Montana has been a key tourist destination for many travelers to Big Sky Country, thanks to its expansive wilderness that include mountain ranges, lakes, and the biggest attraction for many, Glacier National Park.
With so much to do, you may be asking yourself when is the best time to visit Montana? We will take a closer look at the months and seasons, so you know when is the best time for you to visit.
When is the Best Time to Visit Montana?
Summer is the best time to visit Montana, this allows you to enjoy the nature and culture of the Treasure State while enjoying clear skies and warm weather. However, Montana also sees a spike in tourists during the winter months as many flocks to one of their many ski resorts and winter festivities.
High Season (June to August)
The best time to visit is throughout the summer months between June and August when the weather is sunny and warm when there are many outdoor festivals and other summer holiday events.
The other popular time is between December and March when the snow fanatics come for the ski season. Places like Yellowstone can still be reached during winter by snowmobiles and cross-country skis, and Glacier National Park is also open with limited traffic access.
Shoulder Season (May, September/October)
The fall and spring shoulder seasons are the best periods to find reduced accommodation prices, and the weather is warmer than in winter. January is quite slow too, with a more chance of promotions and reduced rates.
Low Season (November to April)
The low season in Montana is when summer is over and the area’s two main winter resorts, Big Sky and Big Mountain, close at the end of ski season.
A lot of the other businesses and attractions near the ski resorts may also close for a short period at this time.
Montana Weather by Month
- Montana Weather in January: January often has some of the lowest temperatures in Montana, on average around 2°F (-16.7°C) in some areas. In western regions like Flathead Lake the highest temperatures will be in the range of 22°F (-5.6°C) to 32°F (0°C). There isn’t much sun at this time and days are short, with some of the heaviest snowfall of the year, especially across the southwestern mountain ranges. If there is any sunshine it only lasts for around 4 hours a day.
- Montana Weather in February: Another cold winter month with average temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C) and not much higher than 40°F (4.4°C) between the various regions of the state. Snowstorms and blizzards are common at this point in the winter, although the weather is somewhat irregular in February with variations of up to 50 degrees between areas separated by high mountains. There is plenty of cloud, ice, and snow, and not much by way of sun.
- Montana Weather in March: March is close to the tail end of the winter season in Montana, with snowfall still common and heaviest in the southwest and south-central locations. There is a chance of slight rain in March, with most of it in the western regions, and a week or two of sunshine is possible. It is still fairly windy and cold in most places though, with average high temperatures between 40°F (4.4°C) and 50°F (10°C). Expect the nights to be on the cold side, as low as 15°F (-9.4°C) and 30°F (-1.1°C). Early spring is starting to break through in March in Montana, but it is still pretty much on the cold and windy side.
- Montana Weather in April: April in Montana marks the beginning of milder days, although the nights are still cold and it is quite wet. Spring starts to show itself more prominently, as do tourists. Western Montana usually gets the most rainfall, at somewhere between 1.5″ (38.1mm) and 2.5″ (63.5mm). There is also a residue of snowfall in many places, but the majority is up in the high mountain ranges. April is the time in Montana when daytime temperatures become more bearable in the 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) range, but night temperatures still pass the freezing point. April signals more sunshine and the fishing season opens as the snow melts.
- Montana Weather in May: May is a beautiful time to visit Montana as spring comes into full bloom. The northwest has average temperatures between 40°F (4.4°C) and 67°F (19.4°C), with even warmer temperatures being prevalent in the eastern regions. Any snow that remains in May is largely in the upper mountain ranges, with rain being more prominent in many regions. The sunshine makes a comeback in the latter part of spring, as does the wildlife, in line with ever-increasing numbers of tourists.
- Montana Weather in June: June is one of the best times to visit Montana in terms of sunshine, with average high temperatures now in the 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range. It won’t get much colder now than 40°F (4.4°C) to 55°F (12.8°C), and both the lower valleys and the higher plains get plenty of sunlight during the summer. June can still be wet in some places though, with the rain coming in heavy showers and a chance of occasional thunderstorms. So be careful if heading out to the vastly open plains and make sure to carry rain protection and layered clothing, particularly on high mountain trails.
- Montana Weather in July: July is the hottest month of the year in Montana, and the time to experience the best summer weather. The average temperatures are somewhere between 75°F (23.9°C) and 88°F (31.1°C) with night temperatures of around 40°F (4.4°C) to 55°F (12.8°C). July can still be little wet, though only with light rain and occasional thunderstorms, but it is mostly sunshine. It is still worth noting that on mountain ranges the temperatures can still plummet during the night, so pack warm clothes for camping trips in higher altitude areas.
- Montana Weather in August: August is another beautiful Montana summer month with temperatures in the 70°F (21.1°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) range. Humidity is higher in August, with sunny days bringing an average 9 hours a day. Light clothing is ideal for daytime but you might need a few layers later on due to the drop in temperature.
- Montana Weather in September: Montana begins its transition into the autumn season in this month, resulting in some stunning visual scenarios. Average high temperatures tend to be in the region of 60°F (15.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C), with cooler nights ranging between 35°F (1.7°C) and 45°F (7.2°C). There may still be a few lingering summer thunderstorms around this time, but they are fairly dry. September has an average of around 18 days of sunny weather, and wildlife is still fairly active during the autumn, so don’t be too surprised to see the odd bear or two.
- Montana Weather in October: Cooler temperatures are starting to draw in around October against the brilliant backdrop of fall. Average high temperatures are likely to be somewhere between 55°F (12.8°C) and 60°F (15.6°C), with lower temperatures closer to the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) mark and slight snowfall. This is Montana at its best weather-wise when there is an abundance of wildlife and it is prime fishing and hunting season. You may find that jackets and other warmer garments are becoming more necessary around this time.
- Montana Weather in November: November signals the last days of autumn and ushers in colder temperatures. The average range is between 18°F (-7.8°C) and 48°F (8.9°C), and snowfall proper begins to appear in many places. Sunshine becomes scarcer in November at around 4 hours daily, and the weather becomes more unpredictable. This means you could encounter clear blue skies one minute and thunderstorms the next.
- Montana Weather in December: December is pretty cold in Montana, with average temperatures dropping to the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 32°F (0°C) mark or lower. The eastern section of the state gets some of the coldest weather with average low temperatures of around 7°F (-13.9°C). Snowfall gets more severe, especially in the mountains, and a chill wind comes in. Short days mean the sun’s presence wanes significantly, and you will need to consider winter coats, caps, gloves, and boots etc. at this time of year.
Tips When Visiting Montana
- The Best Time to Book Hotels is At least three months in advance of travel in the summer high season.
- The Best Time for Sightseeing – The ideal months for travel and sightseeing are the warmer months between June and August when the must-see attractions are guaranteed to be open and the temperatures are most comfortable.
- The Best Time for Shopping – Anytime! Most retailers are open all year round, although to be on the safe side you might consider visiting either end of the low season if you have shopping on your mind.
- The Best Time for Festivals & Events is definitely during the summer months when the festival season is at its height and you won’t be spoilt for choice when it comes to festivals in any Montana region.
Montana Events and Festivals
Montana in January
- Snoflinga: This is Butte’s winter festival that showcases winter activities for any skill level. There are plenty of winter opportunities around Butte, like skiing, the annual triathlon which consists of a 5K run, a 10K Nordic Ski, and a fat bike race. There’s also plenty of live music and food. This is Montana embracing winter recreation!
Read more about visiting Montana in January
Montana in February
- Wild West Winterfest: Bozeman locals host the fun and warming Winterfest, hosted in the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. This is a cold-weather carnival including a kids’ rodeo, horse-drawn carriage rides, and ATV racing. There is storytelling and music, a chili cook-off, and a pet competition, among other activities.
- Big Sky Documentary Film Festival: This festival showcases the best in documentary films from around the world, and attracts somewhere in the region of 10,000 people. More than 100 films are shown over the course of a week on Montana’s largest movie screen at the historic Wilma Theatre in Missoula. Filmmakers from all over attend to discuss their movies.
Read more about visiting Montana in February
Montana in March
- Helena Spring Art & Craft Show: This is the capital of Montana’s annual Art and Craft showcase, and features around 100 participants selling unique and hand-crafted items with a local theme.
- Winter Carnival Red Lodge: A great one-day, annual event in Red Lodge featuring various activities and events, with prizes, fireworks and a torch lighting parade.
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Montana in April
- Whitefish Winter Carnival: This Montana festival is ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 Winter Carnivals by National Geographic, and is a celebration of Ullr, the snow god. Plenty of food, entertainment and an amazing fireworks display are evident.
- International Wildlife Film Festival: This was the first wildlife film festival in the world, and has become the longest running to date. It attracts over 10,000 people from around the world, and includes a parade in Downtown Missoula. The Wilma Theatre is the main venue, and filmmakers hold presentations at the Roxy Theatre.
Read more about visiting Montana in April
Montana in May
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- Bucking Horse Festival Miles City: An old school, Wild West Montana rodeo is the main attraction here. This is a state tradition and should be experienced at least once.
- Whitewater Festival: Bigfork holds this festival every May when the local Swan River is running high. Everyone gets wild on the river, and you can witness the “Wild Mile” on the rapids while the local bars, brewpubs and restaurants put on beer, food, and entertainment.
Read more about visiting Montana in May
Montana in June
- Custer’s Last Stand: Hardin hosts Little Bighorn Days and the Battle of Little Bighorn annually, where the famous battle is re-enacted and various activities are available.
- Lewis & Clark Festival: Gibson Park in Great Falls is the venue for this three-day festival, which relives history according to the daily journals kept by Lewis and Clark. The information is available through presentations, exhibits, and various events.
Read more about visiting Montana in June
Montana in July
- Evel Knievel Day: Butte is Evel Knievel’s hometown, and it celebrates him every year with a free three-day festival. All things daredevil are featured such as motorcycles, BMXs, mountain bikes, skateboards, and various other activities.
- Montana Folk Festival: This famous, free, annual music festival celebrates the unique culture of folk music, and features more than 200 musicians with performers from the world over.
- Fourth of July at Fort Missoula: At this celebration, you’ll find everything from model trains to fire trucks, children’s games, pony rides, food, arts & crafts, and all manner of special displays. There are antique engines and other historical artifacts and displays, with plenty of Music and Entertainment, at the Fort Museum of Missoula.
- Freedom Festival: Montana’s most spectacular fireworks display is on July 3rd in Butte, and the celebration continues on July 4th with Montana’s best-attended 4th of July parade.
Read more about visiting Montana in July
Montana in August
- Sweet Pea Festival: Sweet Pea is one of Montana’s biggest arts festivals. Bozeman brings in hundreds of craftspeople annually to showcase off their wares in at this 3-day event in Lindley Park. You’ll find some amazing art, live music and theatre, food vendors, plenty of children’s activities like Shakespeare in the Park, and the Chalk Walk.
- Montana Beer Festival: The best craft breweries from the region head to Bozeman to showcase their wares at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. Live music and food is available while you sample the local beers.
- Annual Bigfork Festival of the Arts: Bigfork hosts one of the oldest art festivals in Montana which is now more than 40-years old. With more than 150 artisans and stalls, the festival fills the main street of town and showcases a selection of arts, crafts, food, music, and other entertainment.
Read more about visiting Montana in August
Montana in September
- Hempfest: This annual festival promotes the versatility of industrial hemp. It highlights the alternatives that hemp offers in terms of healing, eating, and building, and includes live music, a fashion show, various food vendors, and information booths.
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Montana in October
- Montana Book Festival: This 3-day festival celebrates reading, writing, and books by featuring over 70 local writers through readings, panels, exhibits, demonstrations, a literary contest, and various forms of entertainment.
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Montana in November
- Yellowstone Ski Festival: In the early weeks of the season, skiers from around the country head to Yellowstone for various snow-based activities such as cross-country races, ski clinics, and many more.
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Montana in December
- Parade of Lights: The annual parade in Missoula is an all-day event with various children’s activities. The events include Santa Claus in the Florence Building, before lighting up the Christmas tree on North Higgins Avenue.
- Big Sky Christmas Stroll: The annual Christmas Stroll includes a tree lighting ceremony, photos with Santa, illuminated cross country skiing, fat bike trails, sleigh rides, music, fireworks, and plenty more.
Read more about visiting Montana in December