Montana, an Introduction

Montana is tops for visitors, whether for business travel or a vacation.  Get ready for Montana by reading this Web site.  Discover attractions and things to do.  Find hotels, resorts, museums, and much more in Montana.   Remember, planning travel or a vacation is half the fun of being there. Enjoy!

Montana has spectacular mountains, vast prairie lands, and beautiful forests. Wild rivers and streams are filled with rainbow trout and other fishes. An abundance of elk, antelope, and other wildlife are found in Montana.


Before the West was settled by people of European decent, many Indian tribes called the region that was later to become Montana their home. The Indians enjoyed and lived off the fruits of the land, especially buffalo. Today about 64,000 Indians live and flourish in Montana.

Shortly after the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806, mountain men and prospectors arrived to seek riches. Later, homesteaders settled the land. Homesteaders lived in log cabins. In the 1870s, large cattle ranches developed thoughout many areas in Montana Territory.

Montana has a population of about 902,195 people in a land area of 147,000 square miles.  Montana is sparsely populated. There’s plenty of room to roam, in the countryside and in the cities. Visitors marvel at Montana’s beautiful, unspoiled landscape.


Click on map for a more detailed view.

Eastern Montana is an area of vast rolling plains. Grasslands with few trees dominate the landscape. Huge wheat farms and cattle ranches are common in eastern Montana.

In central Montana, the plains are dotted with small mountain ranges.Cattle ranching is a way of life. Mule deer and antelope roam the prairies throughout eastern and central Montana.

Western Montana is a region of magnificent mountains. Welcome to the Rocky Mountains. The Absaroka Range near Livingston is covered with snow much of the year and peaks reach over 11,000 feet in elevation.The wild and pristine landscape of western Montana is home to mountain lions, and grizzly bears.

Rainfall is low in most areas of Montana, often less than 13 inches, annually. Temperatures in western mountain valleys are generally moderate the year-round. In eastern areas, on the plains, days can be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. 

Montana is known for its spectacular national parks. Glacier National Park, located in northwest Montana, is a land of uncommon beauty. Tourists enjoy the park’s many beautiful glacier-carved mountains.

Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first national park, straddles the border of Montana and Wyoming (with most of the park being in northwest Wyoming). Geysers, waterfalls, and other natural wonders draw thousands of tourists to Yellowstone each year. Wildlife is abundant in Yellowstone.

Montana has exciting historical and cultural places. Wonderful museums are found in cities, big and small. In the great Montana outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and skiing are popular activities.

“Old West” traditions live on in Montana. Cowboys drive cattle high up into the mountains to feed on lush summer grasses. Indians, in full native dress, gather to celebrate their customs at the Lewis and Clark County fairgrounds in Helena and other cities around the state.

Population of Major Montana Cities

Major cities: •Billings, pop. 92,988 •Missoula, pop. 58,460 •Bozeman, pop. 30,723 •Helena, pop. 29,081 •Great Falls, pop. 56,340 •Butte, pop. 31,967

•Glendive, pop. 4,340 •Kalispell, pop. 17,149 •Miles City, pop. 8,698 •Lewistown, pop. 6,026  •Havre, pop. 10,425 •Dillon, pop. 4,106

Montana is the “Treasure State.” This slogan symbolizes the state’s rich gold and silver deposits. True to its history, Montana is a genuine treasure, an amazing natural wonderland with friendly people.


This Web site  is packed with information about things to do, attractions, lodging and much more. Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and the nearby Wyoming are featured as well.  The National Atlas of the United State of America has a nice reference map of MontanaA Montana vacation Planning Kit is available free from The Montana Office of Tourism, P.O. Box 200553, Helena, MT 59620. Or call 800-847-4868



 Yellowstone Country

Southeast and south-central Montana is Yellowstone Country.  Interstate Highway, I-94, follows the Yellowstone River Valley across this region, generally east-west.  Travelers from Wyoming often enter Yellowstone Country on I-90. Some cities in this travel region are Glendive, Miles City, Forsyth, Red Lodge, and Livingston.  Billings in the major city in Yellowstone Country.

Gold Country

Southwest Montana is Gold Country. When driving west on I-90, visitors enter Gold Country west of Livingston. When coming into Montana from Idaho on I-90, Gold Country begins near Missoula. When driving north from Idaho on I-15, the first major town is Dillon. Prominent cities in this region are Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula.


Central Montana is Ranchland.   U.S. Highway 12, is the main east-west highway across central Montana, passing through many small towns including  Roundup, Harlowton, White Sulphur Springs, and Townsend.  Helena is the major city in this region. Main routes into Ranchland  include U.S. Highway 87 north from Billings, U.S. Highway 87 east from Great Falls, and I-15 north from Butte.


Northeast and north-central Montana is Discoveryland. U.S. Highway 2 is an east-west highway across Discoveryland. This region is a vast and largely unpopulated part of the state. Cities are Culbertson, Glasgow, Havre, and Shelby. Great Falls is the only big city in this part of Montana. Many visitors from Canada enter Discoveryland on I-15.

Wilderness Country

Northwest Montana is Wilderness Country.  Mountains abound in this part of the state.    Important cities in this region are Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Polson, and Ronan. Glacier National Park is a huge attraction.   U.S. Highway 93, north from Missoula, is a good route into Wilderness Country.

Travel Information

Map Montana: a free highway map, produced by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), shows highways, cities, and waterways.  In addition, the map shows cultural and physical features.  MDT also  publishes an online Map. Visit Montana distributes a highway map and a Vacation Planning Kit. Call 1-800-847-4868.  Before traveling, it’s helpful to check Montana’s road condition report and the weather from the Weather Channel. MDT’s traveler information system offers information on bad weather driving conditions, road construction, and road closures. Call 1-800-226-7623.

Travel tip: Montana is far away from all major population centers in the U.S. and Canada. Still it is possible for many folks to drive to Montana in one day. Sometimes it’s a long day! Day trips are possible, such as: Seattle to Bozeman; Minneapolis or Winnipeg to Glendive; Salt Lake City to Kalispell; Calgary to Great Falls; Portland to Missoula; and Denver to Billings.

Mileage Table

Missoula to                                       Billings to

Kalispell 115 Bozeman 142
Butte 120 Butte 224
Bozeman 202 Missoula 339
Helena 115 Helena 224
Great Falls 169 Kalispell 420
Billings 339 Great Falls 219
Lewistown 274 Lewistown 128
Glendive 520 Glendive 222

Source: Mileage data from Montana Department of Transportation. The M DT Web page has a link to the department’s mileage calculator for computing mileage between other Montana cities.

Motoring is FUN in Montana! The speed limit is posted on the DOJ Web site. On U.S. Highway 93 in western Montana traffic is heavy, so drive carefully and watch for changes in the speed limit. Traffic is light on many of Montana’s highways, however, so there’s plenty of opportunity to see and enjoy the spectacular scenery very common in every travel region.

“Montana’s curvy, mountainous roads and weather—which can change quickly even during summer months—require drivers to be alert to conditions at all times and to adjust speeds accordingly,” warns the Montana DOJ Web site. Great advice!

Some folks may choose to fly to Montana. Modern airports are found in Montana’s major cities. The Billings (BIL), Bozeman (BZN), Missoula (MSO), Helena (HLN), Kalispell (FCA), Butte (BTM), and Great Falls (GTF) airports are especially nice and all are served by major airlines and conveniently located near downtown areas. Booking flights on Expedia or other travel Web site is easy. Bus transportation is available for many Montana cities. Check out Greyhound. Another choice, travel across Montana by train on AMTRAK’S Empire Builder.

Travel tips: Montana is in the Mountain time zone. When entering Montana from the east, one’s watch should be set back one hour. When entering Montana from the west, one’s watch should be set ahead one hour. Don’t forget to call 800-847-4868 to get a free map of Montana.

Montana has a single area code for the entire state:  406.  When using search engines, combining the area code as a search term with a business name or more generally, any keyword(s), is a good strategy for making direct phone connections with travel-related businesses in Montana.

Montana: Campgrounds | Dude Ranches | Outfitters and Guides  | State Parks | Golf Courses  | Art Galleries | MuseumsChurches | Dude Ranches

Twitter Feed:  MontanaTraveler

 Welcome –  Willkommen – Bienvenu – いらっしゃい – Bienvenido


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Copyright © 2017 John Sandy

3 thoughts on “Montana, an Introduction”

  1. Canoe or Kayak on Jefferson River in western Montana.

    A trip down the Jefferson River by canoe or kayak is an experience of a lifetime. Contact the Canoeing House, 11227 U.S. Highway 287, Three Forks, Montana 59752. (406) 285-3488.
    Canoeing House

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