Montana in Summer: What to do on Your Montana Summer Vacation
A lot of people tend to think about Montana as being a very cold and snowy state, but it isn’t all year round! Sure, Montana has some pretty epic winters, but summer in Montana is filled with outdoor adventures like hiking, flyfishing, ziplining, whitewater rafting, and more! Here are some of the places I’d recommend visiting on your next Montana summer vacation.
Best Montana Summer Locations
Gardiner is the best place to stay in Montana if you’re planning to visit Yellowstone National Park (aside from actually staying in the park). It’s a small town that caters to Yellowstone tourists. It’s filled with hotels, restaurants, bars, and gift shops. The best part is that it’s only about a 5-10 minute drive from the Northern Entrance to Yellowstone! This is the entrance closest to Mammoth Hot Springs.
–> Read more: How to Spend a Weekend in Yellowstone <–
Glacier National Park
Since Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming, I’m confident in saying Glacier National Park is one of Montana’s BEST places to visit. This park is filled with awe-inspiring scenery, world class hikes, and infamous wildlife. A lot of the park roads are closed off in the winter which makes summer the perfect time to visit!
You can camp or even stay at one of the lodges within the park, but there are also several hotels just outside Glacier that are great options if there isn’t any availability inside.
More info on lodging inside Glacier National Park can be found here!
I may be biased since we live here, but Bozeman is the perfect base camp for anything you’ll want to do in Southwest Montana in summer. Bozeman is primarily a college town, but there are still a LOT of families and non-students that it doesn’t feel like it most of the time. To me, Bozeman is known for it’s beautiful hikes, bustling downtown, and proximity to so many other amazing places.
The town is about an hour and a half from the Northern entrance to Yellowstone which makes for a long day trip, but it can be done. It’s also driving distance to most of the towns listed below, so if you want a “home base” for your Montana summer vacation, this is the spot to make it.
Helena is Northwest of Bozeman and is the state’s capital. I personally haven’t been to Helena, but I know that a lot of history lives here. The city has a lot of great shopping, dining, and drinking options. There are also some areas where you can take a look at Montana’s architecture from the 1800’s! This is one spot I’m really excited to visit.
If you want more information on Helena, my friend, Kara, actually lives there! She wrote an entire blog post on what to do, where to eat, and where to shop when you’re visiting. Check that out here!
Butte is even more west than both Bozeman and Helena. It’s an old mining town, so you’ll find the famous World Museum of Mining here. This also happens to be a great area for renting ATVs! Austin and I did that during our first summer in Montana and it was incredible! Montana ATV Adventures offers a full day ATV tour through a ghost town which is something I definitely want to go back for!
Another option if you don’t want to do a tour is to head a little further south to Dillon, MT to rent ATVs with Beaverhead Adventures. They will ride with you to the base of the mountain range close by, show you the trail, and send you off on your way. It was so fun to zip around the mountains on ATVs and have the freedom to go wherever we wanted.
–> Read more: How to Spend a Weekend in Butte, MT <–
Big Sky, MT
Big Sky, Montana is known for it’s skiing and snowboarding resort, but is still a great summer destination in Montana. When there’s no snow on the ground, Big Sky Resort uses their ski lifts as gondolas so you can take a ride to the top of the mountain and get some incredible views, then ride back down. Big Sky Resort also offers things like zip lining, rock climbing, and more!
Aside from skiing, the town of Big Sky is also known for flyfishing. This is something I haven’t done yet, but I want to learn how since it’s so popular in Montana.
Things to do Across Montana in Summer
Visit National Parks
This might be the very reason you’re thinking of visiting Montana in summer, but if it’s not, this should definitely be added to your itinerary! Glacier National Park and Yellowstone are the two most popular National Parks you’ll have access to and I recommend visiting them both. I usually recommend at two days at the very least for each of them, but if you’re on a time crunch, you can see some of the park in just one day.
While both of them can be accessed from Montana, they are very different! Yellowstone is a park where you’ll drive from site to site. There are a ton of geothermal features like hot springs and geyesers and they’re sectioned off into specific areas. Each area has its own parking lot. So, you’ll be driving from parking lot to parking lot and looking at the features in each area. Glacier, however, is more about the scenery. Aside from driving along Going To The Sun Road, you’ll likely spend a lot more time hiking and enjoying nature here.
–> Read more: How to Spend a Weekend in Yellowstone National Park <–
Like I mentioned above, flyfishing is VERY popular in Montana – especially in the Big Sky area. If you’re new to fly fishing, you can book a tour guide that will take you out and show you the ropes. Montana Angler has tours like this. You can also rent fly fishing poles if you know what you’re doing or bring your own!
If you’re a fly fishing pro, here are some places you can go fly fishing that not many people know about!
Spend Time on a Ranch
It’s no secret that there are a ton of ranches in Montana. Why not experience one for yourself! There are a number of ranches accepting guests to stay on the property. At most of them, you can partake in activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, etc. This makes for such a unique getaway!
Montana Dude Ranches has a lot more information and specific ranches you can stay at here.
Get Adventerous with Ziplining, ATVs, or Whitewater Rafting
Remember how I mentioned summer in Montana is filled with outdoor adventures? Well, I wasn’t kidding. There are a lot of places around the state where you can get your adrenaline pumping with anything from ATVs to white water rafting.
If you’re renting ATVs, I’d recommend heading to Butte or Dillon, MT and exploring the mountains on an ATV. Yellowstone Rafting Company also offers several different tour options including white water rafting, cowboy cookouts, horseback riding, and more.
Go for a Hike
Montana has some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see (especially Montana in summer) and hiking will put you right in the middle of it all! Get lost in nature, climb a mountain, or just take a stroll on an easy hike to get away from all the noise. I like using the AllTrails app to find hikes where I’m visiting, but here are some of the best hikes in the Bozeman area:
- The “M” Trail (moderate)
- Drinking Horse Mountain Trail (moderate)
- Hyalite Creek Trail (moderate)
- Palisade Falls (easy)
Visit a Ghost Town
There are several ghost towns in Southwest Montana to visit. I’d suggest heading to Butte, MT and taking an ATV tour of a ghost town with Montana ATV Adventures. However, if you’re interested in venturing off on your own, here is a list of 12 ghost towns to explore when you’re visiting!
Take a Roadtrip
Wherever you’re staying in Montana, I always suggest a road trip because there’s so much more to see! I’m a little biased and I always recommend staying in Southwest Montana because there’s easy access to Yellowstone National Park and a lot of the things on this post happen to be in Western Montana. It’s just so dang beautiful on this side of the state!
If you take that advice, I suggest trying out the Bozeman scenic drive we did this past fall. It only took about 4 hours, but we saw some of the most beautiful landscapes of our lives! You can even visit hot springs along that drive and/or stop for activities in any of the areas you’re passing through.
–> Read more: Montana Scenic Drive: Bozeman Loop <–
When will you visit Montana?
Don’t be fooled by this post – I will FOREVER favor Montana winters over the summers. That said, there’s still so much to do in the summer in Montana and I know some people really prefer the warmer weather to get outside! So, when will you visit Montana? Let me know in the comments below!