A Guide to The Best Scuba Diving In Montana

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: February 27th, 2023

Have you ever wondered what some of that scenic-looking water in Montana looks like from beneath the surface? Maybe the idea of feeling totally weightless or even interacting with local fish populations sounds appealing.

When the topic of Scuba Diving arises, most people are probably likely to consider images of reefs, whale sharks, and exotic warm waters through a Scuba lens. And yet both beginners and experienced divers alike marvel at the experiences provided by some of the Best Scuba Diving in Montana.

It’s not only the scenery and waters in places like Flathead Lake and the Big Horn Canyon Recreation Area that make Montana an ideal Scuba Diving destination though. It’s also the level and quality—not to mention the friendliness—of the highly-experienced owners and instructors behind some of the operations providing Scuba Diving training in the region.

scuba diving
Image: Sgt. 1st Class Daryl T. Madrid

They are all professional operations with highly-qualified personnel and years of experience behind them. They cover everything including training, equipment hire, and certification from beginner right up to advanced instructor level and into areas of specialization. You won’t have to look too far to find a 5-star PADI Dive Center with everything you need on hand.

Some of the breathtaking locations included in the instruction and certification often provide an unparalleled experience and adventure that many participants will remember for the rest of their lives. Many of them will also want to repeat and build on the experience—continuing their diving journey after experiencing some of the best Scuba Montana has to offer.

The Best Scuba Diving in Montana

helena scuba
Image: Joi Ito

Helena Scuba

Helena Scuba was the brainchild of owners Glen & Karen McKinnon, who first opened the facility to the public back in 2006.

The couple’s lives had already been irrevocably changed by their own experiences with scuba diving, and along the way, they developed a passion to share their ever-expanding knowledge in their own locale and beyond.

They do this via what turned out to be not one but two operations over the course of time. The Helena location serves the capital as well as many of its surrounding regions including nearby counties like Jefferson, Silverbow-Butte, Broadwater, and Deerlodge to name just a few.

Flathead Scuba

Flathead Scuba is the other concern operated by the same owners and provides a similar set-up this time serving Kalispell and the surrounding areas including the counties of Lake, Glacier, Missoula, and of course Flathead.

Diving skills can be progressed at both schools through various levels of training in the PADI programs and classes that the center runs. These are available both at the Helena facility and in various other locations—check the website for updates and schedules.

The two locations together have proudly been involved in more than 700 PADI certifications throughout the years of the dive centers’ operation. The owners and the school have received awards for their dedication and recognized hard work in the field of providing quality Scuba tuition and certifications.

flathead scuba
Image: Sgt. 1st Class Daryl T. Madrid

The Scuba journey has been rewarding on many levels for Glen who has achieved the PADI ‘Elite Instructor’ status. Glen instills a sense of hard work and professional guidance which imbues students with more trust and allows them to enjoy the dive while expanding their confidence in the water.

​Interested parties in the region can call all 406-253-8320 for information and reservations or check out the website. Hours of operation during summer and winter seasons are as follows:

  • Summer: Tuesday noon-6:00pm, Wednesday/Thursday 9:00am-6:00pm, and Friday 9:00am–5:00pm.
  • Winter: Wednesday noon-6:00pm, Thursday 9:00am-6:00pm, and Friday 9:00am-noon

With the summer months in Montana being so short, they make the most out of the time they have at the lake with a variety of classes and courses including many advanced and specialized ones. They generally are certifying new divers each weekend here and in the winter.

Adventure Scuba, Billings

Billings’ Adventure Scuba is a 5-Star PADI Dive Center that has been offering a range of services including tuition and certification across a broad range of levels since 1997.

Like most people involved in the incredibly rewarding activity of Scuba Diving, the owners behind this setup, the Bakkers, had already had their lives changed by it before even having the idea to open the facility and share their passion and skills.

They are both avid and experienced divers both locally and globally, and Dave Bakker teaches specialist, advanced-level courses in areas such as underwater photography and videography.

Any other instructors also tend to be local, PADI-certified, and enthusiastic. All courses, tuition, and eventual certification are provided in an encouraging and professional way.

This is done in a way that allows participants to get a glimpse of the bigger picture once certified and the potential possibilities that eventually will allow.

In fact, the school organizes many of its own trips like most of the Montana operations do. These can be the local ‘camp & dive’ affairs for those with less experience, jaunts to exotic diving locations elsewhere, or those looking for different scenery and challenges.

A range of PADI Scuba Courses is offered at the facility including those suitable for beginners, kids, and various advanced-level programs featuring specialized areas such as rescue and instructor skills.

The diving center offers equipment rentals and all other necessities such as insurance etc.

Family Fun Scuba and Snorkel (Billings) and Missoula Scuba &, Snorkel

Two more 5-star PADI-certified Montana Dive Centers come again by way of one group of like-minded owners. The two alternative Billings and Missoula locations are operated by the same highly-qualified and experienced team of vets and offer the same services in two contrasting scenarios.

At both of these dive centers, visitors will encounter passionate Scuba Masters ready to share their love of the world beneath the surface. All aspects & levels are catered for at the facilities from rank beginner to specialized Certified Dive Master.

The team behind the centers at both locations is composed largely of ex-navy, marine, and other military personnel which ensures top levels of efficiency, professionalism, and safety–not to mention fun!

Both of the Dive Center locations provide a range of classes, courses, and certifications from beginners and kids (aged from 8) up to advanced levels and beyond. Class times and other schedules at Billings can be checked HERE, and the Missoula locations HERE.

Between the two locations of Billings and Missoula the centers commonly serve folks from surrounding regions such as Thompson Falls, Anaconda, Red Lodge, Butte, Bozeman, and Great Falls, to name just a few.

The owner Marc Dean is an ex-US Marine and is ranked a PADI Master Instructor. He is also an SSI Assistant Instructor Trainer, & Emergency First Responder Instructor, and is one of the few Scuba instructors in Montana to have received the PADI Elite Instructor Award on multiple occasions.

Marc provides instruction for all levels of Scuba which includes working with disabled participants as well as instructing military groups. The team of instructors at all facilities are PADI Divemaster-Qualified and specialize in various different areas.

The shop at the Billings location holds one of the largest supplies of equipment such as in-house regulators, computers, BCD’s, wet suits, pressure gauges, etc. All the equipment is available to buy or rent and the shop also takes care of any repair work your equipment might be due.

Popular Montana Scuba Diving Locations

Everyone knows the name of this state is synonymous with outdoor recreation experiences. There is never a shortage of options for any type of activity, and diving is no exception with the thousands of scenic lakes.

Many of the lakes are quite shallow and clear which makes this an ideal place to try out a spot of Scuba—or maybe go and practice what you’ve learned on one of the instructional courses given in the area.

Some of the following locations are examples of those among the most popular:

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

bighorn canyon

The recreation area and its accompanying 50-mile-long lake are located less than 100 miles to the south of Billings. This is a man-made reservoir that resulted from the construction of a hydroelectric dam along the Bighorn River.

The topography of the area is interesting, especially with the steep and high canyon walls.  The area is a popular spot for all kinds of recreation including fishing and water skiing.

The good thing for divers about the canyon is that it has lots of coves off the main canyon that are ideal for divers away from skiers and other water traffic.

Boats are necessary to access the dive sites, and rentals are available at the marina. The water temperatures range somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees and visibility is between about 10 and 30 feet throughout the warmer and lighter months.

All the dives in Montana are high-altitude dives and proper training in dive planning for the altitude in advance is always recommended by the site, and Adventure Scuba actually provides orientation dives here.

Glacier National Park and MacDonald Lake

macdonald lake

Glacier National Park is one of the state’s most-visited regions and is found in northwest Montana near Kalispell. One of the most popular dive sites is the impossibly-scenic Lake MacDonald.

There are plenty of accessible areas to dive in at the lake, the largest in the entire park—but Apgar Village is one of the top ones due to its ease of access.

Flathead Lake

flathead lake

Flathead Lake is located in the state’s northwest corner and is one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the state—not to mention one of the most scenic and diverse.

The lake has a surface area close to 200 square miles and is approximately 30 miles long and 16 miles wide. The lake is reportedly a remnant of the ancient inland sea of the last interglacial period.

Flathead offers some great Scuba Diving opportunities and has some nice shallow sections.

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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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