Montana is dubbed Big Sky Country due to the fact that the sky does seemingly go on forever. Despite being the third largest state in the U.S., Montana has one of the lowest number of residents of the 50 states. Less population means less smog; that and the expanse of wilderness keeps the air crisp and fresh. Montana is known for an outdoorsy culture and residents that foster a strong sense of community and pride for their state. When visiting Montana, it’s important if you have time to visit both the western (mountains, waterfalls, and buffalo) and the eastern side (farm towns, fields, and cows) to get a true sense of what Big Sky Country is all about. If you’re still not convinced that Montana should go onto your bucket list, here are four reasons to visit:
A River Runs Through It
Make that lots of rivers, and there’s more to them than just fly-fishing like Brad Pitt in the movie “A River Runs through It” (which takes place in stunning Missoula, Montana, which is also home to the University of Montana). White water rafting is a popular sport with the locals. Though they may hit the water with their rafts in confidence, newbies to Montana’s waters should hire a guide to navigate you down the river as the currents and rapids can be unpredictable. Boating on the wider rivers is also a great way to spend a lazy day. Keep in mind you’re not on a lake swimming can be dangerous. Check with park or local officials beforehand to see if there are any safe areas on the river for swimming.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is so diverse and intoxicating with its fresh air, hiking trails, hot springs, and wildlife that even the outdoorsy locals of Montana visit on a regular basis thanks to great deals on season passes. Yellowstone National Park is more than just driving through looking for bison. For a memorable stay, find some trails to hike, visit Old Faithful – a huge geyser in the earth that shoots up water “faithfully” every 91 minutes, and try to spot an elusive Grizzly Bear (from your car, you do not want to get too close to one. If doing a lot of hiking in Montana, invest in bear spray). Another can’t-miss is to go swimming in the Boiling River, in the part where the too-hot-too-swim river meets the too-cold-too-swim Gardner River, resulting in a hot spring atmosphere.
The Land of Farming
Head east from Montana’s largest city, Billings, and you’re immediately in farm land. Though Montana is largely known outside the state for its mountains and national parks, to ignore this side of Montana is missing out on a huge part of the culture and community that makes Montana so special. In eastern Montana, acre after acre of farmland stretches across the flat earth. Visit in summer and hay bales, wheat, corn stalks, and dirt roads are a common sight, with hazy colors of burnt yellow, tan, muddled brown, and accents of deep green standing out in contrast to the wide blue sky. The small towns that pop up amongst these farms are worth driving through and stopping in. Most towns have a local diner or bar and it’s there that you’ll get the taste of what true small-town living in America is like.
Be a Snowbunny
While Big Sky resort is the name most people have heard of outside Montana, it’s often crowded and expensive. Instead, head to one of the lesser ski resorts that the residents of Montana frequent, such as Red Lodge Mountain (conveniently located about an hour’s drive away from Billings, Montana). Dog sledding is another fun way to spend a snowy winter’s day in Montana. Since Montana is the land of wide, open spaces the cost of dog sledding in Montana is often cheaper than in other states due to the ease with which the dogs and dog sledding outfitters can get people on the snowy track through the trees.
Whether visiting in winter or summer, there is a huge variety of activities you can find to do in Montana. Just be sure to pack your best outdoors clothes, because you won’t be spending much time indoors when exploring Big Sky Country.
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