Montana is home to both Glacier National Park and parts of Yellowstone, making it a popular destination for roadtrippers. But don’t sleep on the amazing places that can be found between the two parks, including waterfalls, ghost towns, herds of bison, campgrounds, and mysterious piles of rocks that make music. In addition, the national parks offer scenic drives, hot springs, geysers, electric blue lakes, and more.
Here are 14 must-see stops in Big Sky Country from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.
Kick off your adventure of a lifetime in one of the most iconic national parks in the country. The very first U.S. national park is visited by millions of people from around the world each year. Larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, with more than a dozen world-class campgrounds and thousands of miles of hiking trails, Yellowstone has something for everyone. The park is famous for its diverse geology and animal life, and visitors can glimpse bison, moose, elk, and hundreds of species of birds and mammals with a cruise through the Lamar Valley. Don’t forget to visit Old Faithful, marvel at the Grand Prismatic, walk among bubbling mud pots, and soak in the hot springs along the Firehole River.
Your gateway to Yellowstone National Park, the Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday is the perfect place to call home during your stay in Montana. This award-winning KOA property backs up to over 500 feet of Yellowstone River beauty and offers the perfect mix of privacy, comfort, and access to all the incredible sights and activities nearby. Less than 10 miles from I-90, you’ll be able to easily make it to Yellowstone National Park and other attractions, while spending your nights in nature. Need a place to kick back and relax after a long day? Roast s’mores over a campfire, take a swim in the heated pool, or watch the local wildlife.
A quick trek up this popular and breathtaking trail offers an incredible view of the stunning Palisade Falls. Much of the 1.1-mile trail in the Hyalite Recreation Area is paved, so the hike is suitable for most people, regardless of fitness level. The views are quite popular, and the trail is close to the charming town of Bozeman, so if you want to avoid the crowds, start your adventure early. Have four-legged friends with you? You can bring them along, as long as they’re leashed.
Wander through the caverns at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park to observe and experience limestone formations in one of Montana's most popular state parks. A guided tour will give you an inside look at unique geological structures. Examine stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites as you duck, waddle, bend, and slide through the cave. Kids will get to ride the famous Beaver Slide, and everyone should keep their eyes peeled for bats.
Located about 20 miles east of Butte, Montana’s Ringing Rocks feature a pile of rocks that give off unique sounds when struck. It’s believed that the sounds evolve as the rocks erode, so every visit will produce a different noise. Make sure to bring a hammer or some kind of metal object to (gently) play the rocks with, as these give off the clearest sound. If you wish to drive to the Ringing Rocks, you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle, but the rocks are also accessible by a 1-mile walk.
One of five museums in the complex that includes the Auto Museum, Frontier Montana, Yesterday’s Playthings, Powell County Museum, and The Yellowstone Trail, the Old Prison Museum is a must-visit for all history buffs. The Old Montana Prison operated from 1871 until the 1970s, and the museum offers guided and self-guided tours seasonally.
Teleport into the past with a stop at one of Montana’s best-preserved ghost towns. Garnet was once a thriving town, filled with gold miners hoping to strike it rich. In 1898, more than 100 people called Garnet home. Today, it sits empty in a state of preserved ruin. Spend the day getting a feel for how the gold miners lived in their small, connected community. If you’re up for a little exercise, take the .75-mile walk to Warren’s Park for a picnic.
Don’t miss the “last best place” for western Montana camping at the modern and gorgeous Missoula KOA Holiday. Surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains and offering all the amenities you’d expect from a KOA property, the Missoula KOA Holiday is the perfect place to enjoy a heated pool, take a rental bike for a spin, or have a mini golf showdown; there’s plenty here to keep the entire group entertained. Best yet, Missoula KOA Holiday is just a quick drive to shopping, restaurants, and other fun activities for the entire family, including the Smokejumpers Museum, National Bison Range, and the ghost town of Garnet.
Founded by Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, a Tibetan master, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a spiritual site located near the town of Arlee. The spot was allegedly chosen by Gochen after he recalled a prophetic dream from his childhood, which resembled the land in Montana. At the center of the Buddhas is a 24-foot-tall figure of Yum Chenmo, The Great Mother of Transcendent Wisdom. The Buddhas are arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel around Yum Chenmo. In addition to the 1,000 Buddhas, 1,000 stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel, or Dharmachakra, designed to inspire joy, wisdom, and compassion.
Established in 1908 to provide refuge for American bison, the National Bison Range (NBR) is home to a large herd of the majestic animals. The NBR is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuge centers and is an incredible place to see bison, deer, and elk roam free. A herd of up to 500 roves across 18,000 acres. Stop at the visitor center for advice on the best place to spy the bison, and then make a point to cruise one or both of the two scenic drives through the range. If you wish to avoid the crowds, be sure to start your adventure early, as the NBR is a popular destination.
Home to one of the largest collections of ephemeral American history, the Miracle of America Museum is a can’t-miss for anyone interested in the quirky side of the country’s history. Founded in 1981 by Gil and Joanne Mangels, the museum is home to thousands of artifacts throughout dozens of buildings. The museum contains everything from Native American artifacts and military weapons to old-school bicycles, motorcycles, aircraft, and more; there's plenty to keep everyone engaged and entertained.
At more than 2,000 acres, Wild Horse Island State Park is the largest island in a freshwater lake west of Minnesota. Home to bighorn sheep, mule, deer, songbirds, and a wide variety of endangered plant species, you’ll be admiring the nature around you for hours. With fishing, hiking, boating, and kayaking available, there’s plenty to delay your trip from coming to a close.
Just 2.5 miles from the West Glacier KOA Resort is the entrance to the stunning Glacier National Park; you can be up and exploring the park in less than an hour. With your choice of traditional lodging, RV campsites, and secluded tent spots, there’s an option for every kind of camper. Explore the towns of Bigfork, Whitefish, and Kalispell, which are just a short drive from the campground, or spend an afternoon at nearby Flathead Lake with its famously crystal-clear water. With gorgeous mountain views, the smell of pine blowing through the air, and incredibly helpful staff, you can’t go wrong with a few nights at the West Glacier KOA Resort.
There’s no better way to end your adventure than by making your final stop at the breathtaking Glacier National Park. There are so many famously-beautiful sites in the park, you could visit several times and still not see it all. Take a tour on a red, 1930s-era "jammer" bus, pick huckleberries, hike to Grinnell Lake, and boat on St. Mary Lake or Lake McDonald. Before you call it a day, be sure to take a scenic drive on Going-to-the-Sun-Road, which connects the east and west sides of the park. If you’re visiting during peak season, you may need a reservation to enter some of the most popular areas of the park, so make sure to check the national park website before planning your trip.
Banner Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Behind the Yellow Sign at KOA, we combine the great outdoors with great service. We offer modern sites, facilities and amenities designed to meet the needs of every kind of camper. And with 500+ campgrounds across North America, it’s easy to find an amazing place for camping fun!