For other places with the same name, see Montana (disambiguation).

Montana is a state in the northwestern United States, in the Rocky Mountains region. Often called Big Sky Country for its famed big, blue skies, Montana is a state of contrasts, from the flat regions to the East and the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the West. Helena is the state Capital of Montana, Billings is the largest city, and Missoula is the second largest city. Major airports serve the seven largest communities, which in addition to the three cities listed in include Great Falls, Butte, Bozeman and Kalispell. Regional carriers serve some smaller communities.

Red Eagle Mountain as viewed from the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park


Montana is generally divided into two main regions: Eastern Montana and Western Montana. The Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains separate the smaller western portion from the larger eastern portion. Western Montana is characterized by higher rainfall in some areas, and terrain dominated by mountains, making for picturesque scenery such as that found in Glacier National Park. Eastern Montana is flatter, with isolated "island ranges" of lower mountains intermixed with prairie and a more arid climate, balanced by the presence of several significant rivers including the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River. Some areas feature erosion-built features such as buttes and badlands.

The Montana board of tourism splits the state into 6 regions:

Montana regions - Color-coded map
Glacier Country
The far northwest portions of Montana, including Glacier National Park and the cities of Missoula, Whitefish, Kalispell, and Cut Bank.
Gold West Country
Southwest Montana, including the cities of Butte and Helena.
Russell Country
Named for famed western artist Charles M. Russell, north central Montana including the cities of Great Falls and Lewistown.
Yellowstone Country
South central Montana, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, including the cities of Bozeman and Red Lodge.
Missouri River Country
The far northeast Montana, including Glasgow.
Custer Country
The far southeast Montana, including the cities of Billings, Miles City, Glendive and the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.


Picturesque Livingston has over 200 registered historic buildings and is a natural stopover for tourists entering and leaving Yellowstone Park

Smaller towns:

Other destinations

Montana public lands map
  • Livingston The Park County seat; at the turnoff to Yellowstone National Park.
  • Gardiner The original and only all year entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
  • Cooke City Near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
  • Silver Gate Near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
  • West Yellowstone West entrance to Yellowstone National Park.


Montana is the 4th largest state by land mass in the United States at 145,552 square miles, however the state ranks 44th in population with just under a million residents, most of whom are clustered around cities and towns. The state features wide open spaces, lonesome highways and dramatic scenery, both to the east and west of the continental divide.

Residents of Montana often classify themselves as either easterners or westerners, depending upon their geographic home. The west is often considered more picturesque, but is also more populated and heavily touristed. The eastern half of the state is more sparsely populated, with low lying plains, bluffs and cliffs. Attitude-wise, the west is generally considered more liberal, while the east, with its large ranching and agricultural operations, is considered more conservative.

The state economy is primarily based on agriculture, ranching, logging and mining as well as tourism.

Get in

Most visitors to Montana will drive; however, the state is easily accessible by air. Some major points of entry are Billings (BIL), Missoula (MSO), Helena (HLN), Great Falls (GTF), Bozeman (BZN) and Kalispell (FCA).

A pretty popular and creative way is Amtrak's legendary Empire Builder. The train has 12 stops in Montana (from east to west: Wolf Point, Glasgow, Malta, Havre, Shelby, Cut Bank, Browning/Oct-1 thru May 1, East Glacier/May 1 thru Oct. 1, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish, Libby), and takes passengers to Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Chicago from Montana's Hi-Line and Glacier National Park. Tickets should be purchased in advance, and it is generally cheaper to do so. Staffed Amtrak stations in Montana are Wolf Point, Havre, Shelby, East Glacier (when open), and Whitefish.

Get around

Montana is a large state - a trip via interstate from the far eastern town of Wibaux to the western border town of Mullan, ID is over 700 miles (1120km), an estimated 12 hour trip. Because residents must often drive long distances to get from one place to another, they generally love their cars - especially their SUVs and other 4-wheel drive vehicles that do well in the often hazardous winter weather. Therefore, it is necessary for visitors to consider renting a car to get around Montana as public transporation between cities & towns are limited at great distances. If a visitor cannot or will not rent a car the following options are what is available:

By train

See also: Rail travel in the US
See also: Empire Builder

Amtrak's Empire Builder goes across Northern Montana stopping at Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier (seasonally), Browning (seasonally), Cut Bank, Shelby, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, and Wolf Point. The train continues west to Spokane and Seattle/Portland and east to St. Paul and Chicago.

By plane

See also: Air travel in the US

Daily regional flights to various locations throughout the state are provided by Great Lakes Airlines.

Service to and from major hubs (such as Seattle, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Denver) continues from airports at Billings, Belgrade(Bozeman), Butte, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, and Kalispell.

By bus

See also: Intercity buses in the US

By car

The easiest and most convenient way to get around Montana will probably always be by car. Destinations are spread wide even within a single city, and within cities, parking is usually ample and cheap, if not free. Rental cars are widely available, and the option to pick up in one city and drop off in another is available, though expensive.

Montana is traversed by three major interstates.

A few US Highways provide mainline travel through interesting areas of the state.



Montana has a recreational opportunity for every adventure seeker, every season, and every mode of transit -- by land, by boat, by bike or all terain vehicle, there's something to keep you occupied in Montana.


Cutthroat Trout from the Yellowstone River

Mountain pursuits

Winter sports

skiing Red Lodge


Montana is now home to some of the best skateparks in the country with some pretty unique features. For directions, descriptions and more information visit Skate Montana


For a state generally associated with cattle chomping green grass underneath big blue skies, Montana has quite a bit to offer outside of meat and potatoes. Within cities and settled areas you should find a good variety of the ubiquitous fast food drive thrus, homey cafes and diners, delis, steakhouses, Mexican cantinas, noodle and Asian grills and the odd Indian or Sushi restaurant.

In rural areas, however, your selection may be much more limited. Every small town will have at least one eatery, even if it's a cafe stuffed in the corner of a post office, or a burger joint in the back of the town bar. Quality will vary, of course, but the experience might stick with you. If you are looking for meat and potatoes, look no further than the local cafe, diner or steakhouse. The beef will be fresh, most often locally raised and slaughtered, and cooked however you want it -- but if you say well done, your server might cry.

For local flavor and distinctly Montana eateries, try the Staggering Ox, with locations in Billings, Helena and Missoula, or MacKenzie River Pizza Co, with locations in Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, Belgrade, Whitefish and Butte. The Pickle Barrel is excellent and famous for sub sandwiches with the original location in Bozeman, other locations in Belgrade and Livingston.

Buffalo chili, cowboy beans, Indian fry-bread and steak are types of cowboy food that many love to experience while in the Big Sky Country whether in Billings, Hardin, Laurel, Red Lodge or Helena. Try some chuckwagon food in and around the state like Pappy's MT Catering and other quality businesses who cater for large groups and gatherings in Montana.

Be sure to get a scoop of Wilcoxson's ice cream. This Montana company offers traditional favorites along with speciality flavors, like Moose Tracks. Their fudge bars, available at any convenience store, are a must-have.

During the summer months, primarily late June, July and early August, look for huckleberries and famous Flathead cherries at farmers markets and roadside stands throughout Western Montana. If you're looking for adventure, ask a local a good place to go pick your own huckleberries -- but beware, they may keep it a closely guarded secret. If you go, take some bear spray, they love the treat, too.


Montanans, as a general rule, love their beer. Increasingly, Montanans love their microbrews, especially those brewed locally. Some famous microbrews are brewed in Montana, including Moose Drool, a brown ale brewed by Big Sky Brewing Co. and the best selling microbrew outside and inside of the state. Microwbreweries in Missoula, Kalispell, Helena, Billings and other cities and towns allow for cheap tasting and filling of a growler -- usually the best bang (or buzz) for your buck. A list of breweries can be found at VisitMT. In 2012 Montana had 18.2 craft breweries per 500,000 people making it the 3rd most micro breweries per capita in the country.

Outside of microbrews, domestic favorites vary from Coors to Budweiser, with light varieties in between. Bars good for bar hopping can be found in the downtown districts of most cities, especially Missoula, Billings and Bozeman, and they're generally a good gauge of local color and culture. Outside of large cities, most small towns have at least one bar, and they often serve food of varying quality. A general rule of thumb -- if the town has a post office (the Montanan's definition of a town in rural areas) then there should be a bar in which you can quench your thirst.


Montana is great place for camping, there are plenty of camp sites in the state. Prices are reasonable, but the sites are often rather spartan. Sites generally accommodate both tents and RV's.

Stay safe

Montana is safer than most when it comes to violent and personal crime, but the state still suffers from one of the highest highway and road death rates in the country. Long distance travel over great amounts of time resulting in fatigue, hazardous winter road conditions, distances from emergency services, and alcohol consumption frequently contribute to the high number of deaths on Montana's highways yearly. This is not to say it's unsafe to drive in Montana -- just beware. If you are unused to driving winding mountain roads or driving in extremely hazardous snow/wind/ice/rain/sleet conditions, do not do so. Wait for the weather to clear -- it may result in a good story, those 12 hours you spent at a truck stop with some friends waiting for a pass to clear.

If you do find yourself stranded in winter conditions, it's important to remember two things -- first, be prepared. Always carry water, snack foods, a small first aid kit including a space blanket and a cell phone, if possible, for emergencies. Although there is cellphone coverage along most of the highways, it can be unreliable in places, especially the numerous mountain passes. Many rural roads have no cellphone coverage, so don't rely on always having quick emergency communication. Second, if you become stranded, stay in your car, turn on your hazard lights, and wait for help.

There is a lot of wildlife around the state, including deer, elk, moose, bears, buffalo, and coyotes. Always remember that these are wild, and do not tolerate people with cameras getting close, much less trying to put their kid on the buffalo. Most animals will avoid humans by our scent or noise, although beware of deer along the roads. When camping, always keep food in your car, or hung from a tall tree. Tents are like tissue paper to a hungry bear.

Outside of environmental and road hazards, use common sense, and you should be fine.


Montanans treasure their state, loving it for the recreational opportunities, wide open spaces, and the friendly nature of their neighbors. They, in general, welcome tourists and travellers, and will be glad to let you in on cool places to go, the best hike to take, or their favorite fishing hole. However, in South-Western Monatana, people tend to be slightly less tolerant of tourists, being very protective of their land. In addition, some Montanans are very proud of being 'rednecks,' and may be seen sporting 'redneck proud' T-Shirts, caps, or bumper stickers. This is not meant to be derogatory in any way, but is an expression of pride in Montana's rough and wild cultural heritage.

Be advised, however, that any disrespect of land and nature will not be tolerated. When enjoying everything Montana has to offer, please respect the lands, waterways and wildlife by following common sense. Don't litter, pollute or otherwise upset the landscape any more than you must, and though it is a cliche, do not feed the wildlife. In general follow the principles of Leave no trace camping and you should be fine.

Go next

Montana is the only state that borders more than two Canadian provinces. However, access to British Columbia is somewhat limited.

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