If you’re a seasoned visitor to Montana you already know this state is chock-full full of more scenic gems than you’ll ever be able to get to. There are definitely some pretty and picturesque spots in this part of the world that should be seen at least once.
Big Sky Country is, in simple terms, a seriously photogenic place. From the huge and expansive untouched wilderness regions to the impossibly scenic, carved glacial landscapes of the national parks—you won’t be too pushed when it comes to finding amazing scenery in the Treasure State.
The main difficulty for most visitors is deciding which aspects of the landscape are more striking, considering the sheer beauty and diversity of the landscape.
Bison, bears, elk, and bighorn sheep roam freely in some regions. In other spots, you’ll find magical-looking alpine lakes glistening at high altitudes.
Add to that the huge towering peaks dusted and layered with snow come wintertime. You are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to where to point your camera.
So let’s try to narrow things down a little by looking at eight of the prettiest places in Montana.
The Top 8 Prettiest Places in Montana
1. Paradise Valley
Not too far away from another naturally rugged and geologically scenic area by way of Yellowstone National Park, the vast expanse of Paradise Alley manages to thin out the crowds.
This southwestern region of Montana is an area of land flanked by both the Absaroka Range and the Gallatin Range on its eastern and western sides respectively.
The Yellowstone River courses through the area and the mountain ranges take on the familiar, iconic, snow-capped appearance that comes with the winter months.
Vast blue skies and scenic, rolling prairie and ranch land are the order of the day in Paradise Valley. Rather unsurprisingly this entire region is a prime Montana vacation destination—not to mention the backdrop to many a ‘best vacation ever’ snapshot.
Attractions within the valley include the naturally warm and therapeutic waters of the Chico Hot Springs. There is also plenty of hiking and outdoor action in this vast region, which is certainly one of the prettiest places in Montana.
2. Whitefish Mountain Resort
Talking of iconic Montana views and pretty places—if there’s one spot that in so many ways encapsulates the very best of the state’s scenery it is more than likely Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Just north of the scenic Flathead Lake sits the yet more picturesque mountain resort town of Whitefish. Here we are talking snow-capped peak heaven alongside pristine lakes.
On top of this, you have the well-maintained friendliness and small-town charm of a remote mountain village.
In Whitefish you’ll encounter picture-postcard views featuring rolling green meadows in the summer and snow-covered vertical drops in the winter.
But in actual fact, the time of year really makes little difference to the pretty scenery and impressive landscape in this entire region.
Once you’ve been to Whitefish in the flesh it’s not hard to see why many visitors keep coming back again and again. Undoubtedly, this is one of Montana’s prettiest destinations.
The resort town is a popular destination year-round, although the skiing months of winter are the prime time for many.
The town is located in the very scenic Flathead County region, which is further exacerbated by the fact that Glacier National Park is well within reach from here.
Thus many visitors are likely to tie two of the most scenic regions in the state together in one trip. This way they get to witness the best of the iconic yet diverse scenery that the Treasure State is renowned for.
3. Mission Valley
Flanked by the Mission Mountains and their 10,000-foot-plus elevations, the Mission Valley is well-known for its great scenic drives and road trips with stunning backdrops.
The area in its entirety encompasses the lower half of Flathead Lake. This includes the Flathead Reservation, located among landscapes with more elements of tranquility to them than many other regions of Montana.
These Mission Valley landscapes can present some wonderful, mountain-backed scenery that varies depending on the time of year, but loses none of its prettiness.
Libby is something of a laid-back country town surrounded by amazing mountain terrain scenery. We are talking some seriously pretty spots here folks, especially along the banks of the winding and photogenic Kootenay River.
The nearby Kootenai National Forest is popular for its hiking and various other outdoor recreation options. Absolutely one of the prettiest places in Montana is here—the Kootenai Falls—just outside of town with an accompanying suspension bridge to add to the scenery.
Maybe none of that exactly fits your profile of a pretty place in Montana and instead you prefer something a bit more on the rugged side?
Then check out the 90,000-plus acres of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. It may be just the place to go off exploring yet deeper and further into the scenery that the Libby landscape has to offer.
5. American Prairie Reserve
The American Prairie Reserve is located on Montana’s Great Plains. That gives some clue as to the type of scenarios likely to be encountered here.
Many outdoor types believe this to be one of the most stunning natural wildlife areas in Montana, and just a brief look at the area makes that entirely believable.
Spanning north and south of the Missouri River, this huge expanse of protected and incredibly scenic areas provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. This includes bison, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep to name but a few.
This is a scenario where you can commonly see bison wandering around freely with contented-sounding birds chirping away merrily in the background.
This is nothing less than a magical nature-lovers paradise amidst some absolutely stunning landscapes.
6. St. Mary Lake
The east side of Glacier National Park is commonly considered the most scenic. It’s really a question of where to begin in this entire region of the park when looking for inspiring and pretty Montana places.
St. Mary Lake is as good a place as any to start out when looking for pretty places in Montana.
The lake is the second-largest body of water within the park and it features what many believe to be some of the best reflective views going.
Wild Goose Island is one of the most photographed angles of the lake region. You’ll also see the perhaps familiar-looking Jackson Glacier towering over the lake.
St. Mary Lake has served as the backdrop for more than its fair share of ‘best Montana moment’ shots. This may be due to the fact that it has a variety of different aspects that may be brought out at different times and under particular weather conditions.
But if you are coming to Montana for the scenery then St. Mary Lake easily qualifies as a must-see.
7. Lee Metcalf Wilderness and Beehive Basin
The solitude of nature without too much of a long haul is what’s on offer in this picturesque expanse near Big Sky. The basin is accessible by a hike which will lead you through dense forests and along flowing creeks.
As if that doesn’t sound picturesque enough there are also wildflower-strewn meadows featuring views of the snow-capped Lone Mountain in Whitefish.
When you arrive at the basin with its accompanying surrounding peaks, you’ll certainly feel like you are in one of the prettiest places in Montana, which will leave you feeling invigorated.
It’s very hard not to agree that the atmospheric mountain town of Choteau is pretty in various ways.
Choteau for many serves more as a calming and charming experience. Often termed the “Front Porch of the Rockies”, the landscape surrounding the small town and stretching from the Flathead National Forest to Glacier National Park has to be seen to be believed by many.
When you consider spots such as the Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, you’ll see how this picturesque area is home to a wide variety of wildlife and natural terrain. This makes it a popular place for wildlife enthusiasts and Instagram-ers alike.
With plenty of accessible hiking trails as well as avenues for fishing and birding, the Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area is a great place for anyone who loves the scenic outdoors. Aside from that, Choteau has many other scenic aspects that visitors can seek out for themselves.
The Prettiest Gardens in Montana
1. Tizer Botanic Gardens & Arboretum, Jefferson City
Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum are located in the vicinity of the Elkhorn Mountains that straddle Prickly Pear Creek just outside of Jefferson City.
These amazingly scenic gardens are a member of the American Public Garden Association and they certainly qualify as some of the prettiest in Montana. The gardens cover 6 acres and contain thousands of different high-altitude plants surrounded by some outstanding natural beauty.
The Tizer Botanic Gardens include herbs and vegetables, annuals, roses, wildflowers, perennials, and bulbs, to name but a few. There are a host of different themed gardens including the delightful gnome gardens, a secret garden, a Buddha garden, rose gardens, and herb patches—not to mention a crystal clear creek.
You’ll also encounter a fully-restored Gold Miner’s Cabin and a Hotel—thoughtfully placed on a little island right in the middle of the creek. You can take a self-guided tour and explore garden paths leading to high-altitude plants and flowers.
The gardens are a popular spot for visitors to stop for a picnic lunch taking advantage of the numerous tables in the theme gardens.
The center opens daily from 10 am-6 pm, from mid-April through October depending on weather conditions. The Gardens & Arboretum is open Mother’s Day through October—again weather permitting.
2. DanWalt Gardens, Billings
The DanWalt Gardens near Billings is a lively display of colors and features flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees.
The plants contained here are all zoned for the Billings climate, and prime examples include the colorful irises and bright hibiscus that begin to show themselves anytime between June and September.
DanWalt Gardens are a delightful visitor attraction with their thousands of hanging baskets everywhere—not to mention the popular Memorial Rose Garden that is contained here. Some of the garden’s other tranquil features include water features and the surrounding expanse of nature.
The gardens are another popular venue for classy-looking and romantic wedding events, not to mention the fact that they are conveniently located near local hotels, restaurants, and downtown Billings.
The gardens are open 9 am-6 pm under normal conditions of operation.
3. Jackson’s Garden, Sheridan
Jackson’s Garden on Mill Creek is just 2 miles from Sheridan in southwest Montana The gardens first took shape in the early 1970s, and have been through several transformations over the years to become the scenic and peaceful place that they are today.
Surrounded by lovely flowers and huge trees providing shade at the Creekside, the gardens as they stand today came about as a result of much community work and effort. The result is a public space resembling something of an oasis.
The garden features an installed high tunnel greenhouse to lengthen the growing season, as well as an irrigation system. A nature trail is available for the information and enjoyment of visitors.
The floral gardens have parking, bathroom facilities, and other amenities. The location is a popular venue for weddings and includes sweet paths and lush manicured lawns, with overhanging trees for shade.
This spot is just outside of the town of Sheridan and thus has easy access to hotels and other local amenities. Yet the gardens still manage to maintain a slight, off-the-beaten-path vibe which adds to their romantic mountain backdrop appeal.
4. Bibler Gardens, Kalispell
From its location on a Kalispell hillside, Bibler Gardens looks out across the Flathead Valley. The Swan Mountains can be seen in the background to the east, including some peaks in Glacier National Park.
The 4-acre garden and its stunning floral displays feature artfully-landscaped beds and subtle water features by way of brooks and waterfalls. The water flows into two ponds, which are in turn highlighted by sculpted bridges, a gazebo, and water fountains.
It’s worth considering that many of these features are best seen along with the full glory of the Montana Spring bloom. Early May is absolutely the best time to catch sight of the colorful daffodils and tulips.
Wildlife and nature lovers alike will be pleased to know that various birds and fowl make an appearance. They tend to be Australian black swans, Argentine black-necked swans, and native Tundra swans, which will then roam the vicinity of the pond during the warmer months.
5. Gatiss Gardens, Creston
Gatiss Gardens is a rather scenic property of five acres or more located in the north-western corner of Montana. The garden features the style of an English Cottage and a zone 4 perennial garden.
The pretty perennial garden features hardy varieties from the original family homestead in England dating back to 1898.
They have stood the test of time along with the variety of other American heritage garden plants that bloom here—many of which were gathered over the course of more than a century.
Gatiss Gardens is off Highway 35 close to Kalispell and features thousands of varieties of flowers with signs for identification.
The gardens are open during the summer months from 9 am-9 pm, and the grounds feature a trail that stretches around mill creek and is a great way to enjoy the flowers.
6. Memorial Rose Garden, Missoula
The Missoula Rose Society’s initial goal in 1944 was to establish a Memorial Rose Garden. As it turned out, enthusiastic donors from around the state contributed hundreds of flowers, and Rose Society members planted 650 rose bushes around the Memorial in 1946.
At present, there are more than 44 beds planted with over 600 bushes, including an interesting range of hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and miniatures.
There are also a number of old shrub roses located in the park, and together the floral display serves as a memorial to the casualties and veterans of America’s many 20th-century wars.
The garden came about as a joint effort between the Missoula Rose Society and the Missoula Parks and Recreation Department, and the plaques list the names of those who lost their lives in World War II along with Vietnam and the Korean War and other U.S. conflicts in Grenada, the Persian Gulf, and Panama.
Both the American and Montana state flags are lighted 24 hours a day as symbols of enduring honor. This pretty garden also serves as a quiet place of reflection, and the rose beds can be adopted by individuals, groups, or organizations who want to care for them throughout the year.
The Roses usually start to bloom around mid-spring and are likely to last for a good few months.
7. Montana Arboretum & Gardens, Missoula
The Montana Arboretum and Gardens are located on the Montana State University campus in Missoula, and the Arboretum proper is on the campus’s north-western corner near the West College Avenue and South 11th Avenue intersection.
This small arboretum and gardens are free for the public to visit and feature native plants from the northern Rocky Mountain region for both research and display purposes as well as specimens from the plains and other drier areas of Montana. A Xeriscape garden can be found here, in the designated “Tree Campus USA”.
The arboretum and gardens were established for display and research purposes around a decade back, and feature some pretty and colorful arrangements of native species.
Another one of the gardens’ functions was to engage campus staff and students alike in conservation goals, as well as nurture public interest in nature related to the shrubs, trees, and plants of the local surrounding region.