Ghost towns, famous national parks, hearty meals and ranch living await in the wild, scenic state of Montana. If you love fishing, hiking, skiing, or just the outdoors in general, you’ll be swooning amongst the meadows, prairies and mountains. Toss in a rich mining past and you’ve got quite the assortment of excursions to check off the list. To get you started, we’ve rounded up the top things to do in Montana.
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See Garnet Ghost Town
Garnet, Montana once bustled with inhabitants who enjoyed the fruits of a gold rush near Drummond. Adventurists come here to hike the variation of trails and loops, while of course browsing the old buildings lining the dirt road.
Visit Castle Town Ghost Town
Castle Town Ghost Town dates back to the 1800s as well and serves as another fantastic example of the well-preserved history in the state. Some buildings are toppling over, but the markets and stores are remarkably intact.
Hike the Ptarmigan Tunnel
Ptarmigan Tunnel is one of the coolest things to do in Glacier National Park—well, it’s at least one way you can literally delve into the mountains. Lake views, falls, footbridges and wildlife are a part of the hike to the tunnel, which is a fascinating stretch that leads to even more scenic views on the other side. Important note—grizzly bears can be found in abundance along this trail, so follow proper precautions.
Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a “must” in Glacier National Park because it winds through the very core of it all. In fact, it is the only road with such an inside look. Covering just under 50 miles, this is a stunning way to quickly browse the famous destination.
Eat at Pekin Noodle Parlor
Chinese food has become an iconic part of the culturally diverse culinary scene of America, but did you know the oldest continuous operating Chinese food joint is in Butte, Montana? Pekin Noodle Parlor has been going strong since 1911, making it pretty neat to stop in for a bite.
Go Fly Fishing
While Montana has plenty of great places to fish, Big Sky is the perfect town to cast your line. Fly fishing particularly is fruitful in the area, and there are creeks, rivers and lakes to explore. Venture out with Gallatin River Guides to catch trout and wade the crystal clear waters—this company is great for those just starting out, too.
See the Roe River
Great Falls houses the wee Roe River, and barely at 200 feet it ranks in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest river in North America. While small, it’s beautiful, and surrounding paths and recreational facilities make for heavenly days.
Visit Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest is just one of the many serene environments to take a hike. Veering a bit from the plains look we associate with Montana, a walk here delivers glimpses of trickling rivers, waterfalls, blue lakes and lush greenery.
Go Back in Time in Virginia City
Historic Virginia City itself is a historical landmark, and it was once a ghost town before a major restoration effort. Now age-old buildings still stand while the town brims with restaurants, lodging and visitors.
Part of Yellowstone National Park extends into Montana, so you can experience the dramatic landscape of the volcanic lands and embark on outdoor adventures. Hike, fish, try to spot wildlife—Yellowstone is a major bucket list item. Bozeman is close by, so it would be a good place to base yourself.
See Ancient Bugs at Grasshopper Glacier
Grasshopper Glacier in the Beartooth Mountains of Custer National Forest has one of the more bizarre sites within the state. While it’s gradually dissipating, the melting glacier still houses grasshoppers from long ago in its ice. You can see the extinct bugs frozen as they were many years ago.
Explore Medicine Rocks State Park
A hidden gem in Montana, Medicine Rocks State Park in Ekalaka is defined by those famous state prairies and suddenly emerging sandstone formations— the combination is striking. One could spend days exploring nature’s sculptures.
Go "Beneath the Streets"
Havre, Montana houses what used to be underground businesses, which now serve as a museum. When the town originally burnt down, the interesting “Beneath the Streets” was developed so owners could continue selling until the rebuild was complete. Now they have a cool historical tour of the space.
Montana’s terrain provides many skiing opportunities. Cozy lodging, great food, the diversity of difficulty levels—all these things make the state’s lesser-known ski scene incredible. Hit the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, Bear Paw ski bowl, we could keep going. Next time consider Montana for your yearly ski trip. It’s less crowded than more popular destinations and there’s an abundance of other outdoor activities to enjoy.
Experience Life on the Ranch
It may not get more “Montana” than staying at a ranch. These days, working ranches have converted to lodging options, with immersive experiences for travelers. Stay in rustic digs while enjoying home-cooked meals and horseback riding. Even though guests definitely don’t rough it, it’s a change of pace from the average hotel. Bar W Guest Ranch is just one of the numerous options in Montana.
Dine on Regional Eats
If there were one restaurant you’d absolutely have to visit in Montana, it would be Jake’s in Billings. Here you can get juicy steaks and a tender house prime rib—staple delicacies in the state. But don’t miss out on other local flavors from lentils, huckleberries and the freshest, most flavorful trout.