5 Best Cities In Montana

Montana is a state-full of natural beauty with mountains, rivers, and national parks offering endless outdoor recreations. These cities in Montana are best for living and tourism.


The skyline of Billings, Montana.
The skyline of Billings, Montana.

One of the state's biggest cities with over 100,000 residents, Billings is also considered one of the country's best-run cities with plenty of excellent amenities. Coming with world-class restaurants and a thriving music scene, its vast and open surroundings to explore deem the city as "Montana's Trailhead." The bustling downtown district is dotted with museums, breweries, as well as music, and evening venues for entertainment. The city has popular cultural offerings such as historic homes, sidewalk cafes, and local coffee shops great for people-watching, chatting up the locals and absorbing the city's vibe.

Located on the Yellowstone River, which acts as the backbone of the city's outdoor recreation, it is also the last free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. The wild waterway carved much of the surrounding scenery offering endless recreational opportunities for the city's dwellers and tourists. Teeming with scenic natural attractions and oversized trout, it is excellent for hiking, fishing, and kayaking. The defining natural feature of the Rimrocks that split the city also comes with immense hiking opportunities through the magnificent sandstone cliffs. There are several public gardens, riverfront parks, and the ZooMontana accredited zoo with over 80 animals for more outdoor pursuits. 


The legendary seven story Hotel Baxter building on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana
The legendary seven-story Hotel Baxter building on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana. Editorial credit: Framalicious / Shutterstock.com

Set close to the stunning Bridger Mountains, Bozeman comprises a populous hub of students, young professionals, families and is one of the best places to live in the United States. Home to the state's largest university, Bozeman features an active nightlife, arts, and rich culture, including plenty of galleries, theaters, festivals, and concerts. Established in 1893, the Montana State University is set in the southwest corner with a sprawling campus that emanates a youthful vibe infusing into downtown. Beautifully back-dropped by the Bridger Range, one can enjoy the scenic views days-on when stepping out of the door, strolling along the picturesque streets, and during atmospheric get-togethers at the terraced cafes.

The Museum of the Rockies on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana
The Museum of the Rockies on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Full of natural attractions, Bozeman acts as an outlet for every type of adventure-seeker for fly fishing, mountain biking, backpacking, horseback-rising, peak bagging, and hot springing. The Gardiner entrance into the famed Yellowstone National Park is 80 miles away via the Paradise Valley, with a historic institution of Chico Hot Springs stop on the way. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest can be easily accessed from Bozeman, while the Big Sky Resort is within a short drive away. The Bridger Bowl, laced with ski runs, plays a vital role in the state's winter recreation. The Museum of the Rockies has many attractive exhibits, such as interstellar displays, a Living History Farm, and the prominent Siebel Dinosaur Complex that houses one of the world's largest collections of dinosaur fossils.

Great Falls

Black Eagle Dam of the Great Falls of the Missouri River, Great Falls, Montana
Black Eagle Dam of the Great Falls of the Missouri River, Great Falls, Montana. 

A real authentic Montana city and the third-largest in the state, Great Falls is set on the Missouri River in the northern Great Plains. As one of the most budget-friendly cities for homeowners with many services, Great Falls is referred to as one of the most beautiful places in the United States to live and visit. Despite its sizeable population of 60,000 inhabitants, the city retains a small-town feel with friendly residents, making one feel at home in no time. The thriving economy depends on bio-processing, food production, and agriculture that in turn supply the tertiary industries and touristic attractions, including many excellent establishments. The mighty river gives the city a scenic backdrop, along with the moniker of “electric city” for the many dams and plants in the area.

Canada Geese at Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls, Montana
Canada Geese at Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls, Montana. 

With much to explore, one can start trekking the River's Edge Trail paved pedestrian path following the river for almost 60 scenic miles. Comprising a corridor with several top attractions, there is the Gibson Park or the Giant Springs State Park for a picture-worthy break with a picnic. Also accessible via trail, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center chronicle the journey of the great explorers within its 25,000 square feet of exhibit space. Having spent ample time in Great Falls, Lewis and Clark are commemorated in many more ways throughout the city. Other prominent cultural attractions include the History Museum, the Children's Museum of Montana, the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, and the C.M. Rusell Museum, which displays work by the famous cowboy artists of the American West.  


Montana's Museum Historical Society office building in downtown Helena.
Montana's Museum Historical Society office building in downtown Helena. Editorial credit: Lyonstock / Shutterstock.com

Founded during the Montana Gold Rush in 1864, Helena has been the state's capital since 1875 and one of the nation's wealthiest cities. Striking big at Last Chance Gulch, Helena grew from the mining camps around the gulch to an affluent city reflected in its early-days grand architecture. Establishing ties with the railroad industry after the mine dried up, it also grew in political influence and continued to prosper. Much of the gold rush history can be attained by visiting the historically quaint and bustling downtown district that grew around the Last Chance Gulch. There is the Montana Historical Society Museum, the Original Governor's Mansion, and the eye-catching Cathedral of Saint Helena, a stunning place of worship with a long history. The Reeder's Alley houses artifacts like the restored Pioneers Cabin and row houses that can be toured through the Helena Visitor Information Center. 

Drone view of Montana State Capitol in Helena on a sunny afternoon
Drone view of Montana State Capitol in Helena on a sunny afternoon. 

The sea of activities and establishments, along with the rich local culture, make Helena one of the best American cities to visit. Comprising lovely city-limit grounds to explore on a self-guided excursion, there is the Montana State Capitol with a Greek-style exterior and a lady "Liberty" perched atop. Inside, one will find some of the best artwork in the world, including murals, statues, and a rich rotunda with paintings that tell the state's story. The city's unmatched access to the outdoors also turns many visitors into residents, starting with Mt. Helena City Park offering an excellent exploration of the foothills. The downtown area is connected to the South Hills with over 80 miles of trails. Beyond the trail network, at the backdoor of the city, the thousands of acres of the Helena National Forest offer endless explorations. 


View of University of Montana from Mount Sentinel, in Missoula, Montana
View of the University of Montana from Mount Sentinel, in Missoula, Montana. 

The best-hidden gem of Montana, Missoula, sits in the west of the state on the Clark Fork River. Comprising a stable and growing economy, its 77,000 residents infuse the city with a small-town atmospheric feel. Named as one of the perfect small locales for business and careers in the United States by Forbes, it is beloved by families and those seeking a quiet lifestyle. The landmark of Mount Sentinel is affixed with a large letter "M" for the University of Montana at its base, which offers excellent programs in creative writing and wildlife studies. Infusing the city with a youthful vibe, its Grizzly football games and lectures are also popular among non-students and visitors. The lively streets are brimful with arts, while the Downtown and the Hip Strip are known for excellent local shops and restaurants. There are also many community events, from the Wilma Theatre's popular shows to the city's unique street celebrations known as First Friday at the beginning of each month. 

View of Missoula from Mount Sentinel in Missoula, Montana
View of Missoula from Mount Sentinel in Missoula, Montana. 

Set near the border with Idaho, the adventurous university city with an artistic spirit is surrounded by natural beauty, offering countless scenic escapes. Encompassed by the prominent Rocky Mountain ranges and with five national forests within an hour's drive away, the Lolo National Forest is right around the corner. There, one can access the natural landmarks like Rattlesnake and Pattee Canyon National Recreation Areas via a 15-minute drive or a trailhead for hiking and biking. The ample Clark Fork River for the fly-fishing sport has been commemorated by the famous 1976 novel, A River Runs Through It. The river flanks the north end at Mount Sentinel and runs through the city's heart, with a paved pedestrian path and non-motorized main commuter corridor following along. The Sapphire Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop during strolls or atmospheric gatherings at the terraced establishments. 

With many big cities retaining a small-town feel, one can encounter great discoveries during some real R&R within a scenic environment. Visitors will feel at home away in these cities, which will leave lasting impressions of having seen some of the best towns the country has to offer.