Montana Travel Guide 2019 » Enjoy the Best

Montana is the 4th largest state in the United States.  But its population is small.  With slightly more than one million people, the state’s population is about equal in size to San Jose, California.  With such a low population, there’s plenty of room to roam, in the countryside and in the cities.  

Many residents are of northern European ancestry, German, Irish, English, and Norwegian.  Native Americans find home here, as well.  

Flathead Lake with Mission Mountains in the background, northwest, Montana.

Eastern Montana is an area of vast rolling plains. Grasslands with few trees dominate the landscape. Huge wheat farms and cattle ranches are common.

In central Montana, the plains are dotted with small mountain ranges.Cattle ranching and farming are a way of life. Mule deer and antelope roam the prairies throughout this region.

Western Montana is a region of magnificent mountains. Welcome to the Rocky Mountains. The Absaroka Range near Livingston is covered with snow much of the year and peaks reach over 11,000 feet in elevation.  The wild and pristine landscape is home to mountain lions and grizzly bears.

Physical relief map of Montana. Mountainous areas are shown in green. Source: “The National Atlas of the United States of America.” Courtesy Perry-Castaneda Map Library, University of Texas.

Rainfall is low in most areas, often less than 13 inches, annually. Temperatures in western mountain valleys are generally moderate the year-round. In eastern areas, on the plains, days can be very hot in the summer and very cold in winter.

A good share of visitors in Montana are attracted by  the wonders and scenery found in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.  About four million visitors tour Yellowstone each year, and more than three million visitors go to Glacier.  But the state has much more to offer those who take time to explore and experience lesser know attractions.

Savvy visitors seek out and enjoy the state’s many interesting historical places and landmarks.  They find many wonderful museums in cities, big and small. In the great outdoors, fishing, hiking, camping, boating, skiing, and horseback riding are popular activities. Cultural events galore appeal to visitors, too.  It’s an ideal and fun place to vacation.

Old west traditions live on across Montana.  Cowboys drive cattle into the mountains to feed on lush summer grasses. Native Americans celebrate their customs at events in Helena and other cities.  The “Treasure State” is amazingly beautiful and has super friendly people.

Major Cities and Towns

Major cities: •Billings, pop. 110,323 •Missoula, pop. 72,364 •Bozeman, pop. 45,250 •Helena, pop. 31,169 •Great Falls, pop. 59,178 •Butte, pop. 34,553

•Glendive, pop. 5,332 •Kalispell, pop. 22,761 •Miles City, pop. 8,647 •Lewistown, pop. 5,870 •Havre, pop. 9.846 •Dillon, pop. 4,257

Travel Regions

Travel regions shown here are based on geographical, historical, and cultural characteristics which define different areas of the state.

All Montana travel regions offer wonderful activities and attractions for visitors.

The southeast and south-central region is Yellowstone Country,  Visitors to this region enjoy vast prairies and, in the western section, towering mountains.  Some cities are Billings, Glendive, Miles City, Red Lodge, and Livingston.  Billings (pop. 110,323) is the chief city along I-90 and the upper Yellowstone Valley.  Billings is a trade, medical, and entertainment center for a vast area including northwest Wyoming.  Billings is a good base from which to make forays to Yellowstone National Park and the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.  Cody, Wyoming, a  major tourist center, is southwest of Billings.   

It’s easy to say that the southwest region is Wonderland.  Tourists flock to this region for outdoor activities, cultural events, and more.  Fun is everywhere.  Some cities are Missoula, Bozeman, Dillon, Hamilton, and Butte.  Bozeman and Missoula are the major cities in Wonderland.  Bozeman (pop. 45,250) is located in the Gallatin Valley, surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges.  The Gallatin Range and the Madison Range, south of Bozeman, rise more than 10,000 feet and have peaks covered with snow much of the year.  Missoula (pop. 72,364) is home to the University of Montana and the mighty Grizzlies.  

The central region is Ranchland.   Rural landscapes here are exceptionally beautiful.  Some cities are Helena, Lewistown, Roundup, and Townsend.  Helena (pop. 31,169) is a friendly town with lots to offer visitors.   Helena is the state capital and a major tourist center. The main part of town lies at the foot of the mountains in the beautiful Helena Valley.  Lewistown,  in central Montana, is a quaint small town, supported by ranching.  The outdoors near Lewistown is a huge attraction.

The northeast and north-central region is Discoveryland.  This is an area of vast prairies, with a very low population.  Early-day explorers of this region followed the mighty Missouri River on their journey West.  Some cities are Great Falls, Glasgow, Havre, and Shelby.  Great Falls (pop. 59,178) is the largest city. Many people who live in Discoveryland shop in Great Falls.  Holiday Village, the mall in Great Falls, has over 80 stores.  Great Falls has exceptional museums that attract thousands of visitors.                                           

The northwest region is The Wilderness, an area of wild and pristine landscape.  If one imagines what a wilderness is like, this is the place.  Some cities are Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Bigfork, and Polson.  Kalispell (pop. 22,761) is the largest city in the region.  Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake are huge attractions in this area.  In Glacier, visitors see some of the most spectacular landscape in North America.    

Travel tip: Be prepared for large changes in  temperatures even in the same day. This is true for the summer months too.  Many areas are at a high elevation and the state is far north.  Think chilly or cold.  The best advice is to take along clothing to “layer up” when conditions change.  During the summer a wool sweater and a spring- or fall-like jacket of medium-weight is a good choice.

Travel tip:   How far is Missoula or Helena?  Montana is a very big state and distances between major cities can be as much as 100 miles or more.  Plan ahead with the DOT’s distance calculator.

Of interest to Montana visitors:

State Parks | Dude Ranches | Museums | Outfitters | Yellowstone National Park | Glacier National ParkSki Resorts | Campgrounds |  Golf Courses

Enjoy The Scioto River Band and
Catherine Leigh perform:

“Montana on My Mind”

Welcome –  Willkommen – Bienvenu
– いらっしゃい – Bienvenido

Information for Montana Vacation and Travel Planning
Enjoy Plan for a vacation in the Treasure State.

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Yellowstone and Glacier.