Escape the city and discover the most picturesque towns in Montana, where you can take in stunning natural beauty and trace the history of the American Western Frontier. Some of these charming towns serve as gateways to the great Montana outdoors as they are flanked by heavily forested valleys, lakes, and national parks.

    There are also larger towns that have retained much of their old town charms and at the same time serve as ideal bases to retreat to with great shopping, dining and even more family recreation options. Plan your next road trip through the Rockies and the Great Plains by considering these charming and picturesque towns in Montana.

    1

    Bozeman

    One of the most beautiful towns in the Rockies

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    Bozeman is a popular mountain town in Montana that's known for its convenience and ease of access to Yellowstone and the Rockies. It may be among the collection of Montana’s larger towns, but its appeal lies in its charming small-town feel. This is apparent in downtown Bozeman, where although being the hub of the town, it’s unhurried. 

    Take a slow-paced stroll along Main Street and admire the low-rise buildings housing shops, art galleries, convenience stores and teahouses on both sides, with views of the peaks of the Gallatin Range in the distance. It’s home to the Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies, which is worth a visit.

    Location: Bozeman, MT 59715, USA

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    2

    Whitefish

    A charming town and gateway to Glacier National Park

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    The town of Whitefish is a top spot on road trips through Montana, especially for those who have to venture into Glacier National Park in their plans. Right at its doorstep, you have breathtaking views and exciting nature trails through forested valleys and at the namesake lake.

    Popular for winter sports in winter, the high snow-capped peaks of the Whitefish Range loom in the distance as you walk through downtown. In summer, head for the sandy shores of City Beach by Whitefish Lake to enjoy a truly picturesque downtime. It has a swimming and picnic area, as well as kayaking, boating, and paddleboarding.

    Location: Whitefish, Montana 59937, USA

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    3

    Choteau

    For stunning vistas, adventure, culture… and dinosaurs

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    Choteau is bounded by national forests and a Native American reservation. The charming little town is a hotspot on Montana’s so-called Dinosaur Trail. You’ll find plenty of local history, from dinosaurs to the Old West, at the Old Trail Museum in downtown.

    The hushed Main Street retains its old town feel, with the rolling green hills against the white peaks of The Rocky Mountain Front greeting you just out of town. Scenic Freezout Lake and its rich birdlife are nearby, as are the Flathead National Forest, Lewis and Clark National Forest, and Glacier National Park. Egg Mountain, where the largest cache of dinosaur eggs and baby skeletons in the Western Hemisphere was found, is just a quick drive south.

    Location: Choteau, Montana 59436, USA

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    photo by Sam Beebe (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Hamilton

    A pretty town at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains

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    Hamilton is a town at the heart of the Bitterroot Valley. It’s surrounded by millions of acres of forests, making it a great base for the adventurous at heart. Even though it offers the full range of features of a large city, this late 19th-century town retains much of its old town charm with old homes and public buildings, such as its county court and city hall.

    When you’re not out conquering the many nature trails, in town you go to a theatre or on a tasting tour at local breweries, play golf, enjoy live music or browse for unique items at the boutiques and gift shops. Hamilton’s festivities worth checking out include Art in the Park and Bitterroot Microbrew Fest, both held at Legion Park, as well as Bitterroot Days held at the Ravalli County Museum.

    Location: Hamilton, Montana 59840, USA

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    photo by D Guisinger (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Lewistown

    See a living remnant of the Montana Gold Rush

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    Lewistown lies at the geographical dead centre of Montana and dates back to the gold rush in 1873. It was founded as a trading post on the Carroll Trail that ran through the Little Belt Mountains. It’s now an ideal base for adventurers due to its central location and proximity to Judith Mountains with its great hiking trails and scenic outlooks.

    There are 5 mountain ranges surrounding Lewistown, and getting to or from the town becomes a picturesque journey on its own. Besides the Judith Mountains to its north and east, you have the Big Snowy Mountains rising above the tree lines to the south and the Little Belt Mountains to its west.

    Location: Lewistown, Montana 59457, USA

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    photo by R. Sieben (CC BY 3.0) modified

    6

    Polson

    Flanked by the incredibly picturesque Flathead Lake

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    Polson is a top spot to take in the amazing scenery of Lake County in Montana. The small lakeside town overlooks the southern shore of Flathead Lake and has become a base for those seeking recreation in the great outdoors as well as a bit of Native American history – it’s set within the Flathead Indian Reservation.

    Most of the sights and action take place around the lake. You can jump in for a swim or rent a watercraft for any type of thrill level, including sailboats, canoes, speedboats or jetskis. On a Montana road trip, Polson is a great stop, be it for the views or for stocking up at the farmer's market or the cute little shops in town.

    Location: Polson, Montana 59860, USA

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    7

    West Yellowstone

    The town right at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park

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    West Yellowstone is often the town of choice for those planning to venture into Yellowstone National Park. It lies right at the border between Montana and Wyoming, with the national park’s highlights such as the giant Old Faithful geyser and West Thumb Geyser Basin with its vivid turquoise lake only a short drive east from downtown.

    Besides scenic drives and stops at breathtaking lookout points along the way, the compact and charming town has its own sets of attractions, all great for families. See the furry yet magnificent residents at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center or some cowboy action at Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo.

    Location: Montana 59758, USA

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    8

    Fort Benton

    A national historic landmark of a town

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    Fort Benton is a small town in Chouteau County where you can also get a firm grasp on the history of the American Western Frontier. The humble and authentic town on the western bank of the Missouri River is considered the birthplace of Montana, dating back to the fur trade in Upper Missouri in 1846.

    Soak up Fort Benton’s old charms as you walk through its streets lined with old buildings or along the steamboat levee. Check out the ruins of Historic Fort Benton or the fine exhibits at Museum of the Northern Great Plains. The Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center by the river is also a cool spot to learn about the local natural and cultural history.

    Location: Fort Benton, Montana 59442, USA

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    9

    Stevensville

    A charming town between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains

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    Stevensville is one of the small towns in Montana that offers plenty of things to see and do. Strolling along Main Street in downtown treats you to plenty of cute shops and antique centres selling old-time Montana items as well as cafes and cake shops.

    Catch up on the past of this historic town with a visit to Stevensville Museum or St. Mary's Mission. But the great outdoors is just a short trip out of town, with the Bitterroot Valley offering breathtaking natural beauty and plenty of hiking trails where you can breathe deeply and take it all in. The interpretive trails of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge are also worth a look, especially for animal lovers.

    Location: Stevensville, Montana 59870, USA

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    10

    Big Timber

    The heart of Sweet Grass County

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    The small and pretty town of Big Timber traces its roots back to the heydays of the Northern Pacific Railway in Montana. A quick trip out of town to the Custer Gallatin National Forest or the nearby Natural Bridge Falls and Recreation Area opens to magnificent landscapes and roaring waterfalls.

    You can learn all about the Yellowstone cutthroat trout and how they’re farmed at The Yellowstone Fish Hatchery. Or, head down to Boulder River for your own fishing adventure. Wind down and catch up on some local Sweet Grass County history back in town at the Crazy Mountain Museum with its comprehensive exhibits.

    Location: Big Timber, Montana 59011, USA

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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