Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you.

What Is Montana Known for & Famous For?

Montana sits right at the top of the Mountain West subregion of the United States. Most of the state is mountainous, leaving little room for settlement and a lot of space for tourism. It makes sense then that Montana earns a significant chunk of its money from tourism and is one of the least populous states. 

Montana is known and famous for its outdoor attractions and unique food. It’s home to the Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the Bighorn Mountains, hot springs, and rich mineral deposits. The state offers local fare such as Bison and Elk burgers, huckleberries, and Rocky mountain oysters.

Montana has few states that can rival its pristine beauty and mountainous abundance.  The lure of the great outdoors draws millions of tourists every year, seeking communication with nature and a break from city life.  Please read on to discover Montana’s famed outdoor locations and why you should consider a visit to the state fondly named the ‘Last Best Place.’

Big Sky Country 

The Big Sky Country is an expansive area in Montana offering gorgeous views and stunning skies. The road winds through the meadows and drops into the Gallatin Canyon alongside the scenic Gallatin River.

Big Sky Country has endless hiking trails and rivers perfect for whitewater activities. Wildflower petals paint the land, giving the mountainous area breathtaking vibrancy.

 

After fishing in the trout-filled streams, the snowy slopes await. Big Sky Country has thousands of acres of skiable terrain spanning four mountains

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is arguably the most famous national park in the United States. It covers three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. 

The Park’s Upper Geyser Basin has a dense concentration of geysers within a square mile. In a two-hour walk, you’ll see the Giantess Geyser, Beehive Geyser, and the Old Faithful. 

The Old Faithful geyser doesn’t shoot up water columns as regularly as it used to, but you can expect spectacular eruptions about every one-and-a-half hours. 

Geysers and hot springs are the main attractions in Yellowstone, but you also get scenic views (especially from Mount Washburn) and encounters with wildlife. 

Bighorn Mountains

The Bighorn Mountains offer a wide range of activities, including hunting, biking, fishing, and camping. You get rolling hills and high snow-capped peaks featuring grass prairies and waterfalls. 

The Bighorn National Forest is a haven for wildlife, including moose and elk. It also hides a large ancient Medicine Wheel site used by Native American tribes for healing and health. 

This mountain range offers a dramatic array of landscaped terrain, from meadows and grasslands to steep cliffs and valleys. The area offers 1,200 miles (1931km) of trails and 30 campgrounds, and multiple streams and reservoirs. 

Wildlife

Montana has a diverse range of wildlife scattered across the sparsely-populated state. You may see bison, elk, moose, wolverines, wolves, bighorn sheep, and otters depending on where you are. 

The grizzly bear is Montana’s official state animal, so you should endeavor to see one before you leave. The Black-footed ferret also calls Montana home; it is one of the rarest mammals in America, so you should count yourself lucky if you see one. 

National parks and refuges offer the best places to view wildlife. Surrounded by Flathead Lake, Wild Horse Island has the most beautiful wild horses anywhere in Montana. 

Sapphires

Montana produces a significant chunk of the United States‘ sapphire. However, the desirable blue sapphires are uncommon in Montana, with most occurring as blue-green and pale green. 

These sapphires occur naturally in The Treasure State, offering visitors a chance to hunt for them. The Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine provides visitors with an opportunity to search for gem-quality sapphires in sapphire gravel

For an extra fee, the mountain offers cutting onsite. You can also look for sapphires at the Sapphire Gallery in Phillipsburg, Montana. 

The gallery offers over 3,000 pieces of sapphire and ruby jewelry from Montana and sells custom-designed gems, and offers handcrafted mineral gifts from the area. 

Rich Deposits of Minerals

The western parts of the state have the highest concentration of mineral deposits. You can find gold, rubies, turquoise, topaz, rhodonite, jasper, and many more. 

As the name suggests, Crystal Park is a great place to find crystals like quartz and amethyst. Butte Country has mines, including the Emma Mines, which hold minerals like barite and bornite. 

Madison County has the Ruby River, a treasure trove of red and orange almandine garnets.

Billings, Montana 

Billings in Yellowstone County is Montana’s largest city, but the outdoor attractions making Montana a top tourist destination lie a stone-throw away. For instance, the Rimrocks, a superb range of sandstone cliffs, backdrop the city. 

If you prefer to remain in the city, you can visit the Moss Mansion, a symbol of early 20th Billings featuring the original decorations and furnishings. You can also pass by the natural ZooMontana, which features animals no longer able to live in the wild. 

The Yellowstone Art Museum contains local art exhibits, and the DanWalt Gardens offer tranquility on the southeast side of Billings. 

Glacier National Park

The two-lane highway snaking through Glacier National Park is arguably the best way to experience this sanctuary of incredible sights. 

It passes through the glacial lakes, cedar forests, waterfalls, and alpine peaks. Strategic viewpoints allow one to stop, enjoy the view, and inevitably, take tons of photographs.

 

For a more intimate experience with Glacier National Park, you can hit the many hiking trails in the park. Visit Lake McDonald, a water body created by glaciers, and engage in various tours and horseback riding. 

Glacier National Park is also a great place to view Montana’s diverse wildlife and vegetation.

Outdoors

Montana’s great outdoors host a ton of activities, most notably hiking. The state has trails everywhere, but the best ones transverse the national parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone. 

The mountains hold mountain biking trails of different difficulties. For a unique experience, you can try fat biking through the snow. 

Montana’s rivers and lakes are perfect locations for water sports. Thrill-seekers can go for whitewater rafting, and for a calm experience, how about canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding?

The state also offers excellent fishing, hunting, and winter sports locations. You can end the day viewing the sunset on horseback

Hot Springs

Montana has several locations offering hot spring pools, music, lodging, and food. Quinn’s Resort, for instance, features several pools with varying temperatures and an ice pool for cooling off and improving circulation. 

Chico Hot Springs has served people since 1900 and features two open-air mineral pools. It’s less than an hour away from the Gardiner entrance of Yellowstone Park and, therefore, a convenient place to relax after a day in the wild.

Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana

Approximately a billion tons of earth were mined from The Berkeley Pit in its nearly 30 years of operation. The Pit covers a massive area on the east side of Butte, Montana. 

It filled with water after the excavation ended. Contaminants on the site have made the water highly acidic and dangerous to many living creatures. 

You can view the pit walls at several vantage points, but you need to visit the Viewing Stand to view the water. The stand opens from March to October. 

Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky Resort is Montana’s premier ski resort. It has over 5,800 acres of white mountainside to accommodate its many guests.

Its 39 lifts allow skiers to spread out, find a patch of snow, and blast down the mountain. The resort’s main attraction is the drop from the top of Lone Peak.  

If uninterested in skiing down the mountain, you can soak up the 360-degree views aboard the Lone Peak Tram. 

Discovery Ski Area in Anaconda, Montana

The Discovery Ski area offers a smaller area for skiing compared to Big Sky, but it is every bit as fun. The ski area provides premium skiing fun for all skiers, regardless of expertise

Beginners and intermediates can enjoy runs on the Anaconda; experts can tackle the steeper runs off the Granite Chair and north-facing Limelight lift. 

Unlike the resort, the area has no hotels and fancy restaurants – it’s a spot purely for skiing pleasure, making it a great place to escape the city for a while. 

The Little Bighorn Battlefield

The Little Bighorn Battlefield hosted a battle between Native Americans and federal forces led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. Lt. Col. Custer died in this field, hence its recognition as the site of Custer’s last stand. 

It’s an exciting place for history lovers who can watch the orientation video and explore the museum exhibits. One can also hike the Deep Ravine trail, walk through the cemetery, and visit the Indian Memorial. 

What Foods Montana Is Known For

Visiting the famous attractions of Montana can be exhausting. Thankfully, the state has plenty of delicious cuisines you can dig into to replenish your energy stores. Let’s dive into the foods to give you a taste of what to expect. 

Huckleberries

Over seven species of huckleberries grow in Montana. Huckleberry picking can be a fun activity for locals and visitors. 

You can find huckleberries in most Western Montana’s parks and hiking trails. You can also find them on campgrounds and ski slopes. 

Huckleberries are plentiful for humans and bears too. Therefore, take caution when picking these juicy treats. 

Bison Burgers

Bison Burgers are a staple of Montana’s food outlets as they are more tender and healthier than beef burgers. 

Bison meat is leaner than beef: It contains almost 25% fewer calories and less fat. The composition of Bison meat also makes it softer. 

The jury’s out on whether bison burgers are sweeter than beef burgers. However, when in Montana, the bison burger’s the way to go. 

Flathead Cherries

Montana is a leading producer of Flathead cherries. Flathead lake allows the cherries to grow at the right moment and protects them from freezing during autumn.

The cherries might bloom during spring, but the still cool Flathead lake prevents flower growth during this unpredictable time. In the summer, the land is warm enough to support fruit production. 

As autumn kicks in, the water heated during summer keeps the area warmer for a while longer, protecting the trees. Flathead Lake ensures that farmers rarely miss a harvest of Flathead cherries. 

Wheat Montana Cinnamon Roll

Wheat Montana is famous for making sweet, giant cinnamon rolls from flour grown and harvested nearby. You can find the rolls at any Wheat Montana cafe, but if you can, visit the original location in Three Forks.

The rolls – which are allegedly as big as your head – barely last a few hours before selling out. White Montana cinnamon rolls can be enjoyed plain or with a lot of frosting – whichever tickles your fancy. 

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky mountain oysters are – as plainly as possible – bull testicles. You can no longer enjoy the thrills and Testicle eating competition of Montana’s Testicle festival – it was banned in 2018 – but you can still enjoy rocky mountain oysters. 

Most outlets in Montana sell rocky mountain oysters exactly how they should be: fried. It’s tough to find a restaurant in Montana who can’t make good rocky mountain oysters, so dig in if you see them on a menu. 

Elk Burger

Elk burgers use elk meat rather than beef meat or bison meat. Elk meat is tender and has a dark-red color and, when cooked, looks amazing tucked between burger burns. 

Most outlets will know not to overcook Elk meat due to its low-fat content. Elk meat dries quickly; you should have it medium-rare. 

Elk meat is lean and highly nutritious, making the elk burger a handy option for your Montana excursions.

Pasties

Pasties in Montana date back to the 1800s rush to mine the state’s resources. Their portability made them perfect for miners and Catholic missionaries.

At the time, they used to weigh around two pounds, but they’ve become smaller and, perhaps, tastier. They consist of meat and vegetables wrapped inside an oval-like shell.

 

Pasties are a much-loved dish in Montana, so you’ll struggle to find a chef in the state who can’t make the best pasties you’ll ever have. 

Conclusion

Montana is the perfect destination for anyone who enjoys wildlife and outdoor activities. Holidays in Montana involve hiking, fishing, berry-picking, skiing, horse riding, and whitewater activities. 

Most places have a website; therefore, you can check their availability throughout the year. The sites also provide prices so that you can plan your trip accordingly. 

The meals available in Montana are delicious and healthy. You can dine on tasty burgers, succulent berries and cherries, cinnamon rolls the size of your head, and fried and native pasties. The bull’s testicles, thankfully, are entirely optional! 

Sources