Top 12 Montana National Parks You Must Visit In 2023!
BY Ankita TripathyJun 6, 2023
Are you thinking about visiting Montana National Parks but are not really sure about which ones should you visit while you are there? Well, there is no need for you to worry. I have you covered!
There are a number of national parks that are located in the United States. Whether you want to check out the national parks in Wyoming or Zion, the list is endless. But if you want to try out a new place, Montana might just be the right one for you!
In this article, I will be focusing extensively on the best national parks in Montana that you must visit when you are in the states. So, if that is something that you want to know, keep reading the article till the end…
Best Montana National Parks That You Must Visit!
The fourth-largest state in the US, Montana, lies in the northwest of the country on the border with Canada. It is pretty sparsely populated. It boasts delightfully diverse landscapes. The west is very mountainous. While the east’s endless plains and prairies are only occasionally punctuated by breathtaking badlands and bluffs.
Hidden away among its wild and remote realms are incredible wildlife species. There are moose, grizzly bears, and mountain lions all inhabiting its numerous national parks and state parks.
Are you planning to travel to the States and Montana, to be specific? You need to check out this list of the best Montana National Parks that you need to visit in 2023:
1. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area sprawls over a vast zone and straddles both Montana and Wyoming. It is home to stunning scenery and landscapes. The area is made up of two delightfully distinct districts. It is a treat to explore, with a wealth of recreational activities to try out.
The main feature of the park is the breathtaking Bighorn Canyon. It towers over the large lake and roaring river of the same name. Its craggy cliffs form a formidable backdrop to the tranquil waters below, which offer fantastic fishing, kayaking, and boating.
Hiking and camping are very popular. However, the area also has a range of archaeological and cultural treasures to check out. As well as being home to historic ranches, a third of its area is located on the Crow Indian Reservation. Part of the park is a range for wild horses. Visitors can learn all about its history, geology, and nature at one of the site’s two centers.
2. Big Hole National Battlefield
The Big Hole National Battlefield is the location of the battle that took place on August 9th and 10th during Nez Perce Flight of 1877. By early August, over 800 nimí·pu· (Nez Perce) and over 2,000 horses were passing peacefully through the Bitterroot Valley after crossing Lolo Pass into Montana. Their leaders believed the military would not pursue them even though many had premonitions warning otherwise. When the nimí·pu· arrived at ?ıckumcılé.lıkpe (known today as Big Hole National Battlefield) on August 7th, they did not know the military was close behind them. On the morning of August 9, 1877, U.S. troops surprised the sleeping nimí·pu· with a dawn attack on the encampment. And that is where and when everything happened that made this area a national historic place.
The park's visitor center offers museum exhibits, a film, and a book sales area. The award-winning film Weet'uciklitukt: There's No Turning Back, Battle at Big Hole provides an introduction to the Nez Perce Flight of 1877 and the battle that took place at this site. The film is shown throughout the day and is close-captioned. Audio and braille guides are available upon request.
Big Hole National Battlefield is one of the 38 sites that make up the Nez Perce National Historical Park. Together they tell the story of the nimí·pu· (Nez Perce). These sites are spread over much of the traditional homeland of the nimí·pu· in present-day Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Staff are located here at the Big Hole National Battlefield, as well as at the visitor center in Spalding, ID, and at the Bear Paw Battlefield. To visit all of the park sites could take a substantial amount of time and cover many hundreds of miles.
3. Glacier National Park
Home to stunning scenery, landscapes, and nature, the gorgeous Glacier National Park can be found in the northwest of Montana on the border with Canada. Founded in 1910, it protects a vast swathe of unspoiled wilderness and fully deserves its nickname, the ‘Crown of the Continent’.
Very mountainous, it is home to two rugged ranges, with vast valleys and rocky ravines left behind by the gigantic glaciers after which the park is named. Dotted about these damaged yet delightful landscapes are over 130 twinkling turquoise lakes, with gorgeous waterfalls and sparkling streams found here and there.
As over half of the park is coated in verdant forests, it is a great place to go wildlife watching with moose, mountain goats and grizzly bears inhabiting its isolated areas. With scenic trails weaving their way amidst the towering trees and mountains and cozy campsites to stay at, Glacier National Park really is one of the most awe-inspiring places to visit in the whole of the States.
4. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
Next on the list of the best Montana National Parks is Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. Between 1828 and 1867, Fort Union was the most important fur trade post on the Upper Missouri River. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Tribes exchanged buffalo robes and smaller furs for goods from around the world, including cloth, guns, blankets, and beads. A bastion of peaceful coexistence, the post annually traded over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise.
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site and its visitor center in the Bourgeois House are open daily throughout the year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days. The Trade House, including the trade room and the clerk's office, is open seasonally.
There are a number of things that you can do here. One of them is visiting the Fort Union’s Trade House, which was one of the most important buildings at Fort Union. It was in the Reception Room where Tribal leaders met with the American Fur Company Traders to discuss the terms of the trade and also where stories were told, and small feasts were held.
Apart from that, you can also plan a great trip with your kids as they can become a Jr. Ranger and Jr. Trader at this historic National Park.
5. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Located almost equidistant between Missoula and Bozeman is the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, which commemorates the cattle industry and cowboy culture of the American West. Lying on the banks of the charming Cottonwood Creek, this colossal living history ranch now offers a fascinating look into the frontier cattle era that shaped the nation.
Founded in 1862 by the Canadian fur trader Johnny Grant, the ranch was later bought as well as expanded by the successful cattle baron Conrad Kohrs. At its zenith, over 50,000 head of cattle roamed about his ranch, which sprawled as far as the eye could see.
Nowadays, visitors can tour around its historic buildings and see the ranch in operation. Blacksmiths as well as cowboys use techniques that would have been used in the 19th century.
6. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Lying about an hour’s drive to the east of Billings, this moving national monument and memorial commemorates the famous Battle of Little Bighorn. It was here on June 25 and 26, 1876, that General Custer made his ‘last stand’ and lost his life alongside many of his cavalry at the hands of the local Native Americans.
At the sprawling battle site, visitors can learn all about the epic encounter that came to symbolize the clash of cultures. The Native Americans fought to protect their nomadic way of life and stop themselves from being forced onto reservations. It was a short but momentary victory for the Native Americans against the ever-expanding advances of the US Army.
Through interesting and informative tours, you’ll learn all about the battle as well as its aftermath. Moreover, you will also learn about the legendary Lakota leaders Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull as well. In addition, you can visit the numerous markers and memorials scattered about what is now part of the Crow Indian Reservation.
7. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Also considered to be one of the best national parks in Oregon, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail winds nearly 4,900 miles through the homelands of more than 60 Tribal nations. It follows the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean. Follow the trail to find the people, places, and stories that make up the complex legacy of the expedition.
Boasting lots of large limestone caverns and stunning stalactites as well as stalagmites, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park makes for a spectacular sight. Located just under an hour’s drive to the northwest of Bozeman, it is one of the most popular parks to visit in the state.
First documented by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, after which it is named, the caves cover a substantial underground area. It has illuminating tours that take you around its most fascinating features. Lit up by flickering candles and fairy lights, its subterranean sculptures and formations are a treat to explore.
Above ground is equally delightful. The state park’s lovely woods and shimmering streams lend themselves perfectly to hiking. It also offers mountain biking, and camping, with fishing and canoeing also on offer.
8. Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
Glacial Lake Missoula, a 3,000 square-mile body of water encircling Missoula, Montana, was a result of an ice dam in northern Idaho. It happened at the conclusion of the last Ice Age, between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago. Floodwater came out when the dam burst, traveling across Washington, Oregon, and the Columbia River before reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Ice Age Floods affected the people and terrain of the Pacific Northwest, profoundly.
The majority of geologists thought that glaciers and streams slowly eroded rock formations to create Washington's Channelled Scabland. Geologist J Harlen Bretz postulated that cataclysmic floods were responsible for the formation of the Channelled Scabland after finding geologic data that contradicted this theory.
Bretz's theory was initially mocked, but it was later proven correct thanks to new technology like satellite photography. By the 1970s, everyone agreed that the Ice Age Floods were to blame for the ravaged terrain of the northwest United States.
Today, the terrain is littered with remnants of these Ice Age Floods. It includes massive basalt coulees, dry falls, and big boulders. They have traveled hundreds of miles, high water lines, as well as tremendous current ripples. The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail includes spectacular examples of cataclysmic flood geology, breathtaking landscapes, and locations for scientific study.
9. Lone Pine State Park
Lying just to the southwest of Kalispell is the lovely Lone Pine State Park. It looms over the city and Flathead Valley. As it is home to wonderful nature and scenic trails, it is very popular with locals and tourists. It also has plenty of recreational activities on offer.
Founded in 1941, the park boasts delightful landscapes, with flower-filled meadows and lush forests coating its hilly confines. Reaching 1,110 meters in height, there are more than ten kilometers of trails to explore. It also has fabulous vistas visible from its upper reaches.
Besides hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding along its peaceful paths, visitors can go wildlife watching and birdwatching. In addition, there is an archery range and volleyball court to try out. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are on offer in the winter months.
10. Bannack State Park
Once a thriving mining town, Bannack became a ghost town as the seams of glittering gold ran out, and so did the prospectors moved on. Set in a scenic yet remote spot in the southwest of the state, the eerie yet enticing ghost town is now under protection as part of a state park.
Nestled away among Montana’s majestic mountains are more than 50 decaying buildings for visitors to explore, with log cabins lying alongside a school, hotel, and Methodist church. Although they have long been abandoned to the elements, most of them are in remarkably good condition. As such, it makes for an unsettling experience wandering around the empty streets.
One of the best times to visit is in July, during the ‘Bannack Days.’ Re-enactors transform the town into what it would have been like during the gold rush. The rest of the year, visitors can take tours of Bannack or rent bikes and set off hiking from the nearby campsite.
Read More: Top 8 List Of National Parks In North Carolina
11. Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park lies just to the northeast of Great Falls on the banks of the Missouri River. It has sparkling springs all around, from which it derives its name. It is a top-rated place with many recreational activities on offer. That is mostly due to its proximity to the city and its peaceful and picturesque nature.
Blackfeet Nation has used Giant Springs for centuries. Moreover, it is one of the largest freshwater springs in the States. First described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, its waters originate in the Little Belt Mountains. It took around 3,000 years to travel the 100 kilometers underground to surface again at the springs.
Besides visiting the springs, visitors can wander around the park’s gorgeous green spaces. They explore the scenic shoreline of the river. As well as its picnic areas and playgrounds, it also offers some great fishing, boating, and birdwatching.
12. Yellowstone National Park
Last but definitely not least, we have another immensely famous option. It is a very popular and widely visited Yellowstone National Park.
Most of Yellowstone lies within the wilds of Wyoming. Some picturesque parts of the popular park sprawl over into Idaho and Montana. An absolutely incredible place, it is awash with astounding natural sights. There are mighty mountain towers above sweeping valleys, verdant forests, and roaring rivers.
The oldest national park in the world came to be in 1872, delighting and dazzling countless generations ever since. Its diverse and dramatic scenery is spectacular. However, it is most known for its more than 10,000 geysers as well as hot springs. There are also thermal features dotting its craggy confines.
Of these, one of the most popular is the Grand Prismatic Spring due to its kaleidoscopic colors. Old Faithful never fails to amaze with the staggering size and scale of its spurting spring. Moreover, you cannot miss out on Yellowstone National Park. It has lots of wildlife residing within its remote realms and exquisite hiking, camping, and boating on offer.
Wrapping It Up!
In case you were searching for the best as well as must-visit Montana national parks, I hope that this article has been of help to you. If there are any other queries related to the same, feel free to let me know. All that you need to do is scroll down till you reach the bottom of the page. Then leave your queries and suggestions in the box below.
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