Aptly named ‘Big Sky Country,’ Montana is defined by its spectacularly beautiful and incredibly diverse terrain which ranges from the rugged Rocky Mountains to the endless Great Plains. The state is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes, national reserves and parks in the country, including Glacier National Park. The world-renowned park is home to tranquil lakes, snow-capped peaks, and alpine hiking trails, along with the famous 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road.
1.Medicine Rocks State Park
© Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
Medicine Rocks State Park is a state park and recreation area named for a series of tall sandstone pillars with eerie undulations, holes, and tunnels in them known as the ‘Medicine Rocks.’ Owned by the state of Montana, the park is 330 acres and 3,379 feet in elevation and features numerous examples of Native American rock art. Considered a sacred holy place by Plains Indians, tribes once came here in search of food and medicinal plants to use in their vision quests. The site boasts chained and isolated arches, and caves and spires reaching 80 feet high and 200 feet across, along with thousands of ancient tribal petroglyphs, inscriptions of elk, cattle brands, and military mentions, a famous profile of a woman with a flower beside a bird, and signatures of cowpunchers. Medicine Rocks State Park is open year-round, and there are 12 camping sites and a museum located nearby in Ekalaka.
1141 MT-7, Ekalaka, MT 59324, Phone: 406-377-6256
2.Pictograph Cave State Park
Pictograph Cave State Park is a 23-acre state park and reserve with three caves featuring pictographs that are over 2,000 years old. Located five miles south of Billings in Montana, the park was excavated in 1937, and the pictographs were discovered, along with more than 30,000 artifacts and over 20,000 animal remains, ranging from large mammalian species to reptiles, amphibians, and birds. The deepest of the three caves, Pictograph Cave spans 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep and still has visible pictographs that document the story of the Native Americans of the area for thousands of years thought to be between 200 and 2,100 years old. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark and featured paved trails to the caves, with interpretative and informative displays detailing the prehistoric paintings, natural features, and fauna and flora found in the area.
3401 Coburn Rd, Billings, MT 59101
3.Pirogue Island State Park
Pirogue Island State Park is a state park and public recreation area on the Yellowstone River with more than 2.5 miles of designated hiking trails. Located just north of Miles City, the 269-acre state park has no formal development but offers excellent hiking with interpretive signs along the trails within the park. The park is situated on an isolated, cottonwood-covered Yellowstone River island that is home to a wealth of wildlife and a wide variety of bird species including belted kingfishers, bald eagles, passerines, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Activities in the park include boating, fishing, picnicking, bird-watching, wildlife viewing, and seasonal hunting.
Miles City, MT 59301, Phone: 406-377-6256
4.Sluice Boxes State Park
Sluice Boxes State Park is a state park and public recreation area in the Little Belt Mountains of Montana with spectacular landscapes of towering cliffs, dramatic ledges, and deep canyons. Located 12 miles south of Belt on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway, the park consists of eight miles of the Belt Creek Canyon, which features the remains of the area's mining and railroading days. The Barker mines and the Montana Central Railroad are just a part of the rich history of Sluice Boxes State Park. Activities in the park include hiking, backcountry camping, picnicking, fishing, bird and wildlife watching, photography, and swimming.
38 Evans Riceville Rd, Belt, MT 59412, Phone: 406-454-5840
5.Tongue River Reservoir State Park
Tongue River Reservoir State Park is a state park and public recreation area on the western shore of the 12-mile-long Tongue River Reservoir a few miles north of Decker. Surrounded by the vast open prairies and densely forested canyons of southeastern Montana, the 642-acre park boasts breathtaking landscapes and offers an array of outdoor and recreational activities, ranging from boating, fishing, and swimming to camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing.. The park also offers camping with electrical hookups, and there is a golf course, and two museums are located nearby in Sheridan.
Decker, MT 59025, Phone: 406-757-2298
6.Travelers' Rest State Park
Located at a historic and contemporary crossroads that was once a stopping point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Travelers' Rest State Park and National Historic Landmark take visitors back to a time of exploration. Located about one mile south of Lolo, the park is at the core of a campsite that was once used by the Corps of Discovery in the early 1800s and gives visitors the chance to walk in the footsteps of the two great pioneers, Lewis and Clark. Native Americans used the area as a campsite and trail junction for centuries, and today, storytellers bring their history alive as part of the programming at Travelers' Rest State Park. Travelers' Rest State Park and National Historic Landmark is home to a wealth of birds and wildlife and provides excellent hiking within the park boundaries. The park has a Visitor's Center and Museum which features exhibits of Native American handcrafts, Lewis & Clark Expedition replicas, a frontier Main Street, and Salish culture.
6717 US-12, Lolo, MT 59847
7.Wild Horse Island State Park
Wild Horse Island is the largest island in the vast Flathead Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in Montana. The island was used by the Salish-Kootenai for centuries to pasture their horses and protect them from being stolen. The 2,164 acre-island was part of the Flathead Indian Reservation from 1872 to 1904 when unsuccessful attempts were made for agricultural development. Today, the island's scenic shoreline offers a wealth of activities ranging from boating, fishing, bird-watching, wildlife watching, sail boating, and swimming. The park is home to a range of birds and wildlife including bighorn sheep, wild horses, mule deer, bald eagles, songbirds, falcons, and waterfowl.
490 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, Phone: 406-752-5501
8.Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area straddles the border between Wyoming and Montana and has four historic ranches within its boundaries, namely the L Slash Heart Ranch, the Mason-Lovell Ranch, the Cedarvale Ranch, and the Ewing-Snell Ranch. Established by an act of Congress in 1966, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is home to the Yellowtail Dam, which harnesses the waters of the Bighorn River and offers a range of outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, bird and wildlife viewing. The park is also home to nearly one-quarter of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range and provides excellent hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Fort Smith, MT 59035, Phone: 406-666-2412
9.Big Hole National Battlefield
The Big Hole National Battlefield is a 1,010.61-acre park is located 10 miles west of Wisdom and commemorates the Battle of the Big Hole, where the Nez Perce fought a five-month conflict of delaying action on the site against the 7th Infantry Regiment of the United States in 1877, during their failed attempt to escape to Canada. Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial to the people who fought and died in the battle and visitors can take a step back in time at the Visitor’s Center which overlooks the battlefield and features a 26-minute video program and a gallery of photographs, quotations and personal belongings of some of the battle participants. Self-guiding trails lead to points of interest on the Battlefield, the Howitzer Capture site, the Siege Area, and the Nez Perce Camp. Ranger-conducted programs are offered in summer, along with year-round introductory presentations and exhibits.
16425 Highway 43 West, Wisdom, MT 59761, Phone: 406-689-3155
10.Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a vast national park that rests on the United States-Canada border, encompassing over 1 million acres, two mountain ranges, over 130 lakes, and thousands of plant and animals species. This natural wonderland is at the center of what is referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem" and is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with a range of recreational activities to enjoy, from hiking, biking, mountain climbing, and wildlife watching. The Park is home to the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering marvel that spans 50 miles through the park's wild interior, and boasting some of the most spectacular sights and views in Montana. Other unique locations to explore in the Park include the Goat Haunt, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier, where visitors can discover Native American history, historical homesteading sites, and soak up spectacular natural landscapes. Glacier National Park is open every day of the year.
West Glacier, MT, Phone: 406-888-7800
11.Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
© NPS Photo
The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site preserves these symbols and commemorates the role of cattlemen in American history. Established in 1972 along the banks of the Clark Fork River at Cottonwood Creek by a Canadian fur trader, Johnny Grant, the park commemorates the Western cattle industry. Once the headquarters of a 10-million-acre cattle empire, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is still a 1,500-acre ranch working ranch with rangers emulating early ranch life by tending cattle, taking care of horses and equipment, and mending fences. Visitors can tour several ranch buildings, including the bunkhouses where cowboys and ranch hands lived, and the handsome ranch house where the ranch owners stayed.
266 Warren Ln, Deer Lodge, MT 59722, Phone: 406-846-2070
12.Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument stands as a memorial to the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, one of the most famous battles in American history. The Monument stands as a testament and memorial to both the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry who were led by General Custer and the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes who fought to preserve their traditional way of life. The National Monument is also home to the Custer National Cemetery, where thousands of soldiers who fell in the battle rest in eternity, as well as the site of military action led by Frederick Benteen and Marcus Reno. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is open year-round.
756 Battlefield Tour Rd, Crow Agency, Montana 59022, Phone: 406-638-2621
13.Nez Perce National Historical Park
© James Mattil/stock.adobe.com
The Nez Perce National Historical Park is a national historical park that is made up of 38 different sites and spans four states, namely Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Established in 1965, the sections include traditional aboriginal lands of the Nez Perce people, who lived on the property for thousands of years and were pursued by U.S. Army cavalry forces, fighting numerous battles against them. The park headquarters are based Spalding, Idaho, and a museum was opened here in 1983. The 38 sites of the Nez Perce National Historical Park commemorate the culture and the history of the Nimiipuu and their interaction with the pioneers, farmers, fur traders, explorers, missionaries, and settlers who moved through the area.
39063 US Hwy 95, Lapwai, ID 83540-9715, Phone: 208-843-7009
14.Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a world-renowned wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot that spans for more than 3,500-square miles across three states and features spectacular natural scenery made up of hot springs and gushing geysers, lush forests and alpine rivers, majestic mountains, and dramatic canyons. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1872 as the first national park in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site today, the park is home to the famous gushing geysers known as Old Faithful, as well as a wealth of fauna and flora, ranging from bears and wolves to elk, bison, and moose.
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168, Phone: 307-344-7381
15.Ackley Lake State Park
Nestled deep in the heart of Montana's Big Sky Country surrounded by the Little Belt Mountains and Snowy Mountains, Ackley Lake State Park is a 290-acre state park and public recreation area located four miles southwest of Hobson that is centered around 160-acre Ackley Lake. Captured by the legendary Western artist, Charlie Russell, a hundred years ago, the spectacular landscapes of this park still attract visitors who come to soak up the breathtaking scenery and enjoy a wealth of outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, picnicking and camping. The well-stocked lake is home to rainbow trout which provides excellent fishing and the shoreline 15 campsites and two boat launches.
989 Ackley Lake Rd, Hobson, MT 59452, Phone: 406-727-1212
16.Beaverhead Rock State Park
© Carlos Caetano/stock.adobe.com
Beaverhead Rock State Park is a state park that as established to protect Beaverhead Rock, also known as Point of Rocks, which is a famous rock formation overlooking the Beaverhead River. Located 12 miles south of Twin Bridges in Madison County, the rock formation resembles the head of a beaver and was discovered by a young Shoshone Indian guide traveling with the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Today, the is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is not directly accessible but can be photographed and views from a distance.
62 Beaverhead Rock Road, Twin Bridges, MT 59754, Phone: 406-834-3413
17.Chief Plenty Coups State Park
© Chief Plenty Coups State Park
Situated within the Crow Reservation near the base of the Pryor Mountains, Chief Plenty Coups State Park emcompasses 195 acres on the Crow Indian Reservation. The park is centered around the last chief of the Crow’s log home and store, which stand as historical evidence of the chief's efforts in bringing two cultures together. The property belonged to Chief Plenty Coups, the last tribal Chief of the Apsáalooke people who left his home and property to the people of the region. The park is home to the only museum of Apsáalooke culture in the country, along with a memorial to Plenty Coups and his achievements.
1 Pryor Rd, Pryor, MT 59066, Phone: 406-252-1289
18.Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park
© Natalia Bratslavsky/stock.adobe.com
Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park is Montana’s smallest state park and is located in Jefferson County in southwestern Montana’s Elkhorn Mountains. The park consists of two buildings set on less than an acre of land and is sometimes considered to be a ghost town. The off-the-beaten-path abandoned town is a relic of Montana's silver mining boom, which is highlighted in one of the buildings known as Fraternity Hall. The beautifully preserved wooden building boasts a fusion of Greek Revival and gold camp architecture and features wooden pillars, a neo-classical balcony and a false front common, which was popular among western buildings in the day. Both buildings, Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall, can be viewed year-round and the second floor of Fraternity Hall is open to the public.
Helena, MT 59601, Phone: 406-495-3260
19.First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is a state park and National Historic Landmark near the city of Great Falls in Cascade County. The 1,481-acre park is home to the Ulm Pishkun, or Ulm Buffalo Jump, an ancient buffalo jump (a cliffy area where Native Americans historically used to hunt and kill plains bison in mass quantities) used by many different Native American tribes. First People's Buffalo Jump is one of only three protected buffalo jumps in the state and is the world’s largest buffalo jump. The park features a visitor's center which has displays that describe how buffalo hunts were organized, and a small gallery displaying archeological treasures from the site, including a family of stuffed bison, and a life-size buffalo-hide tipi.
342 Ulm Vaughn Rd, Ulm, MT 59485, Phone: 406-866-2217
20.Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park is a state park and recreation area that is home to the world's largest freshwater spring and the Rainbow Dam. Discovered by the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1805, Giant Springs is famous for its crisp, crystal-clear waters which originate from the Little Belt Mountains and flow from the Madison Aquifer at a rate of 156 million gallons per day. The water remains at a constant 54 degrees year-round, and during the winter the warm vapors form beautiful ice-covered trees around the springs. The park offers a wealth of year-round activities, ranging from hiking, mountain biking, camping and picnicking to boating, fishing, bird-watching and a variety of ranger and educational programs.
4803 Giant Springs Rd, Great Falls, MT 59405, Phone: 406-727-1212
21.Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park
Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park is a state park on the eastern edge of the community of Greycliff that was established to protect and preserve the black-tailed prairie dog. This 98-acre park is home to a large population of black-tailed prairie dogs and offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe the prairie dogs in their natural environment. These small mammals play a vital ecological role as they create patches of habitat that provide prey, shelter, and forage for a diverse variety of other animals, such as black-footed ferrets, burrowing owls, and mountain plovers. The park features interpretive displays that tell the story of the prairie dogs and their role in the prairie ecosystem and the little creatures can be viewed from the parking area.
2300 Lake Elmo Drive, Billings, Montana 59105, Phone: 406-247-2940
22.Hell Creek State Park
Hell Creek State Park is a state park and public recreation area on the south side of Fort Peck Lake that offers a wealth of outdoor and recreational activities. Located 20 miles north of the community of Jordan, the park rests on the Hell Creek Arm of Fort Peck Lake and is surrounded by spectacular natural scenery, which attracts outdoor lovers. The park boasts five camping loops with excellent camping facilities, a boat launch for boat camping in the wild and scenic Missouri Breaks, fishing for walleye, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. Other facilities include a playground, a fish cleaning station, picnic tables, fire rings and grills, and showers and toilet facilities. Hell Creek has five camping loops offering plenty of camping opportunities.
2456 Hell Creek Rd, Jordan, MT 59337, Phone: 406-557-2362
23.Lake Elmo State Park
Lake Elmo State Park is a state park and public recreation area the northeast side of Billings that occupies 123 acres and offers a variety of outdoor and recreational activities. Resting at an elevation of 3,199 feet, the park’s Lake Elmo is ideal for watersports such as leisure boating, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing on one of three beach-front areas. There is also a fishing pier, grassed multi-use areas, a children’s playground, group-use shelters, and fenced-in dog park on the lake's west side. Other activities that can be enjoyed in the park include cross-country skiing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, bird and wildlife-watching.
25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, Phone: 406-287-3541
24.Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is a state park in southeastern Jefferson County that is named for its primary feature – the namesake limestone caverns. Montana's first and best-known state park was established to showcase the spectacular limestone caverns, which are naturally air-conditioned and lined with massive columns, helictites, stalactites, and stalagmites. The park is also home to a new visitor’s center with an amphitheater, a large campground with overnight cabins, a tipi, and showers that are open year-round, picnic areas, and several hiking trails. Amenities and services in the park include mountain biking, fishing, guided and self-guided interpretive nature walks, bird and wildlife watching.
Whitehall, MT 59759, Phone: 406-287-3541
25.Yellow Bay State Park
Yellow Bay State Park is a state park and public recreation area on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake that offers an array of outdoor and recreational activities. Nestled in valleys of sweet cherry orchards in Lake County, the 15-acre park includes Yellow Bay Creek and a broad, stony beach which is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, scuba-diving, pleasure boating, trout fishing, and waterskiing. Day-use areas have picnic tables, pedestal grills, flush toilets, and drinking water, and a boat ramp and dock are available for launching. A golf course can be found nearby in Polson, along with three museums.
490 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, Phone: 406-982-3034
25 Best Montana State & National Parks
- Medicine Rocks State Park, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
- Pictograph Cave State Park, Photo: Jacob/stock.adobe.com
- Pirogue Island State Park, Photo: Pamela/stock.adobe.com
- Sluice Boxes State Park, Photo: PPstock/stock.adobe.com
- Tongue River Reservoir State Park, Photo: LUGOSTOCK/stock.adobe.com
- Travelers' Rest State Park, Photo: GCapture/stock.adobe.com
- Wild Horse Island State Park, Photo: suti/stock.adobe.com
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Photo: Noradoa/stock.adobe.com
- Big Hole National Battlefield, Photo: merrimonc/stock.adobe.com
- Glacier National Park, Photo: ricktravel/stock.adobe.com
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Photo: NPS Photo
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Photo: donyanedomam/stock.adobe.com
- Nez Perce National Historical Park, Photo: James Mattil/stock.adobe.com
- Yellowstone National Park, Photo: blvdone/stock.adobe.com
- Ackley Lake State Park, Photo: glebchik/stock.adobe.com
- Beaverhead Rock State Park, Photo: Carlos Caetano/stock.adobe.com
- Chief Plenty Coups State Park, Photo: Chief Plenty Coups State Park
- Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park, Photo: Natalia Bratslavsky/stock.adobe.com
- First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Photo: Michael/stock.adobe.com
- Giant Springs State Park, Photo: hoshi/stock.adobe.com
- Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park, Photo: wolterke/stock.adobe.com
- Hell Creek State Park, Photo: schankz/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Elmo State Park, Photo: kitty45/stock.adobe.com
- Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Photo: EvanTravels/stock.adobe.com
- Yellow Bay State Park, Photo: nopporn/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: stevengaertner/stock.adobe.com