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Difference between revisions of "Montana"

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* [[Great Falls (Montana)|Great Falls]]
* [[Great Falls (Montana)|Great Falls]]
* [[Helena]] — the state capital.
* [[Helena]] — the state capital.
* [[Hungry Horse (Montana)|Hungry Horse]]
* [[Kalispell]] — gateway to Glacier National Park.
* [[Kalispell]] — gateway to Glacier National Park.
* [[Missoula]] — Montana's second largest city, home to the University of Montana.
* [[Missoula]] — Montana's second largest city, home to the University of Montana.

Revision as of 21:22, 5 December 2006

Montana is a state in the northern/northwestern United States, in the 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.


Montana is generally divided into two main regions: Eastern Montana and Western Montana. The Rocky Mountains separate the smaller western portion from the larger eastern portion. Western Montana is characterized by higher rainfall and more mountains making for some very picturesque scenery such as that found in Glacier National Park. Eastern Montana is flatter and more arid with sandstone buttes and long muddy rivers that add character to the plains.

The state of Montana Official State Travel website [1] splits the state into 6 regions for exploring:


  • 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.
  • Great Falls
  • Helena — the state capital.
  • Hungry Horse
  • Kalispell — gateway to Glacier National Park.
  • Missoula — Montana's second largest city, home to the University of Montana.
  • Big Sky
  • Loma
  • Red Lodge
  • Polson small lakeside town building a skatepark-- thanks in part to the Tony Hawk Foundation.
  • Virginia City — old style Wild West town, scene for a number of movies.
  • Three Forks

Other destinations

  • 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.
  • West Yellowstone — West 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 under a million residents, most of which are clustered around cities and towns. The state features wide open spaces, lonesome highways and dramatic scenery, both to the east and west of the continental divide.

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 and modernized, while the east, with it's large ranching and agricultural operations, is considered more conservative.

The state economy is primarily based on agriculture, ranching, logging and mining as well as tourism.

Get In

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).

Get around

Montana is a large state - a trip via interstate from the far eastern town of Wibaux to the western border town of Mullan, ID is over 700 miles, an estimated 12 hour trip. Because residents must often drive long distances to get from one place to another, they generally love their cars - especially their SUVs and other 4-wheel drive vehicles that do well in the often hazardous winter weather. Visitors can, however get around in other ways.

By Plane

Daily commuter flights from one end of the state to the other, as well as to surrounding areas are available through Big Sky Airlines, affectionally called Big Scare by passengers.

By Bus

  • Greyhound Bus Lines, 800-231-2222, offers services from rural and large cities around Montana, as well as outside the state.
  • 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.

By Car

The easiest and most convienent way to get around Montana will probably always be by car. Destinations are spread wide even within a single city, and within cities, parking is usually ample and cheap, if not free. Rental cars are widely available, and the option to pick up in one city and drop off in another is available, though expensive.

Montana is bisected by three major interstates.

  • I-15 runs north-south from Alberta, Canada to to Idaho in Western Montana.
  • I-90 runs north from Wyoming, then West to Idaho
  • I-94 runs from the North Dakota border West to join with I-90 just east of Billings.

A few US Highways provide mainline travel through interesting areas of the state.

  • Highway 2 - The Hi-Line, a fabled highway running through northern Montana from the North Dakota border near Beinville to the Idaho border near Troy for 666 miles. The highway runs through the plains and prairies east of the continental divide, through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation town of Wolf Point, through Glasgow, Malta, Havre, Shelby and Cut Bank until crossing the continental divide, running the south side of Glacier National Park to Kalispell, Libby and the border.
  • Highway 12 - runs a meandering east to west route from Lolo Pass to the North Dakota border near Baker, through heavily forested, winding roads in the West to the dramatic flats and plains to the East. The highway runs a meandering route from Lolo Pass to Missoula, bisects with I-90, continues on to Helena, then bisects I-94 until just after Miles City, then continues on to the North Dakota border, close to South Dakota.


  • Wildlife - Deer, elk, moose, buffalo, mountain sheep, bears (black, brown, and grizzly), coyotes, wolves (only in Yellowstone), mountain lions, birds of prey, the list goes on.


Montana has a recreational opportunity for every adventure seeker, every season, and every mode of transit -- by land, by boat, by bike or all terain vehicle, there's something to keep you occupied in Montana.


  • Whitewater Rafting - many Montana rivers, espescially in the West, offer world class rapids. Many companies offer float trips of varying degrees of difficulty and length. Rafting on your own is greatly discouraged due to the extreme danger often found in mountain 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 - iconically Montana due to the movie A River Runs Throught It which was filmed along parts of the Blackfoot river in Western Montana, anglers flock to rivers in the late spring and summer months to catch the "big one". Outfitters available for guided trips, or to rent you the gear you'll need. Ask a local for a good spot.

Mountain pursuits

  • Hiking/Backpacking
  • Mountain biking
  • Climbing
  • Off road vehicles
  • Horseback riding

Winter sports

  • 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.
  • Bear Paw
  • Big Mountain
  • Big Sky - 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.
  • Blacktail Mountain
  • Bridger Bowl - 20 minutes north of Bozeman, this is a locals' mountain with 7 lifts. Most of the mountain is intermediate level and above, including "The Ridge," a hikeable area to the top of the mountain and accessing a wide variety of expert terrain.
  • Discovery Basin
  • Great Divide
  • Lookout Pass
  • Lost Trail Powder Mountain
  • Maverick Mountain
  • Montana Snowbowl
  • Moonlight Basin
  • Red Lodge Moutain Resort
  • Showdown, Teton Pass
  • Turner Moutain
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Cross Country Skiing


Montana is now home to some of the best skateparks in the country with some pretty unique features. For directions, descriptions and more information visit Skate Montana

  • Dave Olseth Memorial Skatepark, Whitefish
  • Woodland Skatepark, Kalispell - Built by Dreamland
  • 7th and 7th Skatepark, Polson - Featuring the Helmet, Built by Dreamland
  • MOBASH Skatepark, Missoula - Lit at night and featuring a cradle, Built by Grindline
  • Anaconda Skatepark - Built by Dreamland
  • Dillon Skatepark - The Race Track, Built by Grindline
  • Butte Skatepark - Built by Dreamland
  • Riverside Railyard Skatepark, Great Falls - Built by Grindline
  • Helena Skatepark - Built by Alltec
  • Bozeman Skatepark - Built by Team Pain
  • Billings Skatepark


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 thrus, homey cafes and diners, delis, steakhouses, mexican cantinas, noodle and asian grills and the odd Indian or Sushi restaurant.

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 -- but if you say well done, your server might cry.

For local flavor and distinctly Montana eateries, try the Staggering Ox, with locations in Helena and Missoula, or MacKenzie River Pizza Co, with locations in Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, Bellgrade, Whitefish and Butte. The Pickle Barrel is excellent and famous for sub sandwiches with the original location in Bozeman, other locations in Missoula, 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.


Montanans, as a general rule, love their beer. Increasingly, Montanans love their microbrews, espescially those brewed locally. Some famous microbrews are brewed in Montana, including Moose Drool, a brown ale brewed by Big Sky Brewing Co. and the best selling microbrew outside and inside of the state. Microwbreweries in Missoula, Kalispell, Billings and other cities and towns allow for cheap tasting and filling of a growler -- usually the best bang (or buzz) for your buck.

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, espescially Missoula, Billings and Bozeman, and they're generally a good guage of local color and culture. Outside of large cities, most small towns have at least one bar, and they often serve food of varying quality. A general rule of thumb -- if the town has a post office (the Montanan's definition of a town in rural areas) then there should be a bar or a honky tonk in which you can quench your thirst.

Stay safe

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 and alcohol consumption frequently contribute to the high number of deaths on Montana's highways yearly. This is not to say it's unsafe to drive in Montana -- just beware. If you are unused to driving winding mountain roads or driving in extremely hazardous snow/wind/ice/rain/sleet conditions, do not do so. Wait for the weather to clear -- it may result in a good story, those 12 hours you spent at a truck stop with some friends waiting for a pass to clear.

If you do find yourself stranded in winter conditions, it's important to remember two things -- first, be prepared. Always carry water, snack foods, a small first aid kid including a space blanket and a cell phone, if possible, for emergencies. Although, there is cellphone coverage along most of the highways, but it can be very unreliable in places, especially the numerous mountain passes. Many rural roads have no cellphone coverage, so don't rely on always having quick emergency communication. Second, if you become stranded, stay in you car, turn on your hazard lights, and wait for help.

There is a lot of wildlife around the state, including deer, elk, moose, bears, buffalo, and coyotes. Always remember that these are wild, and do not tolerate people with cameras getting close, much less trying to put their kid on the buffalo. Most animals will avoid humans by our scent or noise, although beware of deer along the roads. When camping, always keep food in your car, or hung from a tall tree. Tents are like tissue paper to a hungry bear.

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.

Get out

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