Set between the Dakotas to the east and Idaho to the west, Montana is known for its rugged natural beauty. Often called ‘Big Sky Country’ or ‘The Treasure State’, it’s easy to see why Montana is one of the country’s most beautiful states. Montana doesn’t have megacities and as the seventh-least populated and the fourth-largest state by area, Montana is a magnet for those who love the outdoors.
Spanish explorers named the state after the word montaña, which means ‘mountain’ or ‘mountainous terrain’. When the Spaniards arrived, the state was home to the Cheyenne, Blackfeet and Shoshone Native American tribes who hunted the state’s abundant buffalo. However, Montana remained wild and mostly unexplored until the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the region in 1805. More than 50 years later, in 1858, settlers flocked to Montana in search of fortune after gold was discovered. That’s when the population boomed and it led to Montana becoming the 41st state of the union in 1889.
Montana provides travellers with everything from untamed nature to luxurious mountain resorts and everything in between. It’s a destination guaranteed to leave you speechless as you marvel at its majesty. Where to start? Here are our top picks of landmarks in Montana to tick off your list.
Natural Landmarks in Montana
1- Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the flagship national park of the United States National Park Service.
The world’s first national park is a staggering 2 219 789 acres (898 317 ha), larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
Although only three per cent of Yellowstone lies within the state of Montana, there are still plenty of trails, pathways and natural scenery to explore within the Montana region of Yellowstone.
The park’s entrance in West Yellowstone lies within Montana and caters to visitors by providing interesting information and facts about the park’s Montana part.
Travellers can enjoy year-round outdoor fun whilst taking in the spectacular surroundings with activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, or enjoying a guided snow coach excursion in Yellowstone during the winter months.
The town of West Yellowstone is at the western entrance of the park. It offers excellent accommodation for travellers and is the perfect basecamp from which to explore the rest of the park.
Yellowstone West Entrance is at 30 Yellowstone Ave, West Yellowstone, MT 59758.
2- St Mary Falls
Another great park that is a must-visit location in Montana for anyone who loves nature is Glacier National Park.
The sheer beauty and picturesque views of Montana’s most visited park makes it a photographer’s dream.
Called the ‘Crown of the Continent’ for the alpine meadows, thick forests and waterfalls and lakes that dot the park, Glacier National Park has many stunning sights such as St Mary Falls, a tiered, 35 feet (11 m) cascading collection of waterfalls.
The falls can be reached by St Mary and Virginia Falls trail, a journey around 3.6 miles (5.8 km) long round-trip that passes by both St Mary Falls and the nearby Virginia Falls.
It’s an enjoyable, half-day journey and an easy trek for most people.
St Mary Falls is at Glacier National Park, MT.
3- Sinopah Mountain
Sinopah Mountain, also located in Glacier National Park, is one of the park’s most striking and photographed mountains.
Standing at 8271 feet (2521 m), it’s not the tallest peak in the park, however, it’s the most visually stunning as it rises dramatically from the shores of Two Medicine Lake.
If you’re adventurous enough to spend the day hiking to the top of the mountain, you’ll reap the rewards of the spectacular views of the lake below, surrounding peaks and lush valleys.
It provides a sense of solitude and a glimpse into the ruggedness of the region.
The mountain is off the regular climber’s beaten path and not overcrowded with other climbers.
Sinopah Mountain is at Glacier National Park, MT.
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4- Bighorn Canyon
At over 120 000 acres (48 562 ha), Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area boasts an incredible range of habitats, species, and more than 10,000 years of human history for visitors to discover and marvel at.
More than 200 000 visitors flock to Bighorn Canyon every year, and it’s easy to see why because there’s lots to do with activities such as fishing, hiking, boating, picnicking, and horseback riding.
The Bighorn River is renowned for its abundant trout fish, and anglers can try their luck catching a wide array of fish in Bighorn Lake.
If fishing’s not your cup of tea, instead catch a once in a lifetime experience by looking out for the largest herd of wild horses anywhere in the United States.
Bighorn Canyon is spectacular and a must-visit for anyone who is travelling to Montana.
Bighorn Canyon is at Fort Smith, MT 59035.
5- The Boiling River
Contrary to its somewhat misleading name, The Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park is not exactly boiling, but rather more of a lukewarm temperature thanks to a large hot spring that merges with the river.
This allows for swimming and wading in the pleasantly warm water of the river. It’s unique because it’s one of the few locations where people can swim in Yellowstone.
Easily accessible from the northern entrance to the park in Montana, the Boiling River makes for an exciting day trip during the fall and winter months.
The Boiling River is at N Entrance Rd, Gardiner, MT 59030.
6- The Elkhorn Pile in National Bison Range
The National Bison Range, about 35 miles (56 km) south of the town of Polson, is a great place to observe majestic bison up close.
At around 18,000 acres (7 300 ha) and home to an estimated 350 bison, including elk, deer and bighorn sheep, nature and animal lovers alike will enjoy this sprawling prairie.
It’s well worth the journey out to see the bison, a true symbol of the Old West and once threatened with extinction, in their natural habitat.
The animals aren’t the only attraction at the National Bison Range, as a strange heap of elkhorn can be found at the range’s visitor centre entrance.
Little is known about this mysterious sight or who put it there, but it’s an interesting spot to take some cool photos with the mountains in the background.
It’s also an unofficial marker for the range’s visitor centre where travellers can receive information about the range and the animals roaming its hills and plains.
The Elkhorn Pile is at 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824.
7- The Ringing Rocks
A very strange phenomenon can be experienced 18 miles (29 km) east of Butte, just north of I-90 in western Montana.
What may seem like a standard rock formation, the Ringing Rocks come to life when tapped lightly with a hammer.
Doing so makes the rocks chime and ring a melodic sound thought to be due to the composition and joining patterns of the rocks.
What makes these singing rocks strange is that they do not make the same sound once removed from the original pile, leaving scientists baffled and yet to come up with a definitive explanation for this mysterious event.
This is a great place to visit as it’s free of charge, open year-round when the weather’s good and guests are welcome to bring their own hammers to tap the rocks themselves.
The Ringing Rocks is at Whitehall, MT 59759.
8- Stairway to Heaven
Situated just 2.7 miles outside the city of Helena, the Stairway to Heaven Trail is a very popular hiking and biking destination thanks to its proximity to the state’s capital.
It’s a pretty easy hike on one of the most beautiful ridges in the South Hills network, and it’s a great place to take a sunset hike.
The trail is quite short at 1.4 miles (2.2 km) and takes about 15 minutes to complete, with striking views of the surrounding mountains topped in snow.
The trail is pet-friendly, so your furry friend doesn’t need to be left behind and can also enjoy the great views and crisp mountain air with you.
Stairway to Heaven is at Wakina Sky Gulch, Helena, MT 59601.
9- Makoshika State Park
Montana’s largest state park is an otherworldly experience.
The Badlands of Makoshika is a huge contrast from the state’s snow-capped mountains in the east, looking almost unearth-like.
Visitors will be captivated by the fossilised remains of dinosaurs such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and many other prehistoric creatures that once roamed Montana at the park’s visitor centre.
The state’s impressive list of activities includes 28 different camping sites, hiking trails, an outdoor amphitheatre and scenic drives through the Badlands.
The park hosts some exciting events throughout the year, such as Montana Shakespeare in the Park, Friday night campfire programs, and youth programs in the summer.
The famous Buzzard Day festival, which takes place on the second Saturday in June, includes a fun run, great food, a disc golf tournament, hikes, and many more fun events.
Remember to check the park’s website for information regarding the different events hosted and what time of the year each event takes place.
Makoshika State Park is at 1301 Snyder St, Glendive, MT 59330.
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10- Holland Lake
Located in the Flathead National Forest lies Holland Lake, a scenic 413 acre (167 ha) recreational body of water perfect for swimming, fishing or boating.
The lake lies on the western edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, which offers plenty of hiking trails and solitude when the lake gets quite busy during the summer months.
The nearby Holland Falls National Recreation Trail, a 1.6 mile (2.6 km) trail that follows the shore of the lake to the Holland Falls waterfall, can be accessed from near the lake’s campground.
Experience the water by renting a kayak, paddleboard or canoe at the lake’s campground, or enjoy catching the lake’s many trout and Kokanee salmon.
Holland Lake is at Summer Home Rd, Condon, MT 59826.
11- Earthquake Lake
Earthquake Lake, or ‘Quake Lake’, as the locals call it looks pretty tranquil and scenic at first glance.
First-time visitors will be surprised to discover that the lake was formed as a result of a large earthquake that shook the area on 17 August 1959.
The quake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, the most powerful earthquake measured in Montana’s history, which tragically cost the lives of 28 people.
This ferocious act of nature formed the 190 ft (58 m) deep, 6 miles (9.7 km) long Earthquake Lake we know and see today.
The lake’s visitor centre provides valuable information on the wildlife, geology, and past earthquakes throughout the Greater Yellowstone Area.
A Memorial Boulder, located northwest of the visitor’s centre, is a large and stark reminder of what nature moved that day, complete with a bronze plaque engraved with the names of those who lost their lives in the disaster.
It’s a very moving and serene site that’s well worth a visit to reflect on what happened here over 60 years ago.
Earthquake Lake is at US Route 287, Cameron, MT 59720.
12- The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
This striking hillside centre, located in Great Falls, offers visitors the opportunity to relive the historic journey of Lewis and Clark back in 1805 through a self-guided audio tour of the facility.
The centre offers a wide array of ranger tours outside the facility, taking visitors on several guided trails.
There are interactive exhibits to enjoy inside that tell the tale of their expedition westward.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is at 4201 Giant Springs Rd, Great Falls, MT 59405.
13- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
One of Montana’s most important historical monuments, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorialises the Battle of Bighorn when multiple Indian Tribes defeated the US Military in 1826.
A visitor centre welcomes travellers to the memorial and contains valuable information about the history of the battle and the monument itself.
Guests can choose between a short guide through the battlefield and a longer guide covering the entire site.
Park Rangers provide ‘Battle Talks’ and battle re-enactments regularly take place throughout the year.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is at I-90 Frontage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022.
14- The Big Sky Resort
Winter in Montana transforms the state into a snowy paradise that’s regarded as one of the best destinations for winter sports in the country.
Nowhere can that be experienced better than at Big Sky Resort, the second-largest ski resort in the United States right here in Montana.
Located roughly an hour south of Bozeman, this legendary resort has over 5 800 acres (2 347 ha) of skiable area with varying degrees of difficulty.
Skiing’s not the only activity available here, though, as snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledging, hunting, and snowmobiling are all popular activities permitted within dedicated areas at the resort.
Big Sky Resort stands out among other popular resorts because of its almost non-existent wait times on the slopes and its laid-back feel, great for both beginners and experts.
Big Sky Resort is at 50 Big Sky Resort Rd, Big Sky, MT 59716.
15- Pompey’s Pillar
Located 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Billings, Pompey’s Pillar National Monument is a sandstone rock formation that rises 120 feet (37 m) into the sky.
The more than 5 000 etchings, pictographs, and petroglyphs found on the rock make this site so special.
Among these is an inscription made by William Clark, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, when they arrived at the rock in 1806.
Many other pioneers and visitors to the pillar have left their mark on the rock, and the monument remains a popular attraction in Montana, with over 50,000 visitors annually.
A visitor centre can be found at this living journal, retelling the tale of the famous expedition and providing information about the native tribes who used to live in the area.
Pompey’s Pillar is at 3039 US Highway 312, Pompey’s Pillar, MT 59064.
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16- Montana State Capitol Building
Located in the state’s capital, Helena, this majestic building dating back to 1902 is a great place to observe artwork depicting the present and past Montana.
Entry to the building is free, and visitors can help themselves to booklets guiding them through this stately structure.
Specially designed scavenger hunts regularly to ensure that kids are entertained, making the Capitol Building an excellent destination for the whole family.
Guests can come and marvel at the different legislative halls, libraries and the iconic rotunda dome within the building.
Montana State Capitol Building is at Montana Ave. and 6th St Montana Ave & 6th St, Helena, MT 59601.
17- Two Medicine Dinosaur Center
A fascinating adventure awaits dinosaur enthusiasts at the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in the small town of Bynum, Montana.
Upon arriving at the centre, visitors are greeted by a giant T-Rex statue outside the main building, ensuring travellers that they’re at the right place.
Home to the world’s longest dinosaur, a skeletal display of the Seismosaurus, and the remains of the first baby dinosaur discovered in North America, the centre captivates guests.
The highlight of any visit here is working alongside palaeontologists to discover and learn about many different dinosaurs at the centre’s active dinosaur dig site.
It’s an unforgettable experience and a great way to see how fossils are unearthed and studied up close.
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center is at 120 2nd Ave S, Bynum, MT 59419.
18- The World Museum of Mining
Situated at an old copper mine site in Butte, Montana, the World Museum of Mining has over 60 exhibits related to all things mining.
Called the ‘Orphan Girl Mine’, the old mine operated for over 80 years and contained silver, zinc and lead, and copper.
Apart from the old mining artefacts on display, guests can also experience a reconstructed 1890’s mining town and see how mining families lived back then.
The museum also offers guided tours to visitors, taking them 100 feet (30 m) underground to experience the conditions miners faced and the equipment they used.
Paranormal tours are also available, which involves guides sharing stories of unexplained events at the mine, leading to guests and guides working together to prove/disprove these stories.
The World Museum of Mining is at 155 Museum Way, Butte, MT 59701.
19- The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
A recent addition to Montana’s list of landmarks, The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas can be found on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Jocko Valley.
The site is intended to be a place for spiritual growth, a spiritual site that’s free of charge.
Pilgrims of all faiths come here, but the emphasis is on Buddhism and the values that Buddhists hold dear.
As the name suggests, the garden is home to more than a thousand Buddha statues, with guests welcome to tour the park and discover the site’s history.
A 24 feet (7.3 m) tall statue of Yum Chenmo, representing the birth of all Buddhas, can be found near the middle of the park.
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is at 34574 White Coyote Rd, Arlee, MT 59821.
20- McGinnis Meadows Ranch
Even though Montana has plenty of places to see horses, McGinnis Meadows Ranch is a unique place with a rustic and authentic traditional ranch feel.
The ranch’s horsemanship clinic encourages visitors to get their hands dirty by experiencing authentic cattle-ranching and equestrian work.
With horses readily available, guests are free to hop a saddle on a horse and take them for a ride through the beautiful countryside or relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal at the farmhouse.
This truly is a complete experience promising visitors the most authentic Montana ranch lifestyle, so be ready to embrace your inner cowboy spirit.
McGinnis Meadows Ranch is at 6220 McGinnis Meadows Rd, Libby, MT 59923.
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