There’s a lot of history and epic natural beauty in Montana, so it’s no wonder that there are plenty of national parks to discover here. Whether you’re interested in wildlife or origin stories, these national parks will keep you busy no matter what your tastes are!
The first national park in the US, Yellowstone, encompasses 2.2 million acres of wild landscape. It’s home to hydrothermal features, geysers and waterfalls that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
In 1877, the Nez Perce fought a delaying action against the 7th Infantry Regiment here on August 9 and 10, during their failed attempt to escape to Canada. This action, the Battle of Big Hole, was the largest battle fought between Nez Perce and Government forces during the five-month Nez Perce War.
Early in August, nearly 750 non-treaty Nez Perce Native Americans traveled through the Bitterroot Valley and arrived at ickumcile*likpe (now Big Hole National Battlefield). Their leaders believed they would be safe here as they were fleeing military forces.
However, they were surprised by the military on the morning of August 9, 1877. They were attacked and slaughtered.
The Big Hole National Battlefield preserves the site of this historic battle and is a great place to learn about the events that happened here. The park is open year round and is a must see for anyone interested in history.
If you’re looking for a true hidden gem on the Great American West, look no further than Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Southeastern Montana. The park is a treasure trove of breath-taking scenery, countless varieties of wildlife, and endless recreational opportunities.
The lake and steep-sided canyons offer a place of solitude and serenity. Visitors can explore wildlife, hike, boat, kayak, and photograph the spectacular sandstone cliffs.
As you cruise or paddle through the canyon, it’s hard to believe that this land was once a roaring river carved into a deep gorge. Now, it’s a 71-mile long, awe-inspiring lake winding between sandstone cliffs that change colors with the light.
The renowned Yellowtail Dam, built in 1968, forms the lake and generates hydroelectric power. It also provides water for irrigation and flood control.
Fort Union Trading Post is a national historic site that preserves the history of a unique period of American history. It’s a time when Indian tribes and white traders found common ground and developed a mutually beneficial trade relationship that flourished during the 1828 to 1867 period.
During this time, the Upper Missouri River tribes, particularly Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Mandan, and Hidatsa, traded buffalo robes, meat, corn, beans, squash, and other goods. In exchange, Europeans brought new foods and tools, metal for projectile points, and new fabrics for clothing and blankets.
In addition to native peoples, the post was visited by explorers and artists who came to study the region’s natural wonders and document the peoples. These included George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, and Prince Maximilian of Wied. Their sketches and paintings became a primary resource of scientific knowledge for future generations.
Travelers’ Rest State Park and National Historic Landmark is one of the most celebrated sites along the Lewis and Clark Trail. It’s the only campsite on the trail that has archaeologically verified evidence of the Corps of Discovery’s visit, and it’s also a significant historical and cultural crossroads in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley for the Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Nez Perce Indians.
In 2002, archaeologists uncovered several items that confirmed the Corps of Discovery’s presence at Travelers’ Rest, including a trench latrine tainted with mercury and fire hearths. The site was then formally designated a National Historic Landmark, and it is now an important tourist attraction for Lolo, attracting 20,000 visitors each year.
The Park and its Interpretive Program are based on three intertwined stories: the Corps of Discovery; the Salish people; and the natural history that shaped the area. Thousands of school children come to the park for field trips every year and community members serve as guides and interpreters.