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Despite the fact that Montana spans over 147,000 square miles, making it the fourth largest state in terms of size in the U.S., only a little over a million people call this place home. This means Montana is packed with small towns scattered in all directions. With stunningly beautiful scenery and landscapes throughout the state, it’s no surprise these little towns are worth visiting. Here are 10 of our favorites!
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Stevensville is a very significant town in Montana because it was the first official settlement of the state. It’s fun to walk through downtown Stevensville on a relaxing day and also view local animals at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Other great things to do in town include visiting St. Mary’s Mission, hiking the Kootenai Creek Trail, and hiking St. Mary’s Peak. For some post-hike refreshment at the end of the day, stop by the Blacksmith Brewing Company or Wildwood Brewery.
Bozeman and Billings are larger towns in Montana that are always popular places to visit, but Big Timber is between them and also worth stopping by. This little mountain town is packed with history, so you’ll feel like you stepped back into another era when you visit. Some of the hotels here were built in the 1800s, and there’s even a nostalgic soda foundation in town. Also check out Natural Bridget State Park, the Crazy Mountain Museum, and the Thirsty Turtle Tavern & Grill when you’re in Big Timber.
The town of Conrad is located in Montana’s rolling plains and has played an important role in the railroad, agriculture, oil, and tourism industries. You can visit the Bob Marshall Wilderness nearby for great backcountry hiking, play a game of golf at the Pondera Golf and Country Club, and learn more about the town’s history at the Conrad Transportation and Historical Museum. To camp in this area, check out the Pondera RV Park, Williamson Park Campground, or Lake Shel-oole Campground.
Hamilton is another favorite small town in Montana, and this town is in the western part of the state. It’s in the Bitterroot Valley between mountain ranges and is a town that’s growing quickly. It’s easy to access great outdoor recreation from Hamilton too. There’s lots of public land covered with forests here and great mountain hikes. History buffs also love Hamilton because of its significant buildings, such as the Daly Mansion. You’ll only need to drive about an hour south of Missoula to check out Hamilton for a day. Lots of writers have found inspiration in Hamilton, including Norman Maclean, who wrote A River Runs Through It.
Ennis is a cowboy town and fly-fishing mecca that’s also a gateway town to Yellowstone National Park. Here you can attend real western rodeos and festivals and be in the recreation center of Southwest Montana. Top things to do in Ennis include having a drink at Willie’s Distillery, checking out the outdoor art of the region, and staying at a dude ranch or bed and breakfast. This is also a popular place to go dog sledding in the winter and to take a fishing charter boat expedition. The Fourth of July is a popular time to visit because of Ennis’ parade and rodeo.
Many people visit Whitefish on their way to Glacier National Park or to go skiing. Like many parts of Montana, this is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can glide down the ski slopes at the Whitefish Mountain Resort, attend the winter carnival, and marvel at snow sculptures in the winter. Then in the warmer months, trail hiking and fishing are great local activities. Rock climbing expeditions are also popular here, and the Great Northern Brewing Company is a fun place to grab a drink when you’re done.
Butte was a town founded because of the mining industry and drew in many immigrants to work in the mines. You’ll experience lots of charm and hospitality here as you learn about the town’s interesting past and check out its architecture. Make sure to check out the World Museum of Mining here, as well as the MBMG Mineral Museum if you’re interested in local history. The Montana Folk Festival is a fun and free outdoor musical event that is definitely worth attending. And for a drink at the end of the day head to the local distillery, Headframe Spirits, or Muddy Creek Brewery for beer.
Choteau is famous for its fossil and dinosaur discoveries, which you can view in the Old Trail Museum. But this is a town for more than just paleontologists. Take some time to browse the local shops in the downtown area and the hiking trails nearby. Choteau is affectionately called the “front porch of the Rockies.” If you’re into skiing, you can stay in Choteau to access the Teton Ski Pass region.
Head to southwestern Montana to experience the lovely small town of Anaconda. This used to be a copper mining town, but today, it is a great place to visit for a quaint Main Street experience. Try to catch a performance at the Washoe Theatre. As with most places in the state, you can also have your fill of hunting, fishing, and hiking here. Anaconda is also a popular destination among golfers, and Old Works is a top-notch golf course here. Depending on the season you visit, check out Georgetown Lake, the Discovery Ski Area, or Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park as well.
Although there are so many more awesome small towns in Montana, the last one we’ll mention on this list is Lewistown. This was a destination for fortune seekers during the gold rush in the 1880s, but unlike many gold rush towns, people decided to stay put after the gold ran out. Although Lewistown is on the edge of the plains in the center of the state, it’s surrounded by several mountain ranges and therefore packed with outdoor recreation. Hiking, biking, fishing and skiing are all popular activities to do when you visit Lewistown.