Optimal and Suboptimal Periods to Plan a Trip to Montana in 2023.

2023-06-15 00:08:37 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Montana is an ideal destination for travelers seeking an unspoiled wilderness. With a relatively small population and an abundance of wildlife, the state truly lives up to its reputation for vast and open spaces. In terms of size, Montana covers approximately 145,000 square miles, making it a large and attractive state. When describing this enchanting state, adjectives like stunning, charming, and intriguing come to mind.

Montana's diverse topography provides visitors with endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors. From windswept grasslands to snow-capped mountain ranges, the state offers breathtaking landscapes that cater to all interests and styles. Whether you prefer to go on a guided trip or explore the wilderness on your own, be sure to check out our travel tips—including the best time to visit Montana—to make the most of your experience.

Glacier National Park looking gorgeous with purple flowers in the valley pictured during the best time to visit Montana

So, why should you visit Montana? Let's start with the stunning beauty that spans all four seasons. Two of Montana's biggest attractions are Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, which offer endless opportunities to explore and learn more about nature. Between these national parks are numerous state forests and wildlife reserves that are well worth exploring. During the summer, several lakes, rivers, and trails around the state offer excellent hiking, cycling, and rafting opportunities.

For fishing enthusiasts, Montana is a veritable paradise. Its glacial-fed streams provide an ideal habitat for the feisty fish that populate the state. In fact, Montana inspired the book and movie "A River Runs Through It," which showcases the state's world-renowned fly-fishing scene.

Montana is also home to some of the friendliest and most honest people you'll ever encounter. Its residents come from a variety of cultural and occupational backgrounds, including members of Montana's Indian nations, cowboys, small-town cafe owners, authors, and fly-fishing instructors. The state is home to seven reservations and twelve tribes, each with its unique cultural legacy.

Lastly, Montana's cuisine is a hidden gem. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, sampling the state's diverse cuisine is an unforgettable experience.

So why wait? With breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and an abundance of outdoor activities, Montana is an ideal destination for anyone looking to escape the daily grind and recharge in the great outdoors.

Montana's cuisine scene is unique in that it emphasizes locally-sourced ingredients. Many chefs and restaurateurs in Western Montana prioritize using fresh ingredients from the region as much as possible, resulting in dishes featuring morel mushrooms, buffalo, yak, and tagliatelle with Flathead cherries and huckleberries.

One of the most significant charms of Montana is its rich culture that has remained largely unchanged since the 1800s. Visitors can immerse themselves in the lifestyle by attending barn dances, riding horses, and experiencing ranch life. In addition, rodeos can be found throughout the state in the summer months. Montana also boasts powwows that celebrate Native American cultural traditions, such as the Crow Fair in Billings and North American Indian Days in Browning.

Goose Island in Glacier National Park pictured during the best time to visit Montana with a gorgeous dusk shot

The optimal period to visit Montana is from June to August when the days are lengthy and agreeable. Additionally, the best time to go skiing is from December through March. Montana's passion for the great outdoors is reflected in its weather, which is perfect for outdoor activities. When planning a trip during peak season, be sure to book your hotel accommodations as early as possible. Despite the crowds, you can find a quiet corner to relax and reflect.

Festivals occur year-round in Montana, with summertime being the busiest season. You'll want to book your lodging well in advance if you're thinking about attending one of these events. National parks fill up quickly, but the abundance of festivals and events outside of the parks means there's still plenty to see and do.

June to August is also the best time for sightseeing as temperatures are warmer and most of the must-see attractions are open during this period. Montana is a great place for shopping at any time of year since most stores remain open 365 days a year. However, you may choose to visit during the shoulder or off-peak season to avoid crowds and ensure a more relaxing shopping experience.

Best Time to Save on Your Montana Trip


If you're looking to save money on your trip to Montana, then the shoulder seasons are the way to go. These seasons, during autumn and spring, offer discounted rates on accommodations and warmer weather compared to the winter season.

January might be a slow month for tourism, but it can be advantageous for travelers as there is a higher possibility of deals and discounts. You can also enjoy your trip on a budget during the low season, which spans from April to June.

Find the Best Hotels in Montana

Montanans call the low season, when the melting snow creates plenty of stagnant water, mud season. This is a perfect time for off-road enthusiasts, 4WD drivers, and car wash companies to have some fun.

Empty street of Whitefish with clouds over the mountain range during the least busy time to visit Montana

Businesses and tour companies take advantage of the low season to get ready for summer, and many outdoor recreational sites have a soft opening before the summer rush.

Though you can expect rainy weather during this season, which may lead to slippery roads and unimpressive views, hotels will offer their lowest rates at this time.

The Quietest Time to Visit Montana

Jay Yuan/Shutterstock

To avoid the hustle and bustle, plan your visit during the shoulder season from September to November. Montanans appreciate this season the most as it is a safe haven from the crowds.

The tourists have usually left by summer's end, making it pleasant to explore the roads and trails. The weather is mild, and attractions are open for visitors. You can enjoy Montana in its purest form during this season, and October offers the added beauty of the leaves changing color to red, yellow, and orange, giving New England a good competition.

Slender Asian woman holding her arms up over a lake in the mountains during the least busy time to visit Montana featuring fog in the valley

You must consider the downsides, though.

Because schools have resumed their normal schedules, many establishments may have laid off staff. However, this downtime could be leveraged by these establishments to undertake renovations.

Montana values self-reliance, and while services may experience a slight delay and activities may be harder to come by, the culture still encourages visitors to be adaptable. It is important to note that unpredictable weather, including September showers that may obstruct impressive views, may still occur.

The Least Ideal Time to Visit Montana


Montana is known for its harsh winter weather, making November through February the most challenging months to visit. The winter season brings several cold fronts, resulting in a significant drop in temperature, and mountain paths are closed due to the heavy snowfall that accumulates (up to 300 inches).

During winter, most prairie communities receive between 762 and 1270 mm of snowfall, and winter days in many regions of Montana barely get above freezing. Although the Chinook winds bring some relief, tourists still need to prepare themselves for the bitter cold.

For a piece on the best time to visit Montana, Big Sky pictured with snow on the ground in the mountains

Despite the weather challenges, winter tourists can enjoy the area and take advantage of off-season special deals and winter activities designed to entice visitors to visit the area. In December, temperatures typically range from 25°F to 32°F for highs and a subzero -1°F to 21°F for lows.

The eastern part of Montana, such as Glasgow and Havre City, see below-freezing temperatures of 7°F on average, while the western half, including Kalispell and Libby, gets temperatures as high as 21°F.

Snowfall is heavy and often exceeds 50 inches in the mountains, and precipitation typically takes the form of ice-cold showers.

When visiting Kalispell, Libby, Glacier, and other parts of Montana, there are a few things to consider. Regardless of the time of year, it's best to book flights and rental vehicles early, and having a guide is always helpful to ensure an enjoyable vacation.

Visiting Glacier National Park is a must, and downtown Kalispell shouldn't be missed. Don't forget to experience the coffee culture of Missoula and the culinary delights of Bozeman. The scenic route via Gallatin Canyon is ideal for those looking for breathtaking landscapes and bighorn sheep sightings.

During the best time to visit Montana, a trail and flowers on Mount Sentinel, in Missoula is pictured

Make sure to stop by Asian Cuisine in Hamilton and 2nd Street Sushi while in the Bitterroot Valley, both multiple award-winning sushi restaurants. A boat tour around St. Mary Lake is a must-do, and Johnson's Café offers excellent food options afterward.

Lastly, the breweries and distilleries in Glacier Country are a fantastic way to experience Montana's thriving beer and spirits sector. And for anyone passing through Libby, the Mountain Meadows Gift Shop is a stunning place to pick up some local gift goods and antiques.

Prepare a feast that you can savor at Holland Lake, and wrap up your outing with a visit to Holland Lake Lodge, where you can grab a fresh cookie and a flavored beverage for your drive back home.

Answers to Your Questions

Snehit Photo/Shutterstock

If you're planning a trip to Montana with your loved ones, it's a good idea to peruse some of the most frequently asked questions before you depart.

Is Montana a Safe Place to Visit?

During your travels across the United States, a stop in Montana should be on your itinerary since it's one of the safest states around. Whether you're exploring the National Parks or the surrounding picturesque towns, you can look forward to a worry-free and pleasant experience.

What Is Montana's Official Language?

In 1995, English was officially adopted as the state and municipal government's primary language in Montana. Eighteen percent of the U.S. population over the age of five speak a language other than English at home.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Montana?

For the best time to visit Montana, plan your trip for summer (June to August) or winter (December to March) for skiing season.

As the gateway to Yellowstone National Park and the home of Montana State University, Bozeman is a popular town and a preferred tourist destination in Montana. Nature lovers flock here to experience the natural landscape, and history, art, and cultural enthusiasts appreciate the city's customs and traditions.

How Is Montana Unique When Compared to Other States?

Montana holds the distinction of being the only state encompassing all three mountain ranges comprised of the Triple Divide Peak. This peak feeds into three different oceans: the Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean.

Can I See Northern Lights in Montana?

Although viewing the Northern Lights in Montana isn't guaranteed, the state provides excellent opportunities for seeing the spectacular natural light show. When you're in the heart of the Big Sky Country, keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the famous aurora borealis.

What is the ideal length for a trip to Glacier National Park?

A trip to Glacier National Park is a must-do for any nature enthusiast. To truly experience all that it has to offer, it is recommended to spend a minimum of two to three days in the park. This will allow you to tackle one or two scenic trails, drive along the stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road, and fully explore all parts of the park.

Are there any natural hot springs in Montana?

Montana is a state known for its rugged terrain and harsh winters, but it also boasts a number of natural hot springs that offer a fantastic way to unwind and take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Big Sky area.

The western part of the state is home to several commercial facilities that offer natural hot spring pools in addition to dining and accommodation choices.

When is the optimal time to visit Montana?

If you're planning a trip to Montana, the summer months of July and August are the busiest and most popular season. With national parks attracting large crowds, it's important to book early to secure lodging and camping reservations.

However, crowds are less of an issue outside of the parks, and visitors can take in the breathtaking vistas of Montana's wide-open landscapes with fewer people around. So plan your trip accordingly to experience the best of what Montana has to offer.

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