The Big Sky Country is not at all lost on family-friendly adventures. There are so many outdoor activities to explore in this great state that will leave you with wonderful memories for eternity.
You could go on road trips to explore the picturesque landscapes, take tours around the parks to get a proper view of the many wild animals roaming around the mountains, go on hiking trails or take a visit to a museum. Whichever activity you pick, you’re certainly set for the adventure of a lifetime.
This article will help you pick your perfect Montana family vacation destination. Read on to find out the best places to visit, the best activities to partake, the most favorable seasons for each activity, a few tips to help you have the best time, and places to stay during your travel.
10 Best Tours in Montana
- Glacier National Park: Scenic Raft Trip: A two to three-hour raft trip on Glacier National Park’s. Flathead River.
- West Yellowstone: Yellowstone Park Tour with Local Guide: Guided tour around Yellowstone National Park’s popular places.
- Glacier National Park: Half-Day Whitewater Rafting Trip: A whitewater raft in the middle of Flathead River.
- Yellowstone National Park: 2-Day Guided Tour with Lunches: An exhaustive tour to both Upper and Lower Yellowstone Park.
- West Glacier: Moped Rental: Self-guided road tour aboard a rental moped. You can rent for as long as a day and as short as 2 hours.
- Yellowstone National Park: Self-Driving Audio Guided Tour: An audio-guided tour around Yellowstone National Park.
- Jackson, Wyoming: Full-Day Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour: A guided tour along the Lower Loop of Yellowstone National Park.
- From Jackson: 4-Day Grand Teton and Yellowstone Winter Tour: Guided winter tour on Yellowstone National Park.
- From Bozeman: Yellowstone National Park 5-Day Wolf Tour: A tour to view Yellowstone gray wolf and witness the geysers in winter.
- West Glacier: 1-Hour Fly Casting Lesson: Learn the basics of fly-fishing and casting tools.
5 Best Montana Family Vacations
This is by far the most popular destination in Montana, and justifiably so. The most drop-dead gorgeous products of nature lie right here in this park. From the glacier-laced mountainous peaks to the many lakes and creeks, to picturesque waterfalls, the scenes are nothing short of perfection. You can enjoy these views by taking a drive along the Going to the Sun Road.
Besides taking in these scenic views, you also find the most popular hiking trails in this park. A wide variety of animals call this park their home, large and small. You’re likely to see bears, elks, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and more. Bird watching and photography are also activities you’ll enjoy as birds such as northern hawks, eagles, American dippers, and harlequins fly around this park. You can go fishing on Flathead River or Lake McDonald.
Visiting Glacier National Park, Tips and Advice
- The park is open seasonally and is most suitable to visit in summer and fall.
- The Going to the Sun road often gets shut for construction. Therefore, it’s advisable to confirm whether it’s open before your visitation.
- There are shuttles to carry you along the Going to the Sun road if you’re not driving yourself there.
- There are three visitor centers in Logan Pass on The Going to the Sun Road, Apgar to the West end of the park, and Saint Mary’s to the East End of the Park. Here you can get directions on your trip, maps, and general guidance.
- If hiking, carry bear spray and walk as part of a group at all times to keep safe.
Places to stay
- Camping grounds – There are 13 designated camping grounds. They encourage reservations for some while others are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
- $$$ North Forty Resort – 8km from Flathead River
- $$ Under Canvas Glacier – 1.6km from Flathead River
- $ Glacier Haven Inn – 9.7km from Glacier National Park
2. Yellowstone National Park
Another popular destination is Yellowstone National Park. Most of it lies in Wyoming, but its northern entrance in Gardiner, Montana, is the only one that’s open all year round. Unlike the alpine Glacier flora, most features in Yellowstone are largely a result of thermal activity. The most scenic views are those of geysers, hot springs, and thermal creeks.
Besides viewing the hot springs, there are so many other activities to carry out with your family on this trip. You can take guided boat trips and kayaking tours on Yellowstone Lake and Madison River. The kids will certainly enjoy the guided horse rides and biking in the park. There are also hiking trails and thousands of miles to cover. Wildlife watching, bird watching, and photography are also recreational activities you will enjoy. You could also go swimming in specific authorized swimming areas.
Some activities are best enjoyed during summer and spring as the park gets heavily snowed in winter. However, if you enjoy winter activities, there’s snowmobiling, winter backpacking, and skiing all around the park. You can take guided winter tours as you view wolves and what the geysers are like in winter. People visit this park a lot, so expect delays, crowding, and park road closures.
Places to stay
- Yellowstone National Park Lodges – Five in-park camping grounds and lodging areas.
- Other Camping sites – 6 of the 11 in-park secure camping sites
- $$$ Yellowstone Village Inn and Suites – 0.2 km from Yellowstone River
- $$ The Roosevelt Hotel – 0.2km to Yellowstone River
- $ Country Motor Inn – 0.8 km from Yellowstone River
Alternatively, there are many backcountry camping areas if you’re looking for something simple and primitive.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Most visitors pass by Bozeman on their way to the Yellowstone National Park, but it is actually one of the most exciting Montana family vacation destinations by its very own nature. This town is home to the famous Museum of the Rockies. Here, you get to see the largest collection of dinosaur fossils there are, from the larger Tyrannosaurus rexes to the smaller Triceratops. You also get to learn a lot more about the paleontological, artistic, and cultural history of Montana.
Other activities to enjoy in Bozeman include visiting the Montana Grizzly Encounter to watch bears. These are rescued grizzly bears from all over the US that have gone through inhumane experiences and cannot be let out in the wild. Experience an unrestricted view of these beautiful creatures from a safe distance here.
Visit Bozeman Hot Springs for the swimming experience of your life. There are 12 pools, hot and cold, indoor and outdoor, to bring your family to. They also have a fitness center, a steam room, and a sauna if you need to unwind after your exercise. For a more adventurous water experience, consider rafting at the Madison River Tubing. You can also go paddling, water tubing, and kayaking here. They have all the rental equipment you need for your experience.
The Palisade Falls makes for a short and simple hiking trail up Palisade Mountains. It’s a relatively paved, less than two miles trail, and the waterfall is most definitely worth the view. If you prefer winter recreational activities, then the Big Sky Resort is the place to be. It’s located just an hour from Bozeman and it has the best skiing trails and snowboarding activities in the mountains.
Places to Stay
- $$$ Quality Inn and Suites – 3.5km from Montana State University
- $$ Royal 7 Motel Midtown Bozeman – 0.9km from Bozeman City Center
- $ Motel 6- Bozeman MT – 2.5km from Bozeman City Center
4. Missoula, Montana
Missoula is full of options for fun indoor and outdoor activities for the entire family. Carousel for Missoula for one is a play area your kids will most definitely enjoy. This hand-crafted carousel was built by community volunteers, using contributed material for the community of Missoula. With its two chariots and 38 horses, there’s only so much fun you can have. Bring your kid’s birthday party here and let them party with the ponies. Check out the restrictions associated with their parties, schedules, packages, and bookings beforehand.
What is a Montana family vacation without a little Montana history? Visit the Montana Natural History Center and get acquainted with everything that grows and inhabits the dense forests Missoula and Montana at large are known for. Learn about the alpine vegetation on the Rocky Mountains and the prairie on the Big Sky Country grasslands, their significance, and history.
Also, get to view mounted animals and birds such as bears and elks and learn which parts of Montana they live in, their contributions to their general ecosystem, and their significance. Learn about Lake Missoula, its glacial formation, significant milestones that led to its formation and so much more. Also, get to view their collection of dinosaur remains and get a little Montana paleontological overview. Bring your kids to their Discovery Rooms to have fun while they learn.
Visit downtown Missoula for the town’s architectural history. Get to see historically significant buildings built in the early 20th century. Also for a more outdoor experience, consider going rafting at Alberton Gorge in Clark Fork River. Take guided tours and experience the waters along with other water lovers.
Places to Stay
- $$$ Best Western Plus Grant Creek Inn – 4.5km from Missoula International Airport
- $$ Econo Lodge Missoula – 5.4 kilometers from City Center
- $ Super 8 by Wyndham Missoula/Reserve St – 4.2km from Missoula International Airport
5. Butte, Montana
Butte is known for its history as a mining town in the 19th century in Montana, where some of the most precious Montana stones were sourced. As a tourist destination, one of the must-go places with family to get an even deeper understanding of what this town’s history was like is the World Museum of Mining.
Here you will take guided trips through actual mining yards, which is as real as it gets. You’ll also take a guided underground mining pit tour and the experts will narrate to you stories of miners and their experiences on these very grounds. You will also get to be shown the different precious stones mined in this location.
To learn more about the history of this small city, there are trolley tours that take you around its historic district, with narrators delving into the historical milestones of this once-famous town. Another must-go place to take your kids to Butte is the Ridge Waters Waterpark. This beautiful water park is welcome for everyone, including kids from as young as two years. There are scores of activities to take part in such as swimming, water basketball, volleyball, slides, diving and more.
Places to Stay
- $$$ Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Butte, an IHG Hotel – 0.7km from Butte City Center
- $$ Red Lion Inn and Suites Butte – 9.1km from Butte City Center
- $ Motel 6-Butte, MT – Historic City Center – 4.3km from Butte City Center
Free Things To Do On Montana Family Vacations
- Take a scenic drive along the Beartooth Highway and enjoy the scenic views of the Beartooth Mountain Range.
- Visit the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and view collections of elks and learn about their conservation.
- Visit the Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center, a specialty museum in Missoula.
- Take a short hike to Ousel Park in Gallatin Gateway on the Ousel Falls Park Trail.