The 10 best places to visit in Montana

 

Completed in 1985, sitting atop the continental divide at an elevation of 2,594 metres (8,510 ft) above sea level, overlooking the city of Butte is Our Lady Of The Rockies, a 27 metre (90 ft) tall statue built in the likeness of the Virgin Mary. Dedicated to women everywhere, especially mothers, it is the fourth tallest statue in the United States. A mountain road leads visitors up behind the statue where it offers fantastic views over the surrounding mountains and countryside.

10. Our Lady Of The Rockies

 

Directly south of the state capital, Helena, is the old mining town of Virginia City, once the capital of the territory and described as the most colourful pioneer mining camp to have have existed. Today it remains almost frozen in time as a remarkably well preserved original piece of the old west, one of the best Ghost Towns representing the American Victorian era.

9. Virginia City

 

In the western centre of the state, founded during the Montana Gold Rush of the 1860's is the State capital, Helena. Having been one of the richest cities in the United States at the turn of the 19th century, the city is today awash with elaborate Victorian architecture and arguably the most attractive state capital building in the country. As the fifth least populated State capital in America, this city has a small town feel with its low level skyline surrounded by huge open wilderness and mountains, a perfect jumping off point for visitors heading out into Montana's park lands.

8. Helena

 

In the extreme east of the state,​ close to the border with North Dakota is the Makoshika State Park, meaning Bad Lands or Bad Spirits. Covering an area of some 45 square kilometres (17 square miles) the largest state park in Montana encompasses an area of badlands filled with unusual rock formations and an abundance of Dinosaur fossils making for some of the most distinctive terrain in the State.

7. Makoshika State Park

 

In the far west of the state along the border with Idaho, covering an area of some 8,895 square kilometres (3,434 square miles) of wilderness is Lolo National Forest. Home to over 60 mammal species that include grizzly and black bear, this beautiful forest includes over 1,100 kilometres (700 miles) of hiking trails that take visitors around the 100 named lakes, through the dense forest and over low level mountains.

6. Lolo National Forest

 

Slightly north east from the state capital, Helena, encompassing an area of some 115 square kilometres (44 square miles) within Helena National Forest is the Gates Of The Rocky Mountains Wilderness, described during the famous Lewis and Clark expedition as the finest cliffs they had ever laid their eyes upon. With an abundance of camp grounds and hiking trails so close to the State capital, this pristine wilderness of lakes, rivers, forests, cliff faces and craggy mountain has become a favourite among hikers and one of the most visited natural areas in Montana.

5. Gates Of The Rocky Mountains Wilderness

 

In the southern centre of the state, just north of the border with Wyoming is the 7,363 square kilometre (2,842 square mile) Custer Gallatin National Forest, a vast wilderness that forms part of the greater Yellowstone National Park. Encompassing six separate mountain ranges, the forest is home to the Granite Peak, rising 3,901 metres (12,799 ft) above sea level it is the highest point in Montana. With over 3,690 kilometres (2,290 miles) of hiking trails that interlink with Yellowstone, the Custer Gallatin National Forest with a landscape of mountains, glaciers, canyons, lakes and and over 300 animal species is one of the most wild natural areas in Montana.

4. Custer Gallatin National Forest

 

In the extreme north west of the state, close to the borders of Idaho and Canada's Alberta province is the Kootenai National Forest, encompassing an area of some 8,900 square kilometres (3,436 square miles) of pristine wilderness. This vast landscape is one of forested mountains, large lakes and waterfalls, with over 1,900 kilometres (1,200 miles) of hiking trails.

One of the most notable and favourite treks in the forest is the Leigh Lake Trail, a 4.4 kilometre (2.7 mile) lightly trafficked moderate hike.

3. Kootenai National Forest

In the north west of the state, covering an area of some 9,732 square kilometres (3,757 square miles) within the Rocky Mountains is the Flathead National Forest, named after the Flathead Native Americans who once occupied the area. With over 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) of hiking trails among the steep Rocky Mountains, vast forests, rivers and lakes, it is another of Montana's finest wilderness areas.

2. Flathead National Forest

 

In the extreme north of the state, crossing the border into Canada's Alberta and British Columbia Territories is the 4,100 square kilometre (1,583 square mile) Glacier National Park, a vast pristine ecosystem that has been referred to as the Crown Of The Continent. Encompassing sub ranges of the Rocky Mountains, the park is home to steep impressive snow capped peaks, 130 named lakes, large glaciers, magnificent forests and hundreds of animal species. One of the easy to complete highlights is the Going To The Sun Road, taking visitors on an incredibly scenic drive to the heart of the park. Bordering Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park, the two parks combine to make the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a jewel of nature that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Glacier National Park

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