From the magnificent mountain peaks to sprawled out prairie, there is an endless amount of outdoor fun to be had in Big Sky Country. Whether you’re looking for a guided tour or eager to hit the backcountry on your own, Montana offers something for everyone.
1. Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park. Year after year, tourists from all over the world travel to Yellowstone National Park in search of grizzly bears, moose, wolves, bison, elk, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs and of course, Old Faithful. No matter how old you are or how many times you’ve seen it, the eruption of Old Faithful is incredible to witness and the magnitude of Yellowstone Lake, North America’s largest high-altitude lake, is undeniably impressive as you travel along the shoreline. Plus, the geysers at Norris Geyser Basin and the geological formations at Mammoth Hot Springs are just so cool! From grizzlies and wolves to bubbling mud pots and smoldering geysers, Yellowstone National Park offers a one-of-a-kind wilderness experience.
2. Glacier National Park
Montana is fortunate to offer not one, but two of the country’s most unique and wild national parks. Yellowstone may have Old Faithful and mud pots, but the pristine lakes and magnificent mountain peaks of Glacier National Park make it a must-see. With more than 700 miles of trail, over half of all park visitors choose hiking as a method to take in the sights. And don’t miss taking a drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road; the 50 mile roadway can be enjoyed by car or bicycle – all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for! Spend a few days in the park and stay at one (or more) of the 13 campgrounds. Prefer a bed? No worries, there are plenty of other lodging options in and around the park. The outdoor opportunities at Glacier National Park are plentiful and its beauty is simply breathtaking.
3. Horseback Riding at Chico Hot Springs
Chico Hot Springs Resort has been attracting visitors for more than a century. Located 50 miles southeast of Bozeman, the resort offers all sorts of outdoor activities. One of their most popular western outings is a trail ride through Paradise Valley. The rolling prairie and mountain trails of the serene, picturesque valley make it an ideal spot for an afternoon on horseback. Diamond K Outfitters has been offering the western experience for years and their impressive team of roughly 25 horses have successfully created thousands of cowboys and cowgirls — even if only for a day. Then feel free to soak the night away in their natural hot spring pools.
4. Big Sky Zipline/Ropes Course
Big Sky mountain is known to offer “The Biggest Skiing in America,” but that’s not all. The resort is working to attract a wide variety of folks to their mountain, which is why they’ve installed basecamp activities like a ropes course and multiple zip lines.
The ropes course was designed with the ski-mentality in mind: each element has been given a rating of green, blue, black, or double black. Whether you’re trying to conquer your fear of heights or working on your tight-rope walking skills, the giant jungle-gym at Big Sky Resort offers a challenge for folks of all skill levels.
Perhaps, instead of balancing your way through the trees, you would rather fly through them. If that’s the case, the zip line is what you’re looking for. Those with an adventurous side can opt for the Adventure Zip, with sections of the course spanning up to 1,500 feet long and 150 feet above the forest floor. The Nature Zip is your other option. It includes a hike and three ziplines ranging from 350-500 feet in length and 30-60 feet in the air.
5. Whitewater Rafting
Montana offers thousands of river miles that provide premium conditions for whitewater rafting. The Stillwater River, near Red Lodge, is a popular rafting destination in southern Big Sky Country. With a focus on safety and fun, Adventure Whitewater has guided rafting trips down the Stillwater for the past 20 years. Contrary to it’s name, the Stillwater River is anything but “still.” The river has an abundance of whitewater, a swift current, and quite a few large rocks to dodge as you weave your way down the scenic river. You won’t be disappointed, whitewater rafting is one of the best ways to enjoy a hot, summer afternoon in Montana.
6. Backcountry Camping in the Crazy Mountains
Complete with winding rivers, majestic peaks, and glassy lakes, the Crazy Mountains offer an escape of pure, natural beauty. Located near Big Timber, the Crazies are completely surrounded by private land. This makes access limited, but doable. One option is to head north on Highway 191 from Big Timber, until you get to Wormser Loop Road. That road will take you all the way to Half-Moon Campground and trailhead. Because there is also quite a bit of private land within the Crazies, the forest service advises backpackers to stay on designated trails to avoid trespassing — that includes when setting up camp. With all the private land I’m talking about, it may sound like the freedom and remoteness is minimal. That’s far from the case. I have often hiked and camped through the Crazies without seeing more than a couple people along the way. It’s a true gem of the Treasure State.
To help maintain the pristineness of Montana’s great outdoors, follow the concept of “leave no trace.” For example, carry out everything you bring in, use a stove instead of building a fire – and if you do build a fire use small dead and down material for fires, and bury human waste at least 200 feet from water sources.
There are few places more beautiful than western Montana’s Mission Mountains and Flathead Valley. And what better way to take in the beauty than from 9,000+ feet up? Skydive Montana is a “Mom & Pop” shop that offers tandem jumps seven days a week, taking off from the Ronan airport. A Cessna P260 will carry you on a 15-20 minute ride until you reach altitude (9,000-12,000 feet). Once you take the plunge, expect a 30-50 second freefall, before the parachute is released. Then enjoy the view as you float your way back to earth. On a clear day, you can easily see Glacier National Park. Due to the airport’s location alongside the mountains, delays are common so plan on spending the day. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.
There are several businesses throughout Montana that offer ziplining, ropes courses, white water rafting, skydiving and trail rides. Regardless of the area in Montana you’re traveling to, you will likely find a company that will satisfy your needs.