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

11 of the Most Welcoming Towns in Montana

Montana truly lives up to its nickname as the "Treasure State." Located in the northwest portion of the US and sharing a northern border with Canada, this state is one of the largest by area at over 145,000 square miles. From Rocky Mountain peaks rising above lush pine forests to gentle prairie grasses stirring in the breeze, Montana is home to eight national parks (including Glacier National Park and Yellowstone).

Many towns in the state have developed thriving tourist economies centered around the historical heritage of preservation and protection of the wilderness. The residents are directly connected to the land and each other, but they also embrace immense hospitality and kindness to travelers. Whether you are planning to visit or are contemplating a move there, these towns roll out the welcome mat for newcomers.


Cars angle-parked along the Main Street in Whitefish, Montana with stunning mountains in the backdrop.
The Main Street in Whitefish, Montana. Image credit Pierrette Guertin via

Whitefish is a small resort town of 8,492 residents in Flathead County in the northwestern part of the state. It sits just 60 miles south of the Canadian border, and due to its proximity to Glacier National Park and Whitefish Lake, the town has built its livelihood on tourism, attracting visitors from all over the globe. The community was formed as a timber town (earning it the nickname "Stumptown" due to the number of tree stumps left throughout the area). Over the years, it has maintained its small-town feel while offering many amenities often found in much larger cities.

The Whitefish Mountain Resort offers rugged sightseeing venues, including a chance to soar above the pines on a zipline. While winters at Whitefish can be harsh at times, the resort area provides the perfect conditions for skiing and snowboarding. During the warmer summer months, visitors to the area can enjoy backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, or fishing in some of the most pristine landscapes imaginable. There is a Farmer's market every Tuesday during the spring and summer, where family farms and local craftsman sell their novelties.

West Yellowstone

Sunny street view of the West Yellowstone town.
Downtown West Yellowstone, Montana. Image credit Kit Leong via

West Yellowstone (population 1,269) is adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and serves as the gateway for visitors and tourists to explore the stunning natural wonders of the area. The Park features many attractions like Old Faithful with its clocklike precision (the geyser erupts every 35 to 120 minutes) and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. (Many visitors stay here and drive through the park on the over 370 miles of paved roadways). Keep your cameras close by and ready because eagle-eyed adventurers are often treated to sightings of elk, bison, bears, and other animals. (Maintain your distance as numerous tourists are hurt yearly by trying to tread too close to the wildlife).

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is open year-round and offers a chance to see grizzlies, wolves, and other animals up close. Like many of the towns in Montana, West Yellowstone survives from tourist dollars supporting the local economy and has a rich history of hospitality and warmth. Enjoy a burger and beer at Bullwinkles Saloon or a hearty breakfast at the Old Town Cafe. The Historic Center is in the Old Train Depot and is a great place to get information while learning about the region's history.


Downtown Dillon, Montana with store fronts and courthouse.
Downtown Dillon, Montana. Image credit Charles Knowles via

Located in the southwestern portion of the state in Beaverhead Valley, Dillion, with a population of 3,976, was established as a railroad stop bringing supplies to the area's booming goldmines in the 1880s. Today, trout fishing destinations are a primary draw for visitors, as Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Ruby rivers all flow into the valley. One favorite hangout is Sparky's Garage, which features handmade burgers in a fun atmosphere with lots of old-time car memorabilia. A rich historical heritage is to be enjoyed as the area was part of Lewis and Clark's iconic expedition through the Rocky Mountains. The Bannack State Park is the site of Montana's first gold mine and features a ghost town with living history exhibits.  


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

Lewistown, with around 6,000 residents, is in the exact center of the state and served as a railroad settlement to bring settlers, supplies, and prospectors westward. One of the community's unique features is the artesian spring in the Big Spring Creek, bubbling up fresh water from one of the largest natural springs in the world. Initially a mining town, it has a unique rural feel, celebrating its heritage with numerous festivals, including the annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering & Western Music Rendezvous.

There are five historic districts for visitors wanting to experience some great history. The excellent Central Montana Historical Museum has many interesting artifacts (including a large dinosaur specimen found in the area). Just east of town, Bear Gulch Pictographs offers guided tours to some of the best-preserved petroglyph drawings anywhere. The Big Springs Trout Hatchery and the Charlie Russell Chew Choo train are family experiences worth visiting. When in town, the Central Feed Grilling Company is the best place for a burger and a craft beer in the area.


Antique Ford automobile at restored gas station, Miracle of America Museum, Polson, Montana
Miracle of America Museum, Polson, Montana. Image credit Danita Delimont via Shutterstock

Located on the southern shore of Flathead Lake, Polson (population 5,258) sits on the Flathead Indian Reservation. This beautiful lakeside community offers excellent recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, and boating. Surrounded by both the Mission and Salish Mountains, the unusually mild climate provides the perfect conditions for agricultural pursuits, and the town has a heritage of celebrating the local farmers in the area.

The Flathead Cherry Festival occurs every July (during the last weekend), highlighting the peak season, and several local farms will let you pick from their orchards. For those interested in a unique diversion, the Miracle of America Museum has an eclectic collection of autos, motorcycles, and planes. After enjoying the museum, wash down the experience at the Glacier Brewing Company with its superb selection of craft brews. 

Red Lodge

Street view in Red Lodge, Montana.
Red Lodge, Montana. Image credit peetrv via

Recently, Red Lodge has become a thriving community for retirees and tourists. This small town of 2,217 people sits about 70 miles north of Yellowstone National Park and is the home to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the species of the area. While the community has a genuine Western feel, with plenty of romantic B & Bs and dining venues, there is a vibrant nightlife. Several local saloons have live entertainment, like Snow Creek Saloon, where tourists can mingle with the friendly locals.

During the winter, Red Lodge Mountain has over 70 runs to thrill skiers and snowboarders of every experience level. Check out the Red Canyon Wild Mustang tours in warmer months and hike the miles of trails maintained through the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association.


View of downtown Livingston, a town and county seat of Park County, Montana.
Downtown Livingston, Montana. Image credit EQRoy via

Livingston is a small and scenic community located just 25 miles east of Bozeman that, over the years, has become home to many celebrities. Labeled as Montana's windiest city, the town sits in Paradise Valley, where the cold winds from the high plateau of Yellowstone swoop down to the lower elevations. Spread along the Yellowstone River, the downtown district has plenty of pubs, bars, and restaurants. Try TruNorth Cafe for some of the best coffee brews in the area. Before heading to the national park, check out the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in town.

Miles City

Downtown street in Miles City in Montana
Downtown, Miles City, Montana. Image credit Traveller70 via Shutterstock

The town of Miles City (pop. 8,354) formed as part of the US response to the Battle of Little Bighorn. In the years following Custer's Last Stand, the government built several forts and encouraged settlers and ranchers to move in and work the land. With the advent of the railroad in the 1880s, the city incorporated and established itself as a primary place of commerce. Today, the community is a vibrant town with a strong heritage celebrating the open range. Visitors will find one of the finest examples of a cowboy museum in the Range Riders Museum.

East Helena

East Helena, Montana, The day after the first snowstorm of the year outside of the Mount Helena Eagles Aerie 4040
Downtown East Helena, Montana, in winter. Image credit SeeJoshsPhotos via Shutterstock

This town is just east of Helena (the state capital of Montana). The city was formed when gold was discovered in a long creek the prospectors labeled as "Last Chance Gulch." While fortunes came and went, the area produced some of the country's best gold, silver, and precious metal mines. The new wealth instantly created many millionaires who saw opportunities to bring the Victorian lifestyles of the east to the "untamed" West.

Today, the town of 1,944 has a rich historical heritage and offers plenty of recreational activities at the nearby Canyon Ferry Lake or the Helena National Forest. The East Helena Rodeo is an excellent family activity happening every July. As one of the largest rodeos in the Northwest, the event attracts livestock and competitors from all over the country. While the days of gold have passed, the town continues to welcome visitors just as it has for over 135 years.

Nevada City and Virginia City

Abandoned wooden building in Nevada City, Montana
Abandoned wooden building in Nevada City, Montana.

This spot on Montana Hwy 287 is a favorite for tourists interested in walking through a living history museum and exploring the days of the Wild West. Both locations were gold rush towns during their heyday; today, they are beautiful examples of pioneer/western life. Nevada City has 108 buildings filled with historic memorabilia.

Visitors can walk through the old log cabins, view the most extensive collection of music boxes you will ever find, or watch blacksmiths hammer over horseshoes and other items. Be sure to check out the Virginia City Players for a family-friendly comedy show or ride in a real stagecoach as you check out the various boutiques and shops mixed in with historical places of interest.


Main Street in Ennis, Montana.
Main Street in Ennis, Montana. Image credit Pecold via Shutterstock

The town of Ennis rests along the banks of the Madison River and is home to excellent fly fishing. With a population of around 900, it has been known as a "drinking town with a fishing problem," as visitors can sample authentic Montana moonshine from Willie's Distillery. Several tackle stores cater to fishermen, and the locals are happy to point you to the many great spots to catch trout along the rivers and streams flowing nearby. For those who want something more Western-natured, the Madison Valley Ranch is a popular fly fishing lodge.

Montana features some of the country's best outdoor experiences, whether hiking, fishing, or skiing. With mountain peaks stretching to the sky and icy cold streams brimming with trout, this state is one of the nation's best treasures. Yet, as incredible as the scenery might be, the state is also known for its hospitality and friendliness. The people of Montana have learned the value of embracing the steady flow of tourists the state receives each year, and their commitment to the land and each other is a refreshing reminder of the value of protecting our environment.

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