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Montana – Mountains and More

The Land of Shining Mountains, as Montana is often called, is one of the last states that are still predominantly rural. Lovers of Mother Nature and her riches find ideal conditions in this northern state that shares 545 miles of border with Canada.

Land-wise, Montana is the fourth-largest American state. However, less than a million residents are scattered around the vast territory. The topography of the state is dominated by the Continental Divide, running through the state from northwest to south-central. The mountainous region that lends the state its name is in fact part of the northern Rocky Mountains. Much of the rest of the state is made up of prairie grasslands with some “island ranges” interspersed.


Due to Montana’s considerable size, the state’s climate is diverse. The Continental Divide plays a crucial role in dividing the eastern and western portions temperature-wise. West of the divide, the climate is more moderate and close to the one of the Pacific region. The warmer air does not usually reach the eastern portion of Montana, which is considerably cooler.


Historically Montana was settled by Crow, Cherokee, and several other Native American tribes. Part of the Louisiana Purchase, the territory became an American possession. After the discovery of gold and copper in the 1850s, Montana became first an organized territory and in 1889 the 41st state to join the Union. Cattle ranching was always one of the state’s predominant sources of income. Although the economy has naturally become more diverse, it remains a big business in the Land of Shining Mountains.

Helena Region

Helena, the state capital, is located in the Rocky Mountains region, halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. It is traditionally a gold mining town, though of course the times of the gold rush are long over.

The “Queen City of the Rockies,” as Helena is proudly referred to by Montanans, boasts an architectural style from the 19th century. Helena is anything but backward, however. The residents go about a modern lifestyle and the city offers all modern amenities. The city is rich in arts and culture and much of the finest creative output of the region is displayed in the museums here. The Montana Shakespeare Company is also based in Helena.

At the same time, the city is embedded in a natural surrounding full of splendid options for fishing, hiking, camping and, in winter, skiing. Day trips from Helena include sapphire hunting near Hauser Lake, a visit to the old gold mining town of Marysville, relaxation at the Boulder Hot Springs, and great panoramic views on the East Loop Scenic Driving Tour at Canyon Ferry Lake.

The Northwest & West

Seemingly endless rugged mountain ranges, wild animals and dense forests make for an ideal outdoor recreation in all of Western Montana. The Kootenai and Flathead National Forests cover most of the northwestern territories. Running along the border between the US and Canada, these forests protect numerous rare wildlife species.

The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Mission Mountain Wilderness, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area, Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest and Lolo National Forest are the most notable of the many designated natural areas.

In the central-western portion, urban growth goes alongside the protection of the natural resources. Missoula is for instance growing within Lolo National Forest, spanning 2 million acres. The Bitterroot Valley that houses one of the largest wilderness areas in Montana, is also growing in population. However, the Bitterroot Wilderness Area is still almost exclusively the domain of deer, elk, moose, black bears, and other animals.

Lolo Peak, at the border of the Selway-Bitterrot Wilderness, is a prime resort and relaxation destination. Steep ridges and narrow valleys characterize other wilderness regions like the Welcome Creek Wilderness.

The Southwest

The highest mountains are found in this Greater Yellowstone Region. The Gallatin and Madison Ranges sport snow-capped, jagged peaks and stunning views. From Beartooth Plateau one can get a glimpse of Granite Peak, Montana’s highest summit.

Bozeman is the ideal base camp for an exploration of the peaks. Here you find cozy lodging, fine dining, and a set of cultural gems. And within an hour’s drive you can reach the mountains. Set in the Gallatin Valley, Bozeman is surrounded by a fantastic panorama of snowy mountain peaks. In Bozeman visitors get all comforts of civilization with virtually only a stone throw’s distance from the wild beauties of Yellowstone Park. And the Gallatin Valley offers great outdoor activities too, like fly fishing, whitewater rafting, canoeing or hiking in the warmer months, and of course skiing in winter.

The Northeast

The entire northeastern region is dominated by prairie grasslands and characteristic isolated mountains, stretching from the Rockies in the west along the Canadian border to the North Dakota border in the east. Mountainous areas include the Bear Paw Mountains, the Sweetgrass Hills, and the Little Rocky Mountains. Once infested by the now-gone bison herds, the region is still full of migratory birds.

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