Montana is a breathtakingly beautiful place, and one of those states that is likely to leave an impression on you for the rest of your life. Because it’s so beautiful, we highly recommend RV camping in Montana. This will allow you to sleep right in the middle of the beauty and really take it all in.
That said, you will need to go into your RV camping adventure prepared, especially if you’ve never been RVing before. That’s where this article comes in. Below, we have put together a guide to RV camping in Montana. Use these tips to plan a perfect trip.
Preparing for RV Camping
First things first, you will need to prepare for your trip by making sure you have an RV and everything you need to RV camp comfortably. This might mean pulling your own RV out of storage, but it could also mean picking out a Montana RV rental. Here’s how to go about that.
Choosing the Right RV for Your Needs
Not sure how to pick out the perfect rental RV? We hear you! It’s an overwhelming process for sure. We recommend starting by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to drive an RV, or would I rather have it delivered?
- If driving, do I want to tow a trailer or drive a motorhome?
- If towing, can my vehicle handle a trailer big enough for my family?
- How many people does the RV need to sleep?
- What size campsite does the RV need to fit into?
- What amenities do I need to have and which can I live without?
- What items would I like included with my RV rental?
If you know the answers to these questions, you should be able to find an RV that works for you pretty easily, meaning you can worry about the next step of the process: packing.
Packing Essentials for a Successful Trip
If you’ve never RVed before, packing an RV can be almost as overwhelming as picking one out. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a very basic packing list for you to use as a guide:
- First aid kit
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Entertainment (books, games, movies, toys for kids)
- Outdoor recreation gear
- Electronics and chargers
- Pots, pans, and dishes
- Paper towels
- Folding chairs
- Bed sheets
- Pet gear
- RV leveling blocks
- Sewer hose and adapter
- Freshwater hose
- RV surge protector
As stated above, this is a basic list. If you need something more comprehensive to make sure you have absolutely everything, go ahead and check out this RV packing list. (Of course, you’ll need to find out what is included with your RV rental and check those off before you start stuffing things in bags.)
Considerations for Camping in Montana
What do you need to know before camping in Montana? Well, you should know that it is very mountainous, meaning it is imperative that you know how to drive in the mountains. Beyond that, you just need to know the laws surrounding RVing in the state.
In Montana, all rigs must be 65 feet long or shorter. Motorhomes cannot exceed 55 feet in length, and all RVs should not be more than 8.5 feet wide and 14 feet tall. Triple towing is allowed in this state, and if you do triple tow, the max length is extended to 70 feet.
No vehicles over 21 feet long are allowed to drive through Logan Pass at the summit of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Overnight parking is allowed in some state rest areas.
Where will you camp once you arrive in Montana? Fortunately, there are tons of campgrounds available in the state, so all you have to decide is whether you prefer rustic camping or luxury camping, and whether you prefer to be out in the boonies or camping in the city.
Exploring Public Campgrounds in Montana
We’ll begin by discussing the state’s public campgrounds. In Montana, you will find state park campgrounds, national park campgrounds, national forest camping, and camping on BLM land. These camping spots are typically in beautiful places, and generally they are very affordable.
National Park Camping
Montana is home to two of the most incredible national parks in the country: Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Both of these gorgeous parks offer onsite camping, but only Glacier has NPS campgrounds that are located within Montana’s borders.
In Glacier, we recommend parking your RV at Apgar Campground. This campground can accommodate larger RVs and it offers restrooms, potable water, and a dump station, but no electrical hookups.
National Forest Camping
You will find a huge number of national forests in Montana. This is awesome because it means tons of hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities, as well as some seriously beautiful scenery.
Montana’s national forests include:
Every single one of these is worth checking out and staying the night in. That said, we do have some favorite camping areas. We highly recommend both Lake Como Campground in Bitterroot National Forest (which has some electric and water hookups) and Baker’s Hole in Gallatin National Forest.
State Park Camping
Wondering about state parks in Montana? Well, those are pretty amazing too! They are in absolutely beautiful areas and offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun, including lots of wonderful camping.
The best Montana state park for camping is probably Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. This park features a spectacular cave that visitors can explore. You’ll also find plenty of hiking rails as well as plenty of campsites with RV hookups.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Camping
BLM land is everywhere you turn in Montana. One of the best things about BLM land? It offers lots of primitive camping opportunities, including many totally free boondocking spots.
We love the Jame Kipp Campground in Winifred, which is run by the BLM. This is a super cheap camping option with tons of amazing wildlife viewing and access to a river. It is dry camping, so be sure to go in prepared!
Exploring Private Campgrounds and RV Parks
Private campgrounds are also plentiful in Montana. From glamping resorts to simple campgrounds with little more than hookups and dump stations, there is something for everyone when it comes to Montana’s private RV parks.
One of our favorite RV parks in the state is Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park. This campground is located right outside of Yellowstone National Park, making it an ideal home base for those looking to explore the park for a few days. Amenities include a laundry room, a game room, Wi-Fi, and much more!
Boondocking in Montana
Another wonderful camping option? Boondocking in Montana! Amazing boondocking spots are around every corner in this state, and choosing to dry camp rather than pay for a campground will save you tons of money.
One of our favorite Montana boondocking spots is Clover Meadows Dispersed Camping in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Here you can go biking or hiking, or enjoy a morning of fishing. You’re likely to see bears and other critters as well!
Researching Campground Options and Making Reservations
We’ve pointed out several wonderful camping spots in Montana. Still, there are hundreds of other options we haven’t mentioned. If you want to know about more options before you make a choice, we encourage you to use Campspot, BookOutdoors, RoverPass, and The Dyrt to research and book. You could also sign up for Harvest Hosts to access their unique campsites!
Planning Your Itinerary
Now that you know where you’ll stay, the next step is to figure out what you’ll do while RV camping in Montana. Whether you’re heading to a city (such as Billings or Helena), a national park, or one of the other natural areas in the state, we’re betting you’ll find something amazing to do.
Features and Attractions in Montana
Start your trip by driving one of Montana’s gorgeous scenic byways. The Going-to-the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is one excellent pick. We also love the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive.
Of course, some of Montana’s landmarks should also be on your list of things to see. These include spots like Pictograph Cave outside of Billings and Pompey’s Pillar in the same area.
We must also mention Montana’s national park sites. Yes, there are the big, well-known parks we’ve already brought up, but the state is also home to several lesser-known sites. These include places like Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
Festivals, Fairs, and Events in Montana
Adding an event to your itinerary is the perfect way to make RV camping in Montana an especially memorable experience. Fortunately, the state hosts tons of annual events, so finding a good one to attend is a cinch.
Our favorite Montana events include Gallatin River Fly Fishing Festival in Big Sky during June, the Montana Dragon Boat Festival in Lakeside during September, and “Bikes, Brews, and Blues” in Helena during September.
Exploring Outdoor Activities
We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but we’ll say it again: Montana is beautiful. For this reason, it is a given that you will want to get outside while RV camping in Montana. Below are some of our favorite ways to do that.
Hiking, Biking and Nature Trails
The number of amazing trails in Montana is astounding. Be sure to bring your hiking boots or your bicycle so you can experience some of these amazing trails for yourself.
If you will be hiking, hit one of the trails below:
Plan to bike? The trails below might be better picks:
If none of these trails is for you, head over to AllTrails and put in your preferences so you can find a trail that does work for you.
Fishing, Boating, and Water Activities
Prefer water activities over hiking? There’s something for you too in Montana. Whether fishing is your thing or you’re an avid swimmer, you should be able to find a way to enjoy Montana’s beautiful waters.
Anglers should head to one of Montana’s amazing fishing spots. These include the awesome Beaverhead River where you can find plenty of brown trout and mountain whitefish, and the Yellowstone River where you’ll catch rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.
Want a beautiful beach? Montana has those as well! One of our favorite Montana beaches is the one found in Brush Lake State Park. This remote park offers the ultimate escape into the wilderness, and its swimming beach is absolutely perfect during the summer months.
Want to go find some amazing waterfalls while in Montana? We highly recommend it. Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls in Glacier National Park are well worth checking out. We also recommend seeking out Kootenai Falls just outside of Libby. The swinging bridge here really adds to the whole experience.
Wildlife Viewing and Photography
Considering how many natural areas are in the state, it should come as no surprise that tons of amazing animals make themselves at home in Montana. In fact, we’re betting you’ll see several critters when you visit state parks and national parks.
That said, those who want to see as many animals as possible should head to Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
Family-Friendly Activities and Attractions
Hoping to take the kids to Montana too? They’re going to love all of the attractions mentioned so far. That said, they will also love the museums, historical sites, and the kids-friendly options listed below. Whether you’re visiting Kalispell, Missoula, or someplace else entirely, one of these family-friendly attractions should be on your itinerary.
Historical Sites and Museums
Want to add a bit of roadschooling fun to your trip? Lucky for you, there are tons of places where you can take your family to learn and have a great time simultaneously.
For a wonderful and memorable history lesson, we recommend Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Meanwhile, you can find all kinds of other learning opportunities at the following museums:
- C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls
- American Computer and Robotics Museum in Bozeman
- Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman
- Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell
- Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell
- Montana Historical Society in Helena
- Old Montana Prison Complex in Deer Lodge
- Moss Mansion in Billings
Amusement Park, Zoos, and Wildlife Refuges
Non-stop family fun can be found at Montana’s amusement parks. Big Sky Waterpark in Columbia Falls is our top pick, but we also love Splash Montana in Missoula as well as Reef Indoor Water Park in Billings.
How about a zoo to fill your time and keep your family happy? ZooMontana in Billings is a wonderful pick. We also love the National Bison Range and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
Safety and Preparedness when RV Camping in Montana
Obviously, you will want to stay safe while RV camping in Montana. Packing a first aid kit, driving safely, and using common sense will probably suffice in most situations, but it never hurts to go in prepared for other possibilities. Let’s talk about potential natural disasters and wildlife encounters in Montana.
Weather Conditions and Natural Disaster Preparedness
Wildfires are the biggest threat in Montana as far as natural disasters go. To stay safe from wildlifes, pay attention to the local news and get out of the way if a fire is nearby. If you receive orders to evacuate, do so quickly and do your part to prevent fires by putting out campfires completely.
Montana does also see some earthquakes. The good news? Because they’re made to move, RVs are actually pretty well equipped to handle earthquakes. If you’re in your RV when an earthquake occurs, simply move away from anything heavy that could fall—as well as away from windows—and wait it out.
Wildlife Encounters and Precautions
Animals are all over the place in wild Montana. The ones you have to be most aware of include bears, wolverines, and cougars. Make noise when hiking to scare these animals away, and always carry bear spray in case of an attack. If you see one of these animals in the wild, back away slowly and quietly, only using the bear spray if needed.
Other animals that could hurt a person include venomous snakes and striders, deer, moose, and bison. Give these creatures a wide berth and never approach any wild animal.
More Inspiration for Your Montana Travels
Yes, RV camping in Montana is a magical experience, to say the least. Want even more inspiration for your Montana adventures? Check out the links below: