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15 Best National Parks in Montana (+ State Parks)

Montana is a beautiful state with over 20 options of state and national parks for you to visit. This designated public land is beautiful and filled with hiking, biking, and sightseeing opportunities. I’ve visited several of these parks on my numerous visits to Montana and I’m amazed by the variety each time.

The best national parks in Montana also happen to be some of the best national parks in the entire country, and the same goes for the state parks! Few states have as many state parks as Montana does. Plus, I’ve found that state parks are far less visited than national parks.

The best state parks in Montana are generally more on the western side of the state near Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. If you’re planning a trip to this superb part of America, read on to take a look at this list of must-visit parks in Montana.

15 Must-Visit National and State Parks in Montana

Here are the 15 best national parks and state parks to visit during your next trip to Montana.

1. Glacier National Park (West Glacier, MT)

Spread across 1 million acres, 2 mountain ranges, and home to 130 lakes, Glacier National Park is sure to please any and every outdoor enthusiast. I’ve visited twice and have come nowhere close to covering all of the amazing areas within the park.

Glacier National Park offers activities like hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Plus, it’s here you’ll find the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road which contains some of the best views in the entire state.

Covering a massive area and containing so many diverse landscapes and activities, you can’t go wrong when making a stop at Glacier National Park. Whether you’re traveling with the entire family, some friends, or by yourself.

Location: Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of Montana. The park is approximately 40 miles northeast of Kalispell.

Getting There: You can easily access Glacier National Park by car: By U.S. Highways 2 and 89 and near U.S. Highways 91 and 93. If you’re traveling by plane, you can fly to Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell and drive from there. The Amtrak Empire Builder train line stops year-round at West Glacier.

Things To Do: Hiking, scenic drives and wildlife viewing, camping, fishing.

Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle.

Where to Stay: Glacier National Park offers many accommodation options including hotels, lodges, and cabins. If you want to stay outside of the park, nearby towns like Whitefish and Kalispell have many Airbnb rentals to choose from, such as this cottage in Kalispell.

Best National Parks in Montana

2. Yellowstone National Park (Gardiner and West Yellowstone)

Although most of Yellowstone National Park is located in the state of Wyoming, two of the park’s entrances are located in Montana: The North and West entrances.

Yellowstone is for sure the most diverse national park I have ever visited. It contains big mountains, expansive lakes, geysers, hot springs, canyons, and waterfalls. Not only is the landscape diverse, but the wildlife is too. During my visits to the park, I’ve always seen bison, elk, deer, bear, wolf, and moose.

If you decide to make a stop at Yellowstone, be sure to give yourself plenty of days to explore the iconic stops like Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Location: The west entrance of Yellowstone National Park is located south of Big Sky, MT on Highway 191. The north entrance is located south of Gardiner, MT on Highway 89.

Getting There: You can drive into Yellowstone National Park via Highway 191 or Highway 89. If you’re flying, two close airports are Billings and Bozeman, MT.

Things To Do: Hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, geyser gazing.

Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle.

Where to Stay: Yellowstone National Park offers many lodging options within the park including campsites, cabins, and hotels. If you want to stay outside of the park, there are plenty of Airbnbs to choose from in towns nearby like this condo in West Yellowstone.

3. Big Hole National Battlefield (Wisdom, MT)

Big Hole National Battlefield commemorates the Battle of the Big Hole which occurred in 1877. The battlefield is a memorial to those who fought and died during the 5-month conflict.

Stopping at the visitor’s center takes you back in time as you watch a 26-minute video and observe photographs, quotes, and personal belongings from those who fought.

There are also self-guided trails within the national battlefield that lead to important sites like the Howitzer Capture site, the Siege Area, and the Nez Perce Camp.

Location: Big Hole National Battlefield is located in the southwest part of Montana – just 10 miles west of the town of Wisdom.

Getting There: If you’re driving, head west on Highway 43 for 10 miles from Wisdom, MT. If you decide to fly, the nearest airport is the Bert-Mooney Airport in Butte, MT. A nearby bus station is located in Dillon, MT-75 miles southeast of the park.

Things To Do: Hiking, ranger programs, exploring exhibits.

Entrance Fee: Free

Where to Stay: The nearest town with many accommodations is Dillon, MT. You have many options for Airbnb rentals like this pet-friendly bunkhouse with country views.

Best National Parks in Montana

4. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Fort Smith, MT)

Located between the border of Wyoming and Montana, Bighorn Recreational area offers an escape from the busyness of city life. The park covers 12,000 acres and is full of diverse landscapes including Yellowtail Dam, Bighorn River, and parts of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

If you visit Bighorn Canyon, you can fish in the Bighorn River which is full of famous trout. There are also many historical ranches to explore and information about the indigenous people who came before. The biggest rainbow trout I’ve ever caught came out of the Bighorn Canyon, so it’ll always be a favorite of mine.

If you spend time exploring the hiking trails, you might see some Bighorn rams, mule deer, and possibly black bears. It’s with good reason that 200,000 visitors stop at Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area each year.

Location: Big Horn Canyon National Recreational area is located on the southern border of Montana south of Billings.

Getting There: If you’re driving, you can access the area via I-90 43 miles south of Hardin, Montana. If traveling by plane, the closest airport will be in Billings.

Things To Do: Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking

Entrance Fee: Free

Where to Stay: There isn’t any lodging within the park itself, so the closest town to stay in is Fort Smith. Check out this home you can rent through Airbnb.

5. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (Sidney, MT)

The Fort Union Trading Post is home to one of the most important trading posts in American history. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Tribes exchanged goods such as cloth, blankets, and beads (amongst other things), supposedly worth $100,000 in merchandise.

Visit the Bourgeois Visitor Center to gain an understanding of the history through various exhibits and artifacts.

To get a sense of what life and commerce was like in the 1800s for Native Americans and European Settlers, visit Fort Union Trading Post.

Location: Fort Union Trading Post is located right on the border of Montana and North Dakota and along the shores of the upper Missouri River. The closest town is Sidney, MT.

Getting There: If you are driving by car, you can head 25 miles northeast of Sidney, MT on Highways 200 and 58.

Things To Do: Guided Tours, Indian Art Showcase, and Arts Festivals

Entrance Fee: Free

Where to Stay: Sidney, MT offers several hotel options and is in close proximity to the historical site like this highly rated Best Western.

Best National Parks in Montana

6. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Deer Lodge, MT)

Grant Kohrs Ranch captures the history of true cowboys in the American west. Capturing the life of cattlemen, the historic site simulates what life was like in the late 19th century.

The original Grant Kohrs Ranch was established by a Canadian named Johnny Grant. As you spend time on the property, you can explore ranch buildings, cowboy bunkhouses, and the ranch house where the owners lived.

The estate is still a functioning 1,500-acre ranch with rangers, cattle, and equipment.

Location: Grant Kohrs Ranch is located halfway between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park on I-90. More specially, it is near the town of Deer Lodge, MT.

Getting There: By car, you can take Interstate 90 and the historic site is located on the outskirts of Deer Lodge, MT.

Things To Do: Guided tours or self-guided tours through historical sites

Entrance Fee: Free

Where to Stay: There are no accommodations within the historic site. The closest hotels and accommodations are in Deer Lodge, MT. Consider this quaint renovated cottage in Deer Lodge.

7. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Crow Agency, MT)

This national monument stands as a memorial for one of the most famous battles in American history. The Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne tribes fought hard to preserve their way of living against the U.S.’s 7th Calvary led by General Custer.

The national monument honors and remembers all of the lives lost in the fight in 1976 and contains the Custer National Cemetery where thousands of soldiers are buried.

I made a stop here on my way to Billings and I was pleasantly surprised – learning about General Custer and his impact on the United States was fascinating. They offer several great tours and areas to explore.

Location: Little Bighorn Battlefield is located between the towns of Crow Agency and Garryowen, MT. It is 62 miles southeast of Billings, MT.

Getting There: By car, you can access the national monument by heading south of Crow Agency on I-90, and taking exit 510 for jct. 212 towards the Battlefield Tour road 756. By plane, Billings airport is the closest.

Things To Do: Explore the history and monuments.

Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle

Where to Stay: The best place to stay would be in the surrounding town of Hardin, MT. You can rent this entire home for your trip.

Best National Parks in Montana

8. Nez Perce National Historical Park (Wisdom and Blaine County, MT)

Nez Perce Historical Park was established in 1965 to honor and conserve different sites that were important to Native American tribes. In total, the park has 38 cultural and historical sites spread out over 4 different states.

One of the most prominent tribes the historical park honors is the Nimiipuu people. The park captures the interactions the Nimiipuu people had with pioneers, farmers, traders, explorers, missionaries, and settlers who moved through the area.

The three sites located in the state of Montana commemorate the battles of these native tribes and their effort to protect their land and people.

Location: The entire Nez Perce Historical Park spans 4 different states: Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. In the state of Montana, there are three notable sites located in the park: Big Hole National Battlefield, Canyon Creek, and the Bear Paw Battlefield

Getting There: By car, visitors can access the Nez Perce historical park near Wisdom and Blaine County. By plane, the closest airports are in Butte or Missoula.

Things To Do: Walking, canoeing, visiting historical sites like Big Hole National Battlefield.

Entrance Fee: Free

Where to Stay: The nearest places to stay while visiting Nez Perce are in Wisdom or in Blaine County, MT. You can book this Diamond in the Ruff Cabin in Wisdom, MT.

9. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park (Whitehall, MT)

Lewis and Clark Caverns State park is known to be the home of one of the most impressive limestone caverns in North America. While visiting this state park, you can camp, hike, and explore the geologic wonders that Montana has to offer in its first and most well-known state park 

Before you visit, it’s important to know that cave access is through guided tours only. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the impressive limestone caverns which are full of massive columns, helictites, stalactites, and stalagmites.

Location: The Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is located in the southwest part of the state: 40 miles west of Bozeman MT and close to the town of Whitehall, MT.

Getting There: If you are driving to the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, you’ll head west on I-90 from Bozeman and then take Highway 287 south and Montana Highway 2 east. If flying, the closest airport will be in Bozeman.

Things To Do: Guided cave tours, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, canoeing.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: The park has 40 campsites, a tipi, and three cabins for rent. If you want to stay outside of the park, the closest towns with accommodations are Three Forks and Whitehall. Further, Bozeman is only 40 miles west of the state park. Keep it simple by renting this tiny home in Whitehall, MT.

Best National Parks in Montana

10. Giant Springs State Park (Great Falls, MT)

Giant Springs Park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the country which produces over 156 million gallons of water a day. First discovered and recorded by Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1805, the springs are the perfect place to bring the entire family to explore the natural wonder.

Located just outside of Great Falls, MT, the state park has so much to offer including hiking, biking, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking. You can spend time listening to the cascading water, visit the fish hatchery, or enjoy the 30 miles of paved and single-track dirt trails.

Location: Giant Springs State Park is located very near Great Falls, MT. This is in the north-central part of the state.

Getting There: Giant Springs is just 5 miles east of Great Falls, MT. From Great Falls, you take River Drive N to get to the state park. If you’re flying, Great Falls has its own airport.

Things To Do: Hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: The state park is day use only so there aren’t any accommodations within the park, however, Great Falls, MT is only 5 miles away and has many options for your stay including hotels and Airbnbs like this charming bungalow in Great Falls.

11. Sluice Boxes State Park (Belt, MT)

Sluice Boxes State Park is known for its towering cliffs, ledges, and deep canyons. The rugged area contains the remains of mines, a railroad, and historic cabins all along Belt Creek.

Sluice Boxes State Park has an unmaintained trail that offers visitors access to fishing, floating, and wildlife viewing. It’s advised to use caution around the rugged terrain and steep cliffs – watch your step!

Location: Sluice Boxes State Park is located along Belt Creek which is south of Belt, MT. It is also 45 minutes south of Great Falls, MT.

Getting There: By car, visitors can access Sluice Boxes State Park by heading south out of Belt MT or Great Falls MT on Highway 89.

Things To Do: Hiking, camping, fishing, rafting, swimming, wildlife watching.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: If you want to camp in Sluice Boxes State Park, a backcountry camping permit is required which you can attain by contacting FWP headquarters in Great Falls, MT. For further accommodations, the best options will be in Great Falls – just 45 minutes north of the state park. Check out this charming and cozy Airbnb in Great Falls.

Best National Parks in Montana

12. Pictograph Cave State Park (Billings, MT)

Pictograph Cave State Park was established in 1964 as a National Historic Landmark because of its rich history and archeological features. If you want to explore the origins of human habitation in the state of Montana, this state park is for you.

The park is home to three main caves: Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost Cave which feature pictographs of animals, warriors, and rifles. The state park is home to around 30,000 artifacts like stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments used.

The state park is also home to a loop trail that connects the caves and shares additional information via displays. It’s encouraged to bring binoculars with you to get a better view of the rock art.

Location: Pictograph Cave State Park is located 5 miles away from Billings, MT. This is located in the south-central area of the state.

Getting There: By car, visitors can get to the park by taking Coburn Rd. south of Billings. If flying, visitors can fly into the town of Billings.

Things To Do: Hiking, exploring archeology and history, education at the visitor center, picnicking.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: Pictograph Cave State Park is located 5 miles from Billings, MT. Therefore, Billings has many options available for lodging including hotels and Airbnbs like this new townhome. The state park itself is day-use only so there is no lodging or overnight camping within the park.

13. Painted Rocks State Park (Darby, MT)

If you’re looking for a state park that offers solitude and stillness, Painted Rocks State Park is the park for you. Perfect for fishing, camping, and kayaking, Painted Rocks is located in a remote pine forest along the banks of the Painted Rocks Reservoir.

The state park’s name comes from green, yellow, and orange lichens which cover the granite rock walls and cliffs along West Fork Road. The park is full of wildlife including bighorn mountain sheep and peregrine falcons.

The park offers a boat ramp and docks so bring your kayak, canoe, or motor boat and enjoy a day out on the water followed by a picnic or a hike.

Location: Painted Rocks State Park is located off Highway 473 south of Darby, MT. This is located in the very southwest corner of the state 93 miles south of Missoula.

Getting There: Painted Rocks State Park is best accessed by car. If you are coming from Darby, MT you will head south on Interstate 93 and then merge onto Highway 473 for approx. 20 miles until you reach the state park. If you are flying into the area, the closest airport is in Missoula.

Things To Do: fishing, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, boating.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: Painted Rocks State Park offers 25 first come first serve campsites with two sites having room for RV/trailers up to 35 ft. in length. If you would like to visit the park just for the day, some close places to stay would be found in Darby, MT, or Hamilton, MT like this cabin in the national forest in Darby.

Best National Parks in Montana

14. Lone Pine State Park (Kalispell, MT)

If you’re seeking a park that’s great year-round, Lone Pine State Park is the place to visit. Equipped for snowshoeing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking, this park is great for outdoor enthusiasts with 7.5 miles of trail available.

Lone Pine State Park overlooks the Flathead Valley and offers expansive views on a clear day of Flathead Lake, the Jewel Basin, and Glacier National Park.

The state park is also equipped with a visitor’s center that is open year-round. In the visitor center, you can learn about the local wildlife and ecology and attend an interpretive program.

Location: Lone Pine State Park is located just south of Kalispell, MT off of Highway 93 in the northwest part of the state. Lone Pine State Park is not far from Glacier National Park.

Getting There: Visitors can access Lone Pine State Park via car by going south on Highway 93 from Kalispell, MT. There is an Amtrak that passes through Whitefish which is just 30 minutes away from the state park. If flying, the closest airport is in Kalispell.

Things To Do: Hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, visitor center.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: Lone Pine State Park does not offer any accommodations within the park itself, but Kalispell has many options for lodging with hotels and Airbnbs like this cozy cabin with mountain views in Kalispell.

15. Placid Lake State Park (Seeley Lake, MT)

Placid Lake is one of the best state parks in Montana to enjoy water sports like trout lake fishing, water skiing, boating, canoeing, or kayaking. Bring the whole family to enjoy a day on the water boating and fishing.

The state park is also equipped with many campsites for you to spend a few nights and is open year-round.

Location: Placid Lake State Park is located in the northwest part of Montana in between towns like Missoula and Kalispell.

Getting There: The best way to get to Placid Lake State park is to drive. If you’re coming from Missoula, you’ll head northeast on Highway 200 and then go north on Highway 83. If you’re coming from Kalispell, you’ll head south on Highway 83 until you reach the park. Kalispell does have an airport if you plan to fly in.

Things To Do: Fishing, boating, camping, canoeing, kayaking.

Entrance Fee: For MT residents, the entrance fee is free if they’ve paid the $9 state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration. If not, the fee is $8 both for resident and non-resident vehicles.

Where to Stay: Placid Lake State Park is known for its camping. The park has 40 campsites – 17 of which have electricity. There’s also a hike-bike camping site that accommodates 9 tents. If you are wanting to stay in a comfortable log cabin, this one is located in the town of Seeley Lake.

Best National Parks in Montana

Getting Around Montana

To get around Montana, your best bet is to rent a car. There’s an Amtrak train available to get you to certain points of Montana, but generally, you won’t find any other public transportation that fits the needs of someone hoping to visit the parks.

Each major airport in Montana has rental car services available, so take advantage of these when you’re booking your trip. A car is going to give you the amount of freedom you need and makes for a far easier experience.

Quick Itineraries for Visiting the Top Parks in Montana

Here are a few simple itineraries to follow when visiting national and state parks.

3 Days in Montana

If you have three days in Montana, you’re going to want to visit Glacier National Park. While the state parks are great, you’ll see the true Montana beauty through a visit to Glacier. If you visit Glacier, begin your trip in West Glacier and explore all that the park has to offer. There are over a million acres of land to explore in Montana alone.

You can easily get a place to stay in West Glacier, but if this isn’t possible, find a place in nearby Kalispell and make the 45-minute drive to the entrance each day.

One Week in Montana

If you have a week in Montana, you can visit one of the national parks and one or two state parks. Spend five days in Glacier National Park and then make a two-day visit to Lone Pine State Park near Kalispell. You can start in Kalispell or Whitefish and make the 45-minute drive in your rental car to the West Glacier entrance.

After you’ve spent your days in Glacier, stay nearby in either Kalispell or Whitefish and visit Lone Pine State park. Here, you’ll find decent hiking and fishing for the whole family. You can also pay a visit to Flathead lake if you wish!

10+ Days in Montana

If you have over 10 days in Montana, start on the south end near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. You can make Livingston or Mammoth your starting point. You can easily spend four days exploring all that Yellowstone has to offer.

Take your rental car north and visit Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. You can spend a day here exploring the cool and unique topography. Stay in Whitehall for the evening. The next day, visit Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic site which is a good place to stop for a morning on your way north on State Highway 141.

From Grant-Kohrs, you’re only a four-hour drive from Glacier National Park. Find a place to stay in Whitefish or Kalispell and spend the remainder of your time visiting Glacier.

FAQs About Visiting the National Parks in Montana

Answers to some commonly asked questions about visiting the parks in Montana.

How many national parks are in Montana?

There are eight national parks in Montana.

What is the best national park in Montana?

The best National Park in Montana is Glacier National Park. It’s beautiful and has activities for the entire family.

Are the parks in Montana free to enter?

No, each park in Montana has an entrance fee. Each park has a different price, so make sure you budget for them.

What is the largest park in Montana?

The largest park in Montana is Glacier National Park. It’s over 1 million acres.

Which national park is the most scenic?

Glacier National Park is the most scenic.

Is Glacier National Park or Yellowstone better?

Glacier National Park is better in my opinion. More of it lies in Montana and the rugged wilderness is a bit less commercialized than Yellowstone.

In Conclusion

Montana’s national and state parks rival any other parks in the entire United States. The vast array of options and stunning landscapes are hard to find anywhere else. Make sure to prioritize visiting the national parks on your trip, but plan to take the time to explore the numerous state parks too – there are some real hidden gems to be found!

Families, adventurers, and casual sight-seers all have a place to enjoy within the Montana state and national parks. Regardless of which one you visit, you’ll be in awe.

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