Growing up in Montana, I was surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, endless outdoor activities, and charming small towns.
As a blogger writing about my home state, I’ve always been drawn to the less-traveled paths and hidden gems that make a trip truly memorable.
Over the years, I have discovered some incredible hidden gems that I’d like to share with fellow travelers.
From stunning natural wonders to quirky attractions, these lesser-known spots in Montana offer unique experiences and are steeped in history and culture.
Hidden gems in Montana you won’t want to miss
If you plan on visiting the “Treasure State,” you should make sure to add these hidden gems to your list.
1. Gates of the Mountains
The Gates of the Mountains, located about 20 miles north of Helena, is a spectacular series of limestone cliffs that rise dramatically from the Missouri River.
Named by Meriwether Lewis in 1805, the site has plenty of history and natural beauty.
I recommend taking a guided boat tour, which runs from May to September, to learn about the area’s geological features and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
2. Bannack State Park
Bannack State Park, in southwestern Montana, is home to a well-preserved ghost town dating back to the gold rush of the 1860s.
The town was once the capital of Montana Territory and boasts over 50 historic buildings.
I recommend visiting during Bannack Days, a weekend event held each July, where you can experience living history demonstrations, gold panning, and stagecoach rides.
3. Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge
Kootenai Falls, near the town of Libby, is the largest undammed waterfall in Montana and a sacred site for the Kootenai Tribe.
The falls are easily accessible via a 1-mile trail, and the swinging bridge offers spectacular views of the Kootenai River.
The area also serves as a habitat for various wildlife, including osprey, bald eagles, and deer.
4. Makoshika State Park
Makoshika State Park, located near the town of Glendive, is Montana’s largest state park and features a unique badlands landscape.
The park is home to various dinosaur fossils, including Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex, and offers several hiking trails, interpretive displays, and a visitor center with paleontological exhibits.
5. Polebridge Mercantile
The historic Polebridge Mercantile, established in 1914, is located near the northwest entrance of Glacier National Park.
This rustic general store is renowned for its delicious huckleberry bear claws, homemade sandwiches, and locally crafted gifts.
The nearby North Fork Road offers scenic views of Glacier National Park and the Flathead River.
6. Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, located in Arlee, is a sacred site that promotes peace, spiritual growth, and cultural preservation.
The garden features over 1,000 hand-cast Buddha statues and a central shrine dedicated to the female Buddha, Tara. Visitors can participate in meditation classes, workshops, and special events throughout the year.
7. Crystal Lake
Nestled in the Little Belt Mountains, Crystal Lake is a picturesque alpine lake surrounded by dense forests and rugged peaks.
The 5.5-mile Crystal Lake Trail offers stunning views and a moderate hike suitable for most skill levels. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.
8. The Ringing Rocks
The Ringing Rocks, located near Butte, is a unique geological formation consisting of boulder-sized rocks that emit a bell-like sound when struck.
The phenomenon is due to the unique composition and arrangement of the rocks, which are part of an ancient volcanic formation. Bring a small hammer to experience this natural wonder for yourself.
9. Virginia City and Nevada City
Virginia City and Nevada City are two well-preserved ghost towns near the southwestern corner of Montana.
These towns provide a glimpse into the area’s gold-mining past, with many historic buildings and artifacts on display.
I recommend visiting during the summer months when you can enjoy living history events, gold panning, and a ride on the Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad.
10. Giant Springs State Park
Located in Great Falls, Giant Springs State Park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the country.
The springs discharge over 150 million gallons of water daily, which flows into the Missouri River. The park also features the Roe River, recognized as the world’s shortest river, measuring just 201 feet in length.
The park is a great spot for picnicking, birdwatching, and exploring the nearby Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
11. The Miracle of America Museum
The Miracle of America Museum in Polson is an eclectic collection of Americana artifacts, ranging from vintage motorcycles and antique cars to historical memorabilia.
This quirky museum provides a fascinating look into America’s past, and I recommend setting aside a few hours to explore its extensive exhibits.
12. Wild Horse Island State Park
Wild Horse Island, located on Flathead Lake, is only accessible by boat and offers a truly unique Montana experience.
The island is home to a small population of wild horses, as well as bighorn sheep, mule deer, and various bird species. Spend a day hiking the island’s trails and enjoying the pristine beauty of this secluded paradise.
13. Pictograph Cave State Park
Located just outside Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park is a significant archaeological site that showcases ancient rock paintings created by prehistoric hunters over 2,000 years ago.
The park features a short interpretive trail that leads to the caves, where you can view the pictographs up close and learn about the area’s early inhabitants.
14. American Computer & Robotics Museum
The American Computer & Robotics Museum in Bozeman offers a fascinating look into the history of computing, communications, and robotics.
The museum features an impressive collection of artifacts, including early computers, rare manuscripts, and space exploration memorabilia. It’s an informative and engaging experience for all ages.
15. Moss Mansion
Moss Mansion, located in Billings, is a beautiful and well-preserved historic home built in 1903.
This impressive red sandstone mansion showcases original furnishings and exquisite architectural details, providing a glimpse into the life of a prominent Montana family during the early 20th century.
Guided tours are available, offering insights into the mansion’s history and its occupants.
16. Our Lady of the Rockies
Standing at 90 feet tall, Our Lady of the Rockies is a colossal statue of the Virgin Mary located atop the Continental Divide overlooking Butte.
This impressive monument can be seen from miles away and is accessible via a guided tour, which includes a scenic drive up the mountain and a visit to the statue’s base.
17. Earthquake Lake
Earthquake Lake, also known as “Quake Lake,” was formed in 1959 after a powerful earthquake caused a massive landslide, blocking the Madison River.
Today, the lake is a haunting reminder of nature’s power and a popular spot for fishing, boating, and camping.
I recommend visiting the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center to learn about the area’s geology and the dramatic events that shaped the landscape.
18. Bear Creek Saloon and Steakhouse
Located in the small town of Bearcreek, the Bear Creek Saloon and Steakhouse offers a unique dining experience combined with live pig racing during the summer months.
Enjoy a delicious steak or burger while cheering on your favorite pig at this one-of-a-kind Montana establishment.
19. Granite Ghost Town State Park
Granite Ghost Town State Park, situated near Philipsburg, preserves the remnants of a once-thriving silver mining town.
Hike the 4-mile round-trip trail to the Granite Mine site, where you can explore the ruins of the miner’s boarding house, the superintendent’s house, and a massive stone engine house.
20. Whitefish Mountain Resort
While Whitefish Mountain Resort is well-known for its winter skiing and snowboarding, it also offers a variety of summer activities.
Take a scenic gondola ride to the summit, zip line through the trees, or try the thrilling alpine slide for an unforgettable adventure.
21. The Sweet Palace
The Sweet Palace, located in Philipsburg, is a charming candy store that will transport you back to your childhood.
With over 1,000 different types of candy, from handmade chocolates to old-fashioned saltwater taffy, it’s a must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth.
22. Chief Plenty Coups State Park
Chief Plenty Coups State Park, near Pryor, commemorates the life and legacy of the Crow Tribe leader who played a vital role in shaping Montana’s history.
Explore the park’s museum, the Chief’s original log home, and the sacred spring, where Chief Plenty Coups received his prophetic visions.
23. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
The Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, located in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, offers stunning red cliffs, deep blue waters, and a diverse range of wildlife, including wild horses, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.
Take a scenic drive, hike one of the many trails, or enjoy a boat tour on Bighorn Lake.
24. The Berkeley Pit
The Berkeley Pit, situated in Butte, is a former open-pit copper mine turned toxic lake.
Although it may seem like an unusual attraction, the viewing platform offers a unique perspective on the environmental and industrial history of the area.
The Berkeley Pit Visitor Center provides educational exhibits and information about the site’s history and ongoing remediation efforts.
25. C.M. Russell Museum
The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls is dedicated to the life and art of Charles M. Russell, a renowned Western artist.
The museum’s impressive collection includes over 2,000 of Russell’s paintings, sculptures, and personal artifacts, providing an in-depth look at the artist’s life and his connection to Montana.
Wrapping Up: Hidden Gems in Montana
Montana’s hidden gems, discovered during my childhood and later adventures, offer a variety of unique experiences and stunning landscapes that aren’t just the national parks and cities. Make sure to visit these on your trip out west!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex is the founder of Alex on the Map, which offers outdoor, hiking, and national park tips and info in order to make getting outside accessible. She loves helping travelers create their most epic adventures in the outdoors.