Towns A – D: Big Sky, Butte, Dillon

Montana’s Small Towns: A – D

Anaconda – Belgrade – Big Sky – Bigfork – Big Timber – Butte – Broadus – Choteau – Columbia Falls – Cut Bank –  Deer Lodge – Dillon


Anaconda (pop. 9,085, southwest Montana) is a few miles off Interstate Highway I-90, near Butte. Scenic mountains are abundant. The area around Anaconda offers skiing, hiking, and camping. Horseback riding is popular, too. The historic Washoe Theatre in Anaconda has an elaborate interior with art deco design and was opened in 1936. Amazing to see this!

Another cool spot is the Club Moderne, an art deco bar original to the 1930s. In a review on Yelp, a visitor to the Club Moderne affectionately wrote, “I am so in love with the women’s bathroom and the large mirrors and wall vanity.” Interesting bar, for sure.

The old Anaconda Company smelter stack, built in 1919, and standing over 585 feet, is a curious attraction. The copper smelter closed a few years back, but the stack remains and is a reminder of copper processing in this area of Montana. Nearby Georgetown Lake is popular with locals.

Favorite Anaconda Lodging: 
Marcus Daly Motel  (406) 563-4311)
Favorite Anaconda Restaurants:  
1st Quarter Restaurant;
Attractions/things to do:  
Historic Washoe Theatre;
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort;
Rockhounding on BLM land;
Copper King Express (an excursion train);
Fishing Kokanee Salmon on Georgetown Lake;
Lost Creek State Park;
Washoe Park outdoor pool and water slide


Belgrade (pop. 8,254, southwest Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-90 near Bozeman. Belgrade is surrounded by beautiful mountains, which offer abundant recreation. The Gallatin River flows near Belgrade. Fly fishing is popular.

The Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, west of Belgrade, is another nice attraction.

Favorite Belgrade Hotels:  
Holiday Inn Express (877) 865-6581
Favorite Belgrade Restaurants:  
Mint Bar & Cafe
Attractions/things to do:  
Fly fishing;
Bridger Range of the Rocky Mountains;
Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman;
Skiing at Bridger Bowl

Big Sky

Big Sky (pop. 2,308, southwest Montana) is close by premier resort areas, Moonlight Basin and Big Sky Resort.  Big Sky is on U.S. Highway 191 south of Bozeman.

Big Sky is surrounded by the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and the Madison and Gallatin Mountains. The area around Big Sky offers splendid recreation, such as fly fishing, skiing, hiking, and camping. Horseback riding is popular, too. Yellowstone National Park and the town of West Yellowstone are located several miles south of Big Sky.

Favorite Big Sky Lodging:
Moonlight Lodging (877) 512-9794;
The Mountain Inn (877) 995-7858;
River Rock Lodge (800) 995-9966
Favorite Big Sky Restaurants:  
Buck’s T-4 Restaurant;
The Cabin Bar & Grille;
Huckleberry Cafe;
La Luna
Attractions/things to do:  
Big Sky Resort;
Yellowstone National Park


Bigfork (pop. 4,270, northwest Montana) is a picturesque small town on Bigfork Bay. The town is on Montana State Highway 35 a few miles south of Kalispell.  Montana State Highway 35 runs on the east side of Flathead Lake. This highway connects with U.S. Highway 93,  Missoula to the south and Kalispell to the north. Glacier National Park is northeast of Bigfork.

Bigfork is a major destination for dining, art galleries, and cultural activities. If size of population and commerce were not a consideration, Bigfork would be the top city in Montana.

Outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, and camping are popular around Bigfork. Companies operating out of Bigfork offer wonderful boating and fishing recreation on Flathead Lake.

The Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts is a huge attraction in Bigfork. It’s a magnificent gift to all of Northwest Montana and the many tourists who visit here.  The center offers concerts, plays, musical theater, live music,  movies and more. Theater capacity is 435 seats.

Favorite Bigfork Area Lodging:
Laughing Horse Lodge (406) 886-2080;
Swan River Inn (406) 837-2220;
Bridge Street Cottages (888) 264-4974;
Bigfork Stage Cabins (406) 837-1133;
Mountain Lake Lodge (406) 837-3800
Favorite Bigfork Restaurants: 
Old Bridge Pub & Sub;
Schafer’s Restaurant;
The Raven
Attractions/things to do:  
A Able Fishing Charters & Tours (406) 257-5214;
Wild Horse Island Boat Trips (406) 837-5617;
Marina Cay Resort;
Mission Mountain Winery in nearby Dayton;
Eagle Bend Golf Club;
Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park;
Wild Horse Island/Flathead Lake State Park;
Yellow Bay/Flathead Lake State Park;
West Shore/Flathead Lake State Park;
Art Galleries;
Flathead Lake cherry harvest;
Flathead Lake scenery;
Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts

 Big Timber

Big Timber (pop. 1,645, south-central Montana) is a picturesque small town.  Big Timber is on Interstate Highway I-90. The Yellowstone River flows nearby and the beautiful Crazy Mountains rise high above the plains west of town. Big Timber is a slice of the “Old West” rich in western tradition. Store fronts up and down main street serve as reminders of early western architecture.

Favorite Big Timber Lodging:
The Grand Hotel (406) 932-4459
Favorite Big Timber Restaurants:  
The Grand Hotel Restaurant
Attractions/things to do:  
Graycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park;
Yellowstone River Trout Hatchery;
Crazy Mountains;
Crazy Mountain Museum;
Big Timber Waterslide Park


Broadus (pop. 481, southeast Montana) is on U.S. Highway 212.  Broadus is ranching country.

For fun, locals and tourists enjoy outdoor recreation, such as hunting and wildlife viewing. The Judge’s Chamber Restaurant is tops with everyone. And visitors enjoy the Powder River County Museum, with its many exhibits of area history.

Favorite Broadus Lodging:
Judge’s Chamber Restaurant and Broadus Motels (406) 436-2626
Attractions/things to do:
wildlife (hawks, mule deer);
prairie landscape;
Powder River County Museum


Butte (population 33,853, southwest Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-90.

Butte is an old copper mining town. The surrounding mountains have other minerals, too. Stop at the Montana Tech Mineral Museum and see a huge gold nugget, weighing 27.475 troy ounces. Miners running a placer mining operation found the nugget in the Highland Mountains near Butte in 1989.

High on a mountain near Butte is a statue of Our Lady of the Rockies. “Our Lady” stands 90 tall. From the site of the statue, visitors have an awesome view of Butte in the valley below and nearby mountain ranges.

The Montana Folk Festival is a huge summer event in Butte. This celebration features live performances, arts and crafts (for sale), Native American art, and activities related to history and traditions of Montana folklife.  In 2019, the festival runs July 12-14. Lots of fun here and a chance to sample all that’s good in Butte.

Favorite Butte Lodging:
Holiday Inn Express (406) 494-6999
Miner’s Hotel (406) 723-8928
Favorite Butte Restaurants:
Uptown Cafe;
Matt’s Place;
Lydia’s for tasty Italian-American food
Attractions/things to do:
Montana Tech Mineral Museum (don’t miss this place);
Our Lady of the Rockies;
Downtown Butte’s historic commercial buildings
Montana Folk Festival



Choteau (pop. 1,686, north-central Montana) is on U.S. Highway 89.  Choteau is ideally situated along U. S. Highway 287, a north-south route between Yellowstone National park with Glacier National Park.

Old Trail Museum, open from Memorial Day to labor Day, tells the story of the natural and cultural history of the area. An ice cream parlor is part of the museum complex. The Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Guest Ranch has lots of fun activities in a beautiful Rocky Mountain Front setting.

Favorite Choteau Lodging: 
Stage Stop Inn (406) 466-5900
Favorite Choteau Restaurants:
Outpost Deli;
Log Cabin Cafe
Attractions/things to do:
Freeze Out Lake;
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center;
Rocky Mountain Front;
Old Trail Museum

  Columbia Falls

Columbia Falls (pop. 5,241, northwest Montana) is a gateway city to Glacier National Park about 17 miles west of the Park’s entrance on U.S. Highway 2. Columbia Falls is a year-round hot spot for outdoor recreation. Meadow Lake Resort offers lodging and a championship 18 hole golf course.

Big Sky Waterslide Park and numerous groomed snowmobile trails are fun for all. The Flathead River (with North fork, Middle Fork and South Fork, designated as “Wild & Scenic Rivers”) flows near Columbia Falls as it meanders south to Flathead Lake.

For special lodging, try the historic Belton Chalet (888-235-8665) in the town of West Glacier,  Belton Chalet features a neat taproom, with excellent food. Belton Chalet’s Grill Dining Room offers many choice entrees. It’s worth driving miles to savor Grilled Salmon paired with Flathead cherry BBQ sauce, served by the friendly and professional staff at the Belton Chalet. Another good choice is The Great Bear Inn, 5672 Blankenship Road, Flathead National Forest, Columbia Falls (406) 250-4577.

Favorite Columbia Falls Lodging:  
Gentry River Ranch – cabins (406) 892-1464;
Bad Rock Bed & Breakfast (406) 892-2829;
Smoky Bear Lodge (at West Glacier) (800) 555-3806;
Timber Wolf Resort – RV, tent sites, cabins, B&B rooms (406) 387-9653
Favorite Columbia Falls Restaurants: 
Cimmaron Cafe &
Mudman Burgers;
Three Forks Grill;
Laurie’s Deli Cafe
Attractions/things to do:  
Glacier Raft Company (800) 235-6781;
Meadow Lake Golf Course;
Eagle’s Nest Antiques and Home Decor;
Huckleberry Patch;
Glacier National Park

Cut Bank

Cut Bank (pop. 3,012, north-central Montana) on U.S. Highway 2.  Cut Bank is a friendly farming and ranching community. The Rocky Mountain Front is west of town. Cut Bank is a favorite place to stop before heading west some 49 miles to the entrance of Glacier National Park.

Don’t miss the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village operated by the Blackfeet Tribe, the native people of this region. Also worth a visit is the Museum of the Plains Indian in the nearby town of Browning on the way to Glacier National Park.

Favorite Cut Bank Lodging:  
Super 8 Hotel Cut Bank
Favorite Cut Bank Restaurants:  
Big Sky Cafe
Attractions/things to do:
Glacier National Park (west of Cut Bank)

 Deer Lodge

Deer Lodge (pop. 2,994, southwest Montana) is on Interstate Highway I-90, not far from Butte.

Deer Lodge has lots of interesting attractions and is must stop for visitors. The view of the Garnet Mountains from Main Street in downtown Deer Lodge is awesome. At the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, visitors learn about the development of the western cattle industry. A park ranger is on hand to tell about the experiences of cowboys on early-day cattle drives.

The Montana Auto Museum is very popular too.The museum features over 120 vintage automobiles. Interpretative displays, an old blacksmith shop, and an early-day gas station tell the history of motoring in Montana. The Old Montana Territorial Prison in Deer Lodge is open for public tours. No bad guys here anymore, but still a scary place.

Favorite Deer Lodge Hotels:  
Western Big Sky Inn (406) 846-2590;
Scharf’s Motor Inn (406) 846-2810
Favorite Deer Lodge Restaurants:  
Scharf’s Family Restaurant;
Boomerang Bakery;
4B’s Restaurant
Attractions/things to do:
Wild Horse Books;
Territorial Antiques Uniques;
Montana Auto Museum;
City Indoor Swimming Pool (free);
Clark Fork River fishing;
W.K. Kohrs Memorial Library;
Historic Rialto Theatre;
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site


Dillon (pop. 4,257, southwest Montana) is near the Idaho border.  Interstate Highway  I-15 passes through Dillon.

Dillon is a trade and ranching center. Dillon is also home to the University of Montana Western, a small college with an enrollment of over 1,100 students.

Recreational opportunities abound in the mountains and national forests near Dillon. Fishing is great in Beaverhead River which flows by the city. Bannock State Park is a few miles west of Dillon. Bannock was the Territorial Capital of Montana and in 1863 a gold mining camp. When the gold ran out, the city became a ghost town. Over sixty buildings remain, showing what life was like in the early days of Bannock. It’s worth a stop in Dillon to see all the historic buildings. Be sure to take in the wonderful exhibits at the Beaverhead County Museum.

Favorite Dillon Lodging:  
Beaverhead Inn (800) 516-6240
Favorite Dillon Restaurants:  
Blacktail Station
Attractions/things to do:  
Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge;
Bannock State Park (an old ghost town);
Big Hole River;
Beaverhead County Museum

Copyright © 2020 John Sandy

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