The western U.S. state of Montana enjoys a wonderfully diverse landscape, from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains and the Badlands, there’s something here to please everybody.
Montana is also known as the Big Sky Country, and given the views that you’ll find when you’re traveling along the 50-mile “Going to the Sun” road that traverses the wilderness area of the Glacier National Park, it’s easy to see why.
Lovers of the Great Outdoors flock to this state every year for biking, hiking, and fishing, as well as ice-fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling in the wintertime. If you’re seeking an authentic wilderness camping experience, the Big Sky Country is a destination that has to be on your bucket list. Sit back while we take you through some of the best camping in Montana.
Montana – A Wilderness Camping Paradise
The top campgrounds in Montana are set amongst a treasure trove of awe-inspiring vistas of crystal-clear trout rivers, snow-capped mountains, and bottomless glacial lakes all nestling within the Glacier National Park, national forests, and state parks that extend right across the state.
For pure contrast, check-out the best campgrounds in the western, more mountainous half of the state. From the Bighorn Canyon to the Flathead Lake, you’ll find wilderness camping and adventure, including ghost towns, caverns, and historic headwaters. Many of the national forests allow free, primitive camping, as well as providing many developed campgrounds for those who need the simple creature comforts of pit toilets and freshwater.
Some of the campsites do allow pets, but you should always check with the local authority to find out if dogs are permitted in the park you’ve chosen before you pack Fido along with your tent!
RELATED READING: Check out our main page for more great outdoor adventures like the best hiking in Montana.
Our Pick to the 10 Best Camping Spots in Montana
So, get ready to pitch your tent at one of the ten fabulous Big Sky Country campgrounds that we’ve tracked down for you in this guide!
Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is also known as the Crown of the Continent and is a mind-blowing example of a glacial landscape, and the campgrounds within the park all offer beautiful views of it all.
Apgar Campground is the largest within Glacier National Park, and it’s also one of the most popular. There are 194 sites that can accommodate tents and RVs, all of which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also five group sites that can be reserved in advance. The campground is located close to Lake McDonald and is conveniently connected to the end of the Going to the Sun Road that crosses the park.
On the eastern side of Glacier National Park, you’ll also find the Many Glacier Campground, the hub for many of the best hiking trails. St. Mary Campground is also in the east of the park and has almost 150 sites available. If you’re seeking a quieter Montana camping experience, try the campgrounds at Cut Bank or Bowman Lake.
You can find more information about the various campgrounds within Glacier National Park at this link.
Lewis and Clark Caverns Campground, Whitehall
Lewis and Clark Caverns Campground is located close to Whitehall, an hour’s drive from Bozeman, just off Interstate 90.
The caverns are a favorite stop for visitors to the state traveling through Montana on a road trip. These are among the largest-known limestone caverns in the northwest and are also within Montana’s first official state park. The park offers guided tours of the spectacular caverns from May through September.
The campground here includes over 40 well-spaced sites that accommodate RVs and tents, and there are also three spacious cabins that you can rent. All guests who are staying overnight in the park have access to hot showers and flushing toilets.
The campground operates year-round, offering discount rates for those who enjoy winter camping. However, facilities such as drinking water and the cavern tours are only available for visitors during the warmer seasonal months.
Crystal Lake Campground, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is located within the stunning Big Snowy Mountain rain in central Montana, around 30 miles to the south of Lewistown.
The stunning Crystal Lake Campground is one of the state’s best-kept secrets, with just 28 first-come, first-served campsites close to the scenic lake’s banks. From here, you will enjoy incredible access to the peaceful mountain environment, including many miles of trails to explore. There are also several recommended trail routes from the campground, including the Ice Caves Trail and the Grand View Trail.
You’ll find potable water and pit toilets at each of the sites.
Bannack State Park, Bannack
Bannack State Park is located in Bannack.
The park’s most interesting feature is its remarkably well-preserved, historic ghost town, which still stands on the site of the state’s first significant gold discovery back in 1862.
Main Street is still lined with 50 structures, giving visitors a true sense of the old Wild West of the state’s past. Throughout the summer, you can enjoy guided tours or even follow in the footsteps of the early prospectors and go panning for gold in nearby streams. Late July sees the annual Bannack Days celebration. You can enjoy historical re-enactments and live music, and the old streets come alive with costumed characters, bringing the town back to life.
There is a total of 24 campsites available that are spread between two campgrounds. Both the Road Agent and Vigilante Campgrounds have access to running water and vault toilets, and both are conveniently situated close to Main Street and its many historic structures.
Bannack is located in the southwest of the state at an elevation of 5,837 feet. The campgrounds are open throughout the year, although limited facilities are available during the winter.
Big Arm/Flathead Lake State Park
Flathead Lake State Parkis located close to Big Arm. Flathead Lake itself is one of the largest lakes in the country, boasting over 150 miles of shoreline and hosting lots of campgrounds dotted around the water.
To the west of the lake is Big Arm Stake Park, where you’ll find one of the largest and most popular camping locations on the lake. Step out of your tent every morning and glory at the incredible views of the majestic Mission and Swan Mountains across the tranquil lake. You can reserve almost all of the 40 campsites in advance and one of the three lightly-furnished yurts if you want a more comfortable stay.
Around the lake, you’ll find other popular Montana camping areas, including the Wayfarers Campgrounds and Finley Point State Park, both of which are part of Flathead Lake State Park. Big Arm is a favorite launch site for those bound for Wild Horse Island. The island extends for around 2,000 acres and is inhabited by many different species, including mule deer, long-horn sheep, and wild horses.
Primitive camping is available on Wild Horse Island for those who don’t mind a boat trip to get there and are happy to bring all their own gear.
Holland Lake Campground, Flathead National Forest
Holland Lake Campground is located in northwestern Montana in the pretty Swan Valley areas of the Flathead National Forest.
Holland Lake Campground offers the visitor 40 spacious camping spots for RVs and tent camping spread throughout two loops close to the lake. Flushing toilets and potable water are provided, although there are no electric or water hook-ups available for RVs.
The 400-acre lake is excellent for fishing and boating, and several hiking trails lead from the campground, including the famous Holland Falls National Recreation Trail.
There are many other Forest Service campgrounds along Highway 83 to the south of Holland Lake, including Lake Alva Campground with 39 sites. There’s also Seeley Lake that offers a large day-use area and a 29-site campground. At the southern end of the Swan Valley, you’ll find Salmon Lake and Placid Lake State Parks, which offer a combined total of 60 campsites.
Bad Medicine Campground, Kootenai National Forest
You’ll find Bad Medicine Campground in the Kootenai National Forest in the northwest of the state, close to the city of Libby.
The campground is situated on the shores of Bull Lake and has 18 sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The primitive camping spots are spacious, and all are situated in wooded areas, catering both for tents and for RVs. Also, the campground is opposite the famous Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, which is well worth visiting during your stay.
If you fancy a gentle stroll among these majestic trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old, check out the one-mile trail.
Custer Gallatin National Forest, Woodbine Campground
Woodbine Campground lies very close to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and offers 44 sites. You’ll need to make a reservation in advance, as these sites fill up pretty quickly during the summer season. All the camping areas have access to vault toilets and potable water.
At this beautiful spot, you’ll enjoy trout fishing in the nearby Stillwater River and its many tributaries that run close to the campground.
If you prefer, you can while away your days hiking along the river banks or trek to Woodbine Falls. You can enjoy spectacular views from the official overlook, and there are also several unofficial lookout points from which to enjoy unobstructed views of the falls. It’s blissfully peaceful here, but you are in grizzly country, so do remember to pack your bear spray and hang bear bells on your backpack!
For those who enjoy a longer hike, make your way to the scenic Sioux Charley Lake along the three-mile hiking trail.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Afterbay Campground, Fort Smith
Afterbay Campground is located in the vast, wild landscape of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
The Recreation Area extends for over 120,000 acres and straddles the border between Wyoming and Montana. Visitors marvel at the Bighorn Canyon’s thousand-foot cliffs and spend hours hiking the trails around the area.
Many of the campgrounds that surround the canyon come with a stunning view! Afterbay Campground is situated within easy reach of Afterbay Lake. The Afterbay Campground offers 28 tent camping sites and 12 sites that accommodate RVs. There’s easy access to fishing and boating, and all overnight visitors are close to vault toilets and potable water supplies.
Alternatively, you might want to check out the Trail Creek Campground that sits within the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area. Just over the border into Wyoming, you’ll find the Horseshoe Bend Campground with 48 sites to choose from.
Makoshika State Park, Glendive
Makoshika State Park is located on the far eastern part of Montana in Glendive, close to the North Dakota border.
Makoshika State Park is Montana’s largest state park. The name Makoshika translates from a Lakota phrase, literally meaning “bad land.” The Lakota are one of the three tribes of the Great Sioux Nation and, as the Teton Sioux, once lived in this barren area.
Makoshika’s landscape, as its Native American name suggests, is a Badlands expanse that’s littered with stark rock formations. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of the Lakota people, following a real dinosaur trail to view the fossilized remains of a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, placid, plant-eating Triceratops and more. There’s a visitor center at the entrance to the park that has interactive exhibits that kids of all ages will love.
There are 24 different camping sites in the park, ranging from rustic to regular. All the sites are well-spaced so that you can enjoy maximum privacy, and there’s easy access to many Badlands formations and hiking trails. Every campsite is conveniently located close to pit toilets.
Guide to the Best Montana Campgrounds: Wrapping it up
Camping in Montana offers wonderfully diverse environments from towering, snowy peaks and crystal-clear mountain lakes to sprawling, pine-scented forests and barren Badlands.
The great news for camping enthusiasts is that there are hundreds of campsites littered right across Montana. You can choose from a primitive, wilderness camping experience in the mountains to a comfortable, cozy cabin overlooking a tranquil lake. For those hardy folks who enjoy winter activities, such as ice-fishing and cross-country skiing, some of the campsites are open all year round.
Whatever your camping vacation dreams are, camping in Montana is sure to make them come true!