Both full of history, culture, and natural beauty, Montana and Wyoming combined make for a great travel destination. Start your trip planning today with this overview of the best places to go in and around each state.
Places to Visit in Montana
Billings and the Big Open
Eastern Montana is a vibrant amalgam of history, landscapes, and cultures. It’s home to the Little Bighorn Battlefield and four of the state’s seven Indian reservations, as well as the city of Billings and starkly beautiful Missouri River Breaks terrain. For travelers who are willing to take their time and let the state unfold slowly, eastern Montana is an ideal place to start a Montana road trip.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument: This historic site is a moving tribute to one of the last armed battles in which Native Americans fought to preserve their land and way of life. An annual reenactment brings to life the terror and tragic meaning of the event.
Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Walk or drive through this stunning blend of glacial-drift prairie and shallow wetland to see hundreds of migrating birds.
Pictograph Cave State Park: The caves in this state park contain evidence of human habitation dating back more than 4,500 years, including pictographs of people, animals, and even weapons.
Great Falls and the Rocky Mountain Front
North-central Montana encompasses much of the geographical diversity that defines the state, with vast plains along the Hi-Line, rolling agricultural fields in Montana’s breadbasket, and the dramatic Rocky Mountain Front. Explore tiny towns like Choteau and Fort Benton or visit during the annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival in July to get a charming sense of community.
Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex: More than 1 million acres (404,686 hectares) of pristine wilderness straddle the Continental Divide in “the Bob.” The topography is dramatic, the wildlife is plentiful, and the opportunities to explore are endless.
Havre Beneath the Streets: Practically an entire city exists underneath the streets of downtown Havre. Guides show you around the 27-bed brothel, saloon, and opium den and the more genteel dentist’s office, cigar shop, and bakery.
Missouri River: America’s longest river attracts anglers from all over the world. The tailwater stretch between Holter Dam and Cascade serves up thousands of trout per mile.
Glacier National Park
Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park embodies the Montana you’ve always imagined: rugged mountains piercing the sky, crystalline lakes and plunging waterfalls, abundant wildlife, gravity-defying roads, and miles upon miles of trails. Depending on the amount of time you have to spend in Montana, Glacier National Park could easily absorb all of it, but it is also a spectacular route to get from one side of the Continental Divide to the other.
Going-to-the-Sun Road: Stretching just over 50 miles (81 km), this phenomenal feat of engineering gives viewers an extraordinary overview of Glacier.
Grinnell Glacier: Since scientists anticipate that the glaciers in the park could disappear entirely by 2030, seeing Grinnell Glacier may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ranger-led hike is especially worthwhile.
Lake McDonald: The largest lake in the park and arguably one of the most beautiful. Glacially carved Lake McDonald is easy to access. Pack a picnic for the rocky beach or cruise the waters on a boat tour.
Missoula and Western Montana
From the towering pines and massive cedars to the mountain of huckleberry ice cream clinging to your cone, just about everything is larger than life in western Montana. The area is steeped in Western history, from Lewis and Clark to the Nez Perce and the state’s earliest missions, and home to one of the state’s fastest-growing areas, the Bitterroot Valley, as well as the National Bison Range.
Jewel Basin: With 27 lakes, 35 miles (56 km) of trails, and no motorized vehicles or horses permitted, this is a hiker’s paradise.
St. Ignatius Mission: The jewel of a mission founded by Fathers Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. and Adrian Hoecken S.J., this massive brick Catholic church from 1891 is still impressive, with 58 murals painted by Brother Joseph Carignano S.J.
Whitefish Mountain Resort: This phenomenal ski area has a view over Whitefish Lake and perhaps the best après-ski scene in the state.
Butte, Helena, and Southwest Montana
This corner of the state wears its history like a badge of honor in mining towns like Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City. Then there is the sweeping Big Hole Valley, with picturesque ranches and hot springs resorts, and the Big Hole National Battlefield, one of the most haunting battle sites in the state.
Big Hole National Battlefield: A memorial to the Nez Perce and U.S. Army soldiers who died in battle, this site is both gorgeous and moving. The tipi frames stand where they did the fateful morning of the attack.
Lewis and Clark Caverns: Montana’s first state park is a fine example of limestone caves.
World Museum of Mining: This museum, built atop the Orphan Girl mine yard, is packed with artifacts from more than a century of hard-rock mining.
Bozeman and the Gateway to Yellowstone
The gateway to the nation’s first national park, south-central Montana is a playground bursting with mountains to climb, rivers to fish, and trails to hike. From skiing, fishing, and an abundance of outdoor adventures in the college town of Bozeman to the art and culinary scenes just over the pass in Livingston, the area’s culture is as rich as its landscape.
Beartooth Scenic Highway and Pass: This highway offers room for spontaneous adventures. Bring your bike, hiking boots, binoculars, and even your skis on this summit-topping stunner.
Chico Hot Springs Resort: Chico has all the trappings of a resort—hiking, riding, pool, day spa, and sumptuous cuisine—with none of the attitude.
Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture: A 1900s school rehabbed as an arts hub, the Emerson has more than 30 studios, a fab restaurant, and special events.
Montana and Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park
This magnificent park is constantly in motion. See abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, bears, and wolves; marvel at geothermal features like Old Faithful; and stay in historic lodges like the Old Faithful Inn and rambling Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Perimeter communities are also well worth a visit.
Boiling River: In a stretch of the Gardner River at the park’s north entrance, hot water flows over waterfalls and via springs, mixing with the river water to create a perfect soaking temperature.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: The sheer cliffs and dramatic coloring of this canyon have inspired millions of visitors. In the summer, get a rare bird’s-eye view of several osprey nests.
Mammoth and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: The travertine terraces here look like an enormous cream-colored confection. Since the springs shift and change daily, a walk around the colorful terraces is never the same experience twice.
Places to Visit in Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton packs a punch, particularly when it comes to mountain splendor. Twelve peaks in the Teton Range soar above 12,000 feet (3,658 m). While there are only 100 miles (161 km) of roads in the park, there are twice as many miles of trails, leaving hikers endless options for adventure.
Jenny Lake: Resting like a mirror at the base of the Tetons, this alpine lake is a gem for hikers, boaters, and picnickers.
Oxbow Bend: This hairpin curve of slow-moving backwater from the Snake River is perfect for novice boaters, wildlife watchers, and photographers.
Signal Mountain: Follow this exciting drive with expansive views of the entire valley.
Jackson Hole, Cody, and the Wind Rivers
Wyoming’s northwest corner is far more than a gateway to its national parks. Jackson Hole is a destination in and of itself, with glitzy galleries and boutiques, gourmet eateries, luxe accommodations, and a sensational art scene in immediate proximity to world-class ski resorts and white-water rafting. The area has something for everyone, from lovers of the arts to history buffs to outdoors enthusiasts.
Hot Springs State Park: This park has fabulous limestone terraces as well as public baths in therapeutic waters.
Jackson Town Square: Surrounded by archways constructed entirely out of elk antlers, this is the heart of the community for shoppers, art lovers, and diners.
Snake River: The Snake winds through the valley, giving floaters unparalleled access to the area’s most stunning views.
Sheridan, Devils Tower, and Northeast Wyoming
Where the prairies meet the mountains, cowboy culture comes alive. This is where you’ll find dude ranches and Sheridan, one of the most charming and authentic Western towns in the state. Scenic drives and archeological sites are also not to be missed.
Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway: This stunning road climbs over and cuts through the Big Horn Mountains, passing by beautiful spots and providing access to historic sites.
Devils Tower: Rising more than 1,200 feet (366 m) above the Belle Fourche River, the nation’s first national monument is a magnet for hikers and climbers.
Eatons Ranch: The oldest dude ranch in the world is certainly one of the most traditional.
An enormous expanse of diverse terrain that includes everything from vast prairie and rugged mountain peaks to red desert and windblown dunes, southern Wyoming in many ways defines the state. It has celebrated events like Frontier Days (the big daddy of Wyoming rodeos), an important intellectual culture, and a wealth of historic sites. The southwest corner is also noted for fabulous recreational opportunities.
Casper Mountain: The skiing, hiking, camping, and fascinating local folklore give this area its own magical identity.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area: Fed by the Green River, this natural playground composed of cliffs and Technicolor desert rock formations surrounds a 91-mile-long (147-km) reservoir.
National Historic Trails Interpretive Center: Among the best museums in the state, this place gives visitors a sense of pioneer life on many of the historic trails that crisscross the state.
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