10 Amazing Montana Vacations

Breathtaking landscapes and year-round outdoor adventures will inspire you to visit Big Sky Country.

By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorMay 20, 2019
By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorMay 20, 2019, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

10 Amazing Montana Vacations

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Montana vacations
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Plan your next getaway to one of these scenic locales or combine several itineraries to create your own amazing Montana vacation.

Montana’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect destination for year-round outdoor adventures. Montana is famous for its mountainous terrain yet only one-half to one-third of the state has mountains. The rest is made up of prairies, badlands and rivers. Each season’s landscape offers an entirely different playground. Plan your trip in the winter when snow blankets everything and Montana becomes a wintry wonderland. When the ice and snow have melted, the warm weather brings flowing rivers and flowering pastures. From world-class skiing and fly-fishing to Old West ghost towns and luxury dude ranches, there’s something for everyone in Montana. No matter which season you choose to travel, these vacation ideas will inspire your visit to Big Sky Country.
Montana vacations
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(Jeff Engerbretson/Courtesy of Big Sky Resort)

Big Sky Resort: Big Sky, Montana

Located approximately 50 miles southwest of Bozeman, Big Sky Resort is the largest ski resort in the U.S., encompassing 5,850 acres of world-class ski runs. The vertical drop is 4,350 feet and the summit, Lone Peak, measures at 11,166 feet above sea level. Accommodations range from luxury hotels and condominiums to individual homes. Spend winter days snowboarding or skiing or try something new like dog sledding through the mountains with a team of huskies. In the summer, ride the longest zipline in the Yellowstone area, Adventure Zipline. For a serious hike, take the scenic lift Swift to venture to the Lone Peak summit for unforgettable views.
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Plan your next getaway to one of these scenic locales or combine several itineraries to create your own amazing Montana vacation.

Montana’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect destination for year-round outdoor adventures. Montana is famous for its mountainous terrain yet only one-half to one-third of the state has mountains. The rest is made up of prairies, badlands and rivers. Each season’s landscape offers an entirely different playground. Plan your trip in the winter when snow blankets everything and Montana becomes a wintry wonderland. When the ice and snow have melted, the warm weather brings flowing rivers and flowering pastures. From world-class skiing and fly-fishing to Old West ghost towns and luxury dude ranches, there’s something for everyone in Montana. No matter which season you choose to travel, these vacation ideas will inspire your visit to Big Sky Country.

Big Sky Resort: Big Sky, Montana

Located approximately 50 miles southwest of Bozeman, Big Sky Resort is the largest ski resort in the U.S., encompassing 5,850 acres of world-class ski runs. The vertical drop is 4,350 feet and the summit, Lone Peak, measures at 11,166 feet above sea level. Accommodations range from luxury hotels and condominiums to individual homes. Spend winter days snowboarding or skiing or try something new like dog sledding through the mountains with a team of huskies. In the summer, ride the longest zipline in the Yellowstone area, Adventure Zipline. For a serious hike, take the scenic lift Swift to venture to the Lone Peak summit for unforgettable views.

Flathead Lake: Northwest Montana

Located in northwestern Montana, Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, measuring 30 miles long and 15 miles wide. The scenery here is truly awe-inspiring: Snow-dusted mountains serve as the lake’s backdrop, while verdant forestry and cherry orchards line its calm shores. Spend your days here with family or friends swimming, waterskiing, fishing or boating. Make sure to take time to visit Wild Horse Island, which is only reachable by boat and is home to bighorn sheep, mule deer and a small band of wild horses. For accommodations, consider an all-inclusive option like Flathead Lake Lodge, which is a luxury, 2,000-acre dude ranch on the lake.

Glacier National Park: Montana

The majestic beauty of this region in Glacier Country is unparalleled. Take a week off to explore the 1,600 square miles of pristine landscapes and rugged beauty that make up Glacier National Park. Guides and outfitters are available year-round for activities like hiking, rafting, snowshoeing or even ice climbing. While here, don’t miss one of the most scenic drives in the U.S., the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile drive crosses the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet at Logan Pass. After long days of adventuring, relax in the evenings at the nearby town of Whitefish. This chic ski town features excellent restaurants, nightlife and boutique shopping.

Virginia and Nevada Cities, Montana

Take a step back into 1864 and the days of Montana’s gold rush with a trip to these famous ghost towns in southwest Montana. Here, families can spend long summer days exploring the most extensive collection of Old West artifacts and buildings in the U.S. Kids can learn about the art of blacksmithing during Living History events or go panning for gold. Take a ride on the seasonal Virginia City Railroad, which connects the two old towns that are located just 1.5 miles apart. Afterward, parents can enjoy a break with a cold Montana brew at Bale of Hay Saloon, the oldest saloon in Montana. Then, spend the night at the rumored-to-be haunted Fairweather Inn in Virginia City.

Helena, Montana

Helena, Montana’s capital, is located halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in southwest Montana. This old prospecting town offers activities and attractions perfect for small groups and families. The Gates of the Mountain Boat Tours takes visitors along Lewis and Clark’s exploration on Holter Lake, while The Last Chance Tour Train highlights Helena’s Old West history, taking visitors through gold rush-era neighborhoods such as Reeder’s Alley. Adventure seekers will appreciate Helena’s world-class fly-fishing, mountain biking and 80 miles of hiking trails that are accessible from downtown. No matter what you decide to do, save time for a relaxing dip in the invigorating mineral waters at Broadwater Hot Springs.

Warrior Trail Highway

Discover the history of the Native American warrior on this storied route in Indian Country. Travel from Billings through southeast Montana to hear stories of the tribal war chiefs and visit the fields where famed battles once happened. Take a guided tour of the site where Custer’s Land Stand took place at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency. After, stop at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post for an Indian taco and a take-home souvenir of handcrafted artwork or jewelry made by the Cheyenne or Crow tribes. Then, stargaze from your luxury teepee provided by the Apsaalooke Glamping Company.

Fort Peck, Montana

Northern Montana’s section of the Missouri River is home to the largest body of water in the state, the Fort Peck Reservoir. There are 1,520 miles of shoreline and 50 species of fish, including the prized walleye, small mouth bass and chinook salmon. Spend time fishing and hiking in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which offers more than 1 million acres of public land. Then, visit the Fort Peck Power Plant Museum to learn about the “largest hydraulically filled earth dam in the world.” In the evenings, return to the 1930s-style Fort Peck Hotel to experience an earlier slice of Montana life.

Yellowstone National Park: Montana

Some of the best wildlife viewing in the lower 48 states can be found in Montana. Yellowstone National Park is home to grizzly bears, mountain lions, gray wolves, bighorn sheep and the magnificent bison (also called American buffalo). At one time, as many as 60 million bison roamed the Great Plains, and now Montana is one of the last places you’ll find them in the wild. While in the park, visit the Lamar Valley, which has often been referred to as “America’s Serengeti,” and Hayden Valley, for some of the best bison viewing in Yellowstone

Philipsburg, Montana

For romance and adventure combined with a 5-star luxury experience, plan a getaway to western Montana at The Ranch at Rock Creek. This all-inclusive, year-round Relais & Châteaux resort is set on a 6,600-acre working cattle ranch. Choose from 29 distinct accommodations, which include Western-themed rooms at Granite Lodge to glamping under the stars in canvas-covered cabins. Fill your days with fun outdoor activities such as fly-fishing on Blue Ribbon Rock Creek, horseback riding in the wilderness or hiking one or more of the ranch’s 20-plus-miles of trails. Unwind by booking a signature treatment at the property’s Granite Spa or grab a drink on a seat with a saddle at the Silver Dollar Saloon.

Central Montana’s Scenic Byway Motorcycle Ride

Hop on a motorcycle or put the top down for this 265-mile road trip through central Montana. The route begins 25 miles east of Great Falls on U.S. 87 and includes 71 miles of the Kings Hills Scenic Byway before circling back to Great Falls. Take a break for a locally brewed Pig Ass Porter at Harvest Moon Brewery in Belt or take a dip in the hot springs at White Sulphur Springs. Between Helena and Great Falls, explore sections Interstate 15 and the frontage road with its picturesque scenery along the Missouri River. Before heading back, dine with the locals at The Angus Bar in the small town of Cascade.
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Gwen Pratesi, Contributor

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Finalist in Journalism, award-winning food and travel writer, ...  Read more

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