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

6 Friendliest Towns to Visit in Montana in 2024

Those savvy marketers who dubbed Montana “Big Sky Country" in the sixties sure got it right. Montana seems to stretch endlessly toward the horizon, with the sky dominating every view, creating a tangible feeling of awe for all those lucky enough to experience it.

With its population spread widely over this seemingly endless terrain, it’s to Montana's small towns that visitors ought to travel to experience the very best of everything the state has to offer. Here, in these friendliest Northwestern USA towns, visitors can experience firsthand the state's rich heritage as well as its natural beauty. Find out more with this list of six of the friendliest towns to visit in Montana in 2024.

Big Timber

Welcome to Big Timber, Montana sign. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock
Welcome to Big Timber, Montana sign. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock.

While not as large a community as its name would have you think, Big Timber boasts a friendly population and plenty of fun stuff to do. Situated in south-central Montana between the Crazy Mountains (famous as one of America's unique "sky islands") and the vast Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the town's past is steeped with tales of cattle ranchers and cowboys, as well as gentler farming traditions like sheep rearing and crop growing. A visit should start at the informative Crazy Mountain Museum, with its displays relating to the early pioneer days, along with sizable collections of historical photos and memorabilia.

The town is also sandwiched between two water sources, Yellowstone River and Boulder River, ensuring its popularity with anglers and outdoor enthusiasts for its excellent fishing, rafting, and kayaking. Those planning to visit in 2024 will also find plenty to do at the annual Sweet Grass Fest in late June, a family-friendly event complete with parades, local arts and crafts, live music, and a traditional rodeo.


Deer in a field outside Choteau, Montana.
Deer in a field outside Choteau, Montana.

Thanks to its location along the Rocky Mountain Front, where the plains and the eastern slopes of the Rockies meet up, Choteau is a must-see for those who enjoy great scenery. Here, that “big sky” meets the mountains, creating the perfect backdrop for sightseeing and photography. Highlights of a visit include the Old Trail Museum where friendly staff share fascinating details of the area's Native American heritage, early pioneer life, as well as significant paleontological finds, including dinosaur fossils.

Outdoor activities are also plentiful here, with hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing being just a few things to do in the area. A highlight of the town’s 2024 events calendar is the Summer Roundup Rodeo in July, a perfect opportunity to get to know friendly townsfolk as they celebrate the occasion with parades and exciting rodeo competitions.


Historic buildings in Phillipsburg, Montana. Image credit: Jasperdo via
Historic buildings in Phillipsburg, Montana. Image credit: Jasperdo via

Its location just 90 minutes by car from the state capital of Helena makes Philipsburg an excellent spot for a day trip or weekend getaway in 2024. Founded in 1867, much of this old mining town is preserved as part of the Philipsburg Historic District, an 87-acre site recognized by the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Among its impressive collection of over 150 buildings are some housing attractions like the Montana Law Enforcement Museum (free admission) and the Granite County Museum. The Philipsburg Brewing Company is another must-visit. Known for its friendly staff and laidback ambiance, it serves great food as well as beer made using mountain-sourced spring water.

The four-mile winding yet scenic drive from downtown Philipsburg to Granite Ghost Town State Park is another must-do. A well-preserved mining camp from the 1890s, it offers a fascinating glimpse into Montana's silver mining heritage. A great time to visit in 2024 is in late July when the townsfolk celebrate their heritage at the Flint Creek Valley Days with its program of live music, local crafts, and community parades.

Red Lodge

Downtown streets of the small tourist town of Red Lodge, Montana. Editorial credit: melissamn /
Downtown streets of the small tourist town of Red Lodge, Montana. Image credit: melissamn via Shutterstock.

Red Lodge is situated in southern Montana at the base of the beautiful Beartooth Mountains, home to some of the highest peaks in Montana, and is just a few miles from the state border with Wyoming. It’s an especially popular destination for those planning to explore Yellowstone National Park via the scenic Beartooth Highway. Red Lodge is pretty much the last major stop along this stunning 68-mile-long scenic route, famous for its winding Beartooth Pass section. Friendly business owners in the town's historic downtown area will be eager to help you stock up on everything from souvenirs to sweet treats to fortify yourself for the adventure (our favorite is the excellent Cattail Bakery with its delicious Danishes!).

Other must-sees include the Carbon County Historical Society & Museum with its insights into the area's natural and cultural heritage; and the Carbon County Art Guild & Depot Gallery, set in the town’s original railway station and featuring works by local artists. The summer of 2024 sees two fun events worth attending: the Red Lodge Songwriter Festival (June) and the Home of Champions Rodeo (July), both of which provide visitors with a dose of local hospitality.

West Yellowstone

City streets of West Yellowstone, Montana, on a beautiful summer day. Editorial credit: GagliardiPhotography /
City streets of West Yellowstone, Montana. Image credit: GagliardiPhotography via Shutterstock.

If you’d guessed that West Yellowstone is located close to one of the country’s most visited national parks, you’re right. Set at the western entrance of Yellowstone National Park, West Yellowstone makes for a perfect base from which to venture out and explore the park's spectacular geothermal features, with much of the best scenery easily accessible from here. A good place to start exploring is at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center where visitors can learn about and observe these majestic animals up close. The grizzly bears in particular are fascinating to watch, especially if they’re involved in a little “product testing” where items are presented to them to find out whether they’re bear-proof (true story!).

The Yellowstone Historic Center is another must-visit and provides insights into the area's history and the development of the national park. The town also serves as a great place to pick up supplies for your Yellowstone adventure as the area is known for its excellent hiking and fishing, with many guided tours also being available. Fun stuff to do in 2024 includes the 54th Yellowstone Rod Run, a popular August event featuring classic cars and live music.


Main Street in Whitefish, Montana. Editorial credit: Beeldtype /
Main Street in Whitefish, Montana. Editorial credit: Beeldtype /

Whitefish is where travelers go to explore Glacier National Park. Set in the northern Rockies near the border with Canada, this friendly tourist town is fun to explore for its mix of locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants, especially if timed to coincide with the 2024 Whitefish Arts Festival. Held each year over the Fourth of July weekend, this fun event celebrates local artists and craftspeople with displays and vendors, offering plenty of opportunities for visitors to take something handmade home with them.

Whitefish Mountain Resort is a great place to spend a few days or more. This year-round destination a few miles north of town is fun no matter the season, with summer activities including hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining giving way to snowboarding, skiing, and other winter sports when the white stuff hits.

Whether visiting for a few days or a few weeks, Montana's friendly small towns are the perfect places to get to know Big Sky Country. These welcoming destinations offer an escape from the city with ample opportunity to enjoy that unique blend of culture, nature, and community spirit Montana is famous for. Whether you’re planning on visiting Big Timber, Choteau, Philipsburg, Red Lodge, West Yellowstone, and Whitefish (or possibly all of them!), these six friendly towns are perfect for an exploratory visit to Montana in 2024.

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