We at Travel Montana love being active outdoors, which is why most of our vacations incorporate some sort of physical activity. But we also recognize a vacation needs to include non-active events, which is why we created this list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Montana.
#10 Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a not-for-profit wildlife park and museum in the town of West Yellowstone whose primary mission is to provide visitors to the Yellowstone area an opportunity to observe, understand and appreciate grizzly bears and gray wolves. It is especially impressive to see the bears up close and – if you are lucky – ripping apart a cooler being sent to the center to see if it is bear proof.
#9 World Museum of Mining
The World Museum of Mining, based in Butte, documents the critical role mining played in the development of Montana. Set on an actual mine of yore, there are 50 different buildings with exhibits you can explore. For an extra cost, go 100 feet underground to see the underbelly of the beast. Hard hat and headlamp are provided.
#8 Bozeman Brewery Tour
Montana has 92 craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association, which puts them third on the list of states with the most breweries per capita. Bozeman, thanks in part to its role as a university town but more due to its hip population, leads the state with almost a dozen breweries in the area. You can easily do a walking tour of downtown Bozeman and visit the Bozeman Brewing Company, Montana Ale Works, and Lockhorn Cider House without ever getting in a car.
#7 Bannack Ghost Town
Also a nod to Montana’s Wild West past, Bannack Ghost Town is now a state park featuring 60 historic, abandoned buildings. The town was discovered in 1862 when gold was discovered in nearby Grasshopper Creek. Bannack’s heyday lasted all of a year or two, as its status as Territorial Capital and many of its prospectors left for nearby Virginia City, where gold was discovered in 1863. For a great day for history or Wild West buffs, visit both ghost towns in one trip.
#6 Beartooth National Scenic Highway
The Beartooth Highway is officially a National Scenic Byway. The 68-mile road winds up, up, and uphill from Red Lodge, Montana over the Beartooth Pass, into Wyoming and into the Northeast Corner of Yellowstone National Park. At over 10,000 feet, the road is the highest elevation in both states. The highway is worth a drive as you enter or exit the park, as you can see pristine high-elevation landscapes with views of the million acre wilderness on both sides. Closed in winter.
#5 Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument “memorializes the US Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakotas and Cheyennes in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life”, according to the national monument website. The 1876 battle is famous as “Custer’s Last Stand”. The site is much more than a simple monument; you can watch a video, listen to a ranger talk, and walk the actual grounds with markers showing who ran (and died) where.
#4 Fourth of July in Livingston or Red Lodge
Livingston (population 7,800) and Red Lodge (population 2,400) are two small towns in Montana with out-sized Fourth of July celebrations. Livingston offers a carnival, crafts, bands, fireworks, and a professional rodeo. Red Lodge has three parades (July 2, 3 and 4), fireworks, and its own top-quality rodeo. Both towns are among the nicest in Montana but be warned Fourth of July can get busy, so book your lodging in advance.
#3 Guest Ranch Vacation
Ranches are core to the fiber of Montana and staying on one can be a treat. The Montana Dude Ranchers’ Association divides its 16 members into Dude Ranches, Resort Ranches, and Working Ranches and suggests considering the type of riding you want to do, the accommodations level, and whether a ranch offers additional activities when making your decision.
#2 Glacier National Park
We have written about this many times on our site and offer a Glacier National Park Hiking Vacation, so it will come as no surprise we consider this the second-greatest activity you can do in Montana. In fact, if hiking, mountain scenery, or glacier viewing is your thing we would move Glacier National Park to number one. You can’t go wrong including this national park in your next Montana vacation.
#1 Yellowstone National Park
The only thing in Montana that surpasses Glacier National Park is Yellowstone National Park. And the not-so-hidden secret is that most of Yellowstone is actually in Wyoming! Nevertheless, three entrances are in Montana (Gardiner, West Yellowstone and Cooke City-Silver Gate) and Montanans certainly treat Yellowstone as part of their own culture. Just be prepared for crowds in summer and check out our Yellowstone National Park Planning Guide before you go.
Main Image Credit: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development