Nicknamed the "Treasure State," Montana definitely offers up a treasure in the 50+ Montana state parks areas with its eclectic mix of valleys, mountains, plains, forested areas, badlands, canyons, and even caverns! Montana state parks encapsulate the spirit of the people as well as the history of the land, culture, and active outdoor pursuits. Because the state is the fourth largest in land mass in the nation, the best way to choose a state park to visit is by selecting the type of outdoor entertainment you wish to pursue.
Nature parks within the state system focus on what Mother Nature created like the geological formations, wildlife habitation, the ecology, and breathtaking views. Cultural Montana state parks depict life in the state's historic past from old ghost towns and Native American pictographs to past battlefields, forts and old settlements. When it comes to recreation like fishing, swimming, water skiing, camping, boating, and hiking, the state parks provide an exceptionally good time sure to please virtually everyone.
If the old mining days of the 1800s grab your interests, you might want to visit Sluice Boxes State Park. With a striking limestone canyon, a tumbling stream and remnants of old mines, cabins and a railroad plain to see, you can almost imagine the prospectors gambling their lives for their share of silver. Fishing is available as is wildlife sightings and even primitive camping offerings.
The first park established in the Montana state parks system and definitely one of the most popular, the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is a precious jewel in nature's crown. The limestone caverns offer several hours of exploration through guided tours and sightings of flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites. The hiking trails are just challenging enough for big outdoor enthusiasts and the camping facilities are a great home base if you plan to visit other state parks in the area too.
Montana state parks provide outdoor aficionados plenty of opportunities to commune with nature and indulge in such activities as swimming, boating, fishing, camping, and more. At Cooney State Park, you can land some good size rainbow trout and walleye if you are a good angler. Take a jet ski or pull along inner tubers in your boat during the warmer summer months and consider cross country skiing and ice fishing in the winter time. With four campgrounds around the lake here, every place in the state park is a prime one.
Located in Montana's Glacier country is Thompson Falls State Park which contains a river and a reservoir perfect for fishing and boating, and the camping and nature walks are also quite appealing. Wayfarers State Park is a great place for nature lovers with the expanse of wildflowers in the warmer months along with excellent views of the lake and great hiking opportunities along the craggy shoreline and cliffs.
Montana state parks are rich in the cultural heritage of the Native American Indians as well as the days of Lewis and Clark and mining expeditions. You can capture some of the spirit of this heritage by visiting one of the many state parks that offers a glimpse into the history of days gone by. Ghost towns always seem to be a popular venue and there are several of them in the state park system. Bannack State Park is the most popular and it is registered as a historic landmark. The gold rush was rampant in this part of the state and the town swelled to several thousand people in its heyday. Today, over 50 buildings still stand in good stead providing a look into the past. There are campgrounds and other activities as well to fill the days.
Pictograph Cave State Park is another national historic landmark due to its thousands of artifacts found here. You can traverse different trails that will allow you to see the pictographs in several caves. Along the Lewis and Clark trail, there are seven different locations in the Montana state parks system and the most popular is Giant Springs State Park. A huge freshwater spring is on site, you are guaranteed to see an abundance of wildlife. In fact, this park is a huge favorite for bird watchers as well as those who appreciate the views seen from the biking and hiking trails.
Gorgeous with its many diverse geological areas, Montana truly earns the "Treasure State" nickname. Visit any of the Montana state parks and you will likely never get your fill of all the cultural, natural and sporting activities the state has to offer.