Exploring Montana in an RV

With over 50 state parks, 2 crown jewels of the National Parks System, and nearly 150,000 square miles to explore, it’s no wonder that Montana has become a popular destination for travelers. With Montana’s convenient tax free vehicle registration and overall friendliness to RV and travel trailer owners, it’s also no surprise that RV’ers are leading the movement to “the last best place.” But with so many great destinations also come an abundance of choices for your journey, making it difficult to decide what to see and what to skip while you RV Montana, especially for those less familiar with the state. Thankfully, the trusted advisors at Heggen Law Office have just as much—if not more—advice for exploring our great state as they do for protecting your assets. Here’s some of our best advice for your next visit to the state we’re proud to call “home.”

  1. Set aside enough time. Whether you plan to explore the whole state or just a region, Montana requires some precious time. As the fourth largest of all 50 states, even driving from one major town to the next often requires a two-hundred or so mile road trip. If you are hoping to visit both National Parks, you’ll not only want to dedicate a generous amount of time to both, but also to all of the local attractions and beautiful scenery in between. Spend a weekend at Flathead Lake, America’s largest mountain lake, or hike to Crystal Lake, lined with wild huckleberries and filled with trout, in the Seeley/Swan area. Both can easily be accessed after leaving Glacier—depending on which routes you take—and any local will tell you that the chance to spend a few days relaxing in either of these areas is well worth your time.
  2. Take advantage of the privately owned RV parks. By camping outside of the parks and exploring them during the day, you’ll not only optimize the time you spend seeing different things but will also have a lot more freedom during your trip. While camping inside the parks can be a great experience, especially if you’re less concerned with amenities, they require a good amount of fore-planning for reservations, likewise requiring you to keep a more rigid itinerary while traveling. What’s more, though you can find proper spacing for big rigs, most park campgrounds are designed with smaller travel vehicles in mind.
  3. Know when to plan ahead. For instance, if you are determined to stay in a National Park, you’ll want to make sure that all of your reservations are in order. Even then, be prepared to squeeze for space and be friendly with neighbors, especially if you’re visiting in the busy months. It’s also a good idea to plan ahead for gas stations, especially if your rig requires diesel, as it is always possible to find yourself in the middle of the state with no signs of life, let alone gas, on the horizon.
  4. Know when to forget your plans. While there’s no denying that proper preparation prevents a poor performance, giving your itinerary control over your journey is hardly the best way to experience Montana’s unique beauty. Instead, give yourself the freedom to enjoy the unexpected. Thankfully, regardless of what adventures have disrupted your well-thought out travel plans, Montana is chock-full of beautiful RV sites and campgrounds, so you can trust that even if you missed your reservation, you’ll always have some place to park your home.
  5. Get on the river. Montana is home to a number of beautiful lakes but connecting these bodies of water are the rivers that make Montana the true beauty it is. Whether you’re in the Missoula area, enjoying the Clark Fork, the Blackfoot, or the Bitterroot; near Billings, rafting the Yellowstone; in Great Falls, fishing the Missouri; or any number of the beautiful rivers in between, you’re sure to have an exciting and rewarding experience. Professional guide services can outfit you with any equipment you might need, in addition to a wealth of local knowledge to ensure your experience is both safe and fun.
  6. See a ghost town. While it’s difficult to tally the true number of ghost towns that dot the treasure-state, Montana contains as many as 60 notable ghost towns. Particularly noteworthy, are Garnet and Bannack, which easily allow travelers to step back in time to the first days of the gold rush. Exploring this frontier environment not only gives travelers a good sense of the dedication required to establish the West, but also of the simplistic beauty that continues to capture our collective imagination.
  7. Honor Montana’s history. See the Jesuit missions, St. Ignatius and St. Marys, or go even further in time, to the history that reigned before missionaries or trappers ever set foot in the Rocky Mountains. Visitors can experience the First People Buffalo Jump, near Great Falls, visit the Crow Agency to learn about the Battle of Little Bighorn, or visit the People’s Center of Pablo, South of Flathead, to learn more about the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes. Go even further in time at Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies, to see the largest collection of excavated rex in the world. Or fast-forward to one of the last legs of Lewis and Clark’s trail before arriving at the Pacific Ocean.
  8. Eat an elk burger. Or try some Rocky Mountain Oysters! But honestly, both are readily available depending on which time of year you visit the state. While Montana’s Testy Fest is full of annual, NSFW fun at the beginning of August, many burger stands operate throughout the season and are much more family friendly than the notorious Testy Fest. Stop at the burger shack in Moiese while visiting the National Bison Range or, if you’re on the other side of the state, West Yellowstone boasts a number of bison and elk burger joints. If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth, stop by Historical Phillipsburg’s Sweet Palace along the Pintler Scenic Bi-way for some pulled taffy or any other number of traditional penny candies.
  9. Hit up a hot spring. Dotted throughout the state are a number of natural hot springs—some developed into resorts, other’s requiring short hikes to reach the pools. Perhaps best known of all is Mammoth Hotsprings, located in the Northwestern section of Yellowstone National Park, just across the state border into Wyoming.   Or if you’re looking for a more adventurous experience, swim down the Boiling River located nearby. In addition to Yellowstone, you can easily find both undeveloped as well as commercial hot springs throughout the state. For instance, several undeveloped hot springs can be found near the Butte area in addition to the family-friendly Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
  10. Pretend you’re a local. On your journey through the state, you’re bound to drive through a number of towns, of varying sizes and cultures, but one thing many of them have in common is a thriving local community. Visit the local farmer’s markets or any number of outdoor festivals whether you’re in Whitefish or Billings, Big Arm or Choteau. Enjoy a drink from any of the craft-breweries and distilleries that line the state. Or hike any number of local trails, easily accessible and close to most city-centers. Whatever your interests, the local communities have many great options.

With so much to explore, it’s no wonder that many RV’ers and travelers are drawn to the state. And while it’s up to each one to make the most out of their journey, we hope this list gives you a clearer idea of all the best Montana has to offer.  Enjoy exploring Montana in your RV!