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Your guide to Montana
Welcome to Montana
Montana easily earns its unofficial nickname: Big Sky Country. There’s something about the jagged peaks and sweeping prairies that make the horizons seem vaster in the Mountain West. Hundreds of lakes, alpine trails, and thrilling slopes help explain Montana’s allure as an outdoor adventure destination, where legendary national parks such as Glacier and the northern reaches of Yellowstone preserve some of America’s most pristine wildernesses. This is also a place meant for road trips. Threaded through with remote highways and scenic drives, the state’s landscapes vary dramatically as you move from one side to the other — from the Great Plains in the east to the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains in the west. When you finally roll into main cities such as Billings and Missoula, or popular destinations like Whitefish and Bozeman, you’ll find little urban centers known for their rising culinary scenes, craft breweries, and Montana’s unmistakably rugged culture.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Montana
Montana’s national parks get busiest in the peak months of July and August. Summer offers the most predictably warm weather, which makes it ideal for hiking, swimming in the lakes and rivers, and backcountry excursions. Early fall sees crowds thin. September and early October are favorite months for solitude seekers. From December to March, snow in the Rocky Mountains lures the crowds back to the slopes around resort towns like Big Sky and Whitefish. Away from the resort towns, winter and spring can be somewhat unpredictable, with conditions generally a bit colder and snowier east of the continental divide. Heavy snowfall means remote roads are often not maintained, leaving many magnificent landscapes accessible only to experienced outdoors people.
Top things to do in Montana
National Bison Range
Visit one of the few places left on the continent where the bison still roam freely. On the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana, the National Bison Range conserves the habitat for around 300 of North America’s largest mammals, a species that nearly went extinct in the late 1800s. Under the stewardship of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the nature refuge gives wildlife watchers and photographers opportunities to spot these majestic creatures up close.
Glacier National Park
If your mental image of Montana has magnificent snowy peaks and pristine evergreen forests, then you’re probably picturing Glacier National Park — an expansive wilderness area in the northern Rocky Mountains. It’s a top destination for outdoor recreation, with 762 alpine lakes and more than 700 miles of trails to explore. The seasonal Going-to-the-Sun Road crosses the park from east to west, lined with scenic viewpoints.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
Hikers trace the continental divide several hundred miles through western Montana, where you can step between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans’ watersheds. The epic long-distance trail cuts across multiple scenic areas, including the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Lewis and Clark National Forest. Akin to the Appalachian and Paific Crest trails, the Continental Divide is a destination for backpackers, though its many access points make it easy to do day hikes.