7 Best Montana Boat Tours to Experience on Your Visit

Do you picture yourself taking in Montana’s untamed natural beauty from a unique perspective? On a luxurious chartered boat, perhaps? Montana’s vast landscapes are a treat you shouldn’t miss.

Let’s take a daring detour away from the conventional trails and into the heart of Montana’s waterways, taking in its rugged and serene beauty from the gentle sway of a boat. The 7 Best Montana Boat Tours is a collection fit for adventurers, family vacationers, and even history buffs.

We’ll dive into the picturesque Gates of the Mountains, showcasing the same timeless beauty that mesmerized Lewis and Clark centuries ago, or a deep dive into the countryside on the Yellowstone River with Montana Classic Boat Tours.

With a variety of trip options, spot-on narrations, and a sprinkle of Montana’s history, there’s a boat tour out there calling your name. So, what are you waiting for? Time to ease into your captain’s chair and start the exploration!

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Boat Tours

  1. Best for Historical Insights – For a trip back in time, look no further than Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours. Onboard narrators will regale you with tales of the region’s storied past, giving you a fascinating look into the Montana of yesteryears.
  2. Best for Glacier Scenery – Glacier Park Boat Company’s boat tours allow you to sail across Lake McDonald, offering unobstructed views of the towering mountains and the Glacier National Park’s diverse wildlife. 
  3. Best for Adventuring – The Montana Classic Boat Tours on Yellowstone River is tailor-made for adventurers. Not just a scenic cruise, this tour offers stops for fishing and sunrise photography. It’s a great way to mix relaxation with a dash of thrill.
  4. Best for Sightseeing – The Far West is the biggest tour boat in Montana and provides a chance to tour Flathead Lake. It’s the largest charter for sightseeing on the lake, enabling you to relish the sights and sounds of a typical Montana summer experience by the lake.
  5. Best for Wildlife Spotting – Bozeman Scenic Boat Tours is your ticket to spotting some of Madison River’s most fascinating wildlife. Get to enjoy various activities such as fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing.
  6. Best for Family Excursions – Glacier Park Boat Company also offers Many Glacier boat tours that are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Get to walk 0.2 miles (0.32 km) over a steep hill to the shores of Lake Josephine.
  7. Best for Romantic Outings – If you’re looking to add a touch of romance to your boat tour, the scenic tours offered by Montana River Outfitters are perfect. Drift along the glittering waters of the Missouri River with your loved one.

Best Boat Tours in Montana

A boat with tourists cruises around a lake during a Montana boat tour

Montana offers boat tours that are more than just a leisurely ride across the water. You can experience everything from adventures in national parks to historic trips on authentic paddle-wheelers. 

In Montana, boats aren’t just a mode of transportation, they’re avenues to explore the state’s rich history and breathtaking natural beauty. With these top boat tours, you can tap into different facets of Montana’s charm. And who knows, you might just find your next great adventure on the water.

1. Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours

A fleet of boats owned by Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours is lined up on a lake, ready to take tourists on a boat tour.
source: commons.m.wikimedia.org

The Gates of the Mountains isn’t some mystical barrier — it’s a real place! If you’re traveling between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, this boat tour offers a chance to see Montana’s breathtaking countryside from a different perspective. 

Just 3 miles (4.8 km) off Interstate 15 in the Rocky Mountain foothills, the Gates of the Mountains Marina is no less than a tiny village. With 150 private docks, a public boat ramp, and modern comforts, it’s a basecamp that speaks to the explorer in all of us.

You will get to board an open-air boat that has got you covered in case of rain and get ready for an awe-inspiring 120-minute cruise. Scene by scene, you’ll witness nature showing off with wooded slopes, rugged rock formations, and the serene flow of the Missouri River.

What’s better is this tour isn’t just about the sights but also about diving into a slice of American history. It’s like following in the wake of explorers Lewis and Clark, who discovered these very same views over 125 years ago.

Here’s the scoop on the Gates of the Mountains boat tour costs:

Child (2 and Under)Free
Child (3-17)$10
Adult (18-59)$20
Senior (60 and Over)$15
Active Military (With ID)$15

I’ve got two solid pieces of advice for you. Firstly, book these tours in advance, especially if you’re traveling during peak season. Second, no matter what time of year you go, bring a camera.

Even if you’re more of a traveler than a photographer, the Gates of the Mountains is something you’ll want to capture for your memory book.

2. Lake McDonald Boat Tours

Passengers enjoy a ride aboard the DeSmet, a boat from Glacier Park Boat Company prepared for Lake McDonald Boat Tours.
source: flickr.com

On the Lake McDonald Boat Tour, you’ll soak in the perfect symphony of nature, from the deep forest to the towering mountains, all reflected in the grandeur of the lake. The tour, typically narrated, acts as a floating guide through Glacier National Park’s western wonderland.

Considered one of the best in the business, Glacier Park Boat Company leads the pack in offering Lake McDonald boat tours. Launched by Glacier Park Boat Company, climb aboard the historic vessel called DeSmet – it’s the crown jewel in their fleet.

And here’s the cherry on top: DeSmet is one of only four vessels nationwide to hold a spot on the National Register for Historic Vessels.

This is a 1-hour scenic delight for all ages and here’s a breakdown of ticket costs:

Child (Under 4 years Old)Free
Child (4-12 years old)$13.15

If you’re seeking more independence to explore Lake McDonald’s beauty, you can also rent paddleboards, double kayaks, rowboats, and motorboats for a more personal experience. It’s just the variety needed for a delightful family day out.

A trip on the Lake McDonald Boat Tours isn’t just a sightseeing trip; it’s a low-key history lesson, a moment to appreciate preserving heritage, and a relaxing trip all wrapped into one.

3. Yellowstone River Boat Tours

A picnic set up on an empty rowboat in preparation for a Yellowstone River boat tour.
source: facebook.com

Take in the sight of the Yellowstone River as it flows across a rich tapestry of Montana landscapes — from steep-walled canyons with churning boulders to the expanses of farmland painted in hues of green and gold.

Drifting through this grandeur, immersed in a setting that’s both relaxing and powerful is the experience Montana Classic Boat Tours, located near Livingston and Bozeman, offers. Their hand-crafted wooden boats offer a cozy and comfortable experience.

With a rustic elegance that complements the surrounding natural beauty, here’s what Montana Classic Boat Tours offers:

Boat TourDescription
Hybrid Float Tour & FishFor those who want the luxury float experience coupled with the thrill of fly-fishing.
Yellowstone River Early RiserWitness the ethereal Montana sunrise, a moment you’d never want to miss.
Yellowstone River Sunset TourAfter a day of exploring Big Sky Country, unwind on a relaxing river cruise.
Custom Scenic ToursTailor a tour to your group’s unique desires and preferred timing.

My tip? If you’re coming down here, do give Montana Classic Boat Tours a try. The scene is like flipping through the pages of a Montana postcard album, only you’re in the picture.

4. Flathead Lake Boat Tours

A sunset casts golden hues over a lake with the moored ferryboat called Far West, ready for a Flathead Lake boat tour.
source: facebook.com

Flathead Lake isn’t just any lake; it’s one of the cleanest in the world, with distant mountains reflecting on its surface. The distribution of park units around the lake means that every point offers a unique view.

On the starboard side, let me introduce you to Montana’s largest tour boat, the Far West. Sail on this beauty and immerse yourself in all the sounds and panoramas of a Montana summer encapsulated in the ripples of Flathead Lake. We are talking about the real deal here!

The view from their double-decker platform isn’t just impressive; they’re almost cinematic in their splendor, offering a peek at the Mission and Swan Ranges. The rich history lessons you get with every cruise are the cherry on the top.

Feeling the boat tour urge? Here’s a quick breakdown of Far West’s bout tour rates:

CruiseChildren 5 Under RatesChildren 6-10 RatesAdults Rates
Standard CruiseFree$10$35
Sunday Night CruisesFree$15$45

So, whether you want to flex your childhood nostalgia by taking the kiddos on a Sunday Night Cruise or go on a whimsical date night, lining up for the Far West is a FOMO (fear of missing out) situation you want.

5. Madison River Boat Tours

Madison River is a dreamy playground for anglers, birdwatchers, and wildlife enthusiasts alike. It’s like taking a boat tour and slipping into an exotic chapter of Mark Twain’s old tales. One company, Bozeman Scenic Boat Tours, stands out in pouring this history-filled river culture into your lap.

Bozeman Scenic Boat Tours is every bit a gourmet Montana experience. Being a 100% Woman-Owned business is a cherry on top. All the better, they offer crafted guided tours not just on Madison River but on the historic Jefferson River and the iconic Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley.

Specializing in bespoke luxury floats, you not only get to enjoy the natural beauty but also dive deep into the river’s narrative with expert hosts. It’s like watching a favorite movie with a director’s commentary, making each moment count.

Bozeman Scenic boat tour details you should pay attention to:

Scenic FloatsDescription
Morning Scenic FloatBest for early birds, this one gets you up close with wildlife, immerses you in regional history, and lets you carry on with your other plans come afternoon.
Evening Scenic FloatIt’s a more relaxed affair, starting in the late afternoon, treating you to beautiful light and local goodies while you watch the sunset.

So if you’re craving a top-notch riverboat experience with just the right balance of structured information and whimsy, this is your ticket to a Montana like no other.

6. Many Glacier Boat Tours

A boat docked at a wooden pier on a lake at Many Glacier, ready for a boat tour at Swiftcurrent Lake.
source: facebook.com

In the grand tapestry that is Glacier National Park’s natural beauty and vast lakes, Many Glacier Boat Tours offer a delightful expedition for those who appreciate a story unfolding on water.

The Many Glacier narrated tour invites you aboard the Chief Two Guns on Swiftcurrent Lake. As you cruise with Grinnell Point as your backdrop, it feels like you’re part of a live postcard.

The little cruise then transforms into a mini-adventure by walking 0.2 miles (0.32 km) up a hill to reach Lake Josephine – but the effort is handsomely rewarded. It’s more of a brief stroll and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Many Glacier Boat Tours Pricing:

Boat TourChild 4 Under RatesChild 4-12 RatesAdults Rates
Round TripFree$19.70$39.45
One Way ReturnFree$9.85$19.70

The tour doesn’t expect you to rush – if you’d rather absorb the sight a bit more, you can always choose a one-way ticket and return at your own pace.

So if you’re looking to weave a narrative of your own amid the breathtaking landscapes of Glacier National Park, the Many Glacier Boat Tour is a story worth experiencing.

7. Missouri River Boat Tours

Four differently colored canoes with supplies are lined up by the Missouri River bank, ready to be taken on a river tour.
source: flickr.com

Boat Tour PriceNumber of SeatsDates
$1500.00 per day1 to 6 peopleJune 15 through September 14

Whether you’re a river aficionado or just love a good historical trip, Montana River Outfitters has you covered. They offer an exciting day tour of the iconic White Cliffs section in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, allowing you to tick off a major item on the Montana must-see list.

Here’s what you will see and experience from Montana River Outfitters’ boat tours:

  • White Cliffs Section – You’ll travel along the White Cliffs, catching glimpses of volcanic intrusions and unique rock formations that have inspired generations of explorers.
  • Ample Time for Relaxation – Despite the excitement of the journey, this is a relatively gentle trip with plenty of opportunities to sit back and relax, or step off the boat and do some exploring of your own.
  • Jet Boats – These are the primary mode of transportation, offering both speed and agility given the often shallow waters.
  • Motorized Inflatables and Prop Boats – These are also used to add variety and accommodate different group sizes.

If you find yourself both short of time and long on adventure, Missouri River Boat Tours blends the best of nature and history into a satisfying day trip.

Relax as riverbanks morph into vibrant artworks of sandstone, and let the ancient history of volcanic intrusions share its tales. It’s a great way to broaden your Montana story without a long-term commitment.

Montana Boat Tours Final Thoughts

A boat available for charter is secured to a dock on a mountain lake in Montana.

Montana isn’t merely a place to be seen; it’s a destination to be experienced. The boat tours showcase the stunning beauty and rich history of the state, providing an experience that goes beyond a simple relaxing trip through glistening waters.

From excursions under the moonlight with Bozeman Scenic Boat Tours to Glacier Park Boat Company’s cruises through the many-hued Lake McDonald, every tour is an interactive odyssey. With knowledgeable guides who are passionate about the area’s history and wildlife, visitors can learn and appreciate the rich culture and diverse ecosystems that Montana has to offer.

The exhilaration of gliding through the water, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, creates memories that will last a lifetime. So grab your sunscreen, hop aboard, and prepare for an unforgettable journey through some of the most stunning destinations this state has to offer.

Find out more about Pocket Montana’s Custom Tours for a unique and tailored trip.

Montana Boat Tours FAQs

1. How Long Is the Lake McDonald Boat Tour?

The Lake McDonald Boat Tour in Glacier National Park typically lasts around 1 hour, providing visitors with a scenic cruise across the lake while also offering an opportunity to learn about the area’s history.

2. Can You Go Boating at Glacier National Park?

Boating is allowed at Glacier National Park. Visitors can enjoy boating on various lakes within the park, such as Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, and Two Medicine Lake, providing a scenic and recreational experience amid the stunning natural beauty of the park.

3. How Long Is the Glacier Park Boat Tour?

The Glacier Park Boat Tours typically last around 1.5 hours, offering visitors a scenic and informative experience on the stunning lakes within the park.

4. How Long Is the Lake McDonald Trail?

The Lake McDonald Trail runs along the northwestern bank of the lake in Glacier National Park, offering stunning views throughout its length. If hiked as an out-and-back trail, covering the entire length will be approximately 14 miles (22.5 km).

5. Is Lake McDonald Free?

Access to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park is generally free; however, there may be fees for specific activities or services, such as boat tours, camping, or entrance fees to the park itself.

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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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