Montana National Parks: Places to Explore in the Treasure State

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors

Introduction

Montana is a state with an incredible amount of natural beauty, and there are so many areas to explore! In this post, we will talk about the best national parks in Montana (and possibly the continental United States) that are run by the National Park Service. We'll discuss what makes each area unique, as well as some reasons why you should visit them. If you're looking for a new adventure in North America or just want to spend time outdoors exploring nature, then these places are perfect for you!

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located along the Canadian border in northwest Montana on the edge of the Rocky Mountains mountain range and is an amazing place for anyone who loves outdoor activities like hiking and camping. It's a great destination if you want to escape from city life for awhile and enjoy places like Lake McDonald - just be sure to pack plenty of water on all hikes because there aren't many reliable sources (without a filter) along the way!

There are many different sections of Glacier National Park (which is split through by the Continental Divide) and each is filled with its own uniqueness. Many people come to Glacier for the diverse flora and for the wildlife. Some of the animal species that can be seen include grizzly bears, elk, deer, moose, mountain lions, and wolves. What better way is there to enjoy nature than seeing beautiful animals up close (but not too close!)? You can also enjoy a scenic drive on Going-to-the-Sun-Road for some excellent views of the park.

Glacier National Park offers over 700 miles of trails through mountains, forests, and valleys. Visitors can enjoy camping in the backcountry or staying at one of two campgrounds with powered sites. There are also several day-use areas to explore as well!

The hikes in Glacier National Park are some of the most challenging in all of America. However, these hikes were designed by people who want you to be challenged, not overwhelmed, when exploring these trails.

The best hikes to explore at Glacier National Park are the Logan Pass Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, and the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail.

Logan Pass Trail: One of the most popular trails in the park, Logan Pass is an 8-mile out-and-back hike that has a moderate difficulty level. The trail starts at an elevation of 7,646 feet and there is a lookout spot at Logan Pass which offers incredible views!

Grinnell Glacier Trail: This trail has a steeper slope than many others in Glacier National Park and is only a 4-mile round trip from Logan Creek Vista. This will be a more difficult hike for some but it offers beautiful views of Grinnell Glacier.

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail: If you're looking for a less crowded hike near the Going to the Sun Road, this is it! This trail has a moderate slope and leads through forested areas. It's only about two miles round trip from Logan Creek Vista so it can be done in an afternoon if desired.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most well-known national parks in Montana and is home to natural wonders like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. This park, which is free to enter year round, has some incredible wildlife and scenery!

There are many different trails at Yellowstone that can be explored on foot or by bike - with distances ranging from less than a mile to more than 20 miles. One thing that makes these hikes so popular is the fact that they offer spectacular views of Old Faithful Geyser as it explodes every hour!

Many people come to this area for its thermal features like geysers and hot springs. Visitors will also enjoy seeing bison and mule deer roaming freely throughout the park (and elk too!). These animals have become accustomed to humans because people often feed them - please do not feed them because their natural behaviors can be disrupted.

The best hikes in Yellowstone are the Upper Loop Trail, Fountain Flat Lake Trail, and Grand Prismatic Hot Spring.

Upper Loop Trail: This is a challenging hike with lots of elevation gain to get up close views of Old Faithful Geyser! It's 13 miles long but it's worth every step for those incredible views.

Fountain Flat Lake Trail: If you're looking for an easier day-hike that has over 500 feet of elevation change, this one is perfect! The trails lead through forests before arriving at the beautiful green lake where wildlife often can be seen as well. You will need to walk or bike about three miles from Mammoth Hotel on the Old Faithful-Upper Geyser Basin Road to reach the trailhead.

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring: This hot spring is found on a boardwalk that offers sweeping views of it! Visitors can enjoy watching mineral deposits form in this beautiful spot and even find their own thermal features if they know where to look.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is the largest protected area in America! It's so vast that it takes up a whopping half of Montana's land and has more fish species than any other national forest. This wilderness was named after its founder, Bob Marshall, who led efforts to preserve not only this but many other natural areas too - he loved living close to nature.

There are four major trails in The Bob Marshall Wilderness which offer distances from less than three miles roundtrip to 11 miles round-trip with elevations ranging from about 550 feet at lower elevations to over 5000 feet on the highest peaks within the park. These hikes can be done by dayhikers or backpackers looking for overnight stays (bear cans must be carried!).

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail: If you're looking for a less crowded hike near the Going to the Sun Road, this is it! This trail has a moderate slope and leads through forested areas. It's only about two miles round trip from Logan Creek Vista so it can be done in an afternoon if desired.

Grinnell Glacier Trail: This trail has a steeper slope than many others in Glacier National Park and is only a four-mile roundtrip from Logan Creek Vista. This will be a more difficult hike for some but it offers beautiful views of Grinnell Glacier .

Cascade Brook Loop Trail: Those looking to explore both forests and rivers should try this one! It's about six miles long with plenty of wildlife sightings, waterfalls, the occasional moose or bear sighting, and trees that offer shade as you walk through them (as well as streams!). The best time to visit Cascade Brook is during winter when there are no leaves on the ground - then you'll see all its beauty up close!

The Highline Trail: This trail is for those looking to make a more strenuous hike. It's about 15 miles round-trip and offers some of the most beautiful views in Glacier National Park, as well as wildlife like mountain goats, elk, deer and even bighorn sheep! This would be perfect for those who want an overnight stay - there are plenty of backcountry campsites along the way with bear cans available at each site. The best time to visit this trail is during summer when you'll see wildflowers blooming everywhere!

Nez Perce National Historical Park

This park is a reminder of the Nez Perce Naitonal Tribe's history and culture. It became their home after they were forced to leave in 1877 as part of what would be called The Nez Perce War, which was an attempt by Chief Joseph and his tribe to get away from encroaching settlers who wanted to take their land for themselves. This National Historical Park is close enough to Lewiston that visitors can stop there before or after visiting here; it also has other sites like meadows where you might see bighorn sheep, fish-filled streams full of trout, creeks with bald eagles perched on branches above them - all worth seeing!

Custer Gallatin National Forest

This forest is the largest in Montana with over one million acres of land! It's also home to a variety of ecosystems and wildlife, such as elk, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep - even grizzly bears. The best time to visit this national forest would be during winter when you can see all the beautiful snow-capped mountains that surround it!

The Stillwater River: This river flows through what was once known as "the valley of death" for its wild rapids that could easily drown those who dared get near them; now people swim here on hot summer days without worrying about being swept away by currents because it's been tamed thanks to dams. You'll find an easy hike along either side of the river on this four-mile roundtrip that will take you to both rock formations and a waterfall, as well as plenty of wildlife like bighorn sheep.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

This national historic landmark is a memorial to the Battle of Little Bighorn which took place in 1876 between Lakota, Cheyenne and other members of Native American tribes on one side versus U.S. forces led by General George Armstrong Custer. It was an intense battle that saw soldiers killed from both sides as well as many Native American warriors. The monument is open to visitors and offers a lot of history about the battle as well as some reminders of what happened afterwards, such as an arrowhead collection on display in its visitor center that belonged to Native American warriors who participated in the fight - including one who was shot by Custer himself!

Flathead National Forest

This forest is named for the Flathead Native Americans who were one of Montana's primary tribes. It has many beautiful, mountainous landscapes and offers an incredible amount of recreational activities like fishing on a dozen different rivers or visiting its glaciers that offer just as much beauty in wintertime when they're covered with snow!

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is a place where you can hike, fish and explore the outdoors while getting to enjoy some of Montana's most beautiful vistas. It offers over 50 miles of trails that offer opportunities for wildlife viewing as well as waterfalls or streams like Crazy Woman Creek which flows through it. The canyon has also been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO because its diverse habitat provides homes for many different plants and animals - including grizzly bears!

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Named after the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Lewis and Clark Caverns is one of the Montana state parks that offers a variety of things to do and see for visitors, such as fishing on the Lewis And Clark Lake or hiking through the Park's trails that offer views of cliffs, caves with stalactites (or "ice flowers" in this region), waterfalls and more.

Big Hole National Battlefield

This is the site of a battle that took place in 1877 where Chief Joseph and his tribe were finally defeated by U.S. soldiers after their attempted escape from encroaching settlers over the mountain passes into Canada - although "defeated" might be too strong of a word as they managed to get away with most of their lives! Today, this National Battlefield is open to visitors and offers a peaceful, contemplative walk through the battlefield where you'll see markers for each soldier who lost their life in that skirmish.

Fort Benton Historic Site

This historic site is a reminder of the settlement that took place here in 1853 when it became Montana Territory. It's an easy walk along either side of the Missouri River to see how Fort Benton was built and what it looked like back then, such as its original stone building where General George A. Custer stayed before his ill-fated "battle" against Chief Joseph. The site was also a trading post in the mid-1800s and offers an opportunity to learn more about those who came before you - like how one of its first residents, George Yount, found gold that led him on an expedition to California!

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

This historic site is the final resting place of Montana's own "Crazy Horse," Charles Marion Russell, whose artwork can be seen all over the state. As a National Historic Site it offers tours that showcase what life was like during its heyday from 1887 to 1928 when cattle were raised here and traded on nearby railroad lines. Today, visitors come for more than just art as they get to explore an old-timey ranch with cowboys in authentic gear who are happy to answer any questions you might have about how life used to be back then!

Final Thoughts on National Parks in Montana

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

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