational and interpretive displays for all ages.

Conveniently accessible from the town of Glendive, the entrance is located at 1301 Snyder St, providing easy access for visitors to embark on their Makoshika adventure. Come, and experience the wonder of Makoshika State Park firsthand.

11. Giant Springs State Park

People cross a small bridge over a river filled with vegetation.
source: commons.wikimedia.org

Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls, Montana, has a little something for everyone. The star of the show is, of course, the namesake springs – one of the largest freshwater springs in the country, churning out an impressive 156 million gallons of water every day.

It’s quite a sight to behold. These springs flow into the Roe River, once holding the title of the world’s shortest river in the Guinness Book of World Records.

But that’s not all this park has to offer. There’s also a fish hatchery on-site, responsible for raising and releasing an astounding 1.3 million fish annually, with a majority being rainbow trout and salmon.

Meanwhile, hiking along the River’s Edge Trail provides incredible views and ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography, and birdwatching.

Not too far from the springs is the Rainbow Falls Overlook, where visitors can take in the breathtaking views of the falls. And don’t forget about the historical significance – Giant Springs was discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and remains an essential site along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Giant Springs State Park does have a little bit of everything – natural beauty, recreational activities, and a rich history, making it a destination worth visiting for anyone fascinated by unique freshwater springs, outdoor adventures, and the story of Lewis and Clark.

Montana Natural Attractions Final Thoughts

A green field with snowcapped mountains in the background.
source: flickr.com

Montana unfolds as a treasure trove of Mother Nature’s gifts, from the geological marvels of Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road to the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin.

Lewis and Clark Caverns unveil the earth’s secrets, while Missouri Breaks National Monument tells a rugged tale shaped by the mighty Missouri River. Gates of the Mountains narrate history through scenic boat tours, contrasting with the dual allure of water adventures or lakeside serenity at Flathead Lake.

Local attractions like Grinnell Glacier and Morrell Falls embody Montana’s commitment to preserving pristine landscapes. Bighorn Canyon and Makoshika State Park transport you to a dinosaur-filled past, and Giant Springs State Park offers a wink of nature with the world’s shortest river.

Montana’s narrative goes beyond the grand, inviting you to be part of a larger story woven into untamed landscapes and raw beauty. It’s an awe-inspiring journey where the Great Outdoors becomes your playground, making Montana the ultimate destination.

Montana Natural Attractions FAQs

1. What Are the Natural Wonders of Montana?

Montana boasts a diverse array of natural wonders, including the majestic Glacier National Park with its iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road and breathtaking plant life.

The state is also home to the geothermal marvels of the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone and the rugged landscapes shaped by the Missouri River in the Missouri Breaks National Monument.

2. What Is the Famous State Park in Montana?

One of the famous state parks in Montana is Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, located near Three Forks.

Renowned for its impressive limestone caverns adorned with stalagmites and stalactites, the park spans over 3,000 acres and offers guided tours providing insights into the geological history of the caverns.

3. Is Glacier National Park a Wonder of the World?

While Glacier National Park is not officially designated as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” it is undoubtedly considered a wonder of nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park’s diverse ecosystems, stunning landscapes, and iconic features like the Going-to-the-Sun Road and glaciers contribute to its global recognition and make it a remarkable destination for nature enthusiasts.

Craving more knowledge? Dive deeper into the wonders of Montana with our captivating articles:

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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