What Is Montana Known For?

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Few states in the United States evoke images of roaming American Bison, cattle-herding cowboys and wide open plains quite like the great state of Montana, affectionately nicknamed the “Treasure State” and “Big Sky Country”. Despite being one of the largest states in the nation in terms of sheer size, Montana boasts one of the smallest populations of any state in the nation, which gives one the feeling of being on the frontier when travelling through most of this expansive border state.

Montana was founded and named by Spanish explorers and attracted a lot of attention during the mid-1800s following the discovery of gold and silver, leading to the settlement of the Montana Territory and the establishment of what is today one of the most natural resource-rich parts of the United States. Despite its rugged frontier appearance, Montana also possesses a cosmopolitan side, which is best experienced in cities such as Helena and Billings where travellers can come across grand cultural attractions and a range of historic landmarks detailing the state’s colourful history.

What is Montana known for?

Plan Your Trip

best car rental

Rent A Car – Find the best car rental rates at Discover Cars. They compare car hire companies to provide you with the best deal.

Find A Hotel – If you’re curious about this article and are looking for somewhere to stay, take a look at these amazing hotels.

Top Tours

Guided Horseback Trek through Blue Flower Trail
Horse riding and cowboy culture are what Montana is known for.

1- Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is what Montana is known for.

Few attractions in the United States can match the aura and grandeur of Yellowstone National Park, the flagship destination and the crown jewel of the United States National Park Service.

Yellowstone became the world’s first national park when it was declared as such in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant and boasts a staggering 2.2 million acres (890 308 ha), making the Yellowstone National Park larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware put together.

Even though only 3% of the park lies within the borders of Montana, Yellowstone National Park’s nature trails, majestic scenery and iconic geysers make it the single biggest outdoor attraction in the Treasure State.

Recommended tours:

2- Abundant Wildlife

North American Buffalo Grazing
Bison is the wildlife Montana is most known for.

Known affectionately as “Big Sky Country”, the state of Montana is perhaps as wild and untamed as it gets in the continental United States, with bears, wolverines, elk, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and moose all thriving in the Montana wilderness.

The state’s large open areas and sparsely populated cities make it easy to spot wildlife, even near Montana’s large urban areas, with regular sightings of deer, moose and even black bears roaming the streets of Montana cities such as Helena and Billings.

When it comes to Montana wildlife, few animals are as majestic and as symbolic of the Great Plains and the Treasure State as a whole as the American Bison, which can be spotted roaming throughout Montana much like they did during the early 1800s.

Recommended tour: Flathead Lake and Bison Range Scenic Driving Tour

3- Yogo Sapphires

While Montana garnered international notoriety following the discovery of the state’s vast natural gas and oil deposits during the 19th century, it’s sapphires, specifically Yogo sapphires, that are arguably the state’s most eye-catching mineral resource.

Montana produces the most gem-quality sapphires of any other state, province or territory in North America, with cornflower blue Yogo sapphires the most valuable and desired of the lot.

Yogo sapphires refer to the deep blue sapphires unearthed in the Yogo Gulch in Judith Basin County in central Montana, with several genuine Yogo sapphires included in the Smithsonian Institution’s gem collection.

First discovered during the late 19th century, Yogo sapphires can be purchased at select rock stores and gift shops throughout Montana and are a beautiful part of the Treasure State to keep as a memento or gift to someone special.

4- The Bighorn Mountains

Straddling the border between Montana and Wyoming, the Bighorn Mountains are renowned for their stunning glacial peaks, rugged beauty and spectacular scenic byways and roadways.

The mountains are considered to be a sister range of the Rocky Mountains and are widely regarded as an outdoor recreational space of choice for many avid outdoorsmen thanks to the Bighorn Mountains’ bountiful fishing, hunting, hiking and camping spots.

Littered with many memorable places to visit and breathtaking vistas to take in, the Bighorn Mountains are a truly iconic natural feature of the Treasure State and are home to both the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark and the Bighorn Scenic Byway.

5- Birthplace of Evel Knievel

Born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Montana on October 17, 1938, the legendary American stunt performer and daredevil known as Evel Knievel is perhaps the most famous former Montanan to come out of the Treasure State.

Raised by his grandparents, Knievel dropped out of high school to work in the Montana copper mines, where he was fired for allegedly causing a city-wide power outage before turning to doing stunts at local rodeos and ski jumping events.

Knievel gained legendary status throughout the United States when he attempted to jump the fountains at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on December 31, 1967, before ultimately setting his sights on jumping the Snake River Canyon while strapped in a rocket-powered motorcycle in 1974.

Evel Knievel remains one of the greatest daredevils the world has ever seen and is proudly claimed by Montanans as one of their own, with Butte being his final resting place since his passing in 2007.

6- Montana’s Large Gas, Gold, Copper and Oil Deposits

The Montana State Flag Waving
What is Montana known for?

Even though Yogo sapphires might steal the show when it comes to Montana’s glitziest natural resource, it’s natural gas, oil, gold, silver and copper which have firmly placed the state on the radar economically during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Following the discovery of gold along Montana’s Grasshopper Creek, the region experienced an influx of gold prospectors virtually overnight, which culminated in then-President Abraham Lincoln officially recognising Montana as an independent territory in 1864.

Since then, large deposits of other rare and valuable natural resources have been discovered throughout Montana’s sparsely-populated landscapes, most notably oil and gas, which have propelled Montana to become among the largest producers of crude oil and natural gas in the United States.

Employing more than 12,000 Montanans and responsible for the settlement of cities such as Helena and Billings, oil, gas, gold, silver and copper are as synonymous with the Treasure State as any other feature and have been instrumental in shaping Montana into the prosperous state it is today.

7- More Bookstores Per Capita Than Any Other State

With a permanent population of roughly 1.1 million people, Montana is among the least-populated states in the United States, however, despite this, Montana remains home to a surprisingly large amount of bookstores.

In fact, with about one bookstore for every 15,700 Montanans, the Treasure State claims the title as the state with the most bookstores per capita in the nation, with more than half of those bookstores in Montana recognised as independent bookstores.

8- The Largest Landlocked State in The United States

Bordered by Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana is the largest landlocked state in the United States, boasting a total land area larger than the size of Japan.

The state is sandwiched up against the US-Canadian border and is the fourth-largest state in the nation, coming in behind Alaska, Texas and California.

Montana was initially part of the Idaho Territory before being declared an independent territory by Abraham Lincoln after the discovery of gold and silver, which enabled the Treasure State to develop economically without direct access to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River or the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Renowned for its vast open plains, Rocky Mountain peaks and stunning wildlife, Montana is among the most popular destinations in the United States for nature lovers and all-around outdoor fun, proving that you don’t need coastlines or beaches to enjoy the great outdoors.

9- Flathead Cherries

Flourishing in Montana’s climate of warm days and cool nights, Flathead cherries are among the state’s biggest agricultural exports, with Flathead cherries used in a wide variety of homemade pies, jams and other dessert treats.

This specific cherry variety gets its name from the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana where virtually all of Montana’s Flathead cherries are produced during peak cherry season between July and August.

Flathead cherries can be purchased at farmers’ markets and select grocery stores throughout Montana and remains one of the Treasure State’s most popular fruits, especially among born and bred Montanans who grew up with Flathead cherries.

10- Extreme Temperature Changes

Boasting warm summers and cold winters, Montana’s climate is usually quite unpredictable, so much so that between January 14th and January 15th in 1972, the town of Loma, Montana, set a world record for the largest temperature change in 24 hours or less.

Between 9 a.m. on the 14th and 8 a.m. on the 15th, the temperature in Loma changed from -54°F (- 48°C) to 49°F (9°C), a shift of more than 103°F (57°C) within the space of 23 hours.

The record temperature swing set a world record that still stands to this day more than 50 years later and is one of many quirky facts which make Montana such an interesting destination worth visiting.

11- Helena

Helena City Pin On The Map
Helena is one of the cities Montana is known for.

The city of Helena might not be the most populous in the state of Montana, but it is the Treasure State’s official state capital, making it by default the most important metro in Montana.

Helena is situated in central Montana and was initially settled by gold prospectors during the Montana gold rush of 1864, which helped Helena become one of the wealthiest cities in the United States during the 1880s.

Home to top-notch Montana tourist attractions such as the Montana State Capitol, the Original Governor’s Mansion and Mount Helena, the Treasure State’s capital city is among the few large metro areas in Montana and a true cultural and historic gem in the state.

Recommended tour: Helena Scavenger Hunt: Royal Sights Of The Queen City!

12- Cowboy Culture

Ranching and cowboy culture is what the state of Montana is known for.

Very much still a state that’s on the frontier, Montana is like a time capsule of sorts where travellers can experience the traditional cowboy culture of the American West much as it was during the 1800s.

Ranch life is alive and well throughout Montana and has been popularised in countless pop culture references, films and TV series, with rodeos, cattle herding and Native American culture on tap virtually throughout Montana.

Montana’s cowboy culture and Wild West legacy make the state a popular spot to experience a fascinating, albeit romanticised version of the American West and is among the most popular tourist boons in the Treasure State.

Recommended tours:

13- Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Montana
Glacier National Park is what Montana is known for.

Nestled along the Rocky Mountains of Montana is Glacier National Park, a massive cross-country wilderness area that covers an area of more than 1 million acres (404,686 ha).

The park straddles the US-Canadian border in northwest Montana and boasts two distinct mountain ranges, roughly 130 named lakes and thousands of unique plant and animal species.

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is among the greatest natural attractions in North America and is the home of the famed Going-to-the-Sun-Road, a 50-mile-long (80 km) scenic roadway which crosses the continental divide at a maximum elevation of over 6,640 feet (2,024 m) above sea level.

Recommended tour: West Glacier and Polebridge Scenic Driving Tour

14- Big Sky Resort

When winter comes rolling through Montana, the state is transformed into a snowy outdoor wonderland that opens up the Treasure State to world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities.

Countless ski resorts dot the state of Montana, yet none quite match the size, fame and powder quality of the Big Sky Resort, the second-largest ski resort in the entire United States.

The Big Sky Resort is situated roughly an hour’s drive south of central Bozeman and treats skiers and snowboarders to more than 5 800 acres (2 347 ha) of total skiable area, with ski slopes of varying degrees of difficulty.

Skiing and snowboarding are not the only wintertime activities on offer along the slopes of the Big Sky Resort, with snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledging and snowmobiling all popular outdoor activities visitors to the resort can partake in.

Recommended tour: Big Sky Premium Ski Rental Including Delivery

15- Huckleberries

Handful Of Huckleberries
Huckleberries is a fruit Montana is known for.

Not to be outdone by Montana’s other popular berry variety, Huckleberries are a tried and tested Montana fruit delicacy which is widely cultivated and enjoyed throughout the Pacific Northwest.

North Americans were the first people to pick Huckleberries in what is today modern-day Montana, with wild Huckleberries found throughout the national parks and ski slopes of western Montana.

The Huckleberry’s “Vaccinium” variety is native to Montana and is commonly enjoyed in a variety of pies, jams and other sweet dessert treats throughout the Treasure State.

State Of Montana Location

You may also be interested in:

Previous articleNew York City In Winter
Next articleWhat Is Nebraska Known For?
cropped mark westwood.jpg
Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.