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7 Most Vibrant Towns in Montana

by Staff

Montana is full of breathtaking mountain landscapes, perfect for exploring any time of year. The state is a particularly popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, renowned for its kayaking, hiking, and skiing the slopes; there is an abundance of outdoor adventures to partake in. However, an underrated part of Montana is the state’s vibrant towns. Towns such as Anaconda and Butte have a rich history that brings character to their community, while other towns, such as West Yellowstone and Whitefish, are perfect places to visit if you are in the vicinity of the famous Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks. The rich culture, interesting heritages, and appreciation for nature bring a vibrancy to many towns in Montana. Here, we explore seven particularly vibrant towns in the Mountain State.

Anaconda

Entrance to a state preserve in Anaconda. Image credit Cheri Alguire.

A prime spot for exploring the mountains and surrounding valleys, Anaconda is a Montana town to enjoy the area’s nature and rich history. The town is near Lost Creek State Park, an area known for dramatic rock formations. You can enjoy the scenery on a hike to Lost Creek Falls. A must-see spot in town is Georgetown Lake. The beautiful 3,000-acre lake is near the Flint Mountain and Pintler Range. You can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and fishing on the lake. Consider driving to Georgetown Lake on the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial scenic highway to enjoy mountain views along Flint Creek. Besides the natural landmarks, make sure to check out the town’s historical sites. A great spot to go into the town’s history is Granite Ghost Town State Park. Explore the remnant of the granite mining town. Established in 1875, at one point, the mine was the richest silver mine in the entire world.

Butte

Horse drawn wagons at the World Museum Of Mining, Butte, Montana
Horse-drawn wagons at the World Museum Of Mining, Butte, Montana.

Another charming Montana town with a mining past is Butte. Butte’s early economic success was thanks to the mining industry. Travelers can learn more about the town’s mining history at the World Museum of Mining. The mining history of the town is evident in Butte’s Old West charm. For those who may not be interested in mining history, Butte has several opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors. A popular hike in Butte is the Copperway trail, an easy 2-mile trail that goes through historic landmarks and natural scenery. Big Butte Open Space is another great destination to explore the natural places in Butte. Big Butte Open Space has 12 scenic trails to explore on the eroded neck of an extinct Volcano.

Red Lodge

:An old vintage neon sign in Red Lodge, Montana
An old vintage neon sign in Red Lodge, Montana. Image credit Edward Fielding via Shutterstock.

Another town with beautiful trails to explore is Red Lodge. One of the best hikes around the town is in the nearby Beartooth Mountains. These are some of the tallest mountains in Montana, offering great views of the crystal-clear alpine lakes. Popular trails in the mountains include Sundance Pass and Glacier Lake trail. To arrive at the mountains drive on the Beartooth Highway. The highway goes from the mountains to Yellowstone National Park’s entrance, offering striking scenery views.

One of the most striking aspects of the town is the people’s dedication to preserving history. The Carbon County History Museum is a place in town that works to show the town’s history. They care not only about exhibits but about showing the human values and relationships of the town’s past. While the town itself is small, with a population of under 2000, the downtown has remarkably historic buildings. Travelers will find everything from art galleries to quaint shops downtown in this engaging small town.

Polson

Aerial view of Polson, Montana
Aerial view of Polson, Montana.

Another town with a unique history to explore is Polson. The Polson Flathead Historical Museum talks about the town’s history in depth, going back to just after Flathead Indians opened the land to homesteaders in 1910. Polson also has a unique museum, the Miracle of American Museum. The museum is a combination of dozens of buildings with art, old cars, and horse-drawn carriages.

Polson is also the gateway town to the Flathead Lake region. The waterfront town has a calm atmosphere with a vibrant lake life. Considering this, it’s no surprise that one of the top things to do in town is enjoy the lake by boating or another activity such as water skiing. Polson has several parks near the lake, the perfect spot for a picnic. Point Salish Park is a great park in town to enjoy the waterfront views and it is close enough to the water you can even enjoy a swim!

West Yellowstone

Shops along Canyon Street in West Yellowstone, Montana
Shops along Canyon Street in West Yellowstone, Montana. Image credit Matthew Thomas Allen via Shutterstock.

Anyone considering Montana has probably thought of visiting Yellowstone National Park. However, nearby the park is the thriving town of West Yellowstone. Right next door to Yellowstone, one of the best things to do in town is explore the park. Visit famous sites like the Grand Canyon and thermal wonders like the jaw-dropping Grand Prismatic Spring and Mystic Falls. While near Yellowstone Park, try to stop at Earthquake Lake, an aptly named lake formed in 1959 after a catastrophic 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the area.

If you’re looking for something to do indoors, head to the Playmill Theater. Every summer, the theater puts on different productions and shows the community’s vibrant spirit. Being so close to wildlife, and walking around town, lucky visitors might spot an elk or bison—have your camera at the ready!

Whitefish

Main Street view in Whitefish, Montana
Main Street view in Whitefish, Montana. Image credit Beeldtype via Shutterstock.

Whitefish is a town close to Montana’s other popular tourist destination, Glacier National Park. The park is full of opportunities for outdoor recreation, from hiking to kayaking, and is only a thirty-minute drive from the many amenities in town. Many people take the Going to the Sun highway route to the National Park, which offers stunning views. Before exploring Glacier Park, make sure to enjoy the actual town of Whitefish itself. The town has a vibrant downtown with cafes and quaint shops that make you feel like you are back in the Old West. The town is also full of beautiful city parks that are perfect for enjoying a summer picnic. Whitefish City Beach is a great park to dip your toes in the water and enjoy the town!

Libby

Sunrise on the Kootenai river near Libby, Montana.
Sunrise on the Kootenai River near Libby, Montana.

A small, laid-back town, Libby is another vibrant town in Montana to explore. With the backdrop of the mountains and the Kootenay River, Libby has spectacular views. It is close to the Kootenai National Forest, a great spot for avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. You will come across the incredible Kootenai Falls Suspension Bridge at the edge of Kootenai National Forest. The narrow, wobbly bridge gives a great view of the forest! Downtown Libby is full of unique shops and historical sites for those who like a little retail therapy. Check out the local Heritage Museum to learn more about Libby and to appreciate the town’s heritage. While in town, keep an eye out for the eagle statues. The large, impressive sculptures give a welcome and a goodbye to visitors in town.

These small Montana towns are known for their vibrant cultures and unique atmosphere. From unparalleled natural scenery to historic sites, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring excitement in Montana. While the gorgeous landscapes undoubtedly add to the state’s vibrancy, the small towns and their quaint shops, unique history, and amusing events echo that as well. From the narrow, wobbly bridge overlooking the Kootenai Falls in Libby to Glacier National Park in Whitefish, there are attractions for everyone to appreciate that will leave you buzzing!

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