9 Adventurous Places To Visit In Montana
Montana’s beautiful natural scenery is difficult to explain and one you have to experience during your visit to the ‘Big Sky State.’ You’ll immediately be taken aback by the state’s beauty – the mountainous landscapes, the open ranges, diverse flora, and fauna.
Montana is a destination waiting to be explored by travelers seeking a new adventure. There are plenty of ideal adventure destinations in Montana worth checking out the next time you plan your visit.
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Top 9 Adventurous Places to Visit in Montana
Yellowstone National Park | Glacier National Park | Lake McDonald | Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park | Flathead Lake | Fort Peck Lake | Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort | Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Helena National Forest
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park should be at the top of your list when planning to visit Montana. Yellowstone is a hub for adventure travelers looking for a unique experience in America’s very first national park.
The national park covers nearly 3,500 square miles, stretching across three states – Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Some of the best parts of the park are local in Montana.
There’s plenty of reasons why Yellowstone National Park is an ideal adventure destination – it has a very diverse landscape, home to an abundance of wildlife, and plenty of outdoor recreation to enjoy.
You’ll come across some of unique combinations of landscapes within the park. Admire the sights as you navigate through the park because it transforms between mountain ranges of the Central Rockies to canyons, lakes, volcanoes, and waterfalls.
One of the best features of the park are geysers; Yellowstone is home to over half of all the geysers in the world due to the geothermal conditions. The most famous geyser is Old Faithful.
Recreational activities within the park include tons of hiking trails winding throughout the park, taking you to some of the best viewpoints, spotting wildlife, or simply enjoying the beautiful natural sights along the way.
In case a day trip to Yellowstone National Park isn’t long enough, there are thousands of designated camping grounds in the park.
Glacier National Park
Head up to the remote park of Northwestern Montana to discover the enormous Glacier National Park, covering over one million acres of the region. The park extends to the US-Canada border, where you can actually cross the border from within the park (sorry, passport still required).
As the name suggests, Glacier National Park is home to a handful of active glaciers – it started with over 150 glaciers formed during the ice age, but only a fraction of those remain. The landscape also features two mountain ranges, creating a variety of ecosystems throughout the park.
The diverse ecosystems make it a great place to visit to see some of the unique Montana wildlife and endemic flora. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and grizzly bears.
The park is much too large to conquer in a day, but thanks to the park tours, you can hop aboard custom build buses to get a broad scope of the park. After you find your favorite areas of the park, it’s time to explore the many hiking trails.
The Continental divide National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail are two of the top trails in Glacier National Park. Many of the trails include backcountry camping sites.
Be aware when you visit because some areas of the park are restricted during the winter months due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. It still makes for a fun wintertime destination with activities such as cross-country skiing.
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park but serves as an attraction on its own since many people make the trip explicitly to hang out at the lake. There are lots of things to love about the lake for adventurers, and you’ll be glad you decided to spend some time there.
Lake McDonald is a natural lake, showcasing clear blue waters and you’ll have incredible views of snow-capped mountains in the backdrop while at the lake. The lake formed in a valley previously carved out by glaciers.
In addition to the lake’s scenic beauty, there are lots of things to see and do at Lake McDonald. The most popular section of the lake is along the western shore at Apgar Village. The village is designed for tourists, providing lots of facilities, including a visitor center, accommodation, and a few places to eat after a long day out at the lake.
Apgar Village is also close to the best swimming spot at the lake. The water is best near the shore, and you can enjoy the warm waters uninterrupted by other wildlife attempting to join in on the fun.
Fishing is also a popular activity at Lake McDonald – the lake holds many native trout species you can catch. Other fish include whitefish and salmon.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park isn’t the largest park to explore, but it holds quite a few attractions for adventure travelers. The most popular site in the park is the limestone caverns, open to the public to explore and the perfect Montana adventure destination.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is located in Jefferson County, named after the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. Although the explorers never explored the caverns, the caverns overlook a section of the trail.
You’ll be amazed by the history of the caverns. It took over a million years to make them and weren’t explored until the late 1800s. The caves have hosted tours ever since the early 1900s and continue to be a popular destination for cave exploration in Montana.
The cavern experience includes three options for exploring the caves – the classic Cave Tour, the Paradise Tour, and the Wild Cave Tour. Each tour is accompanied by an expert tour guide who gives lots of information about the cave history and the strange rock formations inside of it.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park park also has lots of other fun recreational activities as well as the tours including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and camping.
Montana is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the United States. During your visit, go to Northwestern Montana to experience Flathead Lake, the region’s largest natural lake – it’s the largest freshwater lake west of the Missouri River.
Flathead Lake is the result of historic glacier activity, creating the 8,500 square mile area for your pleasure.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon laying your eyes on the lake is the pure blue color – Flathead Lake is one of the cleanest lakes of its size, exhibiting beautiful hues of blue and surrounded by scenic nature sights.
The largest lake contains several islands within it. For the best viewpoint, make your way to Melita Island for panoramic views. The island is owned by the Boy Scouts of America, who use it for summer camps.
Boating and fishing are two of the top activities to do at the lake. You can find several boating rentals on site to explore the large lake. You can also host events out on the lake.
Flathead Lake is a popular fishing destination and hosts a major local fishing contest. It’s known for its several species of trout.
Many people enjoy the beauty of the lake by driving around the perimeter of the lake, stopping by the quaint towns nearby or the cherry stalls along the route. Hiking is also common near Kerr Dam.
Fort Peck Lake
Venture to Central Montana to find Fort Peck Lake, the largest lake in the state (by surface volume). As impressive as the lake is, it’s hard to believe that it was artificially built, formed by the Fort Peck Dam constructed in 1930. The dam was created for improving navigation along the Missouri River, and now, the Fort Peck Lake ranks among the largest artificial lakes in the US.
Before exploring all there is to do around the lake, check out the nearby visitor center – you’ll get to watch a film detailing the making of the dam and how the lake formed. You’ll have a better appreciation of the lake and truly understand why it’s special.
There are recreational sites established along the lake shores where locals and tourists take part in fun activities. For those looking to get out onto the lake, boating and fishing are two of the favorite pastimes. You’ll always see people out cruising around the lake and even water skiing.
Find a perfect viewing site along the shore and set up camp for the night to enjoy the nighttime views of the lake.
To get a sense of the scale of the lake, drive to the top of the dam to the Lewis and Clark overlook for a sweeping view of the vast body of water.
Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort
Just outside of Whitefish, you can ascend The Big Mountain to reach the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort. The major ski resort is one of the best in Montana with the perfect weather conditions for skiing.
The Big Mountain is appropriately named, taking you well above the clouds at close to 7,000 feet above sea level to begin the exhilarating ski trip to the bottom. You can plan on making several trips up and down the mountain with lots of cable transportation options, including high-speed lifts.
Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort features 93 ski runs across three of the mountain faces. If you’re a beginner or intermediate skier, you’ll spend most of your time on the front face, the most popular ski trail with the best terrain. You’ll have fantastic views of the Whitefish town below.
For a slightly bigger challenge, take one of the trails on the back face, but be careful to avoid the tree obstacles lining them. The west face contains the most challenging ski trails with a mix of trees, cliffs, and vertical chutes.
Whitefish Mountain Ski resort does a great job of maintaining the ski trails throughout the season. In case you don’t have your own equipment, you can find equipment rentals onsite to rent for the day.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
As you explore Montana, you’ll see sites and evidence of Native Americans and early settlers. There was a time when the two sides clashed, leading to one of the most significant events in Montana history, the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument commemorates the battle which took place on June 25-26, 1876. The memorial was established in 1879, honoring fallen soldiers from both sides.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn resulted in a victory for the Native American tribes who fought against the US Army forces. Both sides suffered significant casualties, which remain buried onsite.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument consists of a memorial obelisk and the Custer National cemetery. There are several markers throughout the grounds identifying locations where notable figures fell victim during the battle.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a great place to discover a bit of American history during your trip to Montana. Be sure to visit the Museum to check out some of the artifacts and watch a film about the battle to give the experience some context.
The attraction includes guided educational talks by expert rangers, providing you with lots of information about the monument and the historical events. There are also plenty of information boards around the site.
Helena National Forest
The Helena National Forest is one of the top nature destinations in Montana thanks to its proximity to Helena, the state capital. Helena National Forest offers a chance to escape the city and enter into the vast natural scenery, covering nearly one million acres.
Pick which section of Helena National Forest you want to explore before venturing into it. The forest is so big that it contains several sections characterized by different landscapes – the forest extends from the Big Belt Mountains to a vast wilderness area.
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails established in the park. You’ll see lots of wildlife when exploring the forest – some of the common animals include grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, antelope, and bighorn sheep.
Hike along the trails to witness the magnificent scenery of the forest, with much of it preserved as it was when it was first discovered. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views overlooking the valleys and forest backdrop.
Helena National Forest is a fun place for other activities in addition to hiking. It’s open all year round, making it a popular wintertime destination for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The park maintains campgrounds for overnight stays.
Montana is one of the top adventure travel destinations in the US.
Which is your favorite place to visit in Montana for adventure? Let me know in the comments below.
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