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Montana

General   Weather   Airports   Attractions   Activities  

Introduction

St. Mary Lake, Montana ©Ken Thomas

The wide open US state of Montana, bordering three Canadian provinces, boasts no major big cities, but is the fourth largest state in the Union, stretching across the prairie of the Great Plains, known as 'Big Sky Country'.


Despite the seemingly never-ending expanse of open plains, 'Montana' is Spanish for mountains, and indeed the State is usually regarded as mountainous because the Rocky Mountain chain traverses its western zone. Sixty percent of the state, though, is prairie. Agricultural lands provide Montana's bread and butter, and some of the USA's most attractive and renowned national parks, wildlife refuges and forests provide a tasty topping.


Montana is home to the renowned Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park and Bighorn Canyon, to name just a few natural attractions under the big sky. Yellowstone, with more than two million acres of geysers, is among the largest and most famous national park in the world, spilling over into Idaho and Wyoming, while the magnificent Glacier park covers one million acres of rugged mountain terrain, forests, waterfalls and glaciers.


Montana is thus an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, with a multitude of opportunities for hiking, riding, hunting, and fishing in summer, and skiing in winter. Native American culture also features high on its list of attractions, the prairies having been home to legendary tribes like the Cheyenne, Crow and Blackfeet. The various reservations are strongholds of their heritage where traditional dress is worn, rituals are performed and arts and crafts produced. Also fascinating for visitors is to explore the 'ghost towns' that were left behind after the 1862 gold rush, the many museums and art galleries, and the historic buildings and battlefields of this multi-faceted state.


Though most of the state is undeveloped, there are a few towns in Montana worth visiting: Billings, conveniently located near Yellowstone, is a hub of arts and culture; Butte is a former mining town with several museums dedicated to the industry; while Bozeman is a college town with some good museums and art galleries, and hosts the Sweet Pea Festival each spring.


Climate Info

Montana's east and west regions, separated by the Continental Divide, experience different climates, although generally the state tends to be hot and dry in summer and cold in winter, with snow. The west tends to have a milder climate than the east, with warmer winters, cooler summers and lighter winds, and rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year. The east, however, tends to have less humidity than the west, as well as more sunny days on average. Montana's cold winters are frequently broken by warm, windy spells in the east, known as 'Chinook' weather, which can last for several days at a time. The heaviest snowfall throughout the state is from November to March, and most cities receive an annual average of 30 to 50 inches (76 to 127cm). Rainfall is generally light, with most falling between May and July.


Getting Around

Billings' downtown area can be a bit confusing for visitors, being designed on a grid system with numbered avenues increasing numerically both to the north and south of Montana Avenue, and numbered streets crossing it from east to west. The central area is compact and can be explored on foot. Most visitors, however, prefer to rent a car to explore the city and outskirts. The city bus service is the Billings MET Transit, which is easy to use. MET buses stop at most corners and at stops with a distinctive blue and green sign. Exact fares are required, paid to the driver. Buses run from 5.50am to 6.40pm on weekdays and from 8.10am to 5.45pm on Saturdays. There are no buses on Sundays or major public holidays.


Billings Logan International Airport (BIL)

LocationThe airport is two miles (3km) northwest of Billings.
Time DifferenceGMT -7 (GMT -6 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 406 247 8609.

Getting to city

Many hotels offer a shuttle sevice, and there is a taxi service availabel at the airport. There is also a shuttle service also provides a service to and from the airport but should be pre-arranged.

Car Rental

Enterprise, Thrifty, Dollar, Hertz, National, Alamo, Avis and Budget have car rental facilities at the airport.

Airpor Taxis

City Cab and Yellow Cab service the airport, however it is a good idea to book airport taxis in advance.

Airport Facilities

ATMs are situated in the main lobby. There is a fine dining restaurant, deli, gift shop, information booth, play areas for children and the Peter Yegen Jr. Yellowstone County Museum opposite the terminal building.

Car Parking

Short-term parking is about $2 for the first 30 minutes, and $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes up to $15 for 24 hours. Long-term parking is about $2.50 for the first hour, and $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes, up to $9 per day.

Websitewww.flybillings.com


Helena Regional Airport (HLN)

LocationThe airport is located three miles (5km) northeast of Helena.
Time DifferenceGMT -7 (GMT -6 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

There is no public transport servicing Helena Airport but Helena Towncar, a luxury shuttle service, is available for pick-up and drop-off. A number of area hotels provide free shuttle service to and from the airport, and can be called through the courtesy phone board located in the baggage claim area near the east entrance of the terminal.

Car Rental

Car rental companies operating from the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National.

Airpor Taxis

Capitol Taxi and other taxi companies can be called directly from the courtesy phone located in the terminal baggage claim area.

Airport Facilities

Airport facilities include an ATM, an information centre, a restaurant and a gift shop, a business centre, and televisions.

Car Parking

Short-term parking is located directly east of the terminal; the first hour is free. Long-term parking is $3 per day.

Websitewww.helenaairport.com


Glacier Park International Airport (FCA)

LocationThe airport is located six miles (10km) northeast of Kalispell.
Time DifferenceGMT -7 (GMT -6 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Car rentals and taxis are available but there is no public transport servicing the airport.

Car Rental

Car hire companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis are available from the airport, but they should be booked by phone.

Airport Facilities

Terminal facilities include an ATM, vending machines, a visitors information centre, a conference room and a bistro.

Car Parking

Parking is charged at $1 per 30 minutes, up to a daily maximum of $8, and a weekly rate of $48.

Websitewww.iflyglacier.com


Missoula International Airport (MSO)

LocationThe airport is located five miles (8km) northwest of downtown Missoula.
Time DifferenceGMT -7 (GMT -6 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Mountain Line operates public buses to the airport 11 times every weekday. Information is available from their kiosk in the baggage claim area.

Car Rental

Car rental counters are located in the main passenger terminal, directly across from baggage claim. Companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis and shuttles are available from the airport. Information is available from the courtesy board in the baggage claim area.

Airport Facilities

Terminal facilities include an information centre, ATMs, a business centre, restaurants and shops.

Car Parking

Short-term parking is adjacent to the terminal; parking is charged at $1 per half hour up to a daily maximum of $11. Long-term parking is $2 for the first hour and $1 per hour thereafter up to $9 per day and $54 per week. The first 15 minutes is free in all lots.

Websitewww.flymissoula.com


Great Falls International Airport (GTF)

LocationThe airport is located three miles (5km) southwest of Great Falls.
Time DifferenceGMT -7 (GMT -6, from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Taxis, hotel shuttles and rental cars are available. Public buses stop nearby but don't service the airport directly.

Car Rental

Car hire agencies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, and National.

Airpor Taxis

Diamond Cabs service the airport, and can be booked by phone.

Airport Facilities

The airport is small, though comfortable, and facilities are basic. Terminal facilities include a gift shop, a bar and a restaurant.

Car Parking

The first 15 minutes in the Hourly and Daily lots are free. Parking in the Hourly Lot is charged at $1 for each 30 minutes up to $12 per day. Parking in the Daily Lot costs a daily rate of $7 and a weekly rate of $35.

Websitewww.flygtf.com


Moss Mansion Historic House


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Moss Mansion was the 1903-built home of the Preston Boyd Moss family, and has been preserved to capture the family life of the well-to-do of the era. The house was designed by New York architect, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, whose best-kn
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Moss Mansion, Billings, Montana ©Jaydec



Western Heritage Center


The Western Heritage Center in downtown Billings, affiliated to the Smithsonian Institution, has a collection of more than 16,000 artefacts documenting the life, culture and history of the Yellowstone River Valley. The centre's constantly changing gallery exhibitions draw around 22,000 v
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The Western Heritage Center in Billings ©ALH



Yellowstone Art Museum


Montana's premier art museum, the popular Yellowstone Art Museum exhibits contemporary and historic art of the Rocky Mountain West region.


Established in 1984, the museum now contains more than 3,000 works, including the Virginia Snook Collection, the largest public display o
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Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings ©Sara Goth



Zoo Montana


Montana's zoological park and botanical garden plays host to around 70,000 visitors a year and is one of the State's most popular tourist attractions, the only zoo within 600 miles (965km) of Billings. The complex covers 70 acres to the west of the city, exhibiting animals and plants nat
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Zoo Montana, Billings ©Montanabw



Custer National Forest


The Custer National Forest is scattered across Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, but the forest headquarters are in Billings, Montana, and most hiking and camping is undertaken in the part of the forest located about an hour's drive to the south of the city. Custer is the most ecol
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Custer National Forest ©Forest Service Northern Region



Yellowstone National Park


The world's first national park, Yellowstone was established in 1872 and despite its popularity today, most of the park still remains an undeveloped wilderness of magnificent mountain scenery, waterfalls, alpine lakes and rivers. It is renowned for its geothermal wonders and abundance of
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Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park ©Scott Catron



Missoula


The 'Garden City' doesn't have much in the way of gardens but Missoula is an outdoor sportsman's Eden. Situated right in the middle of cowboy-land, this is a liberal hub of hippies, students and outdoor nuts. Downtown is a collection of unique shops and lively bars where it is easier to
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Missoula and the surrounding scenery. ©Prizrak 2084



Pictograph Cave State Park


Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Pictograph Cave State Park, located just six miles (about 10km) south of Billings, provides an ideal setting for a wonderfully scenic, historically fascinating day-trip.


Covering an area of 93 acres, the park is home to a complex of thr
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Pictograph Cave in Pictograph Caves State Park ©Tbennert



Chico Hot Springs


Though they're hardly in a fashionable area, the unpretentious Chico Hot Springs are quickly becoming a popular attraction in Montana, drawing guests from New York and Hollywood. Set in the aptly-named Paradise Valley near the town of Emigrant, the springs boast two open-air mineral pool
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Chico Hot Springs ©David Coats



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