Montana in Pictures: 15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Written by Brad Lane
Jul 3, 2019

There's a reason why Montana is referred to as Big Sky Country. From big mountain peaks in Glacier National Park to the badlands on the other side of the state, every landscape in Montana features big, bountiful views and a feeling of magnitude beneath miles of open sky. Features like Flathead Lake and the Bitterroot Mountains give Montana even more big landscapes to explore, and cities like Helena and Missoula provide friendly communities backdropped by stunning mountain scenes.

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Spanning the entire width of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, Going-to-the-Sun Road lends access to many prominent stops, including Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and the St. Mary Visitor Center. Operating in the summer and shoulder seasons, the national park service provides a free shuttle system along this 50-mile marvel of engineering, and bicyclists can tour the scenic byway certain times of the day and season.

2. Whitefish Mountain

Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana

In northern Montana near the Canadian border, the city of Whitefish is a popular destination throughout the year, particularly in the skiing months of winter. Home to Whitefish Mountain Resort, the city lures thousands of snow sports enthusiasts, who flock to the slopes of Whitefish Mountain, formerly Big Mountain, to celebrate the winter season. Come summer, the same chairlifts service downhill mountain biking and other alpine activities.

3. Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

From the Gardiner entrance of Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana, visitors are immediately exposed to geothermal environments including the Boiling River and Mammoth Hot Springs. Comprised of millennia-old travertine terraces and ancient cinder cones, as well as boardwalks that tour the steaming environment, this area of the park is a great introduction to the wonders of Yellowstone.

4. Lone Mountain

Big Sky Resort, Lone Mountain

The centerpiece of Big Sky Resort, home of the biggest skiing in America, Lone Mountain lives up to its name as a solitary peak that really stands out on the horizon. The mountain attracts interest throughout the year, and visitors to Big Sky Resort in the winter can take a 16-person Ariel trolley up to the peak, with the option to strap in and have a steep ski or snowboard ride back down to the base. This is one of the top ski resorts in Montana.

5. Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

The largest lake within Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald is one of the first stunning features encountered when entering from the west side of the park. It's a prominent stop on the Going-to-the-Sun road, surrounded by hiking trails and scenic viewpoints. Tourists can catch all moments of the day at Lake McDonald by staying at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge.

6. Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

En route to Whitefish and Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Missouri River and a year-round destination for scenic adventure. Boating, fishing, and visiting the unique Wild Horse Island State Park in the middle of the lake are often fun summer activities, as are enjoying the stark backdrops of the Swan and Mission Mountain ranges.

7. Gates of the Mountains

Gates of the Mountains

When the Corps of Discovery first encountered this sudden elevation lining the Missouri River, it was Meriwether Lewis who named the impressive landscape the Gates of the Mountains. Still today, this scenic uprising of Rocky Mountain terrain lures explorers, nature lovers, and photographers alike. One of the best ways to view the mountains and water is boarding a tour boat found in the marina nearby.

8. Logan Pass

Hidden Lake, Logan Pass

The highest accessible point in Glacier National Park by vehicle, Logan Pass sits atop the Continental Divide with a vibrant landscape of wildflowers, wildlife, and wild scenery that always catches the eye. Stemming west from the Logan Pass Visitor Center, Hidden Lake is always a popular destination to hike to from Logan Pass, where wildlife like mountain goats often share the trail.

9. Missoula

Missoula, Montana

A college city in western Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana and big mountain views. Local favorites for hiking trails and emblems, Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo both overlook the city and can be seen from nearly every street corner. Some of the most scenic views in Missoula can be found on the Clark Fork River Trail, which parallels the waterway that cuts through the middle of the city.

Accommodation: Best Hotels in Missoula

10. The Chinese Wall

The Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness

Comprising the dramatic forest directly east of Flathead Lake, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex incorporates more than 1.5 million acres of undisturbed wild land. Within this vast landscape of rugged ridge tops and bountiful alpine meadows, the large formation known as The Chinese Wall attracts self-sufficient backpackers and those who like a view. Marking the Continental Divide, this 1,000-foot-tall rock curtain contrasts nicely with the alpine valleys often blooming below.

11. Saint Mary Lake

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

On the stunning east side of Glacier, Saint Mary Lake is the second largest body of water within the national park and provides perhaps the best reflective views. Jackson Glacier can be spotted towering above the lake, and Wild Goose Island is always a popular place to point the binoculars. Like the rest of the park, Saint Mary Lake provides completely different perspectives throughout all four seasons of the year.

12. Bitterroot Mountains

Bitterroot Mountains

Spread into the Idaho Panhandle in southwestern Montana, the Bitterroot Mountains and surrounding valley encompass some of the most dramatic mountain terrain found in America. Within the Bitterroot National Forest, areas like the Frank Church River of No Return invite exploration, as do the tall glaciated peaks and wild rivers that define the rugged environment.

13. Bighorn Canyon

Bighorn Canyon

In southern Montana and stretching into Wyoming, Bighorn Canyon is popular for fishing, camping, hiking, and photography, or just simply enjoying the view. Created by the damming of the Bighorn River, Bighorn Lake stretches for over 60 miles, much through the heart of the dramatic canyon of its own name. The National Recreation Area that surrounds the lake consists of over 70,000 acres of public land ripe for exploring.

14. Makoshika State Park

Makoshika State Park

In eastern Montana, near the North Dakota border, Makoshika State Park presents an arid landscape found nowhere else in the state. Featuring enormous hoodoos and other rock formations, the badlands of Makoshika are intriguing as they are inhospitable. While any time of the day is fun to visit, particularly throughout the warmer months of the year, come sunset, the surrounding landscape really lights up with color.

15. Cathedral of St. Helena

Cathedral of St. Helena in winter

One of the most prominent features in the Helena skyline, the Cathedral of St. Helena has a long history of hosting services for over a century. Significant reconstruction to the cathedral was performed after a devastating 1935 earthquake, and today alongside being on the national register of historic places, this stunning cathedral is one of the most eye-catching architectural pieces in the state.

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