The Best Places to Go Camping in Montana

Theres a lot of open space to camp in Montana, including on lakeside mountains
There's a lot of open space to camp in Montana, including on lakeside mountains | © David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
Doug ONeill

You’ll be within driving distance of Yellowstone National Park and the crescent-shaped Horseshoe Hills in the silver-mining towns, backcountry ranches and alpaca farms that are home to the best camping in Montana – all bookable on Culture Trip.

The Rocky Mountain state of Montana is America’s fourth-largest state in terms of size. That means there’s a lot of space to camp, including high-mountain lake settings, national forests, expansive parks and remote retreats reached only by dusty backroads. While Big Sky Country has a lot of prairie, 25 percent of the state is thick with forests, providing varied places to pitch up – from the borderlands of Yellowstone National Park to Old West towns in the Horseshoe Hills.

1. Clancy

Architectural Landmark

Star Lake and tree-lined Sheep Mountain in the Beartooth range near Cooke City, montana
© john lambing / Alamy Stock Photo

The geological formations that draw rock climbers to the Jefferson County former mining town of Clancy (population: 2,100) are eye-candy for campers and hikers. Sheep Mountain, for example, beckons with its massive boulders, stone pinnacles, granite cracks and imposing rock face. Campers typically make a day trip to the abandoned silver camps of the Lump Gulch that gave Clancy its start.

2. Happy Trails


Large wooden lodge with green canopy roof amid lush green trees and forested hills at Happy Trails
Courtesy of Happy Trails / Tentrr

Don’t be an ass: keep your dog on a leash as campkeeper RayLynne has canine-averse mules on her 20-acre (8ha) property. Rustic western camping means you can bed down in a cozy canvas tent in a ponderosa pine forest with a view of Wolf Mountain. Indulgences are available, such as modestly priced s’mores kits, a camping must-try of marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers to roast over an open fire. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent.

3. Gold Rush Campsite


Wooden table with two plates, cups and cutlery by two wooden chairs and a luxury tent at Gold Rush Campsite
Courtesy of Gold Rush Campsite / Tentrr

This ecofriendly campsite is located by a creek where guests can pan for gold. If you don’t strike it lucky, no worries: the golden sunsets are worth the back-country road trip to this peaceful nature spot. You’ll park your car 100ft (30m) from your canvas tent, but it’s unlikely you’ll even want to get off the Adirondack chairs to go anywhere. Have fun with your first “sun shower” under a 5g (19-liter) reservoir of water that’s heated by the sun.

4. Belgrade

Architectural Landmark

An old green truck in a grassy field at the foot of the Bridger mountain range in Belgrade, Montana
© Leigh Anne Meeks / Alamy Stock Photo

Outdoorsy options near Belgrade include the marbled volcanic wonders of Yellowstone National Park, the river-snaked Missouri Headwaters State Park, the not-for-the-faint-hearted hilly Bridger Foothills Trail and the rocky, view-studded Corbly Gulch Trail. Tip from a local: head into town on Thursday nights to stock up on home-baked goodies and fresh produce at the weekly Belgrade Community Market.

5. Sandhill Crane


Several white and brown alpacas stand on a field at the foot of a sloping hill
© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

This pet-friendly, barebones campground is situated on an alpaca ranch and caters to backcountry campers with their own tent and gear. The spacious sites are ideal for groups and big families. In addition to the 300 alpacas, expect to see white-tailed deer and foxes, as well as bald eagles, ducks and, of course, sandhill cranes. Campers can join a ranch tour and buy grass-fed alpaca meats to cook or take home. Call in advance if you’re bringing a dog to enjoy camping in Montana, too.

6. Bull Run Creek


River runs between thick grassland at Bull Run Creek, with tall hills in the distance
Courtesy of Bull Run Creek / Tentrr

On the same family-run alpaca ranch, but with a different scenic setting beside a wildlife-beloved creek, Bull Run Creek is also for backcountry campers who must bring their own tent and gear. Campers bed down beside juniper trees and get to wake up to views of the Bridger Mountains. Note: there are coyotes and working ranch dogs in the area, so call ahead to ensure your dog breed is compatible.

7. Manhattan

Architectural Landmark

Old wooden grain bin and barn on scrubland near Manhattan, Montana
© john lambing / Alamy Stock Photo

The teensy Gallatin County town of Manhattan (population: 1,500) still oozes Old West charm: the main industries include potatoes, dairy, wheat and cattle. Today, you can find specialty food stores in town, as well as woodcarving and artisan shops. Potential outdoor excursions include the Horseshoe Hills and the Bridger Mountains. Anglers take note: Manhattan boasts high-quality Blue Ribbon trout fishing.

8. Gold Sky Campsite


A wire fence in the middle of grassland at Gold Sky Campsite, with snow-capped mountains in the distance
Courtesy of Gold Sky Campsite / Tentrr

Surrounded by five mountain ranges, this backcountry camp (bring your own tent and gear) is situated on the 170-acre (70ha) Golden Skyfall sustainable farm. There’s something for everyone, starting with Yellowstone National Park, which is 45mi (72km) away. Wildlife-viewing and birdwatching opportunities are plentiful, and you can also spy five mountain ranges from the ranch – this is camping in Montana, after all. In addition to hiking and biking trails, you can also learn to collect honey and harvest organic vegetables. RV campers should call ahead, as access routes and hook-up amenities are limited.

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