Glacier Country is the Montana that people who have never been to Montana tend to envision—woodsy, with alpine lakes and towering mountain panoramas; wild, with bison, bears and huckleberries galore. Glacier National Park, the quintessential postcard snap, does nothing to dispel this notion, while areas like Seeley-Swan, the Bitterroot Valley and the National Bison Range in Moiese only bolster the region’s majestic reputation.
When it comes to Central Montana, the question is, how far back in time would you like to go? Here, you’ll experience Fort Benton’s days as a fur-trading outpost, Lewis and Clark’s 1805–06 Montana expedition, and Bear Paw Battlefield, where Chief Joseph resigned to “fight no more forever.”
Missouri River Country
Missouri River Country might be the last chance in the Lower 48 to explore vast stretches of pristine landscape. Here, elk, deer and pronghorn antelope still graze the prairie, even outside the region’s many wildlife preserves. Refugees from the modern world come here to escape blaring sirens and traffic jams, losing themselves to the seemingly endless great wide open.
Even when you’re not cross-country skiing to ghost towns, checking out the Old Montana Prison or digging for sapphires, you’ll stumble into history everywhere in Southwest Montana. It’s in the ornamental details of Helena’s West Side Mansion District, testament to boom-year prospectors who struck it rich (and in Reeder’s Alley’s one-room shanties, proof of those who didn’t).
Yellowstone Country is a study in appealing contrasts. Here, rugged peaks open to prairies, ski bums and ranchers rub shoulders with creative professionals and college kids, and you’re just as likely to spot wildlife as a progressive art gallery.
Nowhere does cowboy culture and American Indian lore live on like it does in Southeast Montana. While this region is largely made up of ranch land and rural communities, Southeast Montana's spectacular badlands and rolling prairie play host to real-life cattle drives and rodeos, wild-horse stampedes and powwows.
There are seven reservations and twelve tribal nations in Montana. Their languages, cultures, histories and governments are all unique. Tribal tourism welcomes visitors to bear witness to the varied customs of each nation that are inherently connected to what is now the state of Montana.