Montana USA, Big Sky Country, is awash with dramatic mountain ranges. In fact, there are at least 100 mountain ranges and sub-ranges in Montana. The grandeur of these mountain ranges often renders those who visit, speechless.
Even the name Montana is Latin for “mountainous”—a land dotted with jaw-dropping peaks, which shift in colors as the seasons change.
Here are the top 17 mountain ranges in Montana that deserve to be highlighted for their magnificence and soul-stirring beauty.
1. Beartooth Mountains
Located in south-central Montana and northwest Wyoming, the Beartooth Mountains form a large chunk of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness— 944,000 acres, to be exact. Beartooth is home to the infamous and steep Granite Peak, the highest peak in the Treasure State, with an elevation of 12,807 feet.
The Beartooth Highway is one of the most stunning mountain drives in the US. It climbs to 10,947ft, allowing you an unobstructed view of Shoshone National Forest and breathtaking vistas.
Quick Facts On Beartooth:
- Has 41 peaks
- Home to Granite Peak
- Part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
- Has over 300 lakes
- Has 700 glaciers
- 10 sub-alpine tundra plateaus
- 65 percent is Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness
2. Rocky Mountains
Nicknamed The Rockies, the Rocky Mountains stretch 4,800 km, with a spherical distance from the northernmost part of western Canada to New Mexico in southwestern United States. The range is the easternmost part of the vast North American Cordillera.
The Rockies are a major mountain range, with a total of 100 peaks. The 78 are found in Colorado, 10 in Wyoming, 6 in New Mexico, 3 in Montana, and 1 in Utah.
Quick Facts On The Rockies:
- Home to 9 national parks
- Mount Elbert is its highest peak
- Home to super volcano, the Yellowstone Caldera
- Stretches 3,000 miles over 5 states
- Home to Athabasca Glacier
- It has sand dunes that reach 750 feet in height
- Home to some indigenous people
3. Crazy Mountains
The Crazy Mountains are also known as the Crazies, or Crazy Woman Mountains (based on a legend of a crazy woman who lived in the range). Situated between the Musselshell and Yellowstone rivers, it spans a distance of 40 miles. It is home to 30 peaks, with the highest, Crazy Peak, measuring 11,000 feet.
The Crazies, characterized by jagged peaks, were formed from water erosion, ice and wind. More than 40 glimmering lakes are found in this sub-range of the Rockies. Presently, a sole glacier, the Grasshopper Glacier, remains to be the Crazies’ remnant from the ice age.
Quick Facts On The Crazies:
- A sub-range of the Rockies
- Plenty of mountain goats
- Surrounded by private lands
- Location of the Gallatin National Forest
- Home to Shields River
- Home to Sweet Grass Creek
- Home to South Fork Musselshell River
4. Bitterroot Mountains
Located in the panhandle of Idaho and westernmost Montana, the Bitterroot Range is a sub-range of the Rockies. It encompasses an area of 24,223 square miles, with peaks averaging at 9,000 feet. The range’s highest peak is Scott Peak in Idaho, rising 11,394 feet.
Spanning through the middle of the range is the Bitterroot National Forest, a stunning 1.6 million acre forest and home to the whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and other fascinating wildlife. Best time to visit is spring, summer, and fall.
Quick Facts About the Bitterroot Mountains:
- Generally impenetrable, except the foothills
- Has two major rivers: Salmon and Selway
- Diverse wildlife
- Stunning hiking trails
5. Mission Mountains
Sitting in northwestern Montana, the Mission Mountains— or Mission Range— is another sub-range of the Rockies. It is known for its snowy and jagged peaks, alpine lakes, meadows, active glaciers, and talus slopes.
Mission Mountains’ highest peak is the McDonald Peak, which towers up to 9,820 feet. Chiefly composed of “Belt Rock,” Mission Mountains is also known as the American Alps. This mountain range is the gate pass to the 73,877-acre Mission Mountain Wilderness Area.
Quick Facts On Mission Mountains:
- McDonald Peak is its highest peak
- Gateway to the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area
- Managed by the Forest Service
- Average elevation is 7,000 feet
6. Big Belt Mountains
Found in the Helena National Forest, Big Belt Mountains form a part of the larger Central Montana Rocky Mountains sub-range. Situated some 20 miles east of the city of Helena and the Canyon Ferry Reservoir, this range was named after the infamous limestone belt that envelopes the mountains.
The Big Belt spans across the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness and the outlying Dry Range. It also includes the tiny and quaint communities of York and Nelson. The range stretches for about 75 miles in total.
Quick Facts On Big Belt:
- Near the city of Helena
- It has 48 named peaks
- Highest peak is Sacagawea Peak (9,656ft)
- Most prominent peak is Mount Edith (9,491ft)
7. Tobacco Root Mountains
The Tobacco Root Mountains are found in the northern Rockies, straddling between the Jefferson and Madison Rivers. This mountain range in southwest Montana has a total of 43 peaks, the highest of which is Hollowtop at 10,604 feet.
Known for its complex geology, Tobacco Root Mountains is also known for its roaring peaks, forested slopes, snowy basins, and pristine lakes. The range stretches from Bozeman to Butte.
Quick Facts On the Tobacco Root Mountains:
- Has 43 peaks
- Highest peak is Hollowtrop
- History of mining, 1800s
- Comprised mostly of rocks from the Tobacco Root Batholith
- Dozens of trails
- Home to Louis Lake
- Home to Hollowtop Lake
8. Gallatin Range
Located in the states of Montana and Wyoming, the Gallatin Range is part of the Rocky Mountains that has more than 10 mountains that reach over 10,000 feet. Electric Peak, which is 10,969 feet, is the highest peak.
The range, which stretches about 75 miles with a width of 20 miles, runs from Bozeman until the Yellowstone National Park.
Quick Facts On Gallatin Range:
- Has one of the largest petrified forests of the Eocene Epoch
- The petrified forest is about 50 million years old
- Home to the famous Gallatin Crest Trail (Devil’s Backbone)
- Home to various wildlife such as grizzly bear, elk, wolves, and others
9. Madison Range
Named in honor of then president-to-be President James Madison in 1805, Madison Range stretches 80 miles from West Yellowstone to Bozeman, Montana with the highest peak of 11,316 feet which is Montana’s highest outside the Beartooths.
Accessible all-year-round, Madison Range offers an amazing trail system for camping, hiking, and biking. A large chunk of this range is found within Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Gallatin National Forest.
Quick Facts On Madison Range:
- Home to grizzly and black bears and a pack of wolves
- Lone Mountain, considered to be the most beautiful mountain in the country
- Divided into 5 areas based on age and character of the rock
- Hilgard Peak, the highest in Madison Range was first climbed in 1948
10. Bighorn Mountains
Bighorn Mountain Range is about 150 miles long and 30 miles wide in north-central Wyoming. Contained within the Bighorn National Forest, the area is filled with breathtaking views and various activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family such as camping, fishing, trekking, and more.
The Bighorns rose approximately 70 million years ago. Its highest peaks are Cloud Peak at 13,175 feet and Black Tooth Mountain at 13,005 feet.
Quick Facts On Bighorn Mountains:
- A good place for winter recreation such as skiing
- Abundant lakes and streams for fishing
- There are one million acres for camping in the Bighorn National Forest
11. Livingston Range
Located primarily in Montana, Livingston Range is 36 miles long and 28 miles wide. It started to form about 1.6 billion years ago and has over 15 summits that exceed 9,000 feet.
Livingston Range contains 41 named mountains, the highest of which is Kintla Peak at 10,102 feet. It has been home to humans for thousands of years and since 1932 has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Quick Facts On Livingston Range:
- Mountain ranges are located on all sides
- A rich variety of flora and fauna
- Four main hiking areas
- Nearby to three major cities
12. Cabinet Mountains
Noted for being one the “wild mountains left in the United States,” Cabinet Mountains is a 35-mile long range, part of the Rocky Mountains that cover an area of 2,134 square miles. West of Libby, is the dominant range of northwestern Montana.
Its highest peaks are Snowshoe Peak at 8,738 feet; Elephant Peak at 7,938 feet; and Bockman Peak at 8,174 feet. Southeast of Cabinet Mountains is Missoula, Montana, a college town of about 66,000 people.
Quick Facts On Cabinet Mountains:
- Inhabited by the Kootenai people for the last 10,000 years
- Coeur d’Alene, home to 50,000 inhabitants is the nearest city
- Home to a diverse wildlife
13. Lewis Range
Lewis range rises across northern Montana into southern Alberta, Canada. There is a record of 496 named mountains in the Lewis Range. The tallest peak of the Lewis Range is Mount Cleveland at 10,466 feet, which is also the tallest peak in Glacier National Park.
The range jutted out about 170 million years ago, the most prominent and biggest mountains are Clements Mountain, Mount Jackson, and Mount Oberlin.
Quick Facts On Lewis Range:
- Has 496 mountains
- Glacier National Park was first observed from Lewis Range in 1873
- Accessible to major trails and hiking areas
- Accessible to major cities and resorts
- Perfect for backcountry climbers
- Home to the isolated Chief Mountain
- Location of the first-ever spotted glacier in Montana
14. Highwood Mountains
The Highwood Mountains are a subrange of the Rockies and are mostly surrounded by prairie. Also known as an island range, Highwood Mountains cover approximately 1,799 square miles.
The highest peak at Highwood Mountains is Highwood Baldy at 7,670 feet. The mountain range is volcanic and, in 1903, was declared a Forest Reserve.
Quick Facts On Highwood Mountains:
- The Highwood Mountains national forest is popular among campers and hikers.
- Bears frequent the area
- The area has volcanic origins
- A significant cattle and sheep grazing land
15. Flint Creek Range
Flint Creek Range, also known as the Flints, is a mountain range with an elevation of 10,168 feet located at the northeast of Philipsburg, Montana. The highest mountain is Mount Powell at 10,168 feet.
Approximately 60,000 acres of the Flint Creek Range are roadless. Travelers will be in awe if they’re coming from the eastbound on Interstate 90, right along the stretch flanked by Drummond and Garrison. From here, you will be able to see this steep cliff called “The Crater,” which looks like a dinosaur backbone.
Quick Facts On Flint Creek Range:
- Popular for hunting elk, deer, and blue grouse
- Has Rocky Mountain fauna
- About 60,000 acres are roadless
- Numerous alpine lakes provide for good fishing
- Nearby is Discovery Ski Area, a popular alpine ski venue
16. Little Belt Mountains
Little Belt Mountains are a part of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. It contains 89 named peaks, the highest and most well-known is Big Baldy Mountain at 9,190 feet.
Considered to be among the largest isolated ranges in Montana, Little Belt Mountains are more of a grouping of peaks rather than a chain. Used mainly for logging and recreation, the mountains have also been mined for silver and sapphire since the 1800’s.
Quick Facts On Little Belt Mountains:
- It has 89 peaks
- Most well-known peak: Big Baldy Mountain
- Part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest w
- Main hiking areas: Strawberry Ridge Trail and Memorial Falls Trail
17. Absaroka Range
Located between Montana and Wyoming, spanning 150 miles long and 75 miles wide, the Absaroka Range is a collection of 399 named peaks, the highest being Granite Peak at 12,776 feet.
A number of peaks in Absaroka Range are elevated at 12,000 feet. Volcanic in origin, the range is one of the most mountainous terrains in Western Wyoming.
Quick Facts On Absaroka Range:
- Home to the Crow People
- Wild and least developed terrain
- The whole area is more than three million acres
Most of the 100 mountain ranges in the Treasure State are subranges of the Rocky Mountains. No one can deny the astonishing beauty of Montana, which is blessed with the grandeur of ranges.
The mountains, rounded, jagged, sloping, and imposing are bedazzled with lakes, glaciers, rivers, exotic and diverse flora, and fauna. Montana’s collection of mountain ranges also keep a total of seven national forests.