There are eight National Park Services in the state of Montana. The state has two National Parks – Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP. The rest of the national park services consist of breathtakingly beautiful National Recreation Areas and National Geologic Trails. The state is also home to National Historic Trails and National Historic Sites, as well as National Battlefields and National Monuments. So, whether you are into glaciers or geysers or history, hikes or heritage, Big Sky Country has a national park service to excite and delight whatever your interests. Ready to embrace the state’s wild open spaces? Here’s our list of the best national parks in Montana.
7 Best National Parks in Montana
1. Yellowstone National Park
On 1st March 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. Famous for its unique hydrothermal and geologic features, within Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres you’ll find vast canyons, rushing rivers, flourishing forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. Yellowstone also offers visitors unparalleled opportunities to observe wildlife in an intact ecosystem, including one of the largest elk herds in North America and the largest free-roaming, wild herd of bison in the United States. You can also observe one of just a few grizzly populations in the contiguous United States as well as rare sightings of wolverine and lynx.
2. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a wilderness area in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Famous for its glacier-carved peaks and valleys, the park is home to pristine forests, alpine meadows, and spectacular lakes, for instance, Lake McDonald which is both the largest and deepest body of water in the park. Glacier National Park is a paradise for hikers. There are over 700 miles of tracks and trails that cut through the wilderness and lead you to solitude. For those who want to experience the park on two or four wheels, you can cycle or drive the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Whilst in the park, keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears.
3. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area straddles the border between Montana and Wyoming. You can explore the wild landscape on foot, hiking over 17 miles of trails, ranging from short walks to dramatic overlooks. You can also take to the waters and paddle Bighorn Lake and take in awe-inspiring views of the massive canyon walls. When it comes to wildlife watching, keep a lookout for magnificent herds of Pryor Mountain wild horses and the park’s namesake Bighorn sheep.
4. Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail is the first and only National Geologic Trail in the United States. On this trail, which takes in part of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, you’ll discover the geologic story of the last Ice Age Floods which happened about 18,000 to 15,000 years ago. This network of scenic trails connects the sites affected by the flooding of the glacial Lake Missoula. The floods changed the lives and landscape of the Pacific Northwest and this trail tells that story.
5. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail extends for some 4,900 miles (7,900km). It stretches from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. It is the third-longest National Historic Trail after The Trail of Tears in North Carolina and the California Trail. The trail commemorates the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806. Lewis and Clarke were American explorers and soldiers who set off to cross the newly acquired western portion of the country after the Louisiana Purchase. You can hike the trail or go by horseback and at some locations, you can even continue the journey by boat.
6. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
You’ll find the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency. It is on the site where the Battle of the Little Bighorn took place on 25 and 26 June 1876. During this battle, the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes battled the men of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry. Also on the battlefield, you’ll find Custer National Cemetery, which is part of the national monument.
7. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
This national historic site commemorates the cattle industry of the American West. Once the headquarters of a 10 million acre cattle empire, today, it is a living history ranch. On a visit, you can experience what life was like back in the olden days as a rancher and cowboy. You can tour the ranch and the historic buildings and discover the large collection of horse-drawn vehicles as well as the artefacts in the museum. You can even enjoy a wagon tour and experience the landscape just like they did in the Open Range Era.