Montana National Parks
Montana's National Parks are some of America's favorites, and the Treasure State lives up to its nickname. Come #FindYourPark in Montana.
Montana National Parks
Table of Contents
8 National Parks in Montana
Other NPS-Affiliated Sites in Montana
Big Hole National Battlefield - Wisdom, MT
Big Hole National Battlefield honors the Nez Perce tribe and U.S. soldiers who fought here in early August on 1877. Tensions rose when the Nez Perce reservation was reduced by 90%, and the
United States began evicting them from their native lands.
The battle was part of the Nez Perce Flight of 1877 which forced the tribe to flee
1,170 miles across four states.
Visitors exploring the site should start at Park Headquarters near Spalding where there is a museum, Visitor Center, and several historic sites. Big Hole was established first as a National Monument in 1910 and then re-designated a National Battlefield in 1963. The surrounding trails are part of the National Historic Trails system.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area - MT, WY
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area includes 120,000 acres of protected areas along the Bighorn River in Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming. Popular activities include boating, camping, fishing, and hiking. The park has several Visitor Centers to explore including the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center in Lovell, Wyoming, the Afterbay Contact Station in Fort Smith, Montana, the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center in Montana, and the Crooked Creek Contact Station near the south entrance of the park.
The Yellowtail Dam was constructed in the 1960's, creating the 71-mile Bighorn Lake. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area was designated in 1968 and today sees around 200,000 annual visitors.
Flathead Wild and Scenic River
The Flathead River runs along the eastern border of Glacier National Park and is made up of three distinct sections - the North, Middle, and South Forks. Two hundred and nineteen miles of these forks have been designated as wild and scenic, and extend from the Canadian border south to the confluence of the Hungry Horse Reservoir. The Flathead is known for its beauty, as well as recreation, and it includes parts of the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness areas along with Glacier National Park. Rafting, fishing, and camping are all popular things to do here, and the rafting is particularly good for families.
The river was designated in 1976 and is co-managed by the National Park Service at Glacier National Park and the U.S. Forestry Service at Flathead National Forest.
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site - MT, ND
In 1828, John Jacob Astor established Fort Union on the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. His American Fur Company was one of the most successful and enduring fur trading enterprises on the northern plains, lasting until 1867. In 1966, the Fort was finally transferred to the National Park Service where archeological excavations began at the site. Today, the Fort has been rebuilt to its 1851 appearance at the height of the buffalo robe trade.
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site offers guests living history presentations throughout the year, as well as an annual fur trade rendezvous featuring period arts, crafts, and music. It typically occurs on the third weekend in June.
Glacier National Park - Northwest Montana
Glacier National Park is a favorite among visitors for its rugged beauty, lakes, wildlife, and glaciers. Situated along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains, Glacier offers visitors 700 miles of trails that lead to sparkling alpine lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and wildflower-covered meadows. Glacier National Park will satisfy casual visitors and backpackers alike with its gorgeous landscapes and beauty.
Glacier is divided into several areas - Goat Haunt in the north which shares a border with Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park, St. Mary, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and Apgar, home of Park Headquarters. Each offers its own adventure and beauty. Several day hikes and overlooks are available from Going to the Sun Road - the main road through the park - and a drive up to Logan Pass is recommended for some amazing views.
Also known as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier has the distinction of being part of the first International Peace Park with Waterton Lakes (1932), a U.N. Bisosphere Reserve (1978), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is also designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association.
Glacier was designated a U.S. National Park in 1910, and because of its immense popularity, Glacier is very busy in summer. To combat overcrowding, the park has recently instituted a ticketed entry policy for its popular Going to the Sun Road, so be sure and plan ahead and purchase your ticket in advance from recreation.gov.
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site - Deer Lodge, MT
The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge was once the headquarters of a cattle empire encompassing 10 million acres and is a symbol of the largest enterprise in the American West during the 1860s. Today, guests can tour some of the stables, barns, and a bunkhouse to see how cowboys from that era lived and worked. Several trails are available for hiking and wildlife viewing and provide scenic views of the range.
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail - WA, OR, ID, MT
During the last Ice Age between 12,000 and 17,000 years ago, scientists believe up to forty torrential floods moved from Montana down through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail marks the various sites and remnants of these great Ice Age floods. Dry Falls in Washington is particularly impressive. These former falls are now just a 400-foot cliff that's 3.5 miles wide - four times larger than today's Niagara Falls. For a list of state parks and places to visit along the Trail, click here.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - PA, OH, WV, KY, IN, ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA
The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail marks the historic journey by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark along 4,900 miles of wilderness from Pennsylvania all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. The Trail connects 16 states - Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon - and includes museums, landmarks, exhibits, and Visitor Centers along the route. For a complete list of markers and things to see and do, click here.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument - Crow Agency, MT
The Battle of Little Bighorn occurred in June of 1876 in South-Central Montana and saw thousands of U.S. Army forces squaring off with a contingent of Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes in what would be one of the final armed efforts to preserve their way of life. Their rejection of the Treaty of Fort Laramie and life on a reservation spurred the U.S. military forces into action, the bulk of which were led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. Custer's forces were overwhelmed and were defeated, with Custer himself losing his life. Although it was a victory for the tribes, the moment was short-lived as the United States ramped up military action to overtake the Black Hills once and for all.
Visitors to the park today can visit several battlefields, memorials, and the Custer National Cemetery. Guided tours are available, as well as self-guided tours like the 4.5 mile Tour Road to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield which includes several interpretive stops along the route. Deep Ravine Trail also has memorials throughout the Battlefield. The Visitor Center is open all year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
Nez Perce National Historical Park - ID, MT, OR, WA
The Nez Perce National Historic Park highlights the Native Nez Perce peoples of the inland Pacific Northwest. During their 4,900-mile journey, Lewis and Clark's expedition spent more time with the Nez Perce than any other group. The Park consists of 38 sites, which together tell the story of these Native Americans.
The main Visitor Center and Park Headquarters are located in Spalding, Idaho. Other popular sites and activities include finding petroglyphs in Buffalo Eddy in Washington, visiting Canoe Camp in Orofino, ID to see how canoes were carved out, and several historic battlefields. Nez Perce National Historic Park includes sites in four states - Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Yellowstone National Park - ID, MT, WY
Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became America's first National Park and also the first in the world. The park is enormous, covering 3,468 square miles, which offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the scenery. Yellowstone's most popular features are its geysers, the most famous being Old Faithful. Yellowstone is situated on the Yellowstone Caldera - America's largest super-volcano - which is responsible for the geothermal activity in the park.
Besides viewing the geysers, other popular activities in Yellowstone include hiking, backpacking, camping, cross-country skiing, biking, horseback riding, fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. Yellowstone's reintroduction of the gray wolf to the park is one of the park's successes in recent years. Other popular wildlife include bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, and many more.
Yellowstone National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1978 and was America's first to receive such a designation. It is also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Yellowstone is a busy park - one of America's busiest - and receives more than 4 million visitors annually, so plan accordingly. Yellowstone has ten Visitor Centers scattered throughout the park to explore, and it shares borders with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.