Montana’s Small Towns: E – P
Ennis – Fort Benton – Gardiner – Glendive – Hamilton – Harlowton – Havre – Lavina – Lewistown – Livingston – Lolo – Miles City – Philipsburg – Plains – Plentywood – Polson
Ennis (pop. 890, southwest Montana) is a picturesque small town located in the Madison Valley. Ennis is a major destination for fly-fishing and other outdoor activities.
U.S. Highway 287, the main highway through town, connects with West Yellowstone to the south and points north, including Helena and Glacier National Park.
In Ennis, the Hole in the Wall Art Gallery has a great selection of prints and bronze art, many of wildlife.
Favorite Ennis Lodging: El Western Resort (800) 831-2773); Ennis RV Village (406) 682-5272; Rainbow Valley Lodge (406) 682-4264; Madison Valley Inn (877) 553-8239; Silver Tip Lodge (406) 682-4384 Favorite Ennis Restaurants: Longbranch Saloon; and Banditos Attractions: Madison River Guides (406) 579-8298; Fly-fishing on the Madison River; art galleries; Madison Mountains.
Fort Benton (pop. 1,456, north-central Montana) is on U.S. Highway 87. Some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery in the West is found along the Missouri River, downstream from the town of Fort Benton. The federal government recently designated this area as the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. The wildness and solitude of the Missouri River make a float trip on the river an event long remembered.
Lewis and Clark traveled up the upper Missouri River in 1805 in a keelboat. Modern day “explorers” want to relive what they experienced. Call Montana River Outfitters (406) 761-1677 for reservations.
Visit the Heritage Complex to learn about Fort Benton’s history. The Museum of the Northern Great Plains is a major attraction in the Heritage Complex. As an added bonus, Fort Benton visitors can see the magnificent Lewis and Clark Memorial near the banks of the Missouri River.
Favorite Fort Benton Lodging: Lark & Laurel Bed and Breakfast (406) 403-3768; Grand Hotel (800) 622-1882 Favorite Fort Benton Restaurants: Union Grille Restaurant (in Grand Hotel); Attractions: Montana’s Lewis and Clark Memorial; Heritage Complex (historical and cultural museums); Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument Experience the Missouri River: 3 River Canoe Company (406) 621-3486; Missouri River Outfitters (866) 282-3295.
Gardiner (pop. 875, south-central Montana) is on U.S Highway 89, south of Livingston. Gardiner is a gateway town to Yellowstone National Park. The town is almost on the border of Yellowstone’s north entrance.
Visitors can stay overnight in Gardiner and then get an early morning start into Yellowstone. Gardiner does not have an abundance of lodging, so book in advance.
Favorite Gardiner Lodging: Park Hotel Yellowstone (406) 223-7007; Yellowstone Gateway Inn (406) 848-7100; Yellowstone Village Inn (406) 848-7418 Favorite Gardiner Restaurants: Antler Pub & Grill; Yellowstone Grill Attractions: Yellowstone National Park.
Glendive (pop. 5,332, southeast Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-94. Glendive is a gateway city to Montana for travelers from the Dakotas and the Midwest.
Some of the most scenic badlands in the world are found in Makoshika State Park near Glendive.
J.K. Ralston ‘s awesome painting (a wall-length mural) of a cattle drive across the Yellowstone River is a special treat for visitors to the Jordan Inn in Glendive.
If visiting central Montana, try the Yogo Inn in Lewistown, Montana’s finest small town hotel. (406)-538-8721
Favorite Glendive Lodging: Best Western/Jordan Inn (406) 377-5555; Astoria Hotel & Suites (406) 377-6000; Favorite Glendive Restaurants: Best Western/Jordan Inn; CC’s Family Cafe Attractions: Makoshika State Park; Yellowstone River.
Hamilton (pop. 4,674, southwest Montana) is on U.S. Highway 93 south of Missoula. Hamilton is in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley. The city is a major trade and recreational center.
Hamilton is a slice of the “Old West” rich in traditional western architecture in many of its old buildings up and down main street. The Marcus Daly Mansion is a popular attraction in Hamilton. Built in 1890, the 50-room Mansion was built by Marcus Daly, Montana’s legendary “Copper King.” The Mansion is owned by the state of Montana and is open to the public.
Enjoy handmade chocolates and gourmet goodies from secret recipes. YUM! At Big Sky Candy on Main Street in Hamilton.
Favorite Hamilton Lodging: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites (406) 375-2525; Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center (406) 375-2525 Favorite Hamilton Restaurants: Coffee Cup Cafe; The Signal Grill; Spice of Life; Nap’s Grille Attractions: Skalkaho Falls in the Sapphire Mountains about 25 miles east of Hamilton on Montana Highway 38; Marcus Daly Mansion; River Park and Trail in Hamilton (401 South 9th St.); Bitterroot Mountains; Ravalli County Museum.
Harlowton (pop. 984, central Montana) is on U.S. Highway 12. Harlowton is famous for its annual 4th of July rodeo. Cowboys riding bucking horses and bulls are a regular feature of the all day affair. It’s a highly entertaining event.
With the beautiful Crazy Mountains in the background, the setting for the rodeo is absolutely awesome. Central Montana is truly off the beaten path. U.S. Highway 12, the main east-west route through Harlowton, has low traffic even during the summer. This is rural Montana at its best.
Downtown Harlowton has a gorgeous old stone hotel, called the Graves Hotel. Very historic. The main street of Harlowton and the hotel resemble a scene from out of the movie “Shane.” Antelope are a common sight grazing along U.S. Highway 191 north of Harlowton.
The Charles M. Bair Family Museum is found found about 25 miles west of Harlowton in the village of Martinsdale. Drive west of Harlowton about 25 miles on U.S. Highway 12 and take the exit for highway 294 to find this gem. The museum features a native American collection, art of C.M. Russell and much more. Call: (406) 572-3314.
Favorite Lodging in central Montana: Yogo Inn in Lewistown; Crazy Mountain Inn in Martinsdale (406) 572-3307. The Crazy Mountain Inn accepts payment by cash or checks, only. Attractions: prairie landscape; mule deer and antelope; Musselshell River; Upper Musselshell Museum in Harlowton.
Havre (pop. 9,846, north-central Montana) is on U.S. Highway 2. Havre is a small town near the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Havre is home to Montana State University-Northern, with an enrollment of 1,450. Visitors to this area of Montana enjoy water sports and fishing for northern pike and walleyes on the Fresno Reservoir, a lake created by a dam on the Milk River.
The Bears Paw Mountains, a small mountain range located a few miles southeast of Havre, are a popular destination. An important historic site is the Bears Paw Battlefield, southeast of Havre. Here, in 1877, Chief Joseph and his small band of Nez Perce Indians waged a futile battle with the U.S. Calvary.
Favorite Havre Lodging: Townhouse Inns of Havre (406) 265-6711; AmericInn (406) 395-5000 Favorite Havre Restaurants: Duck Inn Tavern & Garden Room Attractions: Rocky Boy Pow Wow; Bears Paw Mountains; Montana Actors’ Theatre; H. Earl Clack Museum.
Lavina (pop. 173, central Montana) is west of Roundup just off U.S. Highway 12. The Lavina mercantile store, built in 1912, is an old historic building. The store is interesting to see for its architectural design.
Favorite Lodging in central Montana: Yogo Inn (800-860-9646) in Lewistown; Attractions: swallows nesting in sandstone cliffs along U.S. Highway 12 west of Lavina; Musselshell River Valley.
Lewistown (pop. 5,870, central Montana) is on U.S. Highway 87. Lewistown is a special destination for tourists. Lewistown has a classic, early 1900s, main street, filled with many merchants.
The Big Snowy Mountains and Crystal Lake are a major attraction in this area of Montana. It’s worth the drive up a rough dirt road to see Crystal Lake, near the summit of the mountains.
Visitors shop at the Montana Mountainmen Antler Art Gallery (406-538-7492) at 313 E. Main Street. The gallery specializes in specialty antler art. Antlers from deer and elk are carefully crafted into chandeliers, knives, wine holders, and many other beautiful works of art.
Moccasin Mountain Art Gallery at 408 West Main Street features creative works of many Montana artists and artisans. The Lewistown Art Center is at 323 West Main Street.
In mid-August folks head to Lewistown for the annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous. To experience local flavor of rural life in the West, the Central Montana Summer Fair (last full week of July) is a good choice.
The Lewistown area is a destination for those who want to experience ranching and the cowboy way of life. Visitors ride horses and participate in other ranch activities at Half Moon Ranch Adventures, Rainbows End Ranch (406-538-8820), Russell Country Ridgreriders (406-462-5612), and Wickens Salt Creek Ranch.
Want a different kind of lodging experience? Try the Leininger Ranch Log Cabins, located about 10 miles northwest of Lewistown. (406) 538-5797.
Another nice stay is an evening at the Pheasant Tales Bed and Bistro, just 4 miles from Lewistown (406) 538-2124.
Favorite Lewistown Lodging: Yogo Inn 800-860-9646; Super 8 Motel 406-538-2581; Favorite Lewistown Restaurants: Empire Cafe; Subway; Stetsons (in Yogo Inn); Ruby’s 100% Montana Beef Burgers Attractions: classic main street with historic stone buildings; Crystal Lake in Big Snowy Mountains; Lewistown Public Library; Central Montana Historical Museum; Charlie Russell Chew Choo (dinner train ride); BearGulch Pictographs (native American images on sandstone cliffs); cattle ranches; Big Spring Creek; Central Montana Summer Fair (last full week of July).
Livingston (population 7,401, south-central Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-90, not far from Bozeman. The area around Livingston is a natural wonderland. The towering Absaroka Mountains and the wild and unspoiled Yellowstone River are at Livingston’s front door. The Absaroka Mountains are home to black bears, gray wolves and other wildlife.
Livingston is an old railroad town that hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. Attractions abound. The Yellowstone Gateway Museum is popular. With a stop here, enjoy Montana as it was for decades back. Livingston boasts 14 galleries downtown. Elichai Fine Jewelery offers exquisite handcrafted pieces.
Local Livingston outfitters offer float trips on the Yellowstone River, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor fun activities. Fly fishing is tops on the Yellowstone River near Livingston.Don’t miss Don Bailey’s Fly shop in downtown Livingston for everything fly fishing. The stock of fly patterns and fly fishing gear is absolutely amazing.
Favorite Livingston Area Lodging: Yellowstone Inn & Conference Center (406)-538-8721; Paradise Gateway – south of Livingston on U.S.Highway 89 near Emigrant (800) 541-4113; Sage Lodge, about 25 miles south of Livingston (855) 400-0505 Favorite Livingston Restaurants: Buffalo Jump Steakhouse & Saloon; 2nd Street Bistro in the Murray Hotel; The Homemade Kitchen; Pinky’s Cafe Attractions: Absaroka Mountains view from Main Street; Yellowstone Gateway Museum of Park County; Yellowstone National Park is south of Livingston
Lolo (pop. 3,892, southwest Montana) is a friendly, unincorporated town in the Bitterroot Valley. Lolo is on U.S. Highway 93 south of Missoula.
Lolo is a bedroom community for Missoula. Still, Lolo offers good services for locals and travelers.
Lolo Hot Springs, about 26 miles west of Lolo, on U.S. Highway 12, is a major attraction in this area of Montana. Recreational opportunities abound in the nearby mountains and national forests.
Favorite Lolo Lodging: Days Inn (406) 273-2121) Favorite Lolo Restaurants: Grizzly Cafe; Lolo Trail Cafe Attractions: Bitterrroot Mountains.
Miles City (pop. 8,647, southeast Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-94. Cattle ranching on the vast and largely unpopulated tree-less prairies is common in this region of Montana.
The city is the cowboy capital of the world and is home to the famous Bucking Horse Sale (3rd weekend in May). If there are real cowboys left in the world, they all must live in Miles City, Montana.
Eisele’s Custom Boots in Miles City makes the finest footware in the West. It takes a little extra cash to wear Eisele’s boots but worth the money and then some. One business tycoon who lives in Washington D.C. shops at Eisele’s. Other out-of-towners do to.
The folks of Miles City are especially proud of their modern public library, which, by the way, is a nice place to seek refuge on a hot summer afternoon.
In July the sun bakes everyone and everything in Miles City. On a typical summer day, Miles City’s weather makes a traveler from south Texas feel right at home.
Favorite Miles City Lodging: Big Sky Camp and RV Park (406) 234-1511; Yellowstone Bluffs Bed & Breakfast (406) 234-8012; Holiday Inn Express (406) 234-1000 Favorite Miles City Restaurants: Hole in the Wall (602 Main Street); Montana Bar & Steakhouse (612 Main Street); 4 B’s Restaurant; StageCoach Station Attractions: Montana badlands near Glendive; Miles City Academy (formerly Ursuline Convent); Miles City Saddlery; Yellowstone River; Pirogue Island State Park; prairie scenery; Range Riders Museum.
Philipsburg (pop. 920, southwest Montana) is on Montana State Highway 1. Philipsburg is a historic village with lots of pioneer-days buildings. Many Montana ghost towns are found in the hills near Philipsburg. Some folks try their luck digging for sapphires in ancient gravel deposits in the Philipsburg area.
Favorite Lodging in Philipsburg: Broadway Hotel (406) 859-8000; Big Horn B & B (406) 859-3109; Big M Lodging (406) 533-5136 Favorite Restaurants in Philipsburg: Silver Mill Restaurant; Doe Brothers Restaurant Attractions: Opera House Theatre (live performances on summer); Granite Walking Tour; Granite County Museum; Find sapphires; Ghost Towns.
Plains (pop. 1,071, northwest Montana) is on Montana State Highway 200. Plains is a small friendly village.
The Flathead and Clark Fork Rivers join near Plains. Visitors enjoy outdoor activities in the Lolo National Forest and the magnificent mountains in this part of Montana.
Favorite Plains Lodging: Dew Duck Inn (406) 826-3346;Crossroads Motel and RV Park (406-826-3623) Favorite Plains Restaurants: Benji’s Restaurant; Attractions: Kayaking; Fishing in Clark Fork River; Mangy Moose Mercantile; Scenic and rugged mountains.
Plentywood (pop. 1,904, northeast Montana) is a small farming and ranching community on Montana State Highway 16, near Canada.
For dining, dancing, and just plain fun try the Blue Moon. Find a new friend! Meet a friendly Cannuck in Plentywood.
Favorite Plentywood Lodging: Sherwood Inn (406) 765-2810 Attractions: Sheridan County Free Museum; Westergard-Ragucci Bronze Studio.images)
Polson (pop. 4,777, northwest Montana) is on U.S. Highway 93. Polson is a trade and tourist center in Montana’s fabulously beautiful Flathead Valley.
Buffalo still roam Montana’s prairies at the National Bison Range, a few miles south of Polson, near the village of Moiese. Hundreds of buffalo and numerous elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats live on a 19,000 acre refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The refuge is a delight for birders, too, with some 205 bird species.
In the small town of Pablo, a few miles south of Polson, on U.S. Highway 93, visitors experience Native American culture at the People’s Center. The People’s Center, a venture of the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille Indian Nations, has a wonderful collection of artifacts, photographs, stone tools, and dance outfits. The gift shop sells works of local Native American artists.
Favorite Polson Hotels: Bear Spirit Lodge located a few miles south of Polson (406) 745-3089; Swan Hill B&B (406) 883-1450; Hawthorne House B&B (406) 883-2723; Best Western Kwataqnuk Resort (406) 883-3636; Favorite Polson Restaurants: Betty’s Diner; Fiesta En Jalisco Attractions: Marina Cay Resort near Bigfork (406) 837-5861; Yellow Bay State Park (on flathead Lake); National Bison Range; Flathead Lake; Glacier National Park is near Polson.
Copyright © 2018 John Sandy