Starting out from flat to rolling plains in the east, and transitioning to undulating coulees and buttes as you head west towards the dramatic Rocky Mountain front, Montana will thrill lovers of the outdoors.
Those that abhor crowds will similarly adore this state as little more than one million people fit into this naturalist’s wonderland that stretches 630 miles east to west and 255 miles north to south at their broadest points.
All this space has bred an attitude of libertarianism that is inspiring, as many of the folk that inhabit this naturally poetic land have built their lives from the ground up in this stunning and abundant territory.
When headed to Montana, don’t forget to kick the dried up, crusted mud from your hiking boots, as there is a portion of backcountry out there waiting to be captured and claimed by you, if only for a day.
What To Do – Culture & History
While American, European and other settlers from around the world only started to stream into this wild but beautiful territory little more than a century ago, native tribes have called these calming lands home for eons, as have the wildlife of the present and of the ancient past.
The Museum of the Rockies tells the story of this special corner of America, from the days that the various native nations (Kootenay, Blackfoot, Crow, and more) roamed the plains and valleys of Montana, to millions of years prior, when T-Rex roamed the same patch of earth in search of dinner.
Being affiliated with the Smithsonian institution, and having the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the USA, this museum is a must visit when passing through Bozeman.
If the mystique of the Old West resonates strongly with you, dropping by the C. M. Russell Museum will be well worth your while. Named after the famed western artist and located in the home in which he once resided, this gallery of art in Great Falls contains paintings, stuffed animals such as bison, and sculptures that evoke the pioneer experience in Montana.
Recommended by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best western art galleries in America, it is a place that can’t be missed.
Bored with life in the Lower Midwest, wealthy entrepreneur Preston B. Moss decided to shake up his life by moving to the frontier city of Billings in 1903 from Paris, Missouri. At a time when houses and land cost an average of $3,000, Preston built the Moss Mansion for an astounding $105,000, making it stand out from other homesteads in the otherwise humble western city.
Lived in until 1984 by his daughter, the furnishings and condition of the interior is still in excellent shape, with its inspired appearance spurning dreams among those with the ambition to achieve such lofty heights in life.
Not far from the center of Billings is the Pictograph Cave, which is a cavern that contains drawings by native peoples that date back anywhere from 200 to 2,100 years in the past. The engravings depict local wildlife, people engaging in rituals and warfare, the latter of which depict rifles in the more recent drawings.
This makes this place a great way to see the progression of native culture from the days when they were alone in this land, right up to their first contact with Americans.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
Outdoor enthusiasts will be like a kid in a candy store during their time in Montana, with endless possibilities for interacting with nature at every turn. Start by visiting Glacier National Park, which contains the southernmost portion of the geological portion of the Rocky Mountains that resemble the Canadian Rockies to the north.
This means enormous vertical prominences from valley bottom to mountain peak, abundant glaciers, and lakes that glow an effervescent blue-green from pulverized glacial sediment. Drive the Going-To-The-Sun road and stare with your jaw agape at the mountain scenery visible from a road that barely clings the side of another peak, camp in the front or backcountry, or reflect in the crystalline serenity of Lake MacDonald.
Whatever you do in Glacier National Park, it will fill your soul up and may even change you as a person; such is the power of the beauty of this region.
Those that want to get up close and personal with the wildlife that inhabits Glacier or any other wild region of Montana will love the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Taking in habituated or orphaned bears (those that have lost their fear of humans from being fed or from feeding on garbage in towns) and wolves, this institution allows you to see these beautiful creatures up close, as well as learn about the social structures of these two fascinating species.
With some of the best peaks in the American Rocky Mountains, but totally lacking in the crowds that plague resorts to the south in Colorado, Montana is an excellent place to carve up the slopes in winter, whether you are a skier or a boarder.
When the snow melts in the spring, trade in your skiing/snowboarding boots for hikers, as trekking in the summer time is a popular activity in Montana.With numerous trails in national forests, wilderness reserves, and in Glacier National Park and the small sliver of Yellowstone National Park that can be found in Montana, there is no shortage of choice for the serious hiker.