Montana’s nickname is the Treasure State. The name has everything to do with high-value minerals like gold and silver, but it’s Montana’s natural beauty that deserves to be highlighted. Yellowstone National Park is the United States’ first national park, and many of its more than 2 million acres are contained within Montana. Yellowstone’s little sibling (sitting in at more than 1 million acres) is Glacier National Park. Its ecosystem was aptly named the “Backbone of the World” by the Blackfeet tribe that was native to the area. The entire state is full of epic views, but these parks are trips worthy of any travel bucket list.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is not just about attractions like Old Faithful in Wyoming. Montana features hot springs like Grand Prismatic filled with bacteria and minerals that will satisfy your inner geological geek. Chance sightings of herds of bison, wandering grizzly bears, packs of wolves and majestic birds of prey offer up-close and personal views of America’s native creatures in their natural habitats. You can explore more than 1,100 miles of hiking trails throughout Yellowstone, but luckily you don’t have to traverse the whole park on foot. Because of its size, Yellowstone is automobile-friendly, which is what makes it popular for longer-term visitors who opt to camp rather than stay at one of the many lodges and hotels in the area.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a shining example of geological process and the slow march of time. Evidence of ancient seas and remnant glaciers details the park’s geological history. The rugged but majestic scenery is a result of those processes, and like Yellowstone, there is much to see, albeit the backdrop of jagged, vast and seemingly endless peaks is much different. One of the most popular attractions is Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 52-mile, windy, scenic drive with epic switchbacks that offer unparalleled views of Glacier National Park. You can book a tour on one of Glacier’s historic red buses, or travel on your own. Go slow, and watch for wildlife.
Bonus Park: Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Explore the caverns and their stalactites, stalagmites, columns and helictites on your own, or purchase a guided tour from May 1 to Sept. 30.
For more tips on parks and travel to Montana, check out Montana.