Trying to find the best small town in Montana is akin to trying to pinpoint the best stretch of scenery. Either way, you are spoiled for choice!
Small-town living is a big thing in Montana, with each little place having its own distinct character and charm.
Across the state of Montana, there are so many small scenic towns that you maybe never have heard of. Classified as anything between a couple hundred to 10,000 in population; finding the best small towns in Montana can take a lot of research.
Many of these historic communities have stood the test of time since Montana’s historic beginnings, with many maintaining charms of the Old West.
One of the things that the best small towns in Montana have in common is easy access to the great outdoors. Surrounded by expansive mountain ranges, and large bodies of water, the natural landscapes and resources make these towns very enticing.
It is not surprising that many of these locations attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.
Aside from the scenic surroundings, the charm of Montana’s friendly small towns attracts many visitors, with people often returning or becoming long-term residents after falling in love with the locale.
So let’s delve deeper into the most scenic small towns in Montana and see what makes them so attractive.
Best Small Towns in Montana
1. Red Lodge
Southern Montana’s Beartooth Mountain region is where you’ll find the small town of Red Lodge, with its population of less than 3,000.
Needless to say, this place is on the doorstep of the great outdoors. Furthermore, Red Lodge is often associated with the Beartooth Scenic Highway that takes you from the town all the way up to Yellowstone National Park.
Red Lodge is a great place to visit, especially for those planning a memorable Montana road trip. Aside from the picturesque and rugged, natural terrains, the town has plenty to offer by way of eateries, bars, live music, and accommodations.
Livingston is a scenic town in Park County with oodles of typical Montana charm. The small town, with a population of less than 7,000, has many historic buildings lining the streets.
This includes the Livingston Depot, a former train station that harks back to 1902, that functions as a museum for Montana railroad history.
Livingston is also a popular fly-fishing spot, which is evident from the town’s Fly-Fishing Discovery Center. On top of that, the Yellowstone Gateway Museum is another good place to learn about the area, with both temporary and permanent exhibitions offering further insights into the area.
Located only half an hour away from Bozeman, it is the perfect location for those commuting to the bigger city.
Philipsburg is a small town in Montana with scenic surroundings by way of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest on all sides. Georgetown Lake, which is just 15 minutes to the South of the town, also offers more scenery to explore.
The small Montana town is known for having unique resources. Notably, rich veins of sapphire gemstones contributed to its original establishment.
The stones remain as a major attraction for visitors to the town, allowing tourists to go digging for them or browsing the gems in the local shops.
There are even a few nearby ghost towns connected to the sapphire boom and the initial prosperity that it attracted to the area.
The town has a population below 1,000 but benefits from being located less than an hour from, the much larger, Missoula. Furthermore, the town has its own unique quirks like the downtown Sweets Palace. This candy store, which still exhibits in the style of the Old West, is famous for its aromatic confectionery.
There are plenty of modern buildings and shops to compliment and contrast the town’s sense of its historic past, as well as the fact that the town is surrounded by picturesque hiking trails, ski areas, and hot springs.
The combination of history, nature, and industry makes this one of the most attractive small towns in Montana.
Anaconda is an elevated Montana small town at more than 1600 meters above sea level, located in Deer Lodge County. This makes it an ideal place to explore the surrounding mountain terrain, as well as the forests and lakes.
The dramatic cliffs and geological formations of nearby Lost Creek State Park attract many people to the area, offering an abundance of scenic vistas around the area.
Downtown Anaconda is both pleasant and historic, with some buildings dating as far back as the late 1800s. Notable locations include The Hearst Free Library and the Deer Lodge County Courthouse.
Other, more contemporary, iconic locations of note include Club Moderne, a stylish bar that was built in the late 1930s.
5. Fort Benton
Fort Benton is otherwise known as the “Birthplace of Montana,” and the spirit of this statement is very much alive in the small town. Located in the central part of the state just along from Missoula, Fort Benton is featured on the historical route of explorers Lewis and Clark. The river that runs along the town is considered a key central point as the country expanded towards the west.
Shortly after entering Fort Benton, you will notice how important history is to the town’s identity. This is evident from the plethora of historic buildings and commemorative statues; not to mention the many museums like the Museum of the Northern Great Plains.
For those interested in learning more of the history of the Missouri River, The Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center is a must-visit attraction.
Due to its location, the small Montana town has picturesque natural surroundings, especially in terms of the Missouri River. This region includes the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, which has been a point of interest for visitors for hundreds of years.
Choteau has all the charm that you would expect from a small Montana town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. For starters, right on the doorstep of this town is the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, offering over a million acres of natural terrain, which is ideal for wildlife and all manner of outdoor adventures.
On top of that, there is Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest nearby. As you can imagine, the opportunities for outdoor pursuits from Choteau are almost never-ending.
Choteau has its fair share of decent local diners and unique accommodation options along with cultural attractions in the town itself, such as the Old Trail Museum.
The area is also a well-known hot spot in terms of Montana’s Jurassic history, and The Montana Dinosaur Center is the perfect place to get more insights into the region’s archaeological legacy.
Ennis first came into being when gold was discovered in nearby Alder Gulch in the latter half of the 1800s. Like many of the other boom towns at that time, people started pouring into the area with the hope of making their fortune.
William Ennis was one of these incoming hopefuls, bringing the town to fruition after setting up camp on the Madison River.
Later on Ennis and its surrounding area became a ranching country, and now boasts numerous ranches still in operation to this day. The rivers are popular as both rainbow and brown trout fishing spots.
Furthermore, being in the vicinity of Yellowstone National Park, the town picks up a lot of passing trade from visitors heading in that direction.
Polson is a small Montana town located within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation, on the shores of Flathead Lake. This gives an idea of what life and industry in Polson leans towards, as the lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the region.
Needless to say, for many who live or decide to stay in Polson, there is unlimited opportunity for water-based activities like boating, paddling, and fishing.
If you just want to enjoy the view of the water, there are plenty of places to camp or picnic. The population of Polson may be small, less than 5,000, but it is a scenic and laid-back town to visit.
9. Big Timber
Located in southeast Montana between Bozeman and Billings, Big Timber gets its name from the creek of the same name. It is here that the scenic Crazy Mountains offer a stunning backdrop to the small town.
It is no surprise that the major town attractions are built around these two landmarks, with the Crazy Mountain Museum offering insight into the history and geography of the location.
Big Timber is something of an attraction point for outdoor adventure due to its easy access into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, but the area is particularly renowned for fly-fishing.
Anglers from all over have been known to come to Big Timber to fish in the Yellowstone River. For fishers, Big Timber is easily one of the best small towns in Montana.
The final location to mention when considering the greatest small towns in Montana is Libby, a quaint and laid-back community in Lincoln County.
Highlighted by that familiar Montana mountain terrain, the town is further defined by the Kootenay River and its vicinity of the popular point of attraction, The Kootenai Falls.
This is a charming little town with Montana’s great outdoors in its immediate vicinity, including the Kootenai National Forest, and the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area.