12 Most Charming Small Towns in Montana

Martina Rosado
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Choteau

MT.

Choteau is a small historic town situated in the northwest corner of Montana. It’s the only community that is classed as a National Historic Landmark within the Lewis and Clark Fort Lemhi Pass National Historical Landmark.

The National Park Service opened this up to the public at 2 AM on June 23, 1961, but they closed it down at 2 AM on June 22, 2011. This is to coincide with the date of the start of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. The park was the third National Historic Site to open.

The town is a two-hour drive from Helena or an hour and a half from Missoula.

The town was settled in 1879 when Joseph Fendrich, Herman Prohn and Thomas Irwin founded the town with the help of the Church of Christ. They originally named the settlement Elba. In their rush to settle the town, they failed to notice that power poles had already been erected, so they renamed the town, Choteau.

A post office was opened on May 30, 1878 and the town was incorporated a few months later on August 30, 1880. This makes Choteau one of the oldest towns in Montana.

The town has 225 people presently living there. The Native Americans were the first settlers of Choteau and tradition claims their camp was by the Silver Bow River.

Stevensville

Stevensville is located 45 miles east of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191. It is the county seat of Stevens County. Located on Turtle Creek, it has a population of less than 500.

The town has a lovely courthouse that dates back to 1882.

While just a small town with a rich history, it holds a fascinating past. The town was first an important stopoff on the stagecoach route from Bozeman. In the 1850s, the town was visited by the great Lydia Field Emmett, the poet, who described the stagecoach stop as a “border outpost” and noted:

″Salt was the first commodity brought to Stevensville. Later came whiskey and saddle

Leather; then came stoves, seeds, buffalo robes, furs and cattle.”

Stevensville was also a popular stop for fur trappers.

Mountain man Joseph Reddeford Walker died here in 1876. Locals in Stevensville have erected signs to commemorate the journey that Walker took here from Montana to California.

It is now home to tour busses, quirky blacksmith shops and a brewery.

Butte

Mont.

Butte, Montana sits at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet, one of the highest points in the Continental Divide. Its topography spans nearly 124 square miles, making it one of the few cities in the state (known otherwise as the “Big Sky Country”) to be incorporated into a metropolitan statistical area.

It’s the largest city in the state with a population of just under 18,000 people.

Butte is the obvious starting place to reference the underground riches of America’s premier copper mining companies, specifically Anaconda Copper Mining. They began mining operations in Butte in 1881, and to this day, remain as one of the largest copper producers in the world.

The “Copper Kings” era of Butte history is considered to have been one of the most successful time periods for Butte. The wealth and prosperity that were created during this era helped the city to grow by a steady 7% to 9% annually.

Butte continued to grow exponentially during the 20th century, boasting industrial growth, robust tourism, and a unique architectural landscape that remains the historical focal point for many tours of the city.

Anaconda

Located in Carbon County and the Anaconda Valley, Anaconda’s population sits at 1,270. With all the confusion with the spelling of the word, you can understand the confusion about its location. The city is actually on the northwestern edge of Montana, excluding the federally designated Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

The current largest products mined at Anaconda include metals and minerals. Those include copper, manganese and an abundance of gold.

Throughout the years, Anaconda has had the distinction of being one of the three most important industrial producers of lead from the Colorado Mine Lease (the other two are Leadville and Butte, Montana).

In the heady days of mining, its population was second only to Butte. Anaconda had a population of 12,587 people in 1909.

The Anaconda Bullion Company began operations in 1909 and mined gold here in 1910. One of the mines, the Hibernia Mine, which operated from 1909 to 1921, was the largest single find of precious metals in Montana.

Ennis

Ennis, home to the Ennis Observatory, is known for its deep blue skies and midnight sun, and is cool in summer and warm in winter. The town, nestled in the western mountains, is a great place to get out into nature and appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Perhaps you’ll also want to learn more about the night sky and stargazing with the Ennis Observatory.

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the town of Ennis can be a retreat from the city. Situated at an elevation of 2,800 feet, the temperatures are cooler, it’s quieter and there’s little pollution.

In addition to that, the town of Ennis has a number of attractions to entertain visitors. The Gros Ventre Resort and Hot Springs nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the North Fork Cascade Lookout Tower and Lookout Center and the Ennis Golf and Fishing Club, which plays host to a number of tournaments throughout the year.

Ennis is a great family vacation with plenty to do, and along with those family activities, there’s also stargazing as a family option. Telescopes and tours of the observatory are open to visitors, and the Ennis Astronomical Society can be booked for presentations.

West Yellowstone

MT (Effort).

West Yellowstone has been steeped in tourism for quite a long time. The scenic beauty of the surrounding area, with the Yellowstone River, the mountains and the valley, is one of the things that West Yellowstone (aka WYS) is known for. Getting there has been a reason for travellers from around the world. It’s especially appealing because it is close to Yellowstone National Park… which offers walking trails, horseback riding, camping and many other fun activities.

The town’s better days have not been without their troubles, however. Back in the 1940s, fires raged across the region, wiping out a large portion of the community. Construction was then started on a 20-year effort to rebuild the town due, but the World War II attack on Pearl Harbour and other related attacks halted the project and traffic dropped off. The effort has since been restarted, this time with the help of a European investment group.

Polson

Small Town, Montana.

What could make the small town of Polson, Montana, even more charming than its adorable matching pairs of red and yellow houses? It’s the town’s claim to fame: the entrance to the Red Lodge Mountain Resort, one of the most beautiful ski areas in the United States.

And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of this small town is just about at that magical 1,500 mark, making it easy to walk every block. There’s also a grocery store, general store, coffee shop, and restaurant downtown, making it the ideal place to come home to after a day of enjoying the outdoors.

The Cove Creek Inn, a bed and breakfast, is another great place to come to recharge after your days of skiing or enjoying the mountain.

Bend, the largest city in the region, is less than three hours away, so you won’t have to spend the whole day commuting.

Big Timber

Montana.

With a population of just 2,600, Big timber is located just 40 miles south of Bozeman. Big timber is a great place to live for anyone who likes rugged but beautiful landscapes. Known as the gateway to several wildlife preserves, Big Timber also has a wide array of activities for residents to take part in, including summer camps for children which teach them about our diverse wildlife, aquatic programs, and even fishing programs that teach children about responsible fish rearing and other water polishing activities.

Big timber also has a number of parks and playgrounds, which are a wonderful way for families to spend a day outdoors. The town’s libraries are also a landmark in Big Timber. The Timmons Library has a total of 18 public access computers that are open to the public, but require a free library card to use.

Livingston

MT.

Livingston is a small town located in SW Montana. With a population of around 1,553 residents in 2009, it is the largest town located along the Northern Pacific Railroad in Montana. This charming little town is located in the beautiful region of grasslands which also takes in the nearby town of Superior. Livingston is a place much frequented by tourists that are looking to do some hiking and fishing. Livingston is a great place to stop for road trips.

There are many shops and restaurants to visit in this area of Montana. During the warmer months of the year, one can enjoy many walks along Lake Thomas near this town. There is a great walking trail that takes in beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding grasslands. The town of Livingston is also home to a paved and covered historic train station which offers a great view of the town and surrounding area. Also, this small town of Livingston has a great small movie theatre. Livingston is the kind of town where you can scope out a place to park and then simply take in the relaxing sights and sounds.

Big Sky

MT.

A tourist area that gets a lot of visitors, Big Sky is full of trails and opportunities for those that want to get off the highways. The area is home to The Big Sky Food and Wine Festival which attracts thousands of people every year.

When the area was first created, it was called "Big Sky. FM" and was known as a million-dollar construction site. Although it may be expensive, that has not deterred visitors from coming to this secret place in the south to work on their tan.

Two of the biggest things you will want to do is go sking or snowboarding. If you don’t feel like doing that, you can always go camping and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

In Big Sky, you will also find the Sun ‘n’ Sand Brewery & Restaurant. The Sun ‘n’ Sand Brewery offers the best view of the sunset in the Flathead Valley and has a seating area that overlooks the valley.

The restaurant offers a wide variety of different menu items from steak, seafood, pasta…you name it. The ambiance and the view are both a must visit, and the interior of the building is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal.

Libby

Montana.

If I had to describe Libby, Montana, in one word, it would have to be adorable. Libby is about 90 miles west of Billings. It’s so cute, you just want to squish it. There are many cute shops that you’re sure to fall in love with once you set foot in the town.

The Libby post office is one of the most famous landmarks in town. The Libby post office is known for its monumental size. It’s been a landmark at City Park since 1903. It’s been here since the town was founded in 1866.

The post office is the largest in Montana, with a whopping height of almost 30 ft. A fountain that separates the two doors of the post office is over 7ft tall.

Whenever I drive through the town, I always stop for a picture on the corner of Main and East Elm Streets. One of the most famous landmarks in town is no doubt the Libby Bank. It’s over one hundred years old. There’s even a time capsule in the (temporarily closed…) tower that you can see as you walk into the bank. When you go inside, you’ll see that it’s quite spacious.

Whitefish

Montana.

This small town is situated in the beautiful Flathead Valley with mountains stretching up to the sky on either side of it. Whitefish has a ski resort right at the edge of town and is home to lots of hikers and backpackers. Hiking and climbing is a big part of the lifestyle in Whitefish. The streams are particularly lovely, and the Flathead River runs through the middle of town. There are several outdoor outfitters around Whitefish if you want to take a group of hikers out to the Rock Creek Falls or into the wilderness of Glacier National Park. There are a few antique shops, but most of the shopping is done in the shadow of the mountain range. The base of the Seven Sisters ski lodge and the subsequent hiking and climbing trails provide the backdrop for a plethora of amazing views that you'll surely love. The Whitefish Mountain Resort attracts people from all over the world. If you visit this small town in Montana, you will have the chance to experience some of the best skiing and best scenery in the world.