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The Real America Region: Montana

Big Sky Country

Glacier National Park, located in the northwest corner of the state, is the 'Crown of the North American Continent.' To hikers, it is the United States' foremost trail park. To wildlife watchers, it provides privileged views of mountain goats and bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and gray wolves. To everyone who visits, it is a place of natural beauty and majesty.

Similarly, Yellowstone National Park is a globally unique environment. Geysers hiss and mudpots boil in an otherwise peaceful kingdom that sustains elk and buffalo, trumpeter swans, and wild cutthroat and rainbow trout. Between these two world treasures lie national wildlife refuges, recreation areas, battlefields, gold camps, ghost towns and state parks that feature Montana's natural, historic and recreational attractions.

Montana's outdoor recreation opportunities are unrivaled. Nearly 6.9 million hectares of national forest, 1.2 million

From the eastern plains to the western mountains, Montana's sky sets a stage of dramatic proportions. Jagged peaks, soothing prairies and open space form an unforgettable landscape.

hectares of pristine wilderness, two national parks, seven national wildlife refuges, hundreds of state parks, recreation areas and fishing access sites, 16 downhill ski areas and thousands of miles of cross-country ski and snowmobile trails make Montana the first choice of people who love the outdoors.

Montana is a refuge for both wildlife and wildlife watchers. The spacious, unspoiled environment supports species as rare as the grizzly bear and bald eagle, along with an abundance of elk, deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, waterfowl and songbirds. Look for wildlife in their natural habitat. Veer off the beaten path between Glacier and Yellowstone National parks and discover Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area, where some 200,000 snow geese gather in the spring, or visit the Rocky Mountain Front, a natural haven for golden eagles. Montana's national forests, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and state parks are windows to the natural world.

Montana is a young state. Only 117 years old, Montana's history is easily accessible. Discover it in the gold camps of Virginia City and Bannack State Park or the mansions and miners' union halls of Butte.

Walk among the graves or visit the new Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield near Billings, and view the paintings of America's beloved cowboy artist Charlie Russell in Great Falls and Helena. Follow the Missouri River, highway of the historic 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Population: 917,621

Area: 145,556 square miles (376,991 square kilometers)

Capitol: Helena

Highest Point: Granite Peak, 12,799 feet (3,901 meters)

Lowest Point: Kootenai River, 1,800 feet (549 meters)
Time Zones: Mountain
Minimum Age for Drivers: 16
Alcoholic Beverage Laws: Liquor sold by package in state liquor stores and by the drink at any type of establishment with a license. Legal age: 21. Interstate Import Limit: 3 gallons.
Local Taxes: Montana does not have a state-wide sales tax. Designated resort communities may enact a resort tax of up to 3 percent for goods and services, and there is a 7 percent statewide lodging tax. Rental car tax is 4 percent.
Web Site:

Montana's history is celebrated at rodeos, ethnic festivals and Indian powwows across the state. It is preserved in major collections at the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, the Russell Museum in Great Falls, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana Historical Society in Helena, and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls.

The West is alive in Montana and working hard at action-packed rodeos like Wolf Point's Wildhorse Stampede and the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, and at Indian powwows and pageants, such as Crow Fair in Hardin, where traditional dancing, drumming and dress celebrate ancient rituals.

Many of Montana's most popular getaways are working ranches, where guests become part of the crew and learn what it's like to live off the land. These ranch vacations offer a variety of activities ranging from horseback riding and square dancing to fossil hunting, fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

In Montana, you can greet the day with buckwheat cakes and bacon on a breakfast trail ride and end it with roast pheasant and Beaujolais in an elegant dining room. You can shop specialty galleries, golf 18 holes against a spectacular mountain backdrop, or test your mettle on an extended trek or bicycle tour. Whether you prefer a high-rise hotel or a hot springs resort, Montana offers comfort and quality at affordable prices.

You will find an infectious love for the land and the western lifestyle in Montana. There aren't very many Montanans - not even a million - spread over 37.6 million hectares of mountains and high plains.

Getting to Montana is easy

Airlines serving Montana's major cities and towns are: Northwest, United, Delta, Horizon, Big Sky and SkyWest. AMTRAK parallels US Highway 2 across northern Montana, linking Seattle to Minneapolis.

Rental car agencies are located where you need them and buses travel to every corner of the state.


Because of its northern location, some newcomers expect Montana's weather to be harsh and cool; however, most are pleasantly surprised by its mildness. The beauty of Montana weather is its low humidity. Whether hot or cold, the state is dry and comfortable.Horse Drive
Summer in Montana is generally warm and dry with refreshing, cool evenings. But Montana's weather is changeable, so visitors should bring a variety of clothing. In summer, shorts and lightweight slacks, sundresses and cotton shirts are the rule. A jacket or sweater is a good idea for evening wear.

In spring and fall, Montana is seldom consistently hot or cold, and wardrobes run from shorts and tee shirts to wool pants and flannel shirts. Winter visitors are often surprised by weather that is milder than its reputation! While the winter months are cold and snowy, cold weather is tempered by a dry climate and lots of sunshine.

Regardless of weather, Montana is a casual, fun-loving state, so bring comfortable clothing and be prepared to relax and enjoy yourself.

Take Time To Explore

Montana is a big state with a wide variety of natural and one-of-a-kind attractions. To help you get the most out of your trip, the Montana Tourism Division has divided the state into six distinctive vacation regions, each large enough to be a European country. Montana's own countries are named Glacier, Russell, Custer, Missouri River, Yellowstone and Gold West.

Glacier Country

Glacier Country is Montana's northwest corner, a spectacular mix of wildlife and wilderness, sparkling lakes and pine forests, resorts and art galleries. Explore the soaring beauty of Glacier National Park, play championship golf courses, enjoy the solitude of the back country, and discover rivers that are perfect for fishing and rafting.

Gold West Country

Gold West Country is Montana's historic southwest corner, a beautiful region of lofty mountains, broad valleys and fabled rivers. Explore restored gold mining camps, the historic Big Hole Battlefield, back country trails, hot springs resorts, and prized trout streams that draw anglers from throughout the world.

Russell Country

Russell Country is north central Montana as the famed western artist Charles M. Russell loved it, a dramatic expanse of land and sky. Float the Wild and Scenic Missouri River, follow the trail of Lewis and Clark, observe a great variety of wildlife in a natural setting and explore the Rocky Mountain Front, where the Rockies meet the Great Plains.

Ghost TownYellowstone Country

Yellowstone Country is Montana's south central region, an unforgettable land of wildlife and majestic peaks, scenic drives and blue ribbon trout streams. Visit Yellowstone National Park, drive the Beartooth Highway, get a new slant on life at a dude ranch, or challenge yourself with a trek through the wilderness.

Missouri River Country

Missouri River Country is Montana's expansive northeast corner, a fascinating land of high plains and badlands, vast farms and ranches, and the mighty Missouri. Visit a million-acre wildlife refuge and watch thousands of waterfowl take to the Big Sky from prairie ponds and lakes. Launch a boat on immense Fort Peck Lake, one of the nation's best walleye fisheries.

Custer Country

Custer Country is Montana's southeast corner, a historic landscape of Indian reservations and cattle ranches, broad rivers, rolling hills and rugged canyons. Tour the grassy hilltop that was the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Fish for trout, walleye and small-mouth bass in some of Montana's finest lakes and streams. Enjoy the ancient landscape of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

Web Sites

For comprehensive travel and recreation information, check out Travel Montana's Web site at In addition, Travel Montana hosts a number of other sites containing specific information:

Kids/family-friendly information:

Lewis and Clark information:

Montana Winter Site:

Group Tours:

Meeting Planners:

Watchable Wildlife

A pair of binoculars will come in handy as you discover the pleasures of one of Montana's most popular pastimes - wildlife watching. Elk, deer and antelope roam freely across Montana's vast countryside. Hundreds of different bird Black Bearspecies, including bald eagles, hawks and great blue herons, are frequently spotted. Montana is home to bison, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and the last remaining grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states. Look for the brown and white signs depicting binoculars as you travel. These point the way to designated wildlife viewing sites. A tip from the experts: the best time to see wildlife is right at dawn, and the second best time is at dusk. Encounter paleontological treasures at the 14 facilities along the Montana Dinosaur Trail.


Bring you bike to Montana! Bicycling is permitted on all state highways and roadways, except within designated wilderness areas. Federal lands provide thousands of miles of trails open to bikes. It's a great way to see the back country. In addition, the Rails to Trails project is in full-swing in Montana. This project to convert old train routes to bike paths continues to grow, with more trails being completed steadily.

Information on Rails to Trails and other recommended roads and trails can be obtained from district offices of the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, city departments of parks and recreation, the State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and from Adventure Cycling, a nonprofit, member-supported service organization for recreational bicyclists.

For information about road conditions, bicyclists should contact Montana Department of Transportation.


Wide-pen Montana has plenty of great camping. From campgrounds with swimming pools, playgrounds and showers to primitive areas with very limited facilities, there's a camping experience to please every Montana visitor. Many public campgrounds charge no fee; others charge between $4 and $14. Private campground fees vary widely.

Most designated public campgrounds are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, visitors can camp and picnic almost anywhere in the national forests of Montana.

Camping in the national parks is permitted in designated campgrounds only and is subject to separate rules, fees and regulations.Fly Fishing


Montana is famous for its abundance of fish and variety of fish species, as well as the beauty of its rivers, lakes and streams. Whether fishing for native trout on one of Montana's rivers and streams or trolling the depths of our lakes for northern pike or walleye, you will find the fishing in Montana to live up to its reputation.

Nonresidents age 15 and above have three licensing options. You can buy a season license for $60, a two consecutive-day license for $15, or a ten consecutive day license for $43.50. you will also need a nonresident conservation license, which costs $9.25. Nonresidents age 14 or under need no license if accompanied by an adult with a valid fishing license. The license year runs from March 1 through February of the following year. Regulations are outline in the Montana Fishing Regulations booklet available through any Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks office, web site or licensing agent.

yellowstone National Park requires anglers to obtain a permit and fishing regulations, available at ranger stations and visitor centers throughout the park. Although Glacier National Park does not require a permit, park officials strongly urge those planning to fish to acquire and read park fishing regulations available from ranger stations and visitor centers throughout the park.

Friendly, knowledgeable fishing guides can make your fishing trip the best ever. Outfitters are listed in the Montana Vacation Planner. Contact the Montana Promotion Division for a copy of this useful publication.

Fishing Access

Anglers should look for brown fishing access signs along the roads and highways. These signs designate public access to rivers, streams and lakes for fishing and picnicking.

Montana's Indian reservations offer excellent fishing. Visitors who want to fish on a reservation should contact tribal offices for regulations. Contact Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for fees and more information at


With more than 12.1 million hectares of national forests and public lands, there are thousands of miles of spectacular hiking trails to suit first timers and veterans alike. Specific information about trails can be obtained from topographical maps and hiking guides ordered through book stores and sporting goods stores.


Information on Montana's impressive array of hunting opportunities, as well as hunting rules, regulations and licensing criteria, are available from all offices of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, from more that 400 licensing agents across the state, and online at Nonresidents may hunt elk only by buying a nonresident Big Game Combination License, which includes a conservation, elk and deer "A" license, and authorizes upland game bird hunting and fishing. The deadline to apply for the combination license is March 15. The deadline to apply for special licenses and permits for other big game species is June 1.

Regulations and fee schedules are available from all Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices, web site and licensing agents.

National Parks

Montana is home to Glacier National Park and a portion of Yellowstone National Park. Main entrances to Glacier are at St. Mary and West Glacier. Other entrances are at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Camas Creek and Polebridge. A pass good for seven consecutive days of entry into Glacier National Park is $25 per vehicle. Three of the five entrances to Yellowstone are in Montana at West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City. A seven-day combination pass to Yellowstone and adjacent Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is $25.

National Park Pass permitting entry into all national parks in the United States is $50, valid for one year from the date of issue. Golden Age passes for persons 62 and older are available for a fee, and Golden Access passes for disabled persons are free.

State Parks

Montana's state parks are outdoor recreation centers for the state. There are sites smaller than an acre to parks covering many square miles and offering the gamut of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, water sports, wildlife watching and fishing. While entrance fees for non-residents vary, a fee is charged at developed facilities ranging from $2 to $5. State park passports, which allow unlimited access to state parks for one year, are $25. The passport does not cover camping fees. For a map of Montana's state parks, contact the nearest RMI office or the Montana Promotion Division.Skiing

Winter Sports

Montana is famous for its "cold smoke," the deep, dry powder snow made possible by a dry climate. It's perfect for skiing and snowmobiling. Montana's 16 downhill ski areas range from destination resorts to popular day-use areas. Sensible prices, short lift lines, friendly instructors and lots of extras-like snow dances, sleigh rides and spring carnivals-make Montana a popular destination for downhill skiers.

Montana offers endless possibilities for cross-country skiers. With two national parks, ten national forests and numerous lodges and resorts, there is plenty of room for everyone. Choose the marked and expertly groomed trails at Montana's private resorts, or explore our vast network of public trails on your own. Wildlife, spectacular mountain scenery and plenty of sunshine make Montana a favorite destination for cross-country skiers. Montana greets snowmobilers with the enviable choice of 4,000 miles (6,437 km) of groomed trails. Imagine riding all day without crossing a highway! Explore snowy mountains and meadows, back country lakes, steaming hot springs, and legendary ghost towns. Or catch a glimpse of Montana's varied a distance, please. Snowmobile rentals and guided snowmobile tours as well as snowcoach tours, are available in several communities.







© 2006 Rocky Mountain International