Montana is home to many quaint towns, each with its own flair, many mountainous landscapes, and endless state parks and national forests. These six most beautiful cities in the state offer a real escape from the city to get a taste of life on the lake.
Polson sits on the southern shore of Flathead Lake at the top of the beautiful Mission Mountains. The rugged beauty of Northwest Montana contrasts the stunning explosion of reds and pinks with seasonally blooming cherry orchards surrounding the city. The magnificent fire is celebrated every year at the cherry festival in summer. Polson is home to family attractions that the whole family can enjoy against a mountaintop backdrop, like cute cafes, golf and a popular car show. There is also the nearby National Bison Range and nearby bird sanctuaries for peaceful nature walks.
The city is a great jumping off point for the best Lake County experiences, including water sports and great outdoor activities. Flathead Lake is the epicenter of the action with floats and watercraft of all skill levels including sailboats, canoes, speedboats and jet skis. Culture vultures will appreciate Native American history at the Flathead Indian Reservation and many interesting museums. Stock up on supplies and mingle at the farmers market to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle and learn more secrets about this gem town.
The city on a wide plain is a hot spot destination for the naturally beautiful world around it. It is just 20 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and the only Glacier National Park. Choteau is made for lake visits, foothill walks and scenic drives. The rolling hills give way to an inviting Main Street with a vintage vibe and White Rockies peaking outside of town. The Going-to-the-Sun Road winds 80 scenic miles through the park’s dramatic peaks and valleys, making it difficult to focus ahead. Scenic Freezout Lake is great for recreational activities and popular with bird watchers.
Choteau is surrounded by national forests and the Native American Reservation with further hikes through fresh forest and Montana’s famous history trails. The nearby Lewis and Clark National Forest and Trail offers insightful, landmark-filled hikes, while the Dinosaur Trail is ideal for a family stroll. It leads to the Old Trail Museum downtown with fascinating local history, dinosaurs, the Old West and much more. Egg Mountain south of town is home to the western hemisphere’s largest collection of dinosaur eggs and baby skeletons.
Fort Peck is aptly named for its tiny townscape in nature’s embrace. It houses a surprising number of services for a modern, small-town vacation. There are incredible water views, boats and plenty of supplies and information from Fort Peck Marina to explore the town’s scenic offerings. Fort Peck Lake contrasts the city’s grandeur with an impressive 1,500 miles of shoreline. It’s a boating and fishing paradise where walleye, pike and the prehistoric paddlefish abound.
Fort Peck is an ideal base camp for nature adventures of all skill levels to escape the city. The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge offers hikes or drives around the lake with wildlife sightings such as elk, pronghorn and sage grouse. The in-town has old-school places and atmosphere, such as the historic hotel with comfortable rooms. Its wide porch overlooking the sweet prairie is great for enjoying a morning coffee in the fresh air. The delightful Fort Peck Theater offers live performances by local actors in a range of plays and musicals.
The city is the ultimate escape from the endless natural adventures of Yellowstone National Park. The small-town vibe is easily accessible from two states if you want to get away from the city. It sits on the Montana/Wyoming border with the most scenic drives around and breathtaking viewpoints. The family enjoys visiting the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and the Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo for cowboy action. With a laid-back vibe, welcoming locals, and many museums, the city offers a fun insight into the history, surrounding nature, and innate heritage of Native Americans.
Adjacent Yellowstone National Park is one of the nation’s most popular and beautiful, with numerous seasonal activities. There’s the world famous Old Faithful Geyser and the West Thumb Geyser Basin with its epic brilliant turquoise lake, all just a short drive east of downtown. The active enjoy scenic fishing, boating, swimming and kayaking at the nearby lakes. Hebgen Lake is one of Montana’s best still-water fishing lakes, while scenic Yellowstone Lake invites for peaceful cruises. There are also endless hiking opportunities through the park’s vast landscape with bird watching along the way.
Whitefish is about an hour’s drive from the World Heritage Site of Glacier National Park. The classic mountain town nestles at the foot of the pristine eponymous lake amidst the surrounding wilderness. It’s a popular base for road trippers and hikers, with trails through forests stretching into peaks and valleys, teeming with native wildlife and breathtaking viewpoints. Whitefish is also a destination in its own right that turns many visitors into locals with scenic drives and plenty of attractions to keep one busy in the shadow of the northern Rocky Mountains.
Downtown Whitefish offers a cosmopolitan, lively atmosphere amidst tasty dining and drinking options. Local favorites include Loula’s Cafe, Tupelo Grille for dinner and the best nightcaps at the Great Northern Bar & Grill. Whitefish is overrun with world-class skiing in the winter, along with annual festivals and events such as the ski joring races. Nearby Whitefish Lake State Park and City Beach are must-sees during the summer vacation. There are amenities and activities for all levels including a campground, beach, bike trails, kayaking, boating and swimming.
The small town on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake is home to big, scenic fun on the largest freshwater lake west of Mississippi. The “Village by the Bay” along the pretty Swan River is one big water galore. Just off Bigfork Bay is the heart of the city, home to bustling streets lined with art galleries, accommodation, restaurants and boutiques in the shadow of the beautiful Swan Mountains. The winter landscape with snow-covered trees and roofs, houses decorated with lights and garlands dominates. Bigfork’s traditional celebrations, with their unique small-town flair, are drawing national media attention. Summertime brings action at Montana’s premier Eagle Bend golf course, draws creatives nationwide for August’s popular Bigfork Festival of the Arts, and recreational seekers for sunny walks.
Bigfork is an artistic community inspired by the rich local nature, with streets lined with premium bronzes, carvings, paintings and other local crafts to view and sell. MyRealMontana sells locally made art and gifts, while the Traditions restaurant’s elk fillet keeps the energy high for seasonal activities like skiing in the winter. There are two dozen other establishments for dining variety, including French gourmet cuisine. Evenings are great for warm weather strolls or watch the bay engulf the winter sun from a cozy room at the Inn on Bigfork Bay. The final rays cast reflections on the water until they finally hiss in a protesting fire and most magical time. The Bigfork Summer Playhouse, “theater by the bay,” hosts live performances from Northwest America’s finest professional talent.
These beauties of the state offer the most magical time to relax with friends, family, or in a peaceful one-on-one experience with nature. The scenic abundance of activities includes water activities, exploring the small town countryside, and plenty of seasonal adventures.