Montana is an incredible destination for families. Discover the best things to do in Montana!
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The Best Things to do in Montana for Families
Montana embodies the spirit of the western U.S. It is a wild, beautiful state founded on opportunity and hope, and those foundations have lasted throughout the decades.
Montana is America’s fourth largest state and known for its beautiful mountains, National Parks, wildlife, and outdoor adventure. But there is also a lot of history and culture to be found in this amazing state.
There are so many things to do in Montana, it would take you more than a lifetime to do them all! For everyone planning Montana vacations, it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide where to go and what to do. I wanted to help narrow it down by focusing on the best places to visit in Montana that will give you a taste of Big Sky Country!
Here's a Short Cut
- The Best Things to do in Montana for Families
- Interesting Montana Facts
- What to do in Montana
- 1. Visit Montana National Parks
- 2. Stay at a Dude Ranch Montana Style
- 3. Go Glamping Montana Style
- 4. Experience Montana Hiking
- 5. Go Fishing in Montana
- 6. Go Horseback Riding
- 7. Visit Montana Ghost Towns
- 8. Go for a Boat Ride
- 9. Take a Dip in the Many Hot Springs of Montana
- 10. Explore Helena, the capital of Montana
- 11. Visit Kid-Friendly Museums
- 12. Go Spelunking in Montana’s Caves
- 13. Follow the Dinosaur Trail
- 14. Visit the Water Parks in the Summer
- 15. Ski Montana in the Winter
- When is the Best Time to Visit Montana?
- Best Places to Stay in Montana
- Getting Around Montana
- Two Week Montana Road Trip Itinerary
- Packing List: What to Wear in Montana
Interesting Montana Facts
But first, some fun facts about Montana before you visit this great state!
- Montana is the 44th most populous state, but the 4th largest!
- The population density of Montana is 6 people per square mile.
- Montana has a huge grizzly bear population though with over 1800 grizzly bears estimated
- Montana is nicknamed “Big Sky Country” but it is also called “The Treasure State”
- Montana’s state motto is “oro y plata” which means gold and silver in Spanish. This comes from Montana’s rich mining history.
- Montana was originally named “Montaña” in Spanish by some of the first European settlers. It means mountain.
- Montana is the 41st state to join the United States.
- There are more cattle than humans in Montana
- In 1888 there were more millionaires per capita in Helena, the capital city of Montana, than any other city in the world! This is evident when you look at the houses in Helena today.
- Montana has the largest variety of mammals in the United States!
- Montana is home to over 8,000 Moose!
What to do in Montana
No trips to Montana should be taken without doing these fifteen things!
1. Visit Montana National Parks
The best Montana tourist attractions are undoubtedly its stunning National Parks! Montana is home to two major National Parks: Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. These parks are definitely a must see in Montana, but did you know there are actually nine National Park service areas in the state?
Here is a list of all the Montana National Parks Areas:
- Glacier National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Nez Perce National Historical Park
- Big Hole National Battlefield
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
2. Stay at a Dude Ranch Montana Style
Families who visit Montana and are looking for an all-inclusive stay offering activities and cultural opportunities will love staying at a dude ranch. These are all over Montana and offer experiences like horseback riding, hiking, campfire activities, nature walks, birding, petting zoos, mountain biking, river rafting, swimming, games, hayrides, western dancing, cookouts, sports, fishing, canoeing, rock climbing, skeet shooting, archery, art classes, cooking classes, and more! The possibilities really are endless depending on which dude ranch you decide to stay at.
Some of these dude ranches are just incredible too and even nicer than some Montana resorts you’ll stay in. Here are some of the most popular ranches in Montana:
3. Go Glamping Montana Style
If you really want to go camping in Montana without all the fuss of prepping to go camping, there are many glamping options as well! You can visit the spectacular Glacier National Park and stay at Under Canvas Glacier where you can enjoy the rustic tents and experience the surrounding nature with the amenities of a hotel! Or you can visit Bar W Guest Ranch which will give you a great combination of dude ranch and glamping.
4. Experience Montana Hiking
Montana mountains are sure to impress! Montana has some of the best hiking in the country. You can practically pull off anywhere and hike.
Here are some of the best kid-friendly hikes in Montana: Avalanche Lake, Lava Lake, Hidden Lake Trail, St. Mary and Virginia Falls, and Drinking Horse Mountain.
5. Go Fishing in Montana
Spend time fishing in Montana lakes and rivers, where you’ll find some of the best fishing in the world and one of the top 10 things to do in Montana! There is a sign in the town of Ennis that says “Ennis, 840 people, 11,000,000 Trout.” They are not kidding. The fishing is fantastic and angler shops abound throughout the state. Kids under 12 do not need a Montana fishing license in the state of Montana. Be sure to check fishing regulations from Montana Fish and Game. You can read about our Montana fishing story here.
6. Go Horseback Riding
Montana is classic horseback riding country. Be sure to take advantage of the abundance of companies offering trail rides through this gorgeous big sky country. You can find horseback riding opportunities at one of Montana’s many dude ranches or book a trail ride here.
7. Visit Montana Ghost Towns
Since the state was settled by pioneers, gold miners, and railroad builders, there are ghost towns all over Montana. Some of the most popular ghost towns in Montana are Bannack State Historic Park, Virginia City, and Nevada City.
Visiting ghost towns is a great opportunity for the whole family to learn some Montana state history. These little towns stand as living museums of history. You can learn about life in the 1800s before Montana was a state. At Bannack you can even see the inside of an old schoolhouse and imagine what it must have been like to be a kid back then. It’s a truly immersive experience that the whole family will love.
8. Go for a Boat Ride
Montana has some fantastic bodies of water including lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The Missouri River crosses the entire state from Canada all the way down to the border.
Just outside of the capital, Helena, you can take a boat tour in the “Gates of the Mountains.” This is the only stretch of the Lewis and Clark trail that is exactly how it looked when they passed through centuries ago and its one of the most beautiful places to see in Montana.
You can see Native American Cave paintings, mountain goats and bald eagles. The high cliff faces appear to open and close like gates as you move across the water.
Take some binoculars and see if you can spot the bald eagles that live in the rocks above. The boat tour is several hours long, but completely shaded, and so much fun. Pack a lunch to bring with you.
9. Take a Dip in the Many Hot Springs of Montana
Montana is covered in hidden hot springs. Grab your swimsuit and towel, and relax in a natural hot spring after a long day of hiking, fishing or horseback riding. Some popular hot springs in Montana are Norris Hot Springs, Chico Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs, Quinns Hot Springs, and Lolo Hot Springs. Hanging out at these hot springs is one of the most fun things to do in Montana in summer!
10. Explore Helena, the capital of Montana
Although not the largest city in Montana, the capital, Helena is a beautiful city to explore with a fun and interesting history. It almost wasn’t the capital.
Decades ago a vote was held in the state of Montana to decide on the capital. The choices were between Helena and a town called Anaconda. Helena won by the skin of its teeth, but over 100 years later a house was renovated and inside the wall were found hundreds of ballots with “Anaconda” written on them.
Helena was a hub of commerce back in the gold mining era and you can see the mansions of the wealthy miners throughout the historic part of the city. Kids will love taking the Last Chance Train Tour of Helena.
Helena is full of cute shops, restaurants, hotels, and museums that are great for families. It’s a great little hub of Montana tourism.
11. Visit Kid-Friendly Museums
Montana is full of kid-friendly museums that little ones can explore and learn from. Some popular ones are Museum of the Rockies, Blaine County Wildlife Museum, The Depot Museum, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Montana Historical Society.
12. Go Spelunking in Montana’s Caves
There are many caves to explore in the mountains of Montana. Some of the most popular are Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park and Pictograph Caves State Park.
Kids will love exploring the ancient caves, learning about cave geology, and experiencing what true darkness really looks like! These caves are one of the most impressive things to see in Montana and are also a nice break from the hot summer sun! These caves are one of my favorite places to visit in Montana.
13. Follow the Dinosaur Trail
Montana has one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil collections in the world! If you have a dinosaur lover in your family you can take Montana’s Dinosaur Trail, which features some of the greatest paleontological discoveries of the last century. You can find information about the trail here.
Consider purchasing a “Prehistoric Passport” which is a fun tool for unearthing the primordial treasures of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. Be sure to visit the Museum of the Rockies which has 13 T-Rex specimens! It’s one of the most popular Montana tourist attractions!
14. Visit the Water Parks in the Summer
Summer in Big Sky country means lots of sun! Make a splash at the Electric City Water Park or Big Sky Water Park.
15. Ski Montana in the Winter
If you’re wondering what to see in Montana in the winter, don’t worry you’ll be able to see many of the most popular sites, but you’ll also have the opportunity to try out some epic winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snow mountain biking!
You’ll have an array of options for skiing. Montana’s top rated ski resorts are Big Sky Resort, Bridger Bowl, Whitefish Mountain, Blacktail Mountain, and Great Divide. Find more information about skiing in Montana here.
When is the Best Time to Visit Montana?
When you visit Montana depends completely on your weather preference. Montana can be enjoyed in any season as long as you are prepared and know what to expect. Summer is the most popular time to visit Montana, but it can also be hot, reaching temperatures past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The winter months are generally snowy, so when you choose what to do in Montana in the winter, you might not be doing some of the hikes or fishing that you want to.
Spring and Fall may be the best time to visit Montana due to more moderate temperatures and less crowds in more touristy areas like Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Best Places to Stay in Montana
All-inclusive Resorts in Montana
It can be nice to go on a vacation where you just don’t have to worry about anything! I’ve compiled a list of the best all-inclusive resorts in Montana.
The Best All-Inclusive Resorts near Glacier
The Best All-Inclusive Resorts near Yellowstone
Airbnbs in Montana
If you’d rather cook your own meals and have a more secluded Montana vacation, renting an Airbnb might be a better option for your family. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, here is a $40 coupon off your first stay. These are some great Airbnbs in Montana.
Getting Around Montana
Montana is big and wide with great roads for driving on. I’d venture to say that it’s one of the best states to road trip in. The land is diverse and beautiful with open skies that are stunning even when storming. There are several international airports in Montana including Great Falls, Billings, and Missoula.
Amtrak also goes directly across Northern Montana and Glacier, which would be a beautiful train ride from the east or west.
Two Week Montana Road Trip Itinerary
Most flights into Montana will take you to Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, or Great Falls. So where you begin your Montana vacation will depend on where you fly to. I recommend flying into Great Falls and flying out of Bozeman. It makes the most sense if you follow this itinerary. You could also follow this itinerary backwards.
Montana is a state that is best seen from the road, so be sure you get a good deal on a rental car here.
You could spend a lifetime in Montana and still not see it all, but this two-week Montana road trip Itinerary will give you a good overview of the state.
- Day 1-4: Visit Glacier National Park
- Day 5: Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour & Fishing the Missouri River
- Day 6: Explore Montana’s state capital, Helena
- Day 7: Tour Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
- Day 8: Explore the Ghost towns of Bannack State Park, Virginia City, and Nevada City.
- Day 9: Explore the town of Bozeman & Visit the Museum of the Rockies
- Day 10-14: Explore Yellowstone National Park
Packing List: What to Wear in Montana
What you pack for your trip to Montana will greatly depend on what time of year you visit. I’ve added some essentials for both winter and summer as well as some gear you’ll need to have regardless of the time you visit.
Essentials for Montana
What to Wear in Montana in Winter
Montana winters will be very cold and snowy, so you’ll want to be sure you have the proper gear. These are all items we own and love and have used in winter destinations.
What to Wear in Montana in Winter for Women
What to Wear in Montana in Winter for Men
What to Wear in Montana in Winter for Girls
What to Wear in Montana in Winter for Boys
What to Wear in Montana in Winter for Babies
What to Wear in Montana in Summer
In the summer months, you’ll want some good active gear and hiking attire, along with bug repellent, reusable water bottles, and lots of sunscreens`
What to Wear in Montana in Summer for Women
What to Wear in Montana in Summer for Men
What to Wear in Montana in Summer for Girls
What to Wear in Montana in Summer for Boys
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