St. Mary Lake, Montana © Ken Thomas
The wide-open state of Montana that stretches across the prairie of the Great Plains, known as 'Big Sky Country', borders three Canadian provinces and is the fourth largest state in the country.
'Montana' is Spanish for mountains, and indeed the state is mountainous, being traversed by the Rocky Mountain chain. However sixty percent of the state is prairie. Agricultural lands provide some of America's most attractive and renowned national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.
In Montana are the Yellowstone National Park, the Glacier National Park, and the Bighorn Canyon, to name just a few natural attractions Montana has to offer. With more than two million acres of geysers, Yellowstone is the largest and most famous national park in the world, spilling over into Idaho and Wyoming. Smaller, but no less magnificent is the Glacier Park, which covers one million acres of rugged mountain terrain, forests, waterfalls, and glaciers.
Montana is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, with a multitude of opportunities for hiking, riding, hunting, and fishing in summer and skiing in winter. Native American culture also features high on its list of attractions: the prairies having been home to legendary tribes like the Cheyenne, Crow, and Blackfeet. The various Reservations are strongholds of their heritage are where traditional dress is worn, rituals are performed, and arts and crafts produced. Visitors must be sure to explore the 'ghost towns' left from the 1862 gold rush, the many museums and art galleries, and the historic buildings and battlefields of this multifaceted state.
Though most of the state is undeveloped, there are a few towns in Montana worth visiting: Billings, conveniently located near Yellowstone, is a hub of arts and culture; Butte is a former mining town with several museums dedicated to the industry; while Bozeman is a college town with some good museums and art galleries, and hosts the Sweet Pea Festival each spring.
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