The Best Places to Enjoy the Outdoors This Summer In Montana

Face it: Any place you vacation in Montana is like taking a trip to Paradise. Where the Rocky Mountains meet the plains, the Treasure State is one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors this summer. No matter where you go, you’re bound to find something new. We’ve narrowed down your choices to the best places to visit.

Glacier National Park

 Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road - Glacier National Park

Millions of people visit Montana’s eight National and 55 state parks every year. But the ‘Crown of the Continent’, is Glacier National Park. You’ll find 700 trails and more than 1,000 camping sites. For the full wilderness camping experience, the park also offers permits for sites along the North Fork Flathead River and in the backcountry.

You’ll want to be vigilant when taking a hike through Glacier National Park. Not only are there beautiful views, there are also bugs and critters that could turn your site-seeing adventure into a trip to the doctor’s office. While ticks are most active in the spring and early summer, they can cause serious problems year round.

Want to avoid the bugs and enjoy something a little more cozy? Glacier National Park  is full of breath-taking spots for wanderers to set up camp and star-gaze with many of the modern comforts of home. For one last summer trip, late September skies at Glacier National Park showcase the Northern Lights.

Gates of the Mountains

Gates of the mountains

Gates of the Mountains

Travel back to 1805 when Meriwether Lewis named the area near Helena ‘Gates of the Mountain.’ The water flowing through the canyon formation looks like a natural gate and is now a major historical site along the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The cliffs sit within Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, a nature preserve. That is where you can boat down  the river and imagine the amazement Lewis felt when he first set eyes on the cliffs. They also offer evening bat watching tours that travel to the upper canyon where you can watch their nightly departure.

Gates of the Mountain is protected by a 1964 act of Congress, and the Forest Service asks anyone visiting to follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ rules to minimize impact to wildlife.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Luke Clark - MGC Photographer

Montana’s first state park is home to a breath-taking cave system, named after Lewis and Clark. This summer, explore the open land of America just like the great adventurers and head to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Sightsee at Vista Point, photograph the Jefferson River, and grab a bite to eat at local favorite Wheat Montana
The limestone caverns cover more than 3,000 acres in the state’s southwest corner. While you will need a tour guide to enter the caverns, there is so much more to do on the park grounds. Biking, canoeing, and river fishing are popular activities, but the park is also home to numerous birds, offering guests bird watching hikes.

Big Belt Mountains

Big Belt Mountains Mount Baldy

Baldy Peak Summit - AllTrails

You’ll find the Big Belt Mountains about an hour outside Helena. This segment of the northern Rocky Mountains peaks at Mount Edith, about 9,500 miles above sea level. Featuring vast hillsides and plenty of space to explore, these Mountains are prime range for a picnic. Grab some friends, a blanket, and pack your basket with food and drinks for a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

When taking a picture from the east, Mount Baldy stands proud and tall in the center. The picturesque views at the base of the mountains are equal to what you will see at the tops. While hiking one of the trails here, remember that Montana is also home to amazing creatures like bears, bison, and mountain goats. You’re in their territory, so keep your distance. 

Author’s note: As a reporter who once worked in Great Falls, I recommend taking road trips to see all of these amazing sites. To this day, I have never seen views as breathtaking as the ones I enjoyed driving between Helena and Great Falls. I still return every year to get my fill of huckleberry chocolates and coffee and to camp out under the Montana sky.


Written by: Brenda Stuart

Brenda Stuart is a freelance writer and radio news broadcaster in Denver. When she’s not traveling around the mountain states, she’s writing about her latest adventures.

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