Soak in hot springs, hike through wilderness, or just take in the views of Big Sky Country.
Few places in the Lower 48 feel more wild and remote than Montana. This northwestern state on the border with Canada is home to both Glacier National Park and a section of Yellowstone National Park along with a wide range of state parks and recreation areas, friendly cities, spooky ghost towns, and more than its fair share of hot springs. While most visitors comein summer—when weather is pleasant enough for camping and hiking—the Treasure State offers unique experiences in every season, with fantastic winter skiing opportunities, spring wildflowers, and gorgeous fall colors.
Northwestern Montana's Glacier Country is characterized by massive forests, craggy peaks, and long expanses of wilderness, with plenty of wildlife to boot. It's also home to Glacier National Park, where you'll find hundreds of miles of hiking trails along with tons of developed and backcountry camping options.
In the heart of Montana's Big Sky country, just west of Yellowstone National Park, this region is characterized by cute towns (notably Butte and Helena), historic ghost towns (a remnant of the region's historic mining industry), and relaxing hot springs. Popular camping areas include Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park and Bannack State Park.
If you're headed to Yellowstone Country, it's likely with a visit to Yellowstone National Park in mind, but there's plenty more to do in the region, from hiking the Lake Fork Trail to checking out the restaurant and brewery scene in Bozeman. Yellowstone itself is, of course, a must-visit, but if you can’t find camping in the massive—and ever so popular—national park, you may have better luck snagging something in Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Central Montana offers all sorts of opportunities for outdoor recreation, rain or shine. Summer activities include fishing, horseback riding, and camping, while spots such as Showdown Mountain, Teton Pass Ski Resort, and Bear Paw Ski Bowl offer skiing and snowboarding. The region also has plenty of state parks, including Sluice Boxes State Park, Giant Springs State Park, and First Peoples Buffalo State Park.
Vast and expansive, eastern Montana features sparse landscapes dotted with the occasional herd of cattle, and plenty of room to get out and explore. You can take in views of the Badlands from Makoshika State Park or the Badlands Wilderness Study Area, or camp under the open sky in the expansive Custer National Forest. If you'd like to get out on the water, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is the place to go, with boat rentals available.
While not all camping in Montana is free, you can find free camping options in Montana's national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Dispersed camping is allowed in these areas, but amenities are usually not available, so be prepared for primitive camping experiences. Some popular national forests in Montana include Lewis and Clark National Forest, Lolo National Forest, and Gallatin National Forest.
When camping in Montana, it's essential to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions and outdoor activities. Here are some must-haves for your Montana camping adventure:
Remember to check the specific requirements and regulations for the area where you'll be camping, as different parks and campgrounds may have additional rules or recommendations.
Yes, wild camping is legal in Montana. Dispersed or primitive camping is allowed in national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and some state lands. Some popular areas for wild camping in Montana include Missoula, West Yellowstone, and Roundup. Always follow Leave No Trace principles, camp at least 200 feet away from lakes and streams, and check for any local regulations or restrictions before setting up camp.