Come on over to Montana! This state is known for its diverse and picture-perfect terrain, including natural landscapes like the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Montana is also famous for its mountains—it boasts more than 300 peaks—and panoramic wide-open spaces like the immense wilderness preserve, Glacier National Park. Plus, this is the only state featuring a triple divide: water from the Triple Divide Peak flows into the Pacific, Atlantic, and Hudson Bay. Also known as the Treasure State—due to its history of silver and gold mining—Montana is one of the best places for the great outdoors, with over 170 state parks and public lands. Montana is also the perfect place to retire and has lots of affordable cities for your new home.
If you’re looking to move to Montana, let’s browse the five best cities in the state.
5 Best Places to Live
First up in our guide is Montana’s capital city, Helena. Originally founded as a gold camp during the gold rush, this city shines brightly. Helena is a robust and buzzy city, but it’s also a natural wonder, as it has over 60 natural hot springs and 15 commercial hot springs. For outdoor and holistic enthusiasts, it’s the best. This conservative-leaning city has three popular suburban hubs: Southeast, Central, and Euclid Avenue South. While it has the lightest rainfall on the list (13 inches per year), Helena is certainly a snowy, wintry city that tops out at 42 inches of snow annually. The sunshine per capita is 189 days a year. With a population of just over 30,000, it has four hospitals and just two school districts with nine schools. This city is also a popular tourist spot for folks traveling between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Got a pet? You’re in luck, there are over 58 pup-approved spots, too.
Nice to meet you, Missoula! A hub of arts, culture, and all things outdoors (P.S. There are 20 miles of bike lanes). With an art museum, a carousel, and surfers (yep, really—there’s a man-made wave called Brennan’s Wave), there’s much to explore in the downtown area. Plus, kick back and relax in Missoula’s happening suburbs: Rose Park, Lewis and Clark, and Lower Rattlesnake. A moderately liberal city, Missoula encompasses outdoor exploration, craft breweries, nightlife, a farmers market, and even a few ghost towns for historical tours. If you’re considering a move to this city, note that it’s rather snowy (53 inches per year), but lighter on rain (17 inches). It’s not always sunny in Missoula; it Missoula clocks in 158 days of sunshine or not even six full months. From hiking and nature trails to getting a cold brew or a bite to eat, there are over 100 spots to hang out with your furry friend.
The biggest city in Montana—Billings—has plenty of adventures and things to see. This spot is also known as City Beneath the Rimrocks, and it might just be the brightest (sunniest) ranking on this list. Billings charts 205 sun-filled days per year but sees its fair share of rain and snow in the colder months (14 and 46 inches, respectively). What else makes this city fun and an ideal place to live? There are so many eye-catching sites to visit, including the Moss Mansion, pictographs in Cave State Park, national monuments, and other public lands. With over 100,000 residents, there’s quite a bit of infrastructure as well, with 40 schools and five hospitals. Animal lovers rejoice: There are 74 pup-friendly spots to explore, including dog parks, trails, and pet-welcoming businesses.
4. Great Falls
Historic art shapes the city of Great Falls, Montana. It’s also known for the C.M. Russell Museum, an artist famous for images of the American West. There’s more—the Electric City is also home to seven other museums, including the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, which is known for contemporary works. The moderately conservative Great Falls is home to the shortest river (Roe) and the largest freshwater spring (Giant Springs). And that’s not all; the 57,000 residents can take part in a performing arts theater, and outdoor activities by the Missouri, Sun, and Roe rivers. Compared to other cities, it’s a bit sunnier (188 days per year), and its rain and snowfall are higher than in other regions (14 and 58, respectively).
Step right into the largest city in northwest Montana: Kalispell. The city is a blend of larger-than-life nature and a historic downtown district. With a vibrant commercial center, its 24,000 residents are privy to the Conrad Mansion and the Hockaday Museum of Arts, which highlights Montana artists. The city is known for long and cold but snowy winters (there are about 56 inches of snowfall each year); snow falls from late October or early November until late March. If you’re an avid snow lover, this city is just the ticket. A strongly conservative city, Kalispell has six school districts (with 21 schools), and five hospitals. If you’re looking at year-round climates, Kalispell has typical dry summers, and many hiking and nature trails to explore throughout the seasons. Glacier Commons, East Side, and Stillwater Estates are some of the most popular suburbs. This town is rather dog-friendly, with a combined 69 hotels and restaurants.