Montana has 55 state parks but this list of the 20 best Montana state parks showcases some of the best places to visit in the state. Most of Montana’s state parks are in the west of the state in more forested landscapes but there are still a few dotted around in the east.
Montana is quite often known as “Big Sky Country” because it has large open spaces, big skies and beautiful scenery. While many visitors flock to Glacier National Park (and for good reason), the state parks in Montana are also well worth adding to your itinerary. Here’s our pick of the top 20.
- Montana State Parks
- 20 State Parks in Montana
- 1- Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
- 2- Tongue River Reservoir State Park
- 3- Giant Springs State Park
- 4- Tower Rock State Park
- 5- Pictograph Cave State Park
- 6- Logan State Park / Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park
- 7- Traveler’s Rest State Park
- 8- Long Pine State Park
- 9- Flathead Lake State Park
- 10- Bannack State Park
- 11- Whitefish Lake State Park
- 12- Lost Creek State Park
- 13- Thompson Falls State Park
- 14- Salmon Lake State Park
- 15- Black Sandy State Park
- 16- Painted Rocks State Park
- 17- Sluice Boxes State Park
- 18- Makoshika State Park
- 19- Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park
- 20- Beaverhead Rock State Park
- 20 State Parks in Montana
Montana State Parks
20 State Parks in Montana
1- Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
The Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is around a 20-minute drive outside of Whitehall in western Montana.
This state park showcases one of the largest limestone caves in the Northwest.
It was also Montana’s first ever state park, established in 1937.
The only way you can explore the caves is on a guided tour.
Between May and September, tours are offered seven days a week.
You can take the Classic Tour which is more strenuous and lasts for two hours and the other gentler Paradise Tour.
You will learn plenty about the caves formation as well as being able to take photos of the stalactites and stalagmites.
Be sure to bring something warm with you because the temperatures do get a little cold inside the cave.
Once you are back above ground there are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy.
You can also stay overnight at the 40-site campground.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is at 25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, MT 59759.
2- Tongue River Reservoir State Park
Tongue River Reservoir State Park is of course on the 12-mile reservoir by the same name.
You will find this state park in southern Montana close to the Wyoming border.
The landscape around the park is a mixture of vibrant red shale, juniper canyons and open prairies.
Some of the best and most enthusiastic anglers from Montana and Wyoming head to the Tongue River Reservoir.
There have been plenty of “state record” fish pulled from the waters at this reservoir.
You can expect to catch crappie, walleye, bass, and northern pike.
If you want to stay in the area for a couple of days you can stop at the park’s campground.
There are 81 sites to reserve and 69 non-reservable.
Tongue River Reservoir State Park is at 292 Campers Pt Rd, Decker, MT 59025.
3- Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park is on the banks of the Missouri River just outside of Great Falls in central Montana.
The park encompasses almost 14 miles of the Missouri River.
Giant Springs State Park was discovered by the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1805.
It is known as being one of the largest freshwater springs in the county.
The spring flows at a rate of 156 million gallons from the Madison Aquifer each day.
It is one of the most visited state parks in Montana with around 300,000 visits a year.
While the springs are excellent to see there are also 20 miles of wonderful trails for hiking and biking.
The park is also home to Great Falls which is actually one of four waterfalls in the park.
Giant Springs State Park is at 4803 Giant Springs Rd, Great Falls, MT 59405.
4- Tower Rock State Park
Tower Rock State Park is just off Old US Highway 91, close to the Missouri River.
Tower Rock is a 424 foot high rock that sits at the entrance to the Missouri River Canyon.
The park has plenty of interpretive panels where you can learn about local geology and history.
Tower Rock was a notable landmark for native tribes crossing the area as well as the Corps of Discovery.
This is a day use only park with no visitor centre or many other facilities but it is a good stop over if you are coming or going to Great Falls or some of the other western state parks.
Tower Rock State Park is at 55QR+G3, 2325 Old US Hwy 91, Cascade, MT 5942.
5- Pictograph Cave State Park
Pictograph Cave State Park is in the southern part of Montana.
There are three caves at this state park, the Pictography, Middle and Ghost caves.
The caves were once home to prehistoric hunters.
There’s a great loop trail at the park which allows you to view the amazing and intricate rock paintings in the Pictograph Cave.
The oldest rock art at the park is believed to be over 2000 years old.
What the paintings mean is still up for interpretation.
There are paintings of animals, warriors and rifles which tell many stories of how life could have been.
The first discovery at the park was in 1936.
Since then, more than 30,000 artifacts including tools, weapons and paintings have been discovered at the site.
There are a couple of loop trails at the park as well as a new visitor centre which features interpretive displays about the history of the rock paintings.
Pictograph Cave State Park is at 3401 Coburn Rd, Billings, MT 59101.
6- Logan State Park / Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park
Logan State Park is on Middle Thompson Lake and is actually located in the middle of the 3,000-acre Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park.
This is a wonderful state park for wildlife viewing, with the chance of seeing moose and grizzly bears.
Popular activities in the park include fishing, hiking, canoeing, water skiing, swimming and boating.
In winter it is also possible to go ice fishing.
You might want to spend a couple of nights in this state park as there’s so much fun to be had.
There are 37 campsites with RV sites too.
Logan State Park is at U.S. Hwy 2 W, Kalispell, MT 59901.
7- Traveler’s Rest State Park
Traveler’s Rest State Park is in western Montana, close to the Lolo National Forest.
This state park showcases the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In 2002 archaeologists discovered evidence that the Corps of Discovery had visited the area.
They found a trench toilet tainted with mercury, lead and fire hearths.
While there are other campsites along the Lewis and Clark Trail this is the only place where there is physical evidence of the expedition.
The charming Lolo Creek runs through the park making for an even more peaceful stop.
This place is popular among birds with more than 115 species having been recorded in the park’s boundaries.
There is also a visitor centre and museum where you can learn more about the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Traveler’s Rest State Park is at 6717 US-12, Lolo, MT 59847.
8- Long Pine State Park
Long Pine State Park is outside of Kalispell on the west side of Flathead Valley.
This park is known for its beautiful forests and expansive lookout points.
On a very clear day you can see out across Flathead Lake, to Big Mountain, the Jewel Basin and to Glacier National Park.
The best way to explore the park is along the 7.5 miles of trails.
Along these same trails you can also go mountain biking, horse riding and snowshoeing in winter.
You can even rent snowshoes for as little as $5.
There’s a visitor centre onsite as well which teaches you about the park’s wildlife and forest ecology.
Long Pine State Park is at 300 Lone Pine Rd, Kalispell, MT 59901.
9- Flathead Lake State Park
In western Montana you will find the 510 km² Flathead Lake and the state park by the same name is on the eastern shore of the lake.
This park provides top class views of the Swan Range and Mission Mountains.
The park has six units covering 160 miles of shoreline.
There’s Big Arm, Finley Point, Wayfarers, West Shore, Wild Horse Island and Yellow Bay.
As there are so many units to explore you may want to camp at the 140-site campground to make the most out of your trip to the park.
Park activities include swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.
At the West Shore Unit, you can even head out on a Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tour between June and Labor Day.
Flathead Lake State Park is at 23861 Montana Hwy 35, Bigfork, MT 59911.
10- Bannack State Park
Bannack State Park is in southwestern Montana around three hours from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
As well as being a state park Bannack is also a National Historic Landmark.
It was also the site of the state’s first major gold discovery which happened in 1862.
Within a year more than 3000 people lived in the area but as the price of gold declined Bannack became somewhat of a ghost town.
The visitor centre is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
You can actually take a tour of the visitor centre and learn about the history of the area.
For those looking for an overnight stop (perhaps on your way to Yellowstone), there is a 28-site campground and a fun rental tipi on Grasshopper Creek.
Bannack State Park is at 721 Bannack Rd, Dillon, MT 59725.
11- Whitefish Lake State Park
Whitefish Lake State Park is on the southwestern shores of Whitefish Lake in northwestern Montana, just an hour’s drive from the Canadian border.
This is a family friendly state park.
Head into the woods and you will discover the park’s peaceful campground as well as a secluded beach.
There are plenty of things to do in the park including boating, swimming, camping and fishing.
Water skiing conditions are also excellent on the lake as there are long stretches to try and stand up on.
Whitefish Lake State Park is at 1615 W Lakeshore Dr, Whitefish, MT 59937.
12- Lost Creek State Park
Another of Montana’s western state parks, Lost Creek State Park is a great place to connect with nature.
Grey limestone cliffs and pink and white granite define the park and some of the rock formations are 1200 feet above the canyon floor.
Head to the northwest corner of the park and you will find Lost Creek Falls.
There’s so much to see in the park, especially wildlife.
From golden eagles to bighorn sheep be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings.
There’s a fantastic Forest Service hiking trail which is several miles long and takes you through the meadows and forest.
Other activities include camping, fishing, cycling and picnicking.
Lost Creek State Park is at 5750 Lost Creek Rd, Anaconda, MT 59711.
13- Thompson Falls State Park
You will find the Thompson Falls State Park in northwestern Montana, on the Clark Fork River in the Clark Fork Valley.
The water’s edge is surrounded by pine forest with a pebble beach area which is ideal for swimming.
The water is an excellent spot for fishing, swimming and boating.
As well as an accessible fishing pier there is also a recently upgraded family fishing pond that is perfect for getting the little ones involved in fishing.
The campground is right on the Clark Fork River and there are 18 sites which can be used for tents or RVs.
There’s also a group picnic area which is perfect for families.
Thompson Falls State Park is at 2220 Blue Slide Rd, Thompson Falls, MT 59873.
14- Salmon Lake State Park
This state park is on the eastern shores of the 32-mile Salmon Lake in western Montana.
Salmon Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Clearwater River Chain of Lakes.
This state park is all about enjoying nature and having fun on the water.
The park sits between Mission and the Swan Mountain Ranges.
The lake has a variety of fish including rainbow trout, cutthroat, bull trout, largemouth bass and white mountain whitefish.
Bird life is also abundant in the park; there are great blue herons, bald eagles, ospreys and red-necked grebes.
Paddle with canoes or kayaks on the lake or try something more rigorous like water skiing or wakeboarding.
There is also a campground set in ponderosa pine trees and Douglas-fir, with 24 campsites as well as hike/bike sites.
Salmon Lake State Park is at 2329 MT-83, Seeley Lake, MT 59868.
15- Black Sandy State Park
Black Sandy State Park is on Hauser Lake, an impoundment of the Missouri River.
The park is known for its boating and water-skiing opportunities as well as walleye and trout fishing.
So, if you are a keen angler and water enthusiast then definitely check out this state park.
The mountains surrounding the lake provide a continuously pleasant view as you go about your water sport activities.
There’s a good campground at the park which is well maintained.
The place isn’t as crowded as some Montana state parks so it’s ideal if you are looking for somewhere more peaceful.
Black Sandy State Park is at 6563 Hauser Dam Rd, Helena, MT 59602.
16- Painted Rocks State Park
This recreation area is at the southern end of Painted Rocks Reservoir.
The reservoir can be found in the West Fork Valley of the Bitterroot Mountains.
The park gets its name from the green, orange and yellow lichen covered granite in the area as it almost looked painted.
There’s plenty of wildlife to see in this state park.
From elk to mule deer, black bears and moose you better keep your eyes peeled for signs of movement.
There’s a boat ramp and dock so you can enjoy boating and fishing on the lake.
After a day of exploring, you can stop over at the campground which is suitable for tents and RVs.
Painted Rocks State Park is at 8809 W Fork Rd, Darby, MT 59829.
17- Sluice Boxes State Park
Next to the small meandering Belt Creek you will find Sluice Boxes State Park around 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive west of Lewistown.
This rugged part of Belt Creek Canyon used to be an attractive mining area today you can see some of the remnants of such activities that date back to the 1800s.
Hiking is the park’s biggest draw with a primitive trail that follows the route of the old railroad.
There used to be bridges across the creek but now to cross you have to wade through fjord the water.
While this is possible it is dangerous in strong waters so it’s best to visit the park between July and September.
Sluice Boxes State Park is at 38 Evans Riceville Rd, Belt, MT 59412.
18- Makoshika State Park
Makoshika State Park is Montana’s largest state park.
You will find this park close to the Yellowstone River in the city of Glendive in eastern Montana.
This park features the badland formations and is a wonderful site for any dinosaur enthusiasts to visit.
The landscape is filled with pine and juniper badland formations which are interesting to see.
The fossil remains of a tyrannosaurus and a triceratops can be viewed at the park’s visitor centre.
You can also look at the interpretive displays to learn more about the badlands.
You can take many scenic drives in the park, hike the nature trails and even try your hand at archery.
There is also a 15-site campground and group shelter for outdoor gatherings.
Makoshika State Park is at 1301 Snyder St, Glendive, MT 59330.
19- Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park
Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is on the outskirts of Anaconda in western Montana.
This is an unusual and unique state park and one worth visiting if you are in the area.
As soon as you approach the park you will see the main attraction.
The old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack was constructed in 1919 and is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world.
Today it feels quite at odds with its hill surroundings but it’s quite a strange structure to see!
The structure is 585 feet tall and to compare it the Washington Monument is only 555 feet tall.
You can photograph the stack from a distance and read the interpretive signs dotted around the park to learn more about the copper company.
Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is at 100 Anaconda Smelter Rd, Anaconda, MT 59711.
20- Beaverhead Rock State Park
Beaverhead Rock State Park is 13 miles outside of Twin Bridges in Western Montana.
Described as looking like the head of a swimming beaver (you will either see it or you won’t) this rock is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
According to historical records a Shoshone Indian lady from the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1805) recognised the rock as being close to the lands of her relatives.
If the expedition group could find Native people maybe they would be able to acquire horses from them for their trip across the mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
It is a nice area to photograph and there are interpretive signs as you wander along the paths.
Though you cannot get too close to the rock because it’s protected, the views are still impressive.
Beaverhead Rock State Park is at 62 Beaverhead Rock Rd, Twin Bridges, MT 59754.
For more amazing US state parks to visit, read:
- 13 North Dakota State Parks
- 7 South Dakota State Parks
- 20 Illinois State Parks
- 20 Texas State Parks
- 20 Colorado State Parks
- 20 Florida State Parks
- 20 Florida Keys State Parks
- 20 Arizona State Parks
- 20 Indiana State Parks
- 20 Minnesota State Parks
- 20 Connecticut State Parks
- 20 Washington State Parks
- 20 West Virginia State Parks
- 20 Michigan State Parks
- 20 Ohio State Parks
- 20 Oregon State Parks
- 20 New Mexico State Parks
- 20 Kentucky State Parks
- 17 Nebraska State Parks
- 20 Montana State Parks
- 20 Mississippi State Parks
- 20 Delaware State Parks
- 20 Rhode Island State Parks
- 20 Maine State Parks
- 21 Massachusetts State Parks
- 20 New Hampshire State Parks
- 20 New Jersey State Parks
- 20 Iowa State Parks
- 20 NC State Parks
- 20 Maryland State Parks
- 20 Nevada State Parks
- 20 Kansas State Parks
- 20 Arkansas State Parks
- 20 Wisconsin State Parks
- 20 South Carolina State Parks
- 20 Tennessee State Parks
- 20 Georgia State Parks
- 20 Hawaii State Parks
- 20 Virginia State Parks
- 20 Missouri State Parks
- 20 Oklahoma State Parks
- 20 Utah State Parks
- 20 Idaho State Parks
- 20 Louisiana State Parks
- 20 Vermont State Parks
- 20 Wyoming State Parks
- 20 Pennsylvania State Parks