Montana Summer Vacations: Some of Montana’s Best Places to Visit

Average temps in Montana range from 28 degrees in January to 84 degrees in July. There are still some spots in the mountains which do have snow even in the summer, so make sure to review the weather and road reports before driving in some of these locations. Each part of Montana offers something different, whether it be the beautiful scenic drive through the mountains on the Beartooth Highway, clear waters of Canyon Ferry Lake, the striking caverns of Lewis and Clark Caverns, or reliving historic Montana in Virginia City.

Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway offers a beautiful, scenic drive to Yellowstone National Park, also known as “America’s Most Beautiful Highway”. The highway begins Southwest of Billings, Montana, in Red Lodge, and winds through Montana and Wyoming, ending around Cooke City, Montana.

Along the way, you will crest the mountains at almost 11,000 feet. There are many trailheads that offer scenic views, such as clear, blue creeks, lakes, small waterfalls, and stunning mountain views. Miles of trails connecting to each other also provide opportunities for all day hikes. There are also places where you can still snowshoe during summer months.

If you have brought along camping gear, there are about 17 campsites along the way to stop for the night. There is also Top of the World Resort that offers lodging, gas and souvenirs.

Canyon Ferry Lake

Canyon Ferry Lake is about thirty minutes outside of Helena, Montana’s state capital. It is the third largest lake in Montana, 27 miles long. Canyon Ferry was formed in the 50’s when the Missouri River Dam was built. There are many rustic campgrounds throughout the lake. There are also marinas which have showers, stores, and laundromats. Cabin rentals are also available.

Boats can be rented by the day or the hour, such as pontoons, canoes, and paddle boats to explore the lake. Make sure you visit Cemetery Island on the dam side near Yacht Basin Marina, only accessible by boat, and walk the path to see a cluster of early 1900’s gravesites. If you choose to rent a paddle boat, remember these are powered by your legs, like a bicycle, so don’t go too far where you can’t get yourself back on time to return your rental.

Canyon Ferry is home to many species of fish, including rainbow trout, perch, and walleye. There are also several less populated species of fish. If you choose to fish on Canyon Ferry Lake, some of the marinas offer fishing licenses along with everything you need to start fishing. Maps are also available so you can navigate your way along the lake.

Around the lake there are also dirt roads traveling through the gulches that offer beautiful drives through the mountains. Some roads may close due to weather. The roads can also be very narrow and some require trucks to travel. There are also some beautiful places to camp along the mountain roads. The gulches also offer creek fishing, hiking, and an opportunity to see some of the old mining equipment used during the Montana gold rush.

Lewis and Clark Caverns

Lewis and Clark Caverns is Montana’s first State Park. It is located between Three Forks and Whitehall, Montana, about 45 miles from Bozeman.

You can go on guided tours throughout the caverns which rise up 300 feet and descend around 600 stairs. It is in the caverns you can view the multiple limestone formations, some which seem to form eerie shapes.

There is a hike up the mountain trail to ascend to the opening of the Caverns where it can be very warm, but the weather in the Caverns stays around 50 degrees year round so make sure you bring a light jacket and wear comfortable shoes.

Virginia City Montana

Virginia City is one of Montana’s most preserved ghost towns. Virginia City began as a gold mining town in the mid 1800’s, but when gold was discovered in Helena’s gulches, it became almost desolate.

A steam locomotive can take you on an unforgettable ride through the countryside to Nevada City, another historic mining town. Throughout Virginia City, there are over 100 rustic buildings where you can view antiques and people portraying life in the Old West. There is also a Theater Show performed at certain times in the opera house. Next to the opera house, you can relax in the old style saloon and sip on some of Montana’s home made microbrews.

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