The Wild West of dreams and the Hollywood big screen, Montana sprawls over a rugged and serene landscape. It's a haven for outdoor adventurers, where the wilderness scenery is only matched by the astonishing variety of wildlife. Part rough-and-tumble Rocky Mountains and part expansive prairie, the state is dotted by a handful of almost-modern cities -- more or less overgrown cow towns. You won't need to pitch a tent, however: Montana offers first-class Western-style lodges, as well as topnotch restaurants and museums.
Montana's largest city and shopping hub, Billings has a number of historic buildings undergoing restoration. Helena, a town centered on arts and politics, has a beautiful historic district filled with classic architecture. Bozeman and Missoula offer the hip charm and intellectual culture of college towns, with good bookstores and restaurants, charming shops, and cultural events appealing to both cosmopolitan and cowboy tastes.
Montana's Northwest Corner is a mythic land of snow-capped mountains, a barely explored wilderness peopled with the ghosts of trappers, mountain men, and Native Americans. Rolling hills, dusty bluffs and the occasional rock-walled canyon mark the plains of Eastern and North-Central Montana, the classic cattle-and-wheat domain of the American cowboy. Pristine South-Central Montana is a haven for hikers; the four big rivers that run through its valleys -- the Madison, Jefferson, Gallatin, and Yellowstone -- are a fly-fisherman's dream.
Eating and Drinking
Pull a seat up to the American West's great outdoor buffet. A trip to Montana is a unique opportunity to indulge in the bold, succulent flavors of big game: You don't typically find fresh bison, elk and venison on a big-city menu. Montana's rivers and streams yield a bounty of trout, sturgeon, walleye, and catfish. For something sweet, there's the huckleberry, a blueberry look-alike featured in jams and desserts like cheesecake.
Glacier draws millions to its soaring peaks, icy lakes and streams and multitude of wildlife. The park is surprisingly accessible thanks to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile scenic highway carved out of rock and ice in 1932. America's first national park, Yellowstone, has forests and high-altitude lakes but is probably best known for its spewing geysers and bubbling, boiling mud. Hike along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, a thousand-foot-deep, 24-mile-long gorge streaked in yellows and reds.