Montana in Pictures: 18 Beautiful Places to Photograph
Montana might be the most picturesque state in the United States. From massive mountain peaks in Glacier National Park to the badlands on the other side of the state, Montana features big, bountiful views that earn it the title of Big Sky Country and offer opportunities for inspirational pictures.
Other photo-friendly Montana environs include glacier-fed lakes, ski spots, and more than one city amenity, including magnificent cathedrals and river trails.
- 1. Going-to-the-Sun Road
- 2. Whitefish Mountain
- 3. Flathead Lake
- 4. Mammoth Hot Springs
- 5. Lone Mountain
- 6. Lake McDonald
- 7. Billings
- 8. Gates of the Mountains
- 9. Logan Pass
- 10. Missoula
- 11. Anaconda
- 12. The Chinese Wall
- 13. Saint Mary Lake
- 14. Bitterroot Mountains
- 15. Jewel Basin
- 16. Bighorn Canyon
- 17. Makoshika State Park
- 18. Cathedral of St. Helena
1. Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Going-to-the-Sun Road spans the entire width of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana and provides stunning views. It's the main thoroughfare of the park and lends access to many prominent stops, and opportunities to capture beautiful images, including Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and the St. Mary Visitor Center.
The road is only open throughout the summer months, typically beginning in early July. The National Park Service provides a free shuttle system along this 50-mile marvel of engineering during this time of year. Bicyclists can tour the scenic byway certain times of the day and season.
Accommodation: Best Places to Stay at Glacier National Park
Read More: Best Hiking Trails in Glacier National Park
2. Whitefish Mountain
In northern Montana near the Canadian border, the city of Whitefish is a popular destination throughout the year, including throughout the ski season.
It's home to Whitefish Mountain Resort and lures thousands of snow sports enthusiasts, who flock to the slopes of the resort, formerly known as Big Mountain, to celebrate the winter season. Come summer, the same chairlifts service downhill mountain biking and other alpine activities.
3. Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Missouri River and a year-round destination for scenic adventures. It's en route to Whitefish and Glacier National Park.
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 and taking stunning pictures as a souvenir of your visit.
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do near Flathead Lake
4. Mammoth Hot Springs
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. This area of the park comprises millennia-old travertine terraces and ancient cinder cones, as well as boardwalks that tour the steaming environment and provide a convenient perch for taking images of the geothermal action.
It's a great introduction to the wonders of Yellowstone, including its modern legacy, with the surrounding Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District surrounding much of the steaming attractions.
5. Lone Mountain
Lone Mountain is the centerpiece of Big Sky Resort, one of the top ski resorts in Montana, and lives up to its name as a solitary peak that really stands out on the horizon and makes a striking subject for beautiful pictures. The mountain attracts interest throughout the year.
Visitors to Big Sky Resort in the winter can take a scenic tram ride up to the peak, with the option to strap in and have a steep ski or snowboard ride back down to the base. Scenic lift rides are also available in the summer, where activities like mountain biking and disc golfing reign supreme.
6. Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is the largest lake within Glacier National Park and one of the first stunning landscapes encountered when entering from the west side of the park.
It's a prominent stop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and is surrounded by hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, and camping options. Tourists can catch all moments of the day at Lake McDonald by staying at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge.
Billings is the largest city in Montana, with over 100,000 residents. The magnificent Yellowstone River runs along its southeastern edge, and unique rock outcropping known as the Rimrocks divide the town in two.
These eye-catching landscapes lend to photo opportunities throughout town. But, living up to its nickname as "Montana's Trailhead," Billings is also an excellent jumping-off point for bigger Montana adventures and even bolder images.
8. 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.
9. Logan Pass
Logan Pass is the highest point in Glacier National Park accessible by vehicle. The 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.
Missoula is home to the University of Montana and big mountain views in Southwest Montana. Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo both overlook the city and can be seen from nearly every street corner. They are also local favorites for hiking trails and emblems.
However, some of the most scenic views in Missoula are on the Clark Fork River Trail, which parallels the waterway that cuts through the middle of the city.
Anaconda, in Southwest Montana, is a historic city tied to the copper heydays of the region in the early 1900s. Today, the city sits at the end of the Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway, surrounded by Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
It's now a popular tourist destination, thanks to its unique attractions like hot springs and golf courses, but remnants of its earlier history still line the streets. Of the most notable is a record-breaking Smelter Stack on the southeast side of town.
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Anaconda, Montana
12. The Chinese Wall
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex incorporates more than 1.5 million acres of undisturbed wild land, comprising much of the dramatic forest directly east of Flathead Lake.
Within this vast landscape of rugged ridge tops and bountiful alpine meadows, the large formation known as The Chinese Wall attracts self-sufficient. Marking the Continental Divide, this 1,000-foot-tall rock curtain contrasts nicely with the alpine valleys often blooming below.
13. Saint Mary Lake
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.
14. 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.
15. Jewel Basin
Jewel Basin Hiking Area is a special high-elevation portion of Flathead National Forest. It's exclusively set aside for hiking and camping, and provides some of the best trails in the state, with plenty of great opportunities for capturing memorable images.
Visitors often head to Camp Misery Trailhead to start their journeys, where several route options explore the alpine landscape and wild mountain goat habitat. For a special hike in Jewel Basin, head to the top of Mount Aeneas with a variable 4-6 mile route.
16. Bighorn Canyon
In southern Montana and stretching into Wyoming, Bighorn Canyon is popular for fishing, camping, hiking, and photography.
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.
17. 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.
Come sunset, particularly throughout the warmer months of the year, the surrounding landscape really lights up with color.
18. Cathedral of St. Helena
The Cathedral of St. Helena is one of the most prominent features in the Helena skyline and has a long history of hosting services over the last 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.