Travel Planning Montana

Montana highway sign
Salish tribal language on sign along U.S. highway 93, Flathead Reservation, northwest Montana. Montana promotes Native American culture. Photo courtesy Montana DOT.

Travel planning is half the fun of being there. This Web page is packed with information to get you started. Many of the tips offered in this Web page are useful while traveling in the state, as well.

Why take a vacation in Montana? To begin with, think about what best suits your tastes and lifestyle. Consider a few questions:

  • Is your interest in fun and ready gratification? Try outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, horseback riding, and white-water rafting.
  • Are you eager to learn and discover new worlds? Visit museums, state parks, zoos, ghost towns, and historical sites.
  • Are you looking for things which bring pure pleasure?  Exquisite lodging, premium resorts, craft breweries, and fine dining come to mind.
  • Do you seek mental experiences and spiritual satisfaction?  Cultural events, concerts, art museums, national parks, and viewing wildlife and nature are very satisfying.
  • Do you want to develop your physical well-being? Cycling, hiking, hot springs, and skiing are examples of favorite activities in the Treasure State.
  •  Is shopping for the unique and special on your mind? Look for custom-made western boot and cowboy hat stores, made-in-Montana gift shops, art galleries. and antiques shops.
  •  Do you enjoy community celebrations for families? If so, plan your vacation around local fairs, festivals, rodeos, and other special events.

Travel Regions

Vacation Montana
Travel regions in Montana.

Of course, most people have a wide range of thoughts about how to spend vacation time. Still, before going, if you dig a little deeper in your interests and motivations, a better and more fulfilling vacation will surely happen.

Major Cities and Towns

Montana’s cities and small towns are not of the cookie-cutter variety so often found in other states. Why is this? Simply put, most  places in Montana have retained their heritage and historical roots. Urbanization and rapid population growth have not arrived, at least not yet.

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

Outline map showing states of the United States of America. Montana is in the far northwest part of the country.


When traveling, you may want to check on road conditions. For information about road conditions, road closures and more dial 511 on your phone. Another choice is to simply call 800-226-7623.

“Montana’s curvy, mountainous roads and weather—which can change quickly even during summer months—require drivers to be alert to conditions at all times and to adjust speeds accordingly,” warns the the DOJ Web site. Great advice!

General Map of Montana
General Map of Montana showing major cities and towns and Interstate Highway System. From base map FHWA, U.S. Department of Transportation. Extra towns were added to the base map.


Motoring is FUN! The speed limit is posted on the DOJ Web site. Traffic is light on many highways, so there’s plenty of opportunity to see and enjoy the spectacular scenery very common in every travel region.

Distance in Miles Between Major Towns and Cities

Travel tip: How far is Missoula? 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.


Some folks may choose to fly. Modern airports are found in major cities. Billings (BIL), Bozeman (BZN), Missoula (MSO), Helena (HLN), Kalispell (FCA), Butte (BTM), and Great Falls (GTF) airports are especially nice and all are served by major airlines and conveniently located near downtown areas. Booking flights on Expedia or other travel Web site is easy.

Montana map
Map of Montana showing mountainous areas in green and plains in beige. Courtesy Google Maps.

Car Rentals, Taxi Services.  Shuttle Services.

BILLINGS:  Car rentals at Billings Logan International Airport:  Hertz (406) 248-9151, Alamo (406) 252-7626, Avis (406) 252-8007.  For taxi service call City Cab (406) 252-8700 or Yellow Cab (406) 245-3033.

BOZEMAN:  Car rentals at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport:  Avis (406) 388-6414, Hertz (406) 388-6939, Alamo (406) 388-6694. North of Yellowstone Shuttle & Charter Service, operating out of Livingston, provides long-distance transportation to several towns in southwest Montana. They offer taxi, shuttle, and private car service to Big Sky, Livingston, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, Chico, Gardiner, West Yellowstone, and other locations (406) 580-2286. The company does not provide service in the city of Bozeman. For taxi service in Bozeman, call Greater Valley Taxi (406) 587-6303.

MISSOULA:  Car rentals at the Missoula International Airport:  Avis (406) 549-4711, Hertz (406) 549-9511, Alamo (406) 543-0926.  airport. For taxi service, call Missoula Green Taxi (406) 728-8294 or Yellow Cab of Missoula (406) 543-6644. A Web page by Missoula airport lists shuttle services.

HELENA:  Car rentals at the Helena Regional Airport:  Alamo, (406) 442-1765, Avis (406) 442-4440, Hertz, (406) 449-4167. For taxi service, call Capitol Taxi (406) 449-5525. 

KALISPELL:  Car rentals at the Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell:  Avis (406) 257-2727, Hertz (406) 758-2220, Alamo (406) 257-7144. For taxi service in Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls call Glacier Taxi (406) 250-3603. Arrow Shuttle also provides ground transportation in the Kalispell area (406) 300-2301.

GREAT FALLS:   Car rentals at the Great Falls International Airport:  Alamo (406) 727-0273, Avis (406) 761-7610, Hertz (406) 761-6641. For taxi service, call Diamond Cab (406) 453-3241.

Bus Lines

Bus transportation is available for many cities. Check out Greyhound or Jefferson Lines.  For travelers starting from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Express (bus service) goes north on IH 15 all the way to Great Falls, with many stops along the way including Dillon, Butte, Helena and other towns.

Another choice, travel by train on AMTRAK’S Empire Builder. The Empire Builder runs east-west across the northern part of the state, with service to towns such as Havre and Whitefish.

Try MTsearch

Search engine MT

Many Montana businesses and organizations showcase travel-related services and products on Web sites. MTsearch was launched to help find these local Web sites. MTsearch covers things to do, attractions, lodging, guest ranches, restaurants, parks, museums, shopping, campgrounds, and more.

To find top eateries in Helena, for example, enter: Helena restaurants; or to find a special activity, enter: horseback riding


Consider Special Montana Places to Stay

Visitor Centers

Visitor centers provide lots of information on things to do and see in Montana. The Billings Visitor Information Center is at 815 South 27th Street; The Bozeman Convention and Visitors Bureau is at 2000 Commerce Way; The Helena Convention and Visitors Bureau is at 225 North Cruse Avenue; the Missoula Convention and Visitors Bureau is at 101 East Main Street; the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau is at 15 Depot Park; and the Great Falls Convention an Visitors Bureau is at 15 Overlook Drive. Many smaller cities also have visitor centers.

Choose a season to visit

Travel in Montana is a different kind of experience. The state is unlike other places people normally go when on vacation. First, the outdoors is spectacular, beautiful and unspoiled landscapes are everywhere. Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are America’s best. Millions visit the parks annually.

Travel opportunities vary with the seasons. Most people come in the summer. Beyond the national parks, cultural events, local celebrations, and museums offered by rural towns and larger cities are big attractions. Hiking, bicycling, skiing, and fly-fishing are popular.

During the winter months, several ski resorts in the western mountains draw many visitors. Since the ski resorts are usually near small town such as Red Lodge and Whitefish, you don’t have to compete as much for space on the slopes as is the case in Vail and Aspen in Colorado.

Local weather for selected Montana cities

Current weather conditions for Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Lewistown, and Missoula. (choose a city using the drop-down in widget below).

Montana has a very nice autumn season. Days are still warm, even while temperatures drop lower a lot overnight. Large crowds of tourists, common during the summer months have gone home, back to school or work in distant places. In September and October, there’s more freedom to enjoy the lifestyle and pace that’s traditional Montana.

Travel tip: Google Maps is an essential tool for travelers. Google Maps offers a quick and convenient way to find and locate all kinds of services.

For more information, the state Office of Tourism can be reached at P.O. Box 200553, Helena, MT 59620, or call 800-847-4868.
Copyright © 2020 John Sandy

Yellowstone & Glacier