The charming town of West Yellowstone, Montana. Editorial credit: GagliardiPhotography /

10 Offbeat Towns to Visit in Montana

Montana, the 4th largest and 8th least populous state located in the Western United States’ Mountain West subregion, lures visitors from worldwide locations with its matchless scenic beauty and diverse topography. Boasting the gorgeous Rocky Mountain ranges, luxuriant river valleys, amazing rock formations, expansive Northern Plains, and countless trout-filled water bodies, the “Big Sky Country” is a must-visit for every adventure seeker. While Montana’s urban metropolises often get the maximum tourist attention, the innumerable small towns peppered throughout the 145,552 sq. mi terrain fantastically showcase the heart and soul of “The Treasure State.”  


Downtown Anaconda, looking north
Downtown Anaconda, looking north, By Mark Holloway - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:Downtown Anaconda, Montana.JPG - Wikimedia Commons 

Anaconda, the administrative center of Southwest Montana’s Deer Lodge County, is situated at the base of the Anaconda Range, approximately 23 miles northwest of Butte. Founded as “Copperopolis” by Marcus Daly, this alpine community was rechristened “Anaconda” in 1883 after a significant mining smelter. A tour to the Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park housing the town’s most famed attraction – the 585-foot-long Anaconda Smelter Shack, the world’s tallest surviving masonry structure built as part of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s Washoe Smelter, therefore should not be missed by tourists. Additionally, travelers can browse the exhibits at the Old City Hall Copper Village Museum & Art Center, explore the cross-country ski trails of Mount Haggin, camp along Georgetown Lake or in the Lost Creek State Park, speed down the uncrowded slopes at the Discovery Ski Area, play a round of golf in summer on the Old Works Golf Course, and watch a performance at the Washoe Theater.

Big Timber

Sign welcomes visitors to the small town of Big Timber Montana, located right off busy Interstate 90
Sign welcomes visitors to the small town of Big Timber Montana, located right off busy Interstate 90, via melissamn /

This charming town in south-central Montana’s Sweet Grass County is located at the meeting of Interstate 90 Business Loop and U.S. Highway 191, near where the Big Timber Creek and Boulder River drain into the Yellowstone River. Originally a prime wool-shipping depot and a halt on the Northern Pacific Railroad, Big Timber enchants holidayers with plenty of outdoor recreations like hiking, golfing, river floating, blue-ribbon trout fishing, and ranch tours. With the Crazy Mountains providing a spectacular backdrop for recreational activities, the town also serves as a gateway to the expansive Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Vacationers can browse the numerous independent shops in Big Timber’s Downtown, taste delicious cuisines at the Grand Hotel & Restaurant, Thirsty Turtle Burgers & BBQ, and Timber Bar & Grill, and learn about the region’s bygone days at the Crazy Mountain Museum.


Aerial view of Choteau in Montana
Aerial view of Choteau in Montana, By Sam Beebe - Wikimedia Commons

Named after the celebrated French fur merchant Pierre Chouteau, Jr., this Teton County seat is situated at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front. Established by A. B. Hamilton in 1873 as a trading post, Choteau is an ideal mix of outstanding views, ample recreation, and notable points of interest. The town is close to Egg Mountain, one of the world’s Cretaceous period paleontology sites. As a part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail, Choteau’s Old Trail Museum houses the state fossil – “Maiasaura” and various historical artifacts reflecting the glorious past. Outdoorsy types must spend time golfing at the Choteau City Park & Campground, birdwatching at the Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area, hiking the trails at Lewis & Clark National Forest and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and skiing at the Teton Pass Ski Area.


Aerial view of Hamilton, Montana.
Aerial view of Hamilton, Montana. 

Occupying the center of Southwest Montana’s breathtaking Bitterroot Valley, the county seat of Ravalli County was established in the late 19th century by Marcus Daly and named in honor of J.W. Hamilton. Offering plenty of hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities, Hamilton is a haven for outdoor lovers. Moreover, the town’s nearly unchanged Main Street is chock-full of specialty shops, eateries, breweries, and homey bed & breakfasts. Hamilton is also well-known for the Ravalli County Museum based in the erstwhile Ravalli County Courthouse which focuses on local art and county heritage, the palatial Daly Mansion – Marcus Daly’s residence, and the annual Bitterroot Performing Arts Series by the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council hosted at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center. Flowing right through the town, the crystal-clear waters of the Bitterroot River provide an ideal setting for excellent trout fishing by fly-fishing enthusiasts.


Main street in Lewistown, Montana
Main street in Lewistown, Montana

Fergus County’s seat of government, Lewistown lies along the meandering Big Spring Creek exactly at Montana’s geographic center, to the northwest of Billings and southeast of Great Falls. Initially called Reed’s Fort and set up as a trading post on the Carroll Trail, the town was later renamed after Major William H. Lewis, and gradually transformed into a leading distribution center for the Judith Basin. In addition to gaining knowledge about the area’s history at the Central Montana Historical Museum, heritage lovers must take a walking tour and check out the well-preserved architecture at Lewiston’s five historic districts. This family-friendly settlement acts as a base camp for those willing to partake in the myriad outdoor recreations offered here. Lewistown hosts numerous annual events such as the Montana Winter Fair, Fourth of July Festivities, Central Montana Fair, Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering & Western Music Rendezvous, Chokecherry Festival, Metis Celebration during the Labor Day weekend, and Pioneer Power Days.


Downtown Livingston, Montana
Downtown Livingston, Montana. Image credit EQRoy via

A former railroad and ranching town, Livingston is located on the shores of the Yellowstone River between the Crazy and Absaroka Mountain ranges in south-central Montana’s Park County. Just an hour’s drive away from the Yellowstone National Park, Livingston is the perfect starting point for adventurists. The town’s Old West-style walkable downtown comprises abundant 19th-century structures housing retail stores, well-stocked bookstores, farm-to-table restaurants, art galleries, old-school saloons, and museums like International Fly-Fishing Federation’s Museum, Livingston Depot Center, and Yellowstone Gateway Museum. Year-round from Livingston, visitors can easily access several miles of Forest Service trails; fourteen fishing access sites; Sacajawea Park, Mayor’s Landing, and Bridger Bowl ski resort.


Aerial view of Philipsburg, Montana
Aerial view of Philipsburg, Montana

Dubbed Philipsburg in honor of Philip Deidesheimer - an eminent mining engineer, this serene town is situated approximately halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, on the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial Scenic Highway in southwest Montana’s Granite County. Over the years, the town has become one of the most favored tourist destinations due to its proximity to noteworthy wilderness areas and the place where distinctive natural resources like Sapphire gemstones have been unearthed. Spend quality time at the Granite Ghost Town State Park and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, discover the surrounding ghost towns, prospect for sapphires at one of the sapphire mines, pay a visit to the Ghost Town Hall of Fame at Philipsburg’s Granite County Museum & Mine Exhibit, savor candies at the Sweet Palace, and outstanding Montana-made beers at Philipsburg Brewing Company.


North Valley Public Library - Stevensville Montana, via Wikimedia Commons
North Valley Public Library - Stevensville Montana, via Wikimedia Commons

Encircled by the Sapphire and Bitterroot Mountains, this picture-perfect town in Ravalli County is considered the state’s foremost permanent non-indigenous settlement. Settled at the request of the native Bitterroot Salish tribe by the Jesuit Missionaries in 1841, Stevensville, named after Issac Ingalls Stevens, offers mind-boggling views of the Bitterroot Valley. One of the town’s most celebrated points of interest is the National Register-listed St. Mary’s Mission, which along with other structures in the mission complex remains open for public viewing from April to October. Art aficionados should peruse the numerous art galleries such as River’s Mist Gallery & Gifts, Sacajawea Gallery, Stevensville Art & Sculpture, etc., while the gourmands head straight to grab delectable cuisines at Marie’s Italian Restaurant, Frontier Café, and local beers at the Blacksmith Brewing Company. The interpretive trails at the neighboring Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and the Kootenai Creek Trail draw hikers and wild enthusiasts alike.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone, Montana.
West Yellowstone, Montana. Editorial credit: Pecold /

Forming a part of the Bozeman, MT Micropolitan Statistical Area, West Yellowstone is strategically placed adjoining the western entrance of the Yellowstone National Park. This quirky Gallatin County town is a year-round outdoor recreation hub and a classic jumping-off point for excursions to the national park as well as the abutting wilderness areas. Wild animal watching is an all-season activity here, with the community’s several souvenir shops, diners, and hotels catering to thousands of vacationers who yearly visit the national park. Do observe the wolves and grizzly bears at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, take part in whitewater rafting at the Gallatin River, horseback riding at the Diamond P Ranch, ziplining at the Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park, and acquire some knowledge about the park’s history at the Museum of the Yellowstone. During winters, around 21.7 miles of meticulously maintained cross-country ski trails are available at the Rendezvous Ski Trails on the edge of the town.


The charming town of Whitefish, Montana.
The charming town of Whitefish, Montana. Editorial credit: Pierrette Guertin /

One of the nation’s finest ski towns, Whitefish lies along the shores of the 5.8-mile-long Whitefish Lake at the base of Big Mountain in Northwest Montana’s Flathead County, immediately on the western side of the Continental Divide. Placed only a few miles away from Glacier National Park, this four-season vacation mecca excellently blends small-town charm and modern-day amenities against a stupefying backdrop of the Northern Rockies. Aside from a day trip to the National Park, sightseers need to check out the plethora of antique shops, galleries, and dinners at Central Avenue like Tupelo Grille and Loula’s Café. Also, partake in amusement activities at the Whitefish Lake State Park, hike the Whitefish Trail, and visit the Whitefish Mountain Resort boasting 93 runs for various ski levels. Throughout the year, a variety of cultural events are held including Under the Big Sky Music Festival, Whitefish Arts Festival, Whitefish Winter Carnival, and Huckleberry Days Arts Festival.

From West Yellowstone – “the gateway town to the country’s first national park,” to the idyllic Choteau with its splendid fossils and antiques, the many offbeat Montana towns are waiting to be discovered. So, if you wish to gaze in awe at the majestic mountains rather than skyscrapers, breathe fresh air instead of city smog, and unwind amidst tranquil surroundings, plan your next vacay to these memorable destinations in the Big Sky Country.  

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 10 Offbeat Towns to Visit in Montana

More in Places