Montana might make the list as one of the country’s largest states, but it somehow manages to be one of the least populated which makes for a huge selling point.
Montana is known for its wide sweeping landscapes of untouched terrain and the abundance of wildlife that easily outweigh its human population.
And because of this, tourism in the state has skyrocketed with more people visiting this serene state each year.
So even though most cities in Montana would seem minuscule to states like New York or California, the influx of tourists plays a huge role in what is considered as “large”.
Furthermore, while these cities don’t have massive populations, they are large in the sense of outdoor recreation opportunities.
So check out this list of the fourteen largest cities in Montana where the populations may not be extreme but the land is plentiful and the tourism is ever-growing.
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Nestled along the breathtaking Yellowstone River, Billings has become the largest city in all of Montana.
But even with its 100,000+ residents, it doesn’t feel nearly as crowded as most of the country’s other big cities and you can thank the wind sweeping landscape for that.
This is also why Billings is considered a hub for adventurers looking to spend their time out in the wild mountain biking and hiking.
One of the most interesting geological features is the Rimrocks and there are plenty of hiking trails that take you along its sandstone cliffs overlooking the river.
Another great option for outdoor recreation is Billing’s Pictograph Cave State Park and it has been ranked as one of the best parks in the state so you won’t be disappointed.
Like the name suggests, Pictograph Cave State Park stretches out over twenty three acres and there are three massive caves that are home to thousands of artifacts.
The interpretive trail that takes you to the mouth of all three of these caves is less than a mile long and is accessible for just about anyone.
Make sure to keep a close eye out for the cave art that is peppered throughout the trail with a close encounter with petroglyphs you won’t find anywhere else in Montana.
Dive into some history at Moss Mansion where you can take a self guided tour to see what life was like for the rich during the early 1900s.
Stop by ZooMontana to help support the folks that dedicate their time to the care of animals like grizzly bears and wolves that are no longer able to live their lives in the wild anymore.
And the iconic Yellowstone National Park isn’t too far away so it makes a great starting point for an epic day trip.
Like most college cities, Missoula just keeps on growing and local establishments are constantly evolving to keep up with the young crowds.
But Montana has the magical ability to make even the busiest places feel relaxing and the city of Missoula is no exception.
You don’t have to go far to take in the city’s beauty and you’ll find most people enjoying their time on the Clark Fork Riverfront Trail.
This convenient trail runs right through the city and its smooth pavement makes it a sweet escape for hikers and bike riders alike.
And when it comes to hiking trails, the city has more than you could even imagine. This may come as a surprise considering it is such an established destination but the surrounding area is filled with mountains to explore.
One of the most popular trails is the “M” trail which is named literally for the giant “M” that is cemented into the side of the mountain.
But this is not what wins over the hearts of locals and tourists. No, what really draws people to this hike is the breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding valley once you reach the top.
There are also three other hubs for outdoor recreation and each boasts its own set of unique features. This includes Rattlesnake, Pattee Canyon, and Blue Mountain National Recreation Centers.
Swing by Caras Park to check out the latest event or just enjoy some time people watching as locals scurry throughout the downtown area.
And speaking of downtown, there is nothing quite like Missoula’s Hip Strip which is filled with charming boutiques, eccentric art galleries, trendy restaurants, cozy cafes and so much more.
3. Great Falls
Known for being one of the largest cities in Montana, Great Falls is the perfect destination to spend time with nature while also being close to all of the typical city luxuries.
There is no doubt that the most popular and eye-catching thing to do here is going for a walk along the River’s Edge Trail.
This scenic trail takes you right along the notorious Missouri River and stretches out over sixty miles to appease all skill levels.
There is no better way to travel from Great Falls’ busy downtown area to peaceful parks like Gibson Park and Giant Spring State Park.
Not to mention the spectacular views of The Great Falls of Missouri that give this vibrant city its name.
And if walking just isn’t your style, you will be happy to know that plenty of adventurers take to this trail on bikes, scooters, and rollerblades as well.
Stop by the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to learn more about how these historic figures traveled through this part of America.
Then head over to Sluice Boxes State Park for a less populated hike that takes you through a canyon and across creeks for a scenic day you’ll never forget.
Or opt for the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge for a picturesque day of bird watching and fishing across its 12,000 acres.
If you are flying into Montana, there is a pretty good chance you will be landing in Bozeman so you might as well stay awhile to take in its many wonderful sights.
And even though this place is as city as it gets, the undeniable charm of Montana’s great outdoors is never too far away.
There is even an entire trail system known as Main Street to the Mountains and provides hikers with an endless amount of options to make a quick getaway into the wild.
Not to mention the Custer Gallatin National Forest which is just a stone’s throw away offering visitors a plentiful amount of canyons and mountains to explore.
You don’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the Museum of the Rockies because it is filled with dinosaur fossils that were found right within the state!
And with the Montana State University right down the road, it’s no wonder that Bozeman’s downtown area is one of the liveliest places in Montana to hang out.
Hop between shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, and end each night with a nightcap at one of the many exciting bars.
Just make sure you get to Burke Park before dusk because there is no better place to watch the sunset over the city.
Once home to a bustling copper industry, Butte gained its title for one of the largest cities in Montana back in the early 1900s and has held its ground ever since.
Because of its rich background, Butte is overflowing with history, and the state has even gone as far as naming the entire city a historical landmark.
It is actually pretty impressive how the city houses over six thousand cultural sites while also providing the modern flare of city life.
With history around every corner, it should come as no surprise that there is a surplus of tour groups readily available to give guests the full experience.
The most popular company of the bunch is Old Butte Historical Adventures because they offer tours of Butte’s hidden underground life like the Rookwood Speakeasy and 1800s city jail.
But another great option for people unable to walk long distances is the Butte Trolley Tours which makes stops at every notable landmark around town.
And just because you have taken a tour of downtown doesn’t mean you should pass up an opportunity to visit the Museum of Mining.
Known as the capital of Montana, the lively city of Helena has a lot to offer and there is something to enjoy for all kinds of travelers.
You will find history everywhere you look, plenty of options for dining, and endless opportunities to escape into the great outdoors.
Make your first stop at the Montana State Capitol where you can appreciate some of the state’s history and admire the extravagant design of its interior.
Head over to the neighborhood of Last Chance Gulch to see where the city came to be and enjoy hopping between plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes as you dabble in its history.
It has been transformed into a pedestrian mall so you can explore at your leisure and there are some pretty cool highlights like the historic trolley car that sits at its center.
Go for a hike without ever leaving city limits at Mount Helena City Park where an abundance of trails stretches out over 600 acres.
The most popular of the bunch is the 1906 Trail because of its wide-sweeping views of the city but just because it’s less than two miles doesn’t make it an easy feat.
The trail climbs over one thousand feet in elevation making it a challenge for some, but there are plenty of other options to accommodate all skill levels.
Less than an hour away from the iconic Glacier National Park, it is no surprise that Kalispell has become the largest city in the northwestern part of the state.
Even though it is home to a large population of people, you would never be able to tell as there are so many places to escape into the wilderness.
But you won’t mind running into a few locals here because the city is known for its friendly atmosphere and all visitors are welcomed with open arms.
And since you are so close to Glacier National Park, it would be wrong not to go for a drive on the picturesque Going-to-the-Sun Road.
In fact, people travel from all over the country just for a chance to take in the views so prepare to be blown away without ever having to leave your car.
Another nearby wonder that you won’t want to miss is Flathead Lake and you can spend hours just taking in the beauty of its waters surrounded by towering mountains.
Once you have spent some time in the great outdoors, head down to Main Street where you will find a combination of historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s and trendy boutiques to explore.
Another Montana city rich in history is Anaconda thanks to a once booming mining industry that can still be observed all throughout the area.
The most important landmark here is the Anaconda Smelter Stack but due to its fragile state and historic significance visitors are unable to get too close.
The best way to get a glimpse of this piece of history is by visiting Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park where there are designated viewing platforms that provide unobscured views of the structure.
Or you could always get a view of the smelter stack while on one of the Anaconda Historic Bus Tours.
When you are not taking in the history, you have to go for a drive along the Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway for endless views of mountains, lakes, and more.
Not too far away is the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort so you can unwind after a long day and treat your body to an evening of rejuvenation.
Another nearby gem is Georgetown Lake and you can find people throughout the entire year enjoying activities like hiking, fishing, backpacking, and much more.
Its close proximity to other popular Montana cities like Butte makes it a great day trip or a place to rest your head in between adventures.
Known as a popular starting point for trips to Glacier National Park, the resort city of Whitefish leaves very little to be desired but the main attraction here is most definitely its abundance of outdoor recreation.
In the grand scheme of things, Whitefish is not an extremely large city but for the humble state of Montana, it is considered highly populated.
This may have something to do with the thousands of visitors it sees each year to tourist hotspots like Whitefish Mountain Resort.
The resort extends over 3,000 acres and its ideal skiing opportunities make the city a popular vacation destination all year round.
And even though this city is highly dependent on its constant flow of tourism, all of the shops that line the downtown area are completely locally owned.
So enjoy hours walking the quiet streets as you stop into places like charming little jewelry stores and cozy used book shops.
At the heart of the city, you will find the picturesque Whitefish Lake and the best way to take it all in is by going for a walk along the sandy shore of Whitefish City Beach.
The city is surrounded by wide sweeping landscapes that make for some of the best hiking adventures you will ever go on. Many of which will be located in the iconic Flathead National Forest.
The thriving city of Lewiston is Montana in a nutshell with rich history around every corner and outdoor recreation galore.
One of the best things you can do here is going on a walking tour throughout the city where you will hop between districts and admire a plentiful amount of historic sites.
The first stop on your tour is the Silk Stockings District where you can check out some of the most luxurious homes that were built in the early 1900s.
Next up is the Central Business District and it is here that you can see remnants of the historic buildings that once brought this city to prosperity.
Then swing by the Courthouse Square to explore the Fergus County Courthouse and City Hall building before making your way over to Judith Place where the middle class lived during this time.
The Central Montana Museum does a great job of explaining how all these little neighborhoods tie together and the significance they have to the state’s history.
Support local artists with a visit to the Lewistown Art Center, learn about the process of the Big Spring Trout Hatchery, and go for a scenic hike along the Lewis and Clark Trail.
When you are not busy exploring the city’s many attractions, consider spending some time relaxing on any of the city’s ponds for a peaceful evening of fishing.
In fact, Lewiston is one of the best places in the country to catch trout and has even been labeled as a blue ribbon destination that attracts visitors from near and far.
Just make sure you save time to stuff your face with a slice of mouthwatering pie from Brooks Market & Deli or enjoy a couple of drinks at Big Spring Brewing.
A big city in Montana’s eyes, Glendive is one of the most unique places you will visit in the state and that is mainly because it’s a hub for dinosaur discovery.
The city is a Paleontologist’s dream and some of the many dinosaur fossils that have been found in the area can be admired at the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum.
So many fossils have been discovered here that Glendive soon became home to the largest dinosaur museums in the country.
One step inside will leave you mesmerized as you are welcome by the bones of t-rex standing nearly fifty feet tall.
But this isn’t the only dinosaur related museum in the city! The Frontier Gateway Museum is just as interesting and takes a different approach to educate its visitors.
This museum is completely free of charge and you can spend hours walking amongst the many exhibits located both in and outdoors.
And while you’re at it, you should definitely stop by the visitors center to grab a Dinosaur Trail Passport so you don’t miss any of the exciting stops in the area.
But the main attraction is undoubtedly Makoshika State Park which is not only the largest state park in the state but is also the location where most of the fossils have been discovered.
Paleontologists even believe that there are more fossils waiting to be uncovered which would only add to the ten species already documented.
There are plenty of hiking trails for visitors to explore but if you only have time for one, make it the Diane Gabriel Trail.
This trail is short in length but packs a punch as it climbs up a mountain to breathtaking views of badlands and the remnants of a dinosaur fossil.
Start each morning with a tasty breakfast at Bloom & Vine paired with a locally roasted cup of coffee and end each night with a rotating selection of microbrews at The Gust Hauf.
Nestled along the edge of Flathead Lake, Polson has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its natural beauty and with a population of 5,000 people, it’s pretty big in Montana’s eyes.
Much of the activities you’ll find here revolve around the lake in some way or another and even fun events like the Flathead Lake Cherry Festival thrive because of its presence.
With that being said, the most obvious choice for enjoying your time in Polson would be by taking a boat out on Flathead Lake.
You could easily spend all day exploring the endless waters with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and fishing opportunities aplenty.
If you don’t have a watercraft of your own, you’ll be happy to know that there are multiple marinas offering rentals so you can make the most of your time.
All around the edges of the lake you will see campers setting up their tents and hikers setting out on grand adventures.
And just when you think the views can’t get any better, you will be amazed by the Kerr Dam which stands over 200 feet tall with fourteen openings that send gushing waters pouring down.
Right off the lake, you will find a bustling downtown area filled with restaurants, bars, and shops that will keep the influx of tourists busy for weeks.
Grab lunch at Cherries BBQ Pit for some of the best slow-cooked pulled pork you will ever have because the menu starts selling out by dinner.
To make room for dessert, browse charming shops selling things like artisan goods and works of art before making your way over to Scoops Ice Cream Shack.
And then end your night off right at Salish Point Park where you can watch the sunset over the water in serene silence.
Tucked away at the foot of the Bitterroot Mountains, Hamilton doesn’t have the largest population but it makes up for it with the thousands of tourists that visit each year.
While much of the city is focused on outdoor recreation, the continued growth of tourism has led to a variety of other attractions to keep visitors constantly busy throughout their stay.
Take a tour of the Daly Mansion to see how the wealthy owners of the nearby mining industries lived their lives in the late 1800s.
Fly fishing is all the craze in Montana and there is no better place to do it than Bitterroot River and there are even guides available to help beginners get started.
Since the city is surrounded by the Bitterroot National Forest and its many mountains, it is no wonder that there is an overflowing amount of hiking trails to choose from.
But Lake Como is another great place to go for a hike and allows visitors to cool off in its crystal clear waters after a busy day in the wilderness.
The downtown area is designed with the hungry hikers in mind so there is no shortage of places to grab a quick bite or enjoy a hearty meal.
There are even fine dining options like Taste of Paris for those nights when you feel like splurging or spending a romantic evening with your significant other.
Another popular city located on the iconic Flathead Lake is Bigfork and it only seems to be getting larger by the year.
As outdoor travel continues to grow in popularity, so does Big Fork thanks to its close proximity to Glacier National Park and quick access to the lake.
Its ideal location makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state and the abundance of activities will have you coming back for years to come.
Considering the tens of thousands of people who visit each year, the Big Fork Village always gives off laid back vibes and the humble storefronts welcome you to explore.
Much of the town is made up of local artists and there always seems to be new art galleries popping up all throughout the city for visitors to enjoy.
Go for a hike on the Wild Mile Trail to get up close and personal with river rapids and enjoy the many vistas you’ll see on your four mile journey.
And of course,its you can’t go wrong with spending your day on the water whether it be partaking in some world-class fishing, paddling around in a kayak, or trying your hand at some SUP boarding.