Less-Than-Ideal Times To Visit Montana (+Tips to Make Most)

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: March 1st, 2024

Planning a visit to Montana? Rightly so – Montana is a state tremendously popular for all the outdoor escapades that can be enjoyed within its borders!

But like all outdoor activities, there are some factors you will want to consider before you get out there and do it.

The activities on offer in Montana don’t have to be confined to a certain time of year; however, with this being said, opportunities available to you may change as the seasons progress. 

If cold weather is deterring you from going in the winter (but crowds of tourists are stopping you from going in the summer), this article will offer you a deeper understanding of exactly what you can expect from Montana year-round and hopefully help you to plan your next trip!

The Off-Season Realities

I’ve mentioned the perils of tourist saturation in Montana during the peak season, but it’s important to understand why. Summer brings with it countless opportunities for outdoor exploration and hiking (a big draw to many intrepid tourists). 

Winter is a different story, but still a big tourist draw thanks to its amazing snowsport potential.

The other side of this season is the potential for extreme cold, unsafe conditions, and facility closure. Let’s explore these in more detail:

Extreme cold, heavy snowfall, and icy conditions 

icy conditions in montana

These conditions are commonplace in the winter months (December, January, and February), and are considered by many to be part of the appeal. 

But if you aren’t a snow junkie – opting instead for more grounded pastimes – these can be causes of discomfort and worry!

For this reason, Winter and Autumn (the wettest season on average in Montana) can be times to avoid the area.

Potential for flooding and muddy trails 

Montana muddy trails

34% of Montana’s annual rainfall is attributable to the Autumn months of September, October, and November. 

With this in mind, if you are a person who enjoys a hike (but can definitely take or leave a mud-swept or swamp-esque trail), postponing your trip to a less rainy time of year is sage advice (spring and summer months may be better bets).

Limited access to certain areas due to road closures 

Montana road closures

Related to the above two, more extreme weather conditions may be related to road closures and less access to facilities. 

However, the off-peak seasons of spring and autumn are also times when the Montana Wildlife Federation may close access to certain areas in order to carry out maintenance and renovations.

Reasons to visit during these times

So, now you’re up to date with the reasons why it might not be the best idea to visit Montana in the off-season. Now let’s go through all the reasons why it is a good reason to visit during these times!

These times will be budget-friendly

Prices for accommodation, services, and activities fluctuate year-round in Montana; more competition for the same limited spots makes sure of this. 

You’ll find that visiting the state in the Spring and Summer will be less of a burden on the wallet!

The low season (known by locals as the mud season), is the lead-up to summer in which accommodation is the least expensive as demand typically is nowhere near as high.

An important thing to keep in mind, however, is that a considerable amount of business cut down on employees and operating hours in this period – sometimes leading to longer wait times. 

If you’re willing to take a gamble on this, it can definitely pay off in your favor!

Lesser crowd

Autumn, also known as the shoulder season, is typically the period in which there are the least tourists in Montana. 

This is because it’s the time after the sun seekers have concluded their summer escapades in Montana, and before the snow seekers come to carve up the slopes.

The low season is similarly quiet; enjoying the state without the hustle and bustle does mean making a few compromises, but I personally don’t consider a bit of mud and rain to be a dealbreaker!

Local cultural immersion

There are numerous opportunities for cultural immersion in the shoulder season and the low season. 

Autumn means universities are back in term, which promises a bustling nightlife, grand celebrations of Halloween, and great local festivals such as the Whitefish Songwriter Festival, Billings’ HarvestFest, and the Missoula wine and food festival.

The low season brings with it amazing chances to visit Montana’s host of museums, art galleries, and theaters

This is not to mention the countless walks that are still open to the public in places such as the Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, the bison range, and the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam!

There’s no better way to end a day exploring one of Montana’s 2 national parks than by checking out one of the state’s many breweries. 

The most notable would be Bozeman Brewing in Bozeman, Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, Harvest Moon Brewing in Belt, and 2 Basset Brewery in White Sulphur Springs.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it: A balanced summary of what to expect from every season in the beautiful state of Montana, and why you may (or may not) want to consider visiting in an off-season such as spring or autumn!

Now that you have a better idea of what is in store in every season, you’re one step further to planning a memorable next trip to the Treasure state.

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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