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Where to Go in Montana and Wyoming

TIME : 2-16 15:51:14
Beautiful Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Beautiful Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Photo © snehit/123rf.

Start your trip planning today with this overview of Montana and Wyoming. Author Carter G. Walker points you to the top draws around both states.

Billings and the Big Open

Beyond Billings, the state’s largest and most industrial city, much of eastern Montana is made up of small but tightly knit communities separated by vast swaths of wide open country. It’s also where four of the state’s seven Indian reservations can be found. The landscapes are varied and dramatic—from the rimrocks in Billings and the rolling hills around the Little Bighorn Battlefield to the badlands of Makoshika State Park outside Glendive.

Great Falls and the Rocky Mountain Front

The vast plains erupt into soaring peaks along the Rocky Mountain Front. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is one of the most spectacular and isolated mountainous areas in the Lower 48. Tiny towns like Choteau and Fort Benton offer a charming sense of community, along with fascinating sites like dinosaur mecca Egg Mountain and lovely historic hotels. Straddling the division between mountains and plains, Great Falls boasts two of the state’s best museums: The C.M. Russell Museum and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center.

Map of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park embodies the Montana you’ve always imagined: rugged mountains piercing the sky, crystalline lakes and plunging waterfalls, abundant wildlife, gravity-defying roads, and miles upon miles of trails. The park lays claim to 25 glaciers.

Missoula and Western Montana

Western Montana shows off with lush green mountain ranges and towering forests. In the far north, Whitefish is the ultimate mountain town, a skier’s paradise. Just south, glittering Flathead Lake is Montana’s Riviera, with sprawling mansions and luxe lodges at the water’s edge. The tiny hamlet of Bigfork serves up a surprisingly fine selection of both culture and cuisine, not to mention recreation. The scenic National Bison Range in Moiese can be visited en route to cultural hub Missoula, home of the University of Montana, great restaurants, and better bars. In the southwest corner of the state, the Bitterroot Valley combines a rich history with world-class fly-fishing.

Butte, Helena, and Southwest Montana

This corner of the state wears its history like a badge of honor in mining towns like Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City. Some of the other towns that survived the dramatic boom-and-bust cycles include charming Victorian Philipsburg and Butte, and Helena, the venerable state capital. Then there is the sweeping Big Hole Valley, with picturesque ranches and hot springs resorts, and the Big Hole National Battlefield, one of the most haunting battle sites in the state.

Map of Bozeman, Montana


Bozeman and the Gateway to Yellowstone

The communities surrounding Yellowstone offer a diverse range of experiences. From skiing, fishing, and an abundance of outdoor adventures in the mountain and college town of Bozeman to the art and culinary scenes just over the pass in Livingston, the area’s culture is as rich as its landscape. Big Sky and Red Lodge offer year-round resorts with huge swaths of skiable terrain and some terrific places to stay.

Yellowstone National Park

This magnificent park is constantly in motion; nothing here is static. See abundant wildlife, including bison, bears, and wolves; marvel at geothermal features like the legendary Old Faithful; and stay in marvelous historic lodges like the Old Faithful Inn and the rambling Lake Hotel. Perimeter communities, including West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and remote Cooke City, should not be missed.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton packs a punch, particularly when it comes to mountain splendor. Twelve peaks in the Teton Range soar above 12,000 feet. While there are only 100 miles of roads in the park, there are twice as many miles of trails, leaving hikers endless options for adventure. Favorite landmarks include picturesque Jenny Lake, vast Jackson Lake, drive-to-the-summit Signal Mountain, and serene Oxbow Bend.

Travel map of Jackson Hole, Cody, and the Wind Rivers in Wyoming

Jackson Hole, Cody, and the Wind Rivers

Jackson Hole, Cody, and the Wind Rivers

Wyoming’s northwest corner is far more than a gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Jackson Hole is a destination in and of itself, with glitzy galleries and boutiques, gourmet eateries, luxe accommodations, and a sensational art scene in immediate proximity to world-class ski resorts and white-water rafting. The National Museum of Wildlife Art and the National Elk Refuge are major draws for animal enthusiasts. In Cody the cowboy is still king, and the sun rises and sets on the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and its five museums. Farther south, outdoor enthusiasts will find hot springs and mountain meccas.

Sheridan, Devils Tower, and Northeast Wyoming

Where the prairies meet the mountains, cowboy culture comes alive. This is where you’ll find dude ranches and Sheridan, one of the most charming and authentic Western towns in the state. The spectacular Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway climbs into the mountains toward the pictograph-rich Medicine Lodge and the more mysterious Medicine Wheel. The isolated and enigmatic Devils Tower draws climbers, geologists, and Native Americans who consider it a sacred site.

Southern Wyoming

Southern Wyoming contains everything from sweeping deserts, sand dunes, and wild mustang herds to lush river valleys and green mountains. The southwest corner is noted for fabulous recreational opportunities along the Green River and in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. It’s also home to three of the state’s largest cities: capital Cheyenne, synonymous with its legendary Frontier Days rodeo, college town Laramie, and onetime frontier town Casper.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Montana & Wyoming.