Thanks to its landscape of prairies and wilderness against a stunning mountainous backdrop, Montana attracts millions of outdoor enthusiasts every year. But Big Sky Country is more than just a travel gem. If you’re wondering whether Montana is a good place to live, the answer is yes!
Every city in Montana offers something unique to its residents. If you’re considering making the move, here are our seven best Montana towns to live in.
The 13 Best Montana Towns To Call Home
Is Montana a good place to live? Yes, it certainly is for those looking for wide open spaces and easy access to natural wonders like the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park, Montana can be the ideal place to raise a family or to start your educational Journey at Montana State University in beautiful Bozeman.
Billings is one of the largest cities in Montana. According to a new study conducted by WalletHub, Billings is also one of the best-run cities in the country. It ranked number 17 in the study out of 150 cities, which took into account six categories including financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, infrastructure, and pollution.
The study found that the unemployment rate in Billings, at 3.1%, is lower than the state-wide average of 3.8%. Billings also ranked at number #61 on Livability.com’s list of the world’s Top 100 Places to Live due to a number of factors, including advanced healthcare services, an abundance of jobs, and a reasonable cost of living.
As Billings is the most populous city in Montana, it also boasts several big-city amenities from world-class restaurants to thriving music venues to outdoor activities. Together, these factors mean that it’s one of the best Montana towns for those wanting that big city experience.
The same WalletHub study of the best-run cities in the United States also found that Missoula, located in the state’s west near the Clark Fork River, is also one of the best Montana cities to live in.
When looking at metrics such as average life expectancy, median household income, infant mortality rate, and the city’s credit rating, Missoula was found to be one of the state’s hidden gems.
With a population of around 77,000, Missoula maintains its small-town feel, which is one of the main factors that it draws in families and those looking for a quieter lifestyle. At the same time, the economy in Missoula is stable and growing, and the town was actually named one of the best small places for business and careers by Forbes.
Along with scenic landscapes and natural beauty, Missoula is also home to the University of Montana campus, which is one of the country’s top institutions for undergraduate education, according to the Princeton Review.
If college is in the equation for you or your family, then Bozeman is one of the best small towns that Montana has to offer. In 2016, Schools.com, an online source of national education news, ranked Bozeman as the fourth-best small college town to live in.
Home to Montana State University, the list took into consideration the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree, the county employment rate, and the number of restaurants and bars per 10,000 residents, among other factors.
The town also boasts a booming economy, attracting entrepreneurs and high-tech companies basing themselves and creating jobs from Bozeman. Plus, all local tech and manufacturing businesses receive free mentoring from the Bozeman Technology Incubator.
As picturesque as the rest of the state, Bozeman is situated just 90 minutes from Yellowstone National Park, making it a mecca for outdoor lovers as well as students from all over the country. Additionally, the town is home to multiple impressive amenities, ranging from four museums to several art galleries.
The state capital of Montana, Helena established itself as one of the country’s wealthiest cities following the Montana Gold Rush in the 19th century, which led to the city being founded. These days, you can feel the affluence in the grand architecture still standing, not to mention the median household income of $61,324, which is still above the state average.
In fact, data shows that the median income increased by more than nine percent between 2018 and 2019.
There are endless things to do in Helena, particularly for a history buff. Between the Montana Historical Society Museum, the Original Governor’s Mansion, and the stunning Cathedral of Saint Helena, the city offers a sea of activities and establishments contributing to the rich local culture.
Given its position between two majestic national parks and access to recreational activities like hiking, fly-fishing, skiing, and golfing, Helena is also thought of as one of the best adventure towns in the United States.
There’s at least one good reason why Glendive is one of the best cities in Montana, especially if you’re raising a family: it is officially the safest city in the state. Safewise published the findings in 2021 after the city reported just five occurrences of violent crime.
Interestingly, Glendive was named Montana’s safest city for the second year in a row thanks to its violent crime rate of a very low one percent.
In Citystistics’ livability rankings, Glendive received top scores for its cost of living, education, and low poverty rate, in addition to its low crime rate when compared to the national average.
Located in Dawson County, Glendive does embody a small-town vibe that also brings peace and tranquility. The pristine views of the surrounding environment add to its relaxing atmosphere.
The southern border of Glendive straddles the fascinating Makoshika State Park, which boasts dinosaur bones and other fossils, mineral specimens, and marvelous rock formations.
If you are looking for the best town in Montana, one of the top choices is the small mountain town of Livingston, with only 7,500 residents the town is situated only 45 miles from Yellowstone National Park.
As the Bozeman Real Estate Group confirms, this is easily one of the most beautiful towns in America, even attracting celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, John Mayer, and James Cameron.
Though not a big city, Livingston boasts sufficient amenities including restaurants, breweries, and music venues, not to mention the museums and parks. It may lack the urban feel of somewhere like New York City, but it compensates with fresh air, outdoor activities, a unique local culture, and brilliant vistas.
For those who love annual events, Livingston hosts several festivals, including the craft beer festival Tap Into Montana, and the Livingston Roundup Rodeo.
What really makes this the best part of Montana to live in is its relatively low cost of living, which is cheaper than both the state average and the national average. Transportation costs are also 75% less than average in the United States.
Nestled in northwest Montana, Kalispell is a premium city to live in thanks to its proximity to Glacier National Park. Residents will never lack outdoor recreation thanks to the abundance of skiing hotspots and sporting clubs in the area. The wide-open spaces bursting with wildlife are a great drawing point for anyone who craves a connection with nature.
Aside from the natural wonders, the cost of housing and living in Kalispell is relatively low when compared with the national average. There are also lots of employment opportunities here, including in the thriving tourism industry. Mining, healthcare, government services, ranching, and lumber are also prosperous industries offering employment to locals.
Kalispell is the most populated city in Flathead County so it has many conveniences in close proximity, including department stores, theaters, and the airport. Furthermore, the public high schools are at or above the state average, making it a great place in Montana to live if you are raising a family.
Bigfork is another ‘big’ small town in Montana with a population of less than 5,000. The numbers have reportedly been steadily on the increase for a while now—on a par with the expanding amenities and thus cost of living.
Bigfork is not going to be cheap in anyone’s book. Located in the scenic Flathead Valley in Flathead County, Bigfork offers residents a touch of the modern suburban often just minutes away from large and expansive lakeside rural areas.
This is the kind of town that has its share of retirees as well as young professionals and families. The public schools in Bigfork are rated above average, and the town is a major draw for anyone who enjoys a walk down to the lake or a boat trip in the summer.
If you like getting a bit closer to the water there are plenty of canoes, jet skis, fishing boats, and ski boats available to rent, and local guided tours abound. Bigfork is also big on the arts, music, and theater, a fact which becomes more apparent the more time you spend perusing the neighborhood on foot.
If you need to get to somewhere larger for any reason, Kalispell is just 20 minutes down the road Bigfork.
Belgrade is a Gallatin County town rating slightly higher population-wise, with figures closer to the 10,000 mark. There is lots of open land in the region though, and living in Belgrade has a kind of sparse, semi-urban feel to it.
The town is well-kept with plenty of parks, and thus attracts many families and young professionals. The public schools in Belgrade are rated above average for the state, and Belgrade does actually live up to its reputation of being a quiet yet bright town nestled in the valley surrounded by the majestic Bridger Mountains.
Belgrade is, rather conveniently, just eight miles from the much larger town of Bozeman—and the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is located just on the edge of the town.
Belgrade itself offers many reasonable restaurants and shops, as well as hosting fun Fall and Winter Festivals annually. Farmers Markets are also a prominent feature throughout the summer.
Lewistown is a town in Montana with a population just slightly over and above the 5,000 mark.
Lewistown is in the outdoor recreation haven of Fergus County and yet is the often-missed tourist spot due to its distance away from any of the other major tourist or landmark locations.
Many families, young professionals, and retirees live in Lewistown. The public schools in the town are above average, and many visitors leave with the feeling that they have stumbled across a great little town. Many who grow up there end up staying even after finishing their education.
Living in Lewistown has a sparse suburban feel to it, but the downtown areas tend to play host to a wide variety of amenities including bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. There is plenty to do in the town and the surrounding areas, whether you are looking for a spot of fishing, hiking, or wildlife and bird-watching.
Lewistown has a great mix of the outdoors with all the amenities you might need in the not-overly-populated town.
Dillon is another sparsely-populated expanse of a town in Beaverhead County. Life in Dillon thus has a sparse suburban feel, although the downtown regions feature plenty of amenities including bars and parks.
The town has a touch of the Old West feel to it but still attracts young professionals and a few families due to the above-average education ratings.
Dillon is a quiet small town with a big personality surrounded by beautiful mountains everywhere you look. The community is extremely welcoming and filled with genuinely friendly people.
The University of Montana Western comes with a good reputation. Dillon is the kind of Montana town that serves as an ideal introduction to the state of Montana and often makes visitors want to return there.
12. Four Corners
Four Corners is the kind of small Montana town with a population of less than 5,000 that anyone would be happy to stumble across by accident. Gallatin County is where you’ll find this gem of a spot, and the county has long been featured on many a list related to the best Montana towns to live in.
The neighborhood has suburban elements which attract both local and out-of-town families and young professionals with easy access to a swift commute along Highway 191. The public schools in Four Corners are highly-rated, even coming in top in some surveys as far as best places for families to live.
The community is reasonably prosperous and welcoming, also rating well in terms of safety in Montana terms. If all of that sounds too good to be true you may surely find that it balances itself out in various ways—like housing costs. Median home values are much higher than the national average although the upside is lower rentals.
13. East Helena
East Helena got its name due to its proximity to the capital Helena but is still considered an independent region. The development of the town stemmed initially from the lead industry that grew from a large lead smelter that was in operation until 2001.
East Helena has a sparse population of just over 2,000 but is considered as a good place to live as the cost of living tends towards being lower than the national average, and there is an abundance of outdoor opportunities to be explored in the surrounding regions which include 3 large lakes that resulted from dams on the Missouri River.
Best Montana Towns – Conclusion
When searching for the best places to live in Montana, there is no shortage of choices whether you are looking at the busy city life in Billings or the more laid-back and rural lifestyle of Livingston.
Either way, you will be spoiled for choice in selecting the best places to live in Montana.