The Best Time of Year to Visit Montana - Breaking Down Each Season
Updated: Jan 7
When is the Best time to visit Montana?
Montana is an amazing place filled with beautiful scenery, nature, exciting outdoor activities and amazing food. It is home to some of the best natural wonders in the world like Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. Millions of people visit Montana every year and you might consider being one of them. A lot of people that are inquiring about staying at Mount Forge ask me the same question; "When is the best time to visit Montana?"
I’ve visited Montana during every month and we have guests staying at Mount Forge year round that have told us their experiences. This article goes through each season outlining the pros and cons of each of them to help you plan your trip to Montana.
Summer (July to Labor Day)
Summers in Montana are beautiful with temperatures frequently being from 70F-90F. The days are long (15+ hours of daylight) so you can do lots of summer activities.
Hiking & Glacier National Park
If you’re looking to go hiking or visit some of the popular high elevation destinations like Glacier National Park, July or August are your best bet here. There are trails that are inaccessible 10 months out of the year due to weather and snow conditions. If you're planning a bucket list trip to hike and stay at the Sperry Chalet, then July and August are the months for you.
Summer is a blast on Flathead Lake, there's nothing like being on a pontoon in the middle of the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. The water is warm enough to swim (which only happens in August really, unless you're a little nuts). Also summer is a great time to spend a day fishing. Camping is also a blast during the summertime, there's so many campgrounds on Flathead Lake & in Glacier National Park.
In July & August all seasonal vendors & services are open. Things like whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and more are best during the summer (make reservations in advance!) There’s tons of events like the local rodeos, Flathead Cherry Festival, and outdoor beer gardens and bars.
This is the most popular time of the year so there will be larger crowds in popular destinations. If you want to have the best experience, you can expect to do things like waking up early to get parking spaces in national parks and at trailheads. Trails are busier with hikers and attractions such as museums become more crowded.
Generally services like guided tours or excursions are more expensive in the summertime due to increased demand. Campgrounds, hotels, and Airbnbs are usually fully booked, we strongly recommend making reservations a year in advance.
July and August are the peak months for wildfires in Montana. Wildfires commonly cause road closures & air quality issues. Always be aware of the wildfire updates before you travel. Do everything you can to prevent wildfires by practicing fire safety measures.
Fall (Labor Day through Mid-November)
Fall in Montana is an amazing time of year, the fall colors are remarkable if you catch it at the right time. After labor day crowds start to slow down, but early September weather is still really nice. Reservations at hotels & Airbnbs are easier to get and more affordable. Meanwhile, most hiking trails are all still accessible.
Even into October, a lot of hiking and trails in Glacier National Park are still accessible. Every now and then you'll get some summery warm days, but overall you'll see mild temperatures generally.
By November snow has started to fall in the mountains but lower level hiking is still beautiful. If it snows enough, even some winter activities begin to become available.
In the fall the weather can be a bit more unpredictable. It's no surprise to have a warm day and a snowstorm in the same week. Wildfires can still be prevalent into September. Lastly, most tourist attractions, seasonal businesses, and excursions start to become closed for the year.
Winter (December - March)
We purposely make a trip to Montana every winter just for the winter activities. Skiing & snowboarding season usually starts in December. One of my favorite winter activities is snowmobiling. Montana has hundreds of miles of groomed trails specifically meant for snowmobiles. The state is also known for ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. These activities are some of the best things that Montana has to offer year round.
Due to decreased crowds in the wintertime you can often find discounts as places like Mount Forge try to fill out their calendars during the off-season. This also means if you go to places like Glacier National Park you might just have the entire place to yourself!
Montana people are known as strong, tough, and rugged humans who can endure anything. That reputation comes a lot from the weather. Sweeping winter winds across the plains and massive snowfall accumulations add up to some of the most intense winter weather in the world. Temperatures can get ice cold, it can be very windy, and snowstorms can shut down highways and accessibility. We always advise people to rent a 4x4 vehicle, without one your chances of getting stuck are very high.
If you’re used to handling the cold then none of this should be a concern for you!
Spring (April - June)
In my humble opinion, spring might be one of the best times to go to Montana. Everything starts to turn green in April and May. The water on Flathead Lake starts to slowly rise as the snowpack melts, and if you're lucky you can get some amazing warm days to take a boat on the lake. Fishing is also amazing during the spring time as the shallow waters are still cold enough to catch some big ones!
Glacier National Park starts to open back up as the plowing if Going-to-the-Sun Road commences, and even on the rare year you can get to Logan Pass by late May (that hasn't happened since 2005 though). Not to mention that things are still more affordable Pre-Memorial Day before the tourism season picks up!
The weather can still be unpredictable, we’ve had snowstorms in May and 75 degree days in April. The water in places like Flathead Lake are still way too cold to swim (unless you're crazy!) A lot of hikes are still inaccessible, and not all seasonal businesses are open yet.
In closing, there really isn't a bad time to visit Montana. If you're planning on traveling to Montana, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for restaurants, hikes, and everything else we've found to be amazing about the Big Sky State!