Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States and is home to 3,348 named mountains. Aptly known as the Land of Shining Mountains, Montana gets its name from the Spanish word, Montaña, which translates to mountain – a fitting name considering its abundantly mountainous landscape.
The Eastern portion of the state is primarily comprised of the gently rolling hills and broad river valleys of the Great Plains, while the Western, mountainous region, is dominated by the Rocky Mountains. Although small groups of mountains spring up from the Great Plains, like the Bear Paws, Big Snowy, Judith, and Little Rocky Mountains, the state’s most prominent mountain ranges are found in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Montana’s most notable mountain region, The Rocky Mountain Region, includes several prominent sub-ranges: The Beartooth Mountains, Crazy Mountains, Bridger Range, Absaroka Mountains, and the Madison Range.
The Absaroka Mountains are a 150-mile long subrange of the Rocky Mountains that stretches across the Montana-Wyoming border and contains eight prominent summits that exceed 12,000 feet. At 12,470 ft, Francs Peak is the highest point in the Absaroka Range. A highly protected area, the Absaroka Mountains include portions of the Gallatin, Shoshone, and Custer National Forests.
An Absaroka subrange, the Beartooth Mountains is home to Granite Peak, the highest point in Montana, as well as 41 of the tallest named peaks in the state and 240 peaks that exceed 10,000 feet. The Beartooth Mountains are traversed by the Beartooth Highway, a 68-mile scenic byway that is often referred to as the most beautiful drive in America.
The Crazy Mountains are the third largest range in Montana and rise 7,000 feet above the Yellowstone River Valley, covering an area of approximately 136,547 acres. Often referred to as “the crazies,” the highest peak in the Crazy Mountains is Crazy Peak, which stretches to 11,211 ft.
Lying North of Bozeman in Southwest Montana, The Bridger Mountains are within the Gallatin National Forest and are best-known for their expansive network of hiking trails and prominent summits. Noteworthy peaks in the Bridger Mountains include, Saddle Peak, Baldy Mountain, Hardscrabble Peak, Ross Peak, and its highest point Sacajawea Peak.
The Madison Range, named to honor U.S. president James Madison, stretches for 80 miles from West Yellowstone to Bozeman, Montana. The crown of the Madison Range is the 11,201 ft Hilgard Peak, which is known as Montana’s highest peak outside of the Beartooths and must-see for mountaineers.
Glacier National Park offers more than 700 miles of hiking trails that traverse incredible mountain scenery, glacial landforms, pristine rivers, and magnetic blue alpine lakes. A part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace park, Glacier National Park is considered to be the crown of the Continent Ecosystem. In addition to offering 16,000 sq. miles of pristine wilderness, Glacier is known for its stunning 50-mile Going to the Sun Road, which offers visitors a unique opportunity to navigate Montana’s awe-inspiring landscape by car. In addition to backcountry camping and hiking, visitors to Glacier National Park can experience an abundance of wildlife or spend an afternoon canoeing or boating on one of the park’s picturesque lakes.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness spans over 920,000 acres and has a variety of hiking trails that traverse craggy mountain peaks, glaciers, tundra plateaus, alpine lakes, and deep canyons. Notable hikes include the 7-mile Keyser Brown Lake trail, an accessible trail in the Beartooth Mountains that ends at a forested lake sitting at 8,700 feet and the Avalanche Lake trail, a 6-mile trek to a glacially-fed turquoise lake that lies beneath Montana’s highest peak, Granite Peak.
Gallatin National Forest contains more than 1.8 million acres of geologically diverse landscape and six distinct mountain ranges to explore. The Gallatin National Forest is a popular outdoor recreation area in Montana’s Northern Rockies and offers over 2,600 miles of hiking trails. Notable hikes include the Palisade Falls National Recreation Trail, a 1.4-mile paved trail to an 80-foot waterfall and the Hyalite Creek trail, an 11-mile moderate trek that passes a variety of waterfalls and majestic peaks.
Home to the Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish is a quaint mountain town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Whitefish provides ideal accommodations for visitors to Glacier National Park and was named one of the top ski towns in the world by National Geographic. A quintessential mountain town, visitors to Whitefish can participate in a variety of outdoor activities, in addition to charming restaurants, cafes, and shops.
Nestled high in the Gallatin National Forest, Big Sky is an ideal place to stay for travelers looking to explore mountainous Montana terrain. Offering an endless amount of outdoor activities, Big Sky is just a few miles from Yellowstone National Park and is considered one of the best places to go for winter recreation in the states. For the adventurous, Big Sky is the ideal place to experience ample amounts of hiking, fishing, camping, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting, all year long.
Referred to as “the most livable place,” by locals, Bozeman is surrounded by a dramatic mountain landscape. Located in Southwest Montana, Bozeman is considered one of the leading destinations for a Rocky Mountain vacation. Visitors can travel to nearby Yellowstone National Park, relax at Chico Hot Springs, explore the Lewis & Clark Caverns, or hike the famed Hyalite Canyon – all of which are in close proximity to Bozeman, Montana.