These are the best times to go to Montana for your ideal outdoor adventure.
By Evie Carrick – Updated on September 14, 2023
Montana is best known for its wide-open vistas and expansive wilderness. It is a state built for adventurers — be that adventure on snow, trail, or waterway. Montana’s two high seasons, winter and summer, couldn’t be more opposite. Winters are long and snowy, drawing visitors who want to ski powder-covered mountains, while summers are colorful, with long, sunny days and cool nights. In fact, Mandy Hotovy, the general manager at The Wilson Hotel in Big Sky, Montana, says, “There’s a saying here in Big Sky that ‘people come for the winter and stay for the summer,’ and I would agree with that.”
For a quieter visit with fewer crowds (and often lower rates), plan your trip for one of the two shoulder seasons. “For those looking to enjoy a visit to one of our mountain towns, or to head up to Glacier National Park, come out in spring or fall,” advised Steven Boldt, who is the head of digital tools at RightOnTrek, a company based near Glacier National Park that helps people plan backpacking trips with gear rentals and dehydrated meal plans.
To determine the best time to visit Montana for your travel goals, let’s start with some basic information about the state’s tourism seasons:
- High Seasons: December to March and July to September
- Shoulder Seasons: April to June and October to November
Here are the best times to go to Montana for fewer crowds, beautiful weather, and more.
Best Times to Visit Montana for Smaller Crowds
In Montana, it’s noticeably quieter in the spring and fall. Once the ski areas close in early spring, a wonderful, crowd-free quiet descends on most ski towns. And in the fall, when the kids go back to school and the weather begins to cool off, hikers need only to pack an extra layer to enjoy the wide-open trails. Just be aware that some outfitters, hotels, and tour operators will close during the shoulder seasons, so you’ll want to double-check opening dates before you travel.
If you have your heart set on Yellowstone National Park, Hotovy says, “Our ‘secret season’ is the shoulder season. May through June and September through October are some of the best times to visit. Visitation in the park is lower and allows for a more intimate experience when seeing Old Faithful or spotting wildlife.”
Best Times to Visit Montana for Good Weather
If your idea of good weather is a powder day, plan your trip between December and March, when ski areas like Big Sky see up to 60 inches of snow a month on average. December and January are typically the state’s snowiest months, but they’re also the coldest, with temperatures rarely climbing past 30 degrees in most areas. Personal preference can help you decide whether you’d be better off in these maximum-powder months or later in the season, when there’s plenty of snowfall but slightly more comfortable temperatures for any time that you don’t spend working up a sweat on the slopes.
If you have your heart set on sunny, blue skies and warm weather, visit between July and September. Hotovy says visitors in this season can enjoy “longer, warmer days that allow for more time to recreate outdoors, al fresco dinners, and gorgeous sunsets.” September can be especially nice. Temperatures are mild — in Bozeman, for instance, they tend to top out in the low 70s — and, by mid-month, fall foliage will be on display in many parts of the state.
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