What is Montana known for?

Wilderness, Sapphires, and Cowboys are a few things we instantly correlate with Montana, but besides these, what is Montana known for?

Located in the USA’s Mountain West region, Montana borders four states: Idaho to the west, North and South Dakota to the East, and Wyoming to the south. It also has an international border with Canada to the North.

Montana earned two nicknames, “Big Sky Country” and “The Treasure State.” It is the 4th largest state in the Union but also the third least populous, which means it’s very sparsely populated.

Ten things Montana is known for


The mountains are so crucial to the state and its geography that the state was named after them. The name Montana comes from the Spanish “Montaña” which means mountains because of the prevalence of its mountainous geography.

Several mountain ranges are located in Montana, such as the Rocky Mountains, the Bitterroot Range, the Beartooth Mountains, and the Cabinet Mountains. At the same time, the highest peak is Granite Peak in the Beartooth Mountains, with an altitude of 12 799 feet (3 901 meters).

The mountainous landscape of Montana is also the setting for a few other things Montana is famous for, including the beautiful wilderness, wildlife, and several outdoor activities.

Montana’s mountains offer opportunities for hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities and are a major draw for tourists from around the world. Additionally, the state’s mountains and valleys provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep.

What is Montana known for
The Rocky Mountains in Montana, USA | photo by welcomia via Depositphotos

Wilderness and wildlife

What is Montana famous for? Most people immediately associate Montana with the wilderness and its vast and various wildlife. Despite the name origin, Montana is much more than mountains, and its wilderness areas range from the famous snow-capped mountains to prairies and anything else really.

The two most popular wilderness areas are undoubtedly Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, but there’s so much more than only these amazing National Parks.

Montana’s wilderness is famous for its abounding wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, bison, mountain lions, and many more. In fact, Montana is the state with the most native mammal species in America.

But, the biodiversity is more than just mammals. The rivers and lakes are also full of fish, particularly several trout species. Furthermore, it is also popular for bird watching as it is home to more than 400 species of birds, including bald eagles and mountain bluebirds.

The numerous wilderness areas and abundant wildlife make Montana a special destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering endless opportunities for exploring the great outdoors, as we explain below.

What is Montana famous for
Flowers in the Glacier National Park in Montana, USA | photo by tom@tnphoto.ca via Depositphotos

Outdoor activities

With its vast expanses of wilderness and a wide variety of wildlife, it’s no wonder why Montana became one of the most popular states among outdoor activities lovers.

The state’s mountains, national parks, and reserves are amazing for hiking and backpacking in Summer, skiing, and other snowsports in winter. The many rivers and lakes of Montana are also popular for fly-fishing, particularly of the rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.

Travelers looking for more adrenaline can explore the rivers for white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

Furthermore, Montana is also popular for hunting and horseback riding.

Glacier National Park

Located in Northwest Montana, by the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is about 1 million acres and includes two mountain ranges (Livingston Range and Lewis & Clark Range), 130 lakes, and endless rivers and streams.

The huge size is one of the main reasons why having a good Glacier National Park itinerary is essential, but it will also allow you to see many of the 1,000 species of planes and several hundred species of animals. It is one of the most pristine ecosystems in North America and the central piece of the larger and famous “crown of the continent ecosystem.”

Established in 1910 as a National Park, it now receives more than 3.5 million visitors annually. One of the most incredible features of this National Park is that it still preserves almost all of its native ecosystem, including large mammals (bears, moose, wolverines, and lynxes), hundreds of birds, and dozens of fish species.

Glacier NP borders Waterton Lakes NP (in Canada), and in 1932 the two parks became known as the first international peace park and known as the Waterton-Glacier Internacional Peace Park. In 1976, they became a UN Biosphere Reserve and, in 1995, a World Heritage Site!

Famous things about Montana
Glacier National Park in Montana in USA | photo by f11photo via Depositphotos

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is even more famous than Glacier NP. Established in 1872, it is the first national park to be created in the USA and is considered the first national park in the world. In 1978 Yellowstone was inscribed as a UNESCO heritage site.

Famous for its wildlife and geothermal features, Yellowstone is one of the most impressive natural wonders of America. Spanning an area of 3,468.4 sq mi (8,983 km2), it is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, comprising lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges.

However, we must clarify that Yellowstone extends through three states: Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. And the most significant part of the park is in Wyoming, not in Montana. Furthermore, many of the most famous elements, like the old faithful geyser and Yellowstone Lake, are in Wyoming.

Well known things about Montana
Yellowstone National Park | photo by f11photo via Depositphotos


What is Montana known for producing? Sapphires. Montana is one of the few places on Earth where sapphires can be commercially mined. Sapphire mining in Montana started in the late 1800s and peaked 1900s, and then declined through the 20th century. Since the 1980s, the industry has been resurging.

Montana’s sapphires are hugely popular among discerning clients because of their high-quality gemstones, natural beauty, and rarity. Their natural, rich blue color is particularly highly prized and used in Jewelry.

The Yogo Gulch area is the most famous region for high-quality Sapphire production in Montana and originates from the Yogo sapphire – the official state gemstone.

The treasure state

Sapphires aren’t the only treasure hidden in Montana’s lands. The state of Montana is famously rich for its abundant natural resources, including gold, silver, gemstones, copper, collar, and other minerals. This wealth became such an identifying factor of Montana that it earned the nickname “the treasure state.”

Initially, the most important and mined minerals were gold and silver. Montana’s gold rush began in the 1800s, and similarly to the states, it quickly became a hug for prospectors and miners looking for fortune.

Gold and Silver fueled the growth of Montana and the establishment of most of its towns, making the state one of the most important mining regions in the USA.

Even today, Montana is seen as a mining state, and an important part of its economy employs numerous workers and generates billions of USD.

Interesting things about Montana
Butte, a mining city in Montana in the USA | photo by cboswell via Depositphotos


The cattle and ranch business is another important part of Montana’s economy and culture. Many people may think of Texas when talking about cowboys, but the truth is that cowboy culture is very much alive in other states, particularly in Montana.

Besides the mountains and National Parks, Montana is also known for the wide open spaces, grassy plains, and rolling hills where ranches of all sizes flourish. This rugged terrain became a popular location for cattle ranching, creating a cowboy culture and a thriving rodeo culture.

Naturally, Montana has some of the largest and most successful cattle ranches in the USA, and its cowboys are renowned for their toughness, independent spirit, and abilities. They are deeply connected to the land and the animals they work with.

Montana’s cowboy culture greatly contributes to the state’s identity, charm, and character. Their popularity also brings people to experience this lifestyle, and many ranches now also offer the opportunity to ride horses and herd cattle and experience this culture firsthand.

Little bighorn battle

Another thing Montana is famous for is the Little Bighorn Battle, one of the most significant battles in US history. It took place on June 25, 1876, and was fought between a coalition of several US tribes and the U.S. Army, led by Lieutenant Colonel Custer.

Custer’s men attacked the Native Americans, but they completely overwhelmed the US army, killing Custer and all of his men, becoming one of the most important defeats of the US army in the Indian Wars.

For this, it is still remembered today, becoming a symbol of Native American resistance and still celebrated by their communities. However, it also significantly impacted US history as it impacted the relations between Native Americans and the US government.

As a consequence of losing this battle, the government renewed its efforts to control the Native American population. The battle site is a national monument today and offers a glance at this moment in US and Native American history.

Montana famous things
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana | photo by DonyaNedomam via Depositphotos

Flathead cherries

Another thing Montana is famous for producing is cherries, particularly flathead cherries. These cherries are produced in the Flathead Valley in northwestern Montana and are popular across the country for their flavor and juiciness.

It is surprising for many people how cherries can be grown in such a cold climate, but Flathead Lake has a warmer microclimate effect that enables the cherries to grow and flourish. It turns out that this area has an ideal climate to grow cherries, with warm days that are not too hot and crisp and cool nights that aren’t too cold.

The most popular cherries produced in Flathead Valley include Lapins, Sweetheart, Rainier, and Lambert cherries. You can find them everywhere in Montana, but also across the USA.

The triple divide

Located in the Lewis Range in the Glacier National, close to the Canadian border, the triple divide is the famous point where water flows into three different watersheds leading to three different oceans, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans.

This occurs because the water from this peak may flow to:

  • The west via the Columbia River System into the Pacific Ocean;
  • The East via the Sr. Laurence River System, into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic;
  • The North via the Mackenzie River system into the Hudson Bay and the Artic.

This does not mean that it is the source of the rivers. They are all elsewhere, but it marks where the watersheds intersect, making it an important or at least curious geographic landmark because precipitation can flow into any of the three oceans, depending on which watershed it enters.

For this reason, it is also a popular hiking and climbing destination. Besides the curious landmark, it also offers beautiful scenery and incredible views.

Facts about Montana
Glacier National Park in Winter, Montana | photo by Kamchatka via Depositphotos

Fun facts Montana is famous for

What is Montana known for? A lot of cool things, as we have seen above, but it is also home to some fun facts, curiosities, and fascinating records. Some of them are pretty well-known. Let’s examine some of them:

  • The first woman to be elected to the USA congress came from Montana. Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives in 1969.
  • The largest snowflake ever recorded was found in Montana. It had almost 15 inches!
  • Loma, Montana, has the record of the greatest temperature change in 24 hours. It went from -45ºF to 49ºF between the 14th and 15th of January 1972.
  • Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states. So, Only Alaska has more grizzly bears.
  • Helena, Montana, was once the city with more millionaires per capita worldwide. This was in 1888.
  • The USA bought most of Montana in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Rogers Pass, Montana, registered the coldest temperature ever in the contiguous states.
  • There are more elk, deer, and antelope than humans in Montana.
  • The official motto of Montana is in Spanish: “Oro y Plata.” And it translates to “gold and silver.”

* Cover photo by srongkrod481 via Depositphotos

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