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'''Montana''' [http://visitmt.com/] is a state in the northern/northwestern [[United States]], in the [[Rocky Mountains (United States of America)|Rocky Mountains]] region. Often called Big Sky Country for its famed big, blue skies, Montana is a state of contrasts, from the flat regions to the East and the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the West. [[Helena]] is the state Capital of Montana, [[Billings]] is the largest city, and [[Missoula]] is the second largest city. Major airports serve the seven largest communities, which in addition to the three cities listed in include [[Great Falls]], [[Butte]], [[Bozeman]] and [[Kalispell]]. Regional carriers serve some smaller communities.
* [[Helena]] — the state capital.
* [[Billings]] — on the plains within sight of the mountains, most populated city in Montana.
* [[Bozeman]] — gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
* [[Butte]] — former mining town, once the largest city between Chicago and Seattle, famous for the Berkley Pit, the largest Superfund site in the nation.
* [[Great Falls (Montana)|Great Falls]] — The Electric City.
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* [[Big Sky]]
* [[Cut Bank]] — On the plains, but in the same county as and eastern gateway to Glacier National Park (45 minutes west); 90 miles from Lethbridge, Alberta.
* [[Polson]] small lakeside town building a skatepark-- thanks in part to the Tony Hawk Foundation.
* [[Red Lodge]]
* [[Three Forks]]
* [[Virginia City]] — old style Wild West town, scene for a number of movies.
* [[Dillon]] — Small rural town in Southwest Montana
* [[Sun River]] — Russell Country
* [[Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area]]
* [[Glacier National Park]]
* Pompey's Pillar National Monument Large Rock where Captain Clark of Lewis and Clark signed his name (as the Expedition had split to cover more ground).* Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Custer's Last Stand battlefield and Reenactment location
*[[Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail]] - Between May 1804 and September 1806, 32 men, one woman, and a baby traveled from the plains of the Midwest to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. They called themselves the Corps of Discovery.
* [[Yellowstone National Park]] — Majority located within Wyoming, however three entrances to the park are located in Montana.
:* [[Livingston (Montana)|Livingston]] — The ''Park County'' seat; at the turnoff to Yellowstone National Park.
:* [[Gardiner]] — The original and only all year entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
:* [[Cooke City]] — Near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
:* [[Silver Gate]] — Near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Montana is the 4th largest state by land mass in the United States at 145,552 square miles, however the state ranks 44th in population with just
Residents of Montana often classify themselves as either easterners or westerners, depending upon their geographic home. The west is often considered more picturesque, but is also more populated and heavily touristed. The eastern half of the state is more sparsely populated, with low lying plains, bluffs and cliffs. Attitude-wise, the west is generally considered more liberal, while the east, with its large ranching and agricultural operations, is considered more conservative.
Most visitors to Montana will drive, however the state is easily accessible by air. Some major points of entry are Billings (BIL), Missoula (MSO), Helena (HLN), Great Falls (GTF), Bozeman (BZN) and Kalispell (FCA).
A pretty popular and creative way is Amtrak's legendary '''[[Empire Builder]]'''. The train has 12 stops in Montana (from east to west: Wolf Point, Glasgow, Malta, Havre, Shelby, [[Cut Bank]], Browning/Oct-1 thru May 1, East Glacier/May 1 thru Oct. 1, Essex, West Glacier, [[Whitefish]], Libby), and takes passengers to Seattle
Service to and from major hubs (such as Seattle, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Denver) continues from airports at Billings, Belgrade(Bozeman), Butte, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, and Kalispell.
*Powder River Trailways, 800-442-3682, offers limited tour routes throughout the state.
*Rimrock Trailways, 800-255-7655 offers limited tour routes throughout the state.
*'''I-15''' runs north-south from Alberta, Canada through Western Montana to Idaho.
*'''I-90''' runs north from Sheridan, Wyoming to near Billings then runs west through Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula to Idaho.
A few US Highways provide mainline travel through interesting areas of the state.
*'''Whitewater Rafting''' - many Montana rivers,
*'''Boating''' - bring your powerboat, canoe, kayak or schooner and find a lake, river or stream to wile away the day. Kayak and canoe rentals are widely available.
*'''Floating''' - a unique Montana experience. Rent inner tubes, take a cooler of beer and float a river with a few, or a bunch, of your closest friends on a hot day. Pick a river that's wide and slow, or fast with rapids, and enjoy the view from a cool Montana waterway.
*'''Fly fishing''' -
*'''Skiing/snowboarding''' - Montana has two large resort ski areas, Big Sky and Big Mountain, as well as smaller local hills. Check individual websites for current conditions and pricing. The mountains usually open around mid-late December and remain open into April, sometimes May. There are also options for backcountry and heli-skiing.
:*Big Sky [http://www.bigskyresort.com/] - This is a large resort area located 45 minutes south of Bozeman. This has two mountains, lots of lifts, including "The Tram," a gondola to the top of Lone Peak. Pick a clear day for an unparalleled view of the Spanish Peaks and incredible expert skiing. Winter and summer resort activities available.
:*Moonlight Basin [http://www.moonlightbasin.com]
:*Red Lodge Mountain Resort
:*Yellowstone Club - A private ski and golf community located next to Big Sky.
For a state generally associated with cattle chomping green grass underneath big blue skies, Montana has quite a bit to offer outside of meat and potatoes. Within cities and settled areas you should find a good variety of the ubiquitous fast food drive
In rural areas, however, your selection may be much more limited. Every small town will have at least one eatery, even if it's a cafe stuffed in the corner of a post office, or a burger joint in the back of the town bar. Quality will vary, of course, but the experience might stick with you. If you are looking for meat and potatoes, look no further than the local cafe, diner or steakhouse. The beef will be fresh, most often locally raised and slaughtered, and cooked however you want it
For local flavor and distinctly Montana eateries, try the Staggering Ox [http://www.staggeringox.com], with locations in Helena and Missoula, or MacKenzie River Pizza Co [http://www.mackenzieriverpizza.com], with locations in Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, Belgrade, Whitefish and Butte. The Pickle Barrel [http://www.picklebarrelmt.com] is excellent and famous for sub sandwiches with the original location in Bozeman, other locations in Great Falls, Livingston, and Billings.
During the summer months, primarily late June, July and early August, look for huckleberries and famous Flathead cherries at farmers markets and roadside stands throughout Western Montana. If you're looking for adventure, ask a local a good place to go pick your own huckleberries -- but beware, they may keep it a closely guarded secret and take some bear spray, they love the treat, too.
Montanans, as a general rule, love their beer. Increasingly, Montanans love their microbrews, especially those brewed locally. Some famous microbrews are brewed in Montana, including Moose Drool, a brown ale brewed by Big Sky Brewing Co. [http://www.bigskybrew.com/] and the best selling microbrew outside and inside of the state.
Outside of microbrews, domestic favorites vary from Coors to Budweiser, with light varieties in between. Bars good for bar hopping can be found in the downtown districts of most cities, especially [[Missoula]], [[Billings]] and [[Bozeman]], and they're generally a good
Montana is safer than most when it comes to violent and personal crime, but the state still suffers from one of the highest highway and road death rates in the country. Long distance travel over great amounts of time resulting in fatigue, hazardous winter road conditions, distances from emergency services, and alcohol consumption frequently contribute to the high number of deaths on Montana's highways yearly.
If you do find yourself stranded in winter conditions,
There is a lot of wildlife around the state, including deer, elk, moose, bears, buffalo, and coyotes.
Outside of environmental and road hazards, use common sense, and you should be fine.
Montanans treasure their state, loving it for the recreational opportunities, wide open spaces, and the friendly nature of their neighbors. They, in general, welcome tourists and travellers, and will be glad to let you in on cool places to go, the best hike to take, or their favorite fishing hole.
Be advised, however, that any disrespect of land and nature will not be tolerated. When enjoying everything Montana has to offer, please respect the lands, waterways and wildlife by following common sense. Don't litter, pollute or otherwise upset the landscape any more than you must, and though it is a cliche, do not feed the wildlife.
* '''[[Wyoming]]''' - Most of [[Yellowstone National Park]] is in Montana's southern neighbor, so you'll obviously not just want to visit the small section that's in Montana.
* '''[[Idaho]]''' - Montana's western neighbor is a rugged state, with snow-capped mountains, whitewater rivers, forests, high desert, and plenty of wilderness.
* '''[[British Columbia]]''' - Crossing the state's northwestern border into Canada leads into the mountainous terrain of southeastern British Columbia.
* '''[[Alberta]]''' - This Canadian province is located to the north of Montana and offers everything from the beauty of the Rockies to the serene flatness of prairie to the wilderness of the northern forests.
* '''[[Saskatchewan]]''' - Located to the northeast of Montana, the southern portion of Saskatchewan is predominantly prairie (with a reputation for being very flat) known for its seemingly endless fields of wheat.