Main Street in Whitefish, Montana surrounded by towering mountains. Editorial credit: Pierrette Guertin /

8 Most Scenic Small Towns in Montana

If the closest you have gotten to Montana is watching the popular TV series “Yellowstone,” then consider this a signal to explore a land where the untamed wilderness meets rugged beauty and has long been hiding some of the most beautiful towns the mid-west has to offer. Whether you seek to learn more about the fascinating heritage of the state in the Capitol building of Helena or adventure into the great outdoors of Kalispell, these scenic small towns will have your itinerary full of exciting adventures, landmarks, and legacies.


Aerial view of Butte, Montana.
Aerial view of Butte, Montana and the surrounding mountainscape.

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds between Montana’s wild reputation and the civilized suburban area, then Butte should sit atop your list as you map a route through Montana. The town was formerly the biggest city in the Rocky Mountain region, but as the local mines began to dry up, the town’s rapid population surge began to plateau. To learn about the mining boom's impact on Butte, visit the World Museum of Mining, which covers a range of 22 acres and contains everything from former mines to historic structures. Afterward, head back into the downtown core and marvel at the historic Victorian architecture of landmarks such as the Clark Chateau or the Copper King Mansion.

To truly put yourself in the boots of a Montanan, book a guided horseback tour through the western wilderness with the Iron Wheel guest ranch. If you prefer your own two legs, then plan a scenic hike through Bear Gulch trail.


The Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana.
The Montana State Capitol building in Helena, Montana.

Despite being considerably smaller than most state capitals, this beautiful town lacks exciting attractions that often keep visitors longer than they intended. Seated in Lewis and Clark County, what once began as a gold rush camp quickly grew into the state's pride and joy. Home to the grand Montana State Capitol Building, Helena has long been attracting those who seek to learn more about the state’s history and political landscape. Schedule a guided tour through the capitol building or enjoy the scenic views from the exterior courtyard. After, visitors can continue back in time and explore Montana’s history at the Montana Historical Society Museum, which features artifacts, exhibits, and enchanting stories.

Hiking boots are required to witness one of the more spectacular views in the state. Follow the 1906 trail to Mt. Helena, ascending nearby. Lush forests eventually give way to a panoramic view of Helena and the state's vast landscape.


View of Kalispell, Montana and Glacier National Park.
View of Kalispell, Montana with the peaks of Glacier National Park in the backdrop. By User: Dan Petesch - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

If fresh air, sunshine, and natural beauty are your thing, then you might have a hard time leaving Kalispell. The town has abundant outdoor activities for every level of outdoor enthusiast, not to mention many exciting things happening in the town itself.

Get adventurous and head over to Herron Park, a vast expanse of Montana’s rugged terrain home to plenty of hiking, biking, and even skiing trails in the colder months. If you prefer the soothing sound of flowing water, then book a kayaking tour with one of many companies and navigate the rapid waters of Flathead River before emerging into the calm bays of Flathead Lake.

After a day of adventure, head back into the town's laid-back atmosphere. Most visitors dive into the fascinating past of America’s western frontier at Conrad Mansion Museum or simply marvel at the beauty of the wooded mansion itself. If you want to explore the cultural side of things, the Hockaday Museum of Art is the perfect spot to see some creativity.


Lake and Bridger Mountains near Belgrade, Montana.
Scenic lake and the Bridger Mountain Range near Belgrade, Montana.

Lying just outside of Montana’s fourth largest city, Belgrade’s small-town charm has long been an escape for those wanting to experience the rugged outdoors and the hustle and bustle of Bozeman. Not to be confused with the capital of Serbia, this town in Montana has some of the best skiing in the entire state. Bundle up and get ready to shred some powder down the slopes of Bridger Bowl Ski Resort & Big Sky Ski Resort. The hills are just a short drive away and have offerings for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. As the weather warms, the snowcapped mountains turn into crystal clear streams, providing the perfect opportunity for fly fishing. Step into the East Gallatin River and cast a line to hopefully land the fish of a lifetime. The town is also renowned for its various municipal parks, which are scattered throughout. Whether you want to lay in the fresh grass at Lewis and Clark Park or settle in with a good book at Meadowlark Ranch Park, the town has you covered.

Great Falls

Black Eagle Dam in Great Falls, Montana.
The Black Eagle Dam along the Missouri River in Great Falls, Montana.

With a name like Great Falls, visitors often have some pretty high expectations before visiting, but through its various historical attractions, outdoor excursions, and small-town charm, the town always seems to deliver to those who visit.

Great Falls gets its name from the nearby waterfall along the Missouri River. There are five massive waterfalls along the waterway, and Black Eagle Falls is the closest to the town, so take a scenic drive to Black Eagle Memorial Island which has one of the best views of the falls. For a scenic walk that will take you through the historic downtown and along the scenic beauty of the Missouri River, march along the River’s Edge Trail.

Learn about one of America’s greatest expeditions at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which will put you in the shoes of the two famous explorers who battled their way through the interior of America. For an educational experience that is more geared toward the younger audience, plan a visit to the Children’s Museum of Montana, which has engaged youth for over 25 years.


Vibrant buildings on Broadway Street, Philipsburg, Montana.
Vibrant shops and eateries on Philipsburg's Broadway Street. Editorial credit: Mihai_Andritoiu /

Like many other small towns in Montana, Philipsburg experienced the highs and lows associated with being a mining boom town. Silver mines brought the town to life, but its culture, community, and legacy keep it alive today. Visitors can pay homage to the town’s roots and explore Granite Ghost Town State Park, which emphasizes the highs and lows of Montana’s mining history. Nearby, the Sapphire Mines is a niche attraction that allows visitors to feel the rush associated with mining. Or, one can visit mines such as the Gem Mountain mine and pan for their very own sapphires.

While mining attractions are paramount in Philipsburg, those who prefer to keep their hands clean consider staying in town to explore local history at the Granite County Museum. This cultural hub showcases everything from the town’s earliest settlers to its native American ancestry. You can even check out the latest Broadway musical or opera at the luxurious 1891 Philipsburg Theatre which is in the oldest theatre in Montana.


Main Street lined with buildings in Whitefish, Montana.
Buildings lining Main Street in Whitefish, Montana with a backdrop of towering mountains. Editorial credit: Beeldtype /

Just a short drive North of Kalispell, Whitefish has long been a relaxing oasis for weary travelers. Whether you’re exiting or entering nearby Glacier National Park, the town serves as the perfect rest stop just outside the vast interior of Montana.

Whitefish itself does not fall short of excitement; In the winter months, it transforms into a wonderland with visitors flocking to the ski lifts of Whitefish Mountain Resort. When the snow disappears, the mountain becomes a premier mountain biking destination, so there is always something happening regardless of the season. Unknown to many, Whitefish also has some of the sandiest beaches in Montana. The Whitefish City Beach is the perfect way to spend a hot summer day in the heart of Montana.

Visitors looking to embrace the local culture can buy a few tickets to the next show at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center and witness some entertaining shows. Make sure to check local calendars as the town hosts plenty of events worth sticking around for, such as the Whitefish Arts Festival.


The Swan Mountain Range near Bigfork, Montana.
The Swan Mountain Range near Bigfork, Montana.

You might not expect to find a vibrant arts scene in a town with just over 5,000 residents, but Bigfork continues to impress. The town has seamlessly found a way to blend its natural beauty with the artistic creations of many local artists, creating a unique Western art ambiance. Upon arrival, plenty of art galleries and sculpture gardens await exploration. Most begin their tour at Eric Thorsen’s Fine Art Gallery and end at the FoR Fine Art - Bigforck Gallery, which proves popular among visitors.

Explore the natural side of things by taking a hike along the Swan River Nature Trail, which is accessible for all levels and guides you along the calm waters of the river. For a more challenging hike, Mount Aeneas Summit Trail will test even the most experienced hiker’s endurance and will to reach the top. The town is fortunate enough to rest on the bank of Montana's largest lake, Flathead Lake. Here, outdoor enthusiasts rejoice as they cool off on a hot summer day, cast a line, or even take a paddle excursion.

From the mining boomtowns to freshly fallen snow, Montana’s scenic towns have many attractions that keep visitors wanting more. Some attractions are expected, such as the scenic hikes, crystal blue lakes, and mining museum, but it’s the attractions that no one expects that make Montana such a special place. So, if you want to enjoy beautiful scenery in a laid-back atmosphere,, begin planning your next vacation to the Big Sky State.

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