With 94 million acres and less than a million residents, Montana gives new meaning to the phrase “wide, open spaces.” From the soaring peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the alpine lakes and meadows of Glacier National Park, America’s fourth-largest state offers endless opportunities to explore the stunning scenery, awe-inspiring wildlife and rich cultural heritage.

When President Thomas Jefferson sent famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in search of an elusive “Northwest Passage” to the Pacific Ocean in 1804, the expedition epitomized the unbridled optimism and spirit of adventure on which the fledgling United States of America was founded.

That spirit of adventure is alive and well in today’s Montana, a state that remains largely unchanged more than 200 years after Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery first explored its sparkling rivers, towering peaks and pristine landscape. So much of Montana remains unspoiled, in fact, that the state – known as “Big Sky Country” – still is home to more wildlife than people!     

Glorious Glacier
Nowhere is Montana’s breathtaking beauty and abundant wildlife more apparent than in Glacier National Park. Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier offers more than a million acres of towering mountain peaks, tumbling waterfalls, verdant forests and wildflower-strewn meadows. The spectacular scenery creates a picture-perfect backdrop for the park’s resident wildlife: From grizzly bears and imposing elk to snow-white mountain goats and bighorn sheep, Glacier is the place to see a diverse array of species in their native habitat. Of course, the park’s mountains, lakes and rivers also attract plenty of two-legged visitors, who revel in Glacier’s opportunities for outdoor adventure. From hiking the park’s 700 miles of trails to fishing, boating and camping, Glacier is as good as it gets.           

Living history
Big Sky Country is the place to follow in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which logged more miles in Montana than anywhere else on its 8,000-mile journey across the wild American frontier. Begin your journey back in time in Great Falls at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, the center offers numerous interactive exhibits that bring the Corps of Discovery expedition to life. Trace the arduous journey the explorers traveled, hear the languages used as the party made contact with Native American tribes, or test your strength at carrying canoes the way the explorers did.

The center’s exhibits make it easy to embark on your own journey of discovery across Montana, visiting key sites such as Pompeys Pillar National Monument. Located near Billings – Montana’s largest city – the 150-foot sandstone pillar near the banks of the Yellowstone River bears the distinction of having the only known surviving evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition: the name “W. Clark” carved into its side along with the date the expedition passed through the area. The monument’s interpretive center offers greater insight into Clark’s exploration of the Yellowstone River as well as information on local flora and fauna.

The area surrounding Billings is also home to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Located within the Crow Indian Reservation, the monument marks the site of “Custer’s Last Stand,” where in 1876 Lt. Col. George Custer and 262 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry died fighting several thousand Sioux and Cheyenne Indians led by Sitting Bull. Each June, the town of Hardin commemorates the famous battle by staging Little Bighorn Days – a festival featuring a full-scale reenactment of the battle, a costume ball and Native American arts and crafts.

Wild wild west
To experience life in the Old West, visit the twin Gold Rush towns of Virginia City and Nevada City. Ride the Virginia City stagecoach, go shopping amid the town’s 100 historic buildings or stop in for a drink at the Bale of Hay Saloon. Then take the short drive to Nevada City and visit the Nevada City Music Hall, where you can take in and play one of the largest collections of automated music machines in North America.

Or visit the ghost town of Bannack: One of the best preserved ghost towns in the West, Bannack was the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery in 1862 and became its first territorial capital two years later. Today, the town’s 50 preserved buildings stand as a monument to those frenzied frontier Gold Rush days. Each summer, the sleepy ghost town springs to life for the Bannack Days festival: Pan for gold, make candles, ride in a wagon or simply soak up the Wild West excitement of gunfight reenactments, frontier demonstrations and more.

Native lands
Montana is proud of its vibrant Native American heritage. With seven Indian reservations and 11 tribes, Montana is the ancestral home of the Blackfeet Indians – so named, legend has it, because of their tradition of blackening their moccasins with ashes. Witness the tribal dances and traditions at an authentic Native American powwow, which happen across the state. A couple of the more popular powwows are North American Indian Days in Browning – home to the Museum of the Plains Indian – as well as Crow Fair in Crow Agency, located near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Fabulous fossils
To delve even deeper into Montana’s rich history, explore the Montana Dinosaur Trail. Pick up a “Prehistoric Passport” and visit the trail’s 14 sites that examine the state’s leading role in paleontology, including such significant discoveries as the world’s first tyrannosaurus rex. Visit the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum to view one of the most complete T-Rex skeletons ever found, or travel to Bozeman to view one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur fossils at the Museum of the Rockies.

On the town
Set amid Montana’s pristine, undisturbed landscape are an eclectic mix of cities and towns, each offering its own distinctive personality. The state capital, Helena, is located in the state’s southwest corner known as “Gold West Country” and offers charming architecture from that period. In Central Montana, Great Falls is known as the “Electric City” for its many dams and power plants. Lewis and Clark spent a considerable amount of time near the falls and the Great Falls Historic Trolley offers tours of the local sites. Be sure to visit the C.M. Russell Museum dedicated to the works of noted Western artist Charlie Russell.

Missoula, located in Glacier Country, is Montana’s arts and cultural center. The city boasts a lively downtown district featuring funky boutiques along with a thriving arts scene that includes live theatre, a symphony and more. Missoula’s location at the confluence of three rivers also makes it a popular spot for fly fishing, rafting and kayaking. Bozeman, meanwhile, is the largest town located near Montana’s second national park: the famed Yellowstone National Park. While most of Yellowstone lies in neighboring Wyoming, three of Yellowstone’s five gates are located in Montana, with the towns of Gardiner, Cooke City and West Yellowstone serving as local gateways. The Yellowstone River runs out of the park and continues into southern Montana, offering fly fishing, canoeing and more.

Montana Office of Tourism
301 South Park
Helena, MT 59620
Ph. 406-841-2870
Fax 406-841-2871