6 Best Places to Live in Montana for Young Adults in 2024

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: April 26th, 2024

Forget everything you thought you knew about Montana. Sure, there are cowboys and wide-open spaces, but there’s also a whole other side to this state that’s calling out to young adults.

Picture yourself hiking epic trails in the morning and hitting up a hip brewery with friends at night. Maybe you dream of a place where you can actually afford a cute apartment and have money left over for weekend adventures. 

If that sounds like your jam, Montana just might be your place. This guide breaks down the best towns where you can build a life with that perfect mix of career, community, and the great outdoors.

We’ll dive into Montana’s top spots, giving you the inside scoop on everything from job markets to hidden hiking trails.

Let’s begin!

We’ve Chosen the Best Places for Young Adults

Montana isn’t just for retirees anymore! Census data shows a boom in young adults (20-35 years old) flocking to the state, seeking that sweet spot between affordability and awesome. 

But with so many towns to choose from, which ones fit the young professional vibe?  We’ve done the research, considering these key factors:

  • Cost of Living: Rent, groceries, a night out – we want places where your paycheck stretches further. Cost-of-living calculators reveal some hidden gems with surprisingly affordable living compared to major cities.
  • Job Market: Montana is shaking off its old-school image. Tech, healthcare, and even remote-friendly jobs are on the rise in certain areas. We’ll point you to the towns where diverse opportunities are growing.
  • Outdoor Activities: If you don’t hike, ski, or bike, are you even Montanan? We factor in easy access to the good stuff, whether you want epic trails or chill lake days.
  • Community and Culture: Finding your people is crucial. We’ll highlight places with events, coffee shops, and that young, vibrant feel, without the overwhelming bustle of a huge metropolis. Some towns even score high in quality-of-life surveys for walkability, low crime, and access to arts!

Spotlight on Bozeman, Missoula & Helena

Let’s face it, choosing where to put down roots is a big deal. This guide aims to empower you with the info you need to make a move that feels right for your budget, your career goals, and your adventurous spirit.

Bozeman: Boomtown with a Price Tag


Bozeman’s no secret anymore. Young professionals and outdoor enthusiasts alike flock here, drawn by the tech scene, proximity to epic trails and slopes, and that classic mountain-town vibe.  But this popularity surge comes with a downside. Rent averages a whopping $2,200, outpacing the national average of $1,987.

Everyday costs like groceries and gas also make budget-conscious folks wince. The job market is strong though (check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics for industry breakdowns), particularly in tech and sectors tied to Montana State University. This helps offset the high cost of living somewhat. If you want the quintessential “it” town of Montana and can handle the price tag, Bozeman delivers.

  • Cost of Living: Significantly higher than the national average, but consider neighborhoods outside the core for deals. 
  • Job Market: Tech hub on the rise – software companies and startups are creating diverse opportunities. Montana State University fuels research and innovation.
  • Outdoor Activities: Ground zero for adventure! World-class hiking, skiing, and fly fishing are minutes away.
  • Community and Culture: The young professional influx is noticeable. Bozeman’s lively downtown scene caters to that crowd.

Cost of Living: What It REALLY Costs to Live in Bozeman

Forget generic cost-of-living calculators; let’s get specific about the things young adults actually spend money on:

Housing Nightmare (Or Not?)

Rent in Bozeman is seriously out of control. Think tiny one-bedrooms starting around $1500 a month, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to snag one before someone else does. Buying a place? Well, unless you’ve inherited a bunch of cash or have a high-paying remote job,  it’s just not realistic for most young folks right now.

However, don’t give up hope entirely! If you’re okay with roommates, maybe a basement apartment, or are willing to live 20-30 minutes outside the main part of town, those prices drop significantly.

Eating Ain’t Always Cheap

Now, about food. Groceries are going to take a bigger bite out of your paycheck than you might expect, especially compared to some bigger cities. The upside? Bozeman’s restaurant scene is surprisingly good. You can find everything from cheap and delicious taco spots to fancier places perfect for the occasional splurge – a welcome surprise for a town this size.

You WILL Need a Car to Do Anything Outdoorsy

Transportation is another must-consider. While downtown Bozeman’s walkability is good, the entire city isn’t as great on that front, and you’ll need wheels to get around, especially if you want to explore the outdoors. Factor in gas prices (which can fluctuate a lot) and the occasional cost of car repairs. But hey, there’s a bright side: having a car means epic weekend road trips!  Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, hidden hot springs…they’re all within easy reach. Keeping a positive note, it’s important to know that Bozeman also has a great, completely free public bus system!

Bozeman’s Job Market: Diverse Opportunities but Competitive

Forget the idea that it’s all breweries and ski shops. Bozeman’s got a more diverse economy than you might think:

  • Tech’s on the Rise: Montana State University and a growing startup scene mean more tech jobs than you’d expect. Think software, app development, that kind of thing.
  • Healthcare Hub: Bozeman’s the regional healthcare center, so hospitals, clinics, etc., are always hiring.
  • The Service Side: Tourism is huge, true, but it goes beyond hotels. Restaurants, guiding companies – the whole outdoor experience needs workers.
  • Gig Economy + Side Hustles: Remote work, freelancing – those are part of the Bozeman puzzle for lots of folks, especially at first.
The Cold, Hard Truth: It Ain’t Easy

Understand that it ain’t easy: the Bozeman job market is competitive. Wages haven’t quite caught up to the cost of living, and there’s that whole “everyone and their dog wants to live here” factor. You’ll need:

  • The Network Hustle: Bozeman’s one of those places where who you know matters. Get on LinkedIn, go to meetups, and don’t be afraid to ask for leads.
  • Transferable Skills: Maybe your experience isn’t a perfect fit – highlight how it translates (customer service to outdoor guiding, for example).
  • Patience + Persistence: It might take longer than you think to land that dream gig, so be prepared for some temp work in the meantime.
The Upside: Opportunity if You’re Scrappy

Bozeman’s boomtown energy means there are new businesses popping up, and established ones needing workers. If you’re willing to adapt, learn new things, and prove yourself, doors can open. Think of it as being less about that specific job title, and more about building a life here long-term.

The Outdoor Life: Why Bozeman’s the Real Deal

Let’s be honest, a big part of Bozeman’s appeal is what’s waiting outside your door.  We’re not just talkin’ a nice park; this is access to serious adventure:

  • Hiking for Days: From mellow trails along the river to lung-busting climbs in the Bridger Mountains, there’s something for everyone. Hyalite Canyon is a local favorite with waterfalls and lakes.
  • Blue Ribbon Waters: The Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers are fly-fishing heaven. Even if you’re a newbie, there’s plenty of guides to show you the ropes.
  • Biking Galore: Cross-country trails, downhill adrenaline…Bozeman’s got it. Even some solid winter fat-biking if you’re hardcore.
  • World-Class Skiing: Bridger Bowl is the locals’ mountain, Big Sky is the glitzier resort scene – both just a short drive away.
  • Beyond the Hype: Don’t forget about climbing, kayaking, trail running… the list goes on. Bozeman’s a place where you’ll discover new ways to get outside.

Bozeman’s Outdoor Vibe: Beyond the Trails

Yes, Bozeman’s got the trails and mountains, but the outdoor lifestyle here is about more than just hardcore adventures. Think of it as a place where grabbing coffee with friends and planning a weekend camping trip are equally normal. Here’s what gives Bozeman that young, outdoorsy feel:

  • The Scene Downtown: Coffee shops aren’t just for laptops, they’re where you overhear trail beta or gear recommendations. Look for spots like Wild Crumb or Treeline Coffee that cater to the outdoor crowd.
  • Events Galore: Farmer’s markets, outdoor concerts, trail running races…there’s always something happening that blends community and getting outside.
  • Chillin’, Mountain-Style: Think breweries with big patios, not nightclubs. Evenings in Bozeman might be grilling out by the river, not fighting crowds on the dance floor.
  • The Quality of Life Difference: Those surveys about walkability and arts access? Bozeman scores well for a reason. It feels safe enough to bike to meet friends, and there’s enough culture to keep things interesting without the big-city overwhelm.

The Bottom Line: If you want to be active and outdoorsy without sacrificing a fun social life, Bozeman could be a sweet spot. It’s got that youthful energy mixed with a genuine love for the mountains, all on a more human (and affordable) scale than a huge city.

Missoula: Where Affordability Meets Adventure

staying in missoula

Missoula offers a bit of breathing room compared to its big brother, Bozeman. While still pricier than the national average, rent won’t induce immediate panic attacks according to sources like ApartmentList. Missoula retains that college-town energy, fueled by the University of Montana, and its brewery scene rivals Bozeman’s. There’s a strong healthcare presence in the job market, along with some tech and freelance opportunities. Outdoor access is still killer, just expect to drive a tad further for the most iconic hikes.

  • Cost of Living: Offers noticeable relief compared to Bozeman, with about $700 difference in average rent prices. Apartments are more attainable, and groceries won’t break the bank.
  • Job Market: Healthcare, education (University of Montana), and a healthy professional and technical sector provide options.
  • Outdoor Activities: Trails galore for hiking and biking, and the Clark Fork River is a major focus for recreation. There are also good skiing options within 20 minutes of downtown!
  • Community and Culture: “Keep Missoula Weird” isn’t just a slogan. Artsy, independent spirit and strong local business support are big draws.

The Cost of Living: Where Missoula Gives You Breathing Room

One of the biggest draws of Missoula for young adults is that it’s noticeably less expensive than some other Montana hotspots (looking at you, Bozeman). Let’s get specific:

  • Rent Check:  One-bedrooms in decent areas average around $1200-1600, sometimes less if you’re further from downtown. That’s still a chunk of change, but better than what you’d pay in many similar-sized towns.
  • Grocery Reality: Prices aren’t dirt-cheap, but they’re noticeably less harsh than a major city,  especially if you’re smart about hitting up farmer’s markets and avoiding the fancy gourmet stores.
  • Nights Out That Don’t Break the Bank: Missoula’s got a solid brewery and restaurant scene, and you can snag decent meals and drinks without feeling totally fleeced. Think cozy pubs, not swanky cocktail bars.
  • The Extras: Gas is pricey (like everywhere right now), but if you live close to downtown, you can bike or walk a surprising amount, saving some cash.
Pro Tip – Get Specific

Cost-of-living calculators are a good starting point to compare Missoula to your current city. Try this one out: Cost of Living Calculator. But remember, averages hide the deals – Missoula’s got its pricey spots, but also hidden gems.

The Job Market: What Missoula’s Got (and What it Doesn’t)

Missoula ain’t a boomtown with jobs falling off trees. But if you’re flexible and realistic, there are opportunities, especially in these fields:

  • Healthcare Hub: Hospitals, clinics, the whole nine yards. Nursing, allied health jobs… these are in demand, and they pay decently for the area.
  • The University Factor:  University of Montana isn’t just for students. Staff jobs (think admin, facilities, even program work) pop up, with good benefits.
  • The Creative Crowd: Missoula’s surprisingly strong here.  Graphic designers, writers, artists,  freelancing is tough at first, but there’s a community. Check out coworking spaces like C3 WorkLounge for leads.
  • Don’t Forget the “Unglamorous”:  Restaurants, retail, outdoor guiding – not career goals, but they pay the bills while you establish yourself (and get you outside!).

Be Prepared For…

  • Competition: Lots of folks want that Montana life, so don’t expect to waltz into your dream job without networking.
  • Lower Wages (Usually): Compared to big cities, pay can be a shock. But remember, that lower cost of living balances things out.
  • The Hustle is Real: Missoula rewards those who get creative: side gigs, picking up new skills… it’s more DIY than a big city corporate ladder.

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking to switch careers, gain experience, and value work-life balance, Missoula could be a good fit. It’s less cutthroat than Bozeman, but takes effort to make it work.

Missoula’s Vibe: Artsy, Outdoorsy, and a Little Bit Weird

Missoula’s got a community feel you don’t find everywhere, and it’s a big part of the appeal for young adults:

  • “Keep Missoula Weird” in Action: Think quirky street festivals, independent bookstores, and genuine support for local artists and businesses.
  • Outdoor Obsession – But Chill: Yeah, everyone hikes, bikes, etc., but it’s less about bragging rights and more about just doing it. Meetups for casual trail runs are just as common as hardcore mountaineering groups.
  • Music Scene That Punches Above Its Weight: A surprising number of touring bands come through, plus local dives where you might discover your new favorite singer-songwriter.
  • The River’s the Heart: Summer means floating the Clark Fork, impromptu picnics at Caras Park, basically any excuse to be near the water.

Where to Find Your People

  • Downtown Farmer’s Market: It’s as much social as shopping. Grab a coffee and browse, you’ll overhear plans for everything from hiking trips to starting a band.
  • The Wilma: Iconic theater in the heart of downtown. Catches everything from indie films to big-name concerts.
  • Volunteer, Seriously: Trail clean-up days, at-risk youth programs…Missoula’s got ’em, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded folks.

The Bottom Line: Missoula’s where you make a random friend at the dog park who turns out to be an amazing artist or start a neighborhood potluck that becomes a tradition. It takes a little effort, but the community’s here if you seek it out.

Helena: Montana’s Affordable Gem

Downtown Helena
Source: Downtown Helena

Helena often gets overlooked, but savvy young adults are catching on. Rent prices are a welcome surprise, clocking in significantly lower than Bozeman at $1,481. Daily living costs follow suit, making your paycheck stretch further. The job scene leans heavily on government work, offering stability, but the tech and startup world is making inroads – especially appealing for those with remote-friendly gigs. Expect a slower pace and a historic downtown with surprising charm. Helena is proof that you don’t need to sacrifice the Montana lifestyle for the sake of your budget.

  • Cost of Living: Affordability champ! Rent averages over $700 below Bozeman, everyday costs are noticeably lower.
  • Job Market: Stable government presence, but tech scene is surprisingly active for its size. Great for remote-work-friendly lifestyles.
  • Outdoor Activities: Underrated gem! Lakes, a major reservoir, and trails within minutes of downtown mean easy weekday escapes.
  • Community and Culture: Historic charm with events catering to young adults. Smaller population means a tighter-knit feel.

Helena: Where Your Money Goes Further

One of Helena’s biggest draws is that it’s noticeably less of a budget-buster than places like Bozeman or Missoula. But let’s get specific:

  • Housing Crunch (But Less Intense): Yeah, rents are rising like everywhere in Montana. But, a decent one-bedroom apartment in a non-sketchy area is still in the $1200-1500 range. May take some hunting, and be prepared for older buildings, not luxury complexes. Roommate situations bring those costs down significantly.
  • Grocery Reality Check: Prices are higher than some bigger Midwest cities, but not shockingly so. Hitting up the farmer’s market, being smart about sales, and knowing which stores are cheaper (think WinCo) helps out a lot.
  • Eating & Drinking Out: Helena surprises here. It’s got cool breweries, decent restaurants, without the inflated prices you’d find in a tourist town. You can have a fun night out without maxing out your credit card.

Numbers to Back It Up

  • Cost of Living Calculators: These are a starting point, not gospel. Try Payscale’s Cost of Living Calculator to compare Helena to where you live now.
  • Apartment Hunting Hacks: Sites like Zillow are okay, but Helena’s still a bit old-school. Check the local paper’s classifieds, Facebook groups, and even bulletin boards at coffee shops for hidden gems.
  • The Helena Independent Record: Their website sometimes has articles on rising costs – a good reality check beyond the rosy tourism stuff.

Where Your Paycheck Can Stretch

Helena isn’t about getting rich (unless you strike gold, but that’s a different story). It’s about ditching that paycheck-to-paycheck feeling and actually having money left over for the fun stuff:

  • Outdoor Gear Budget: Hit up Play It Again Sports for used gear, or snag deals at local outfitters’ end-of-season sales. More money for actual adventures!
  • Weekend Trips: Yellowstone, Glacier… they’re closer than you think. Helena’s a good basecamp for exploring without spending a fortune on lodging.
  • The ‘Something Extra’ Fund: Taking a class, supporting a local artist… that stuff that makes life richer, and is doable with Helena’s prices.

Helena’s Job Scene: Not Booming, But Has Potential

Let’s be real: Helena ain’t gonna have that startup frenzy you see in Bozeman. But for those who value stability and are willing to be a little creative, there are solid options:

  • The Government Factor: State jobs are the obvious thing. Pay’s not amazing at first, but benefits are great, and there’s surprising variety: IT, environmental work, even program stuff, not just admin. Check out the state jobs website – it’s clunky, but that’s where the leads are.
  • Healthcare Hub: The hospitals (St. Peter’s and the VA) are always hiring – think nursing, techs, even some admin roles with growth potential. Benefits packages here tend to be decent.
  • The Tech Undercurrent: It’s small, but Helena’s trying to attract techies tired of the bigger cities. Companies like Cognizant and Oracle have branches here. The trick is networking like crazy – co-working spaces are a good start, as we mentioned.
  • Don’t Forget the “DIY” Hustle: This is Montana – being your own boss is a thing. Freelancing, starting a side hustle that taps into the outdoor crowd…success takes grit, but Helena’s cheaper overhead helps those first few lean months.
Stats to Chew On
  • Montana’s unemployment rate is consistently below the national average – good sign.
  • Helena-specific wage data is tough to find, but expect it to be lower than bigger cities, balanced out by a lower cost of living.
  • Check out the Montana Department of Labor and Industry site. Buried in there are reports on which sectors are hiring and where the growth is projected.
Helena’s “Hidden Gem” Companies

Beyond the big names, Helena has some cool companies attracting younger folks:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana: Major healthcare player, good benefits, and they sometimes have entry-level roles open up.
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks: If the outdoors is your jam, they hire for way more than just rangers (think biologists, outreach, etc.).
  • Local Nonprofits: Small but mighty scene focused on everything from the arts to conservation. Pay’s not stellar, but the work can be rewarding.

Helena’s Outdoor Activities: Trails, Lakes, and Mountains Within Reach

Helena isn’t about hardcore expeditions (though you can find those nearby). It’s about having everyday adventures right on your doorstep:

  • The South Hills Trail Love: This network’s HUGE and surprisingly varied, from mellow walks to lung-busting climbs. Minutes from downtown, it’s how locals get their outdoor fix. Pro tip: Mt. Helena has epic views, but gets packed on weekends.
  • Lakes Without the Crowds: Canyon Ferry and Hauser Reservoirs are nearby. Think kayaking, fishing, chill river days…without battling Bozeman-level traffic jams to get there.
  • Winter’s Not All About Downhill: Great Divide Ski Area’s cheaper and less crowded than the big resorts. But Helena shines with cross-country trails and even the occasional solid ice-skating spot in town.
  • Beyond the “Usual” Scene: Locals know the sneaky good mountain biking spots, swimming holes you won’t find on Instagram, and climbing areas without the crowds. Tapping into that requires making friends, not Google searches
The Helena Outdoor Vibe

It’s less about bragging rights, more about doing it. You’ll see everyone from hardcore athletes to families with toddlers out there. Here’s how to find your crew:

  • Meetup Groups that Actually Exist: Not just inactive Facebook pages. Helena has groups for hikers, trail runners, even birders!
  • Gear Shops Aren’t Just for Buying Stuff: Staff at spots like The Base Camp are usually outdoor junkies – tap them up for the beta on what’s good right now.
  • Embrace the Old-School: Sometimes the best intel comes from chatting up the old-timer at the trailhead. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

The Bottom Line: Helena’s about tradeoffs. You might not live in a swanky new apartment, but you can live near the mountains and afford to go hiking every weekend. It’s about priorities, not just dollars and cents. It’s the place where you get fit because hiking’s your Tuesday evening, not just a once-a-year vacation thing. And, while Helena’s job market requires some DIY hustle and realistic expectations, it’s more about finding a solid footing and building a career with that awesome Montana lifestyle as the backdrop, not chasing get-rich-quick schemes

Beyond the Big Three: Livingston, Whitefish and Great Falls

The thing about Montana is, hype tends to focus on a few hot spots, but smaller gems are everywhere. It’s more about finding your perfect fit. Here are towns catching the eye of young adults tired of the same old, same old:

  • Livingston: Artsy vibes, super close to Yellowstone, and still within reach of Bozeman’s amenities.
  • Whitefish: Think ski-town life! Amazing outdoor access, but that resort-town cost of living is real.
  • Great Falls: Larger city feel with a surprising dose of history, museums, and riverfront hangouts.


best bed and breakfasts in livingston

At a Glance

  • Cost of Living: More affordable than Bozeman, but rising fast.
  • Job Market: Mix of tourism, agriculture, arts – get creative in your job hunt.
  • Outdoor Activities: Yellowstone access, solid hiking/biking nearby.
  • Community & Culture: Quirky, in transition, potential to make your mark.

This Yellowstone gateway is a curious mix. It’s got old-school Montana ranching vibes bumping up against art galleries and trendy restaurants. A growing crowd of artists and outdoorsy folks are finding it still affordable (for now…).

Think of it as Bozeman’s scrappier, less-polished cousin. If you like the energy of change, being around creatives, and don’t mind the drive to bigger wilderness, Livingston could be a seriously sweet spot.


Whitefish Secluded

At a Glance

  • Cost of Living: High, especially for housing.
  • Job Market: Seasonal, tourism-focused, but some remote-work potential.
  • Outdoor Activities: World-class skiing/snowboarding, hiking galore.
  • Community & Culture: Active, outdoorsy crowd, a bit of that ‘mountain town’ exclusivity.

This place is postcard-perfect! It’s nestled up against Glacier National Park, and those mountains ain’t just for show – this is a ski town through and through (meaning pricey). But even if you’re not a hardcore skier, the whole scene is young and active. If the stunning scenery’s non-negotiable, Whitefish delivers. Just be prepared for a resort-town cost of living, and understand the job market’s heavily based on tourism.

Great Falls

travel tips for staying in great falls
Image: J. Stephen Conn

At a Glance

  • Cost of Living: Moderate for Montana.
  • Job Market: Diverse, less ‘boom or bust’ than tourist towns.
  • Outdoor Activities: Good local trails, gateway for bigger adventures.
  • Community & Culture: Historic feel, mix of young families and established residents.

Bigger than the other two, with more of a traditional city feel, but that’s the draw for some. It’s where history buffs and those needing more everyday amenities can still be close to epic landscapes. The job market’s got a solid mix – healthcare, some tech, and it’s less seasonal than resort areas. Think of it as a compromise: not that small-town vibe, but easier on the budget than the Bozeman hype-machine.


Montana isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of place. The magic happens when you find the town that matches your own beat. Whether you’re a diehard outdoorsy type, a budding entrepreneur, or crave a strong sense of community, Montana has a place you can put down roots.

Ready to explore more? Let us know in the comments what your ideal Montana life looks like, and we’ll help you find the perfect match!

About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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