Summer has warm days and cool nights. July temperatures range from the low- to mid-20s (C) during the day and between zero and 10 degrees at night. Fall is cool and clear, and snow falls in the high country in October. Winter can be very cold and windy from November through March. Temperatures range from +10 to –45, but the Chinook winds bring mild weather. Spring is very short and can be chilly with snow or rain.
When to fly to Montana
A state for outdoor enthusiasts, most visitors book Montana flights and accommodations in July and August. The major parks are busy March to September, and the state puts on festivals, rodeos, and pow-wows in summer.
Glacial National Park’s more popular trails are crowded in summer, and there are size restrictions on vehicles travelling Going-to-the-Sun Road. Campgrounds fill up by late morning during July and August, and rooms need to be reserved in advance.
The Little Bighorn Days festival is held on the weekend closest to June 25, and Butte hosts the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the Rockies.
Winter is the second peak season with its deep powder drawing snowboarders and skiers, both downhill and Nordic.
Except for the ski areas, winter is the off season. Budget-travellers who are willing to brave the cold can find cheap flights to Montana during the winter months.
Getting around Montana
As the fourth largest US state, the regional airports offer Montana flights to in-state destinations. Buses traverse the state along I-90 and north to south along I-15, and there are train stops at either side of Glacier National Park.
The Big Sky state, though, is best explored by car. The roads are well maintained, but rent according to when and where you will be driving. Some destinations require driving gravel and dirt roads, and in the more remote locations tow trucks are rare. Montana’s speed limits are liberal, but strictly enforced. In winter, some highways may be open only to four-wheel drive vehicles or those with snow tires or chains. Always carry sleeping bags, extra food, flashlights, and other safety gear to ensure your survival if the car breaks down or you get caught in a blizzard.
Montana is very popular with bicyclists, especially the western part of the state. Missoula is one of the best U.S. cities for cycling and has very good bike routes.
Glacial National Park is a hiker’s paradise, but is also fun to experience by car along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Tour boats can take you around the large lakes, and you can rent canoes, rowboats, and outboards.
Montana insider information
- Lovers of the great outdoors will relish every second of their visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park that’s set on a million acres. One of its major highlights includes the Going-to-the-Sun Road, an 83-km drive crossing the Continental Divide and the stone reef Garden Wall.
- If you feel like you’ve been deprived of some art and culture during your trip then head to the Yellowstone Art Museum which showcases Montana’s best artists including renowned cowboy illustrator Will James.
- Ever heard a cowboy recite poetry? Well if you haven’t then you’re in for a real treat. Held once a year the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a tradition that has been passed on for generations and is a fun way to meet locals and learn about Montana’s past.
- A trip to Montana wouldn’t be complete without a day of fly-fishing in its great trout waters. According to the experts, the most accessible river is the Gallatin around Big Sky. Just pull over on Highway 191, find a fishing hole, cast your line and hook that 40-cm rainbow.
- Craving some adventure? Big Sky’s 1,325m vertical drop will make even the most intrepid skier’s heart stop. But if that’s too much for you then head over to nearby Moonlight Basin that boasts an impressive 5,300 acres with an average of 1,016cm each season.
- After all those strenuous outdoor activities, treat yourself to a dip into the warm mineral waters of Chico Hot Springs. Located at the foot of Paradise Valley’s Absaroka Mountains, the open-air hot springs are a popular spot for some post-ski “rehab”.