National Parks

Photo by Ian Cameron

There are two national parks that either exist entirely or partially within Montana's borders. Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world, and Glacier National Park, named for its beautiful ice-covered mountain peaks, are both protected wildlands managed by the National Park Service. While containing many wilderness characteristics, neither of Montana's National Parks are designated wilderness areas.

These National Parks protect their wildlands from development and provide wildlife with a haven to live and play. Most importantly, the Parks provide visitors with the rare opportunity to view those majestic creatures while experiencing the natural and historic objects within their borders.

Glacier National Park

Location: Flathead and Glacier Counties, near Kalispell
Size: 1,013,322 acres
Description: Glacier is America’s premier wilderness park. The Continental Divide separates Glacier’s spectacular backcountry into two nearly equal parks, with more than 200 gemlike lakes, large elongated glacial lakes, countless waterfalls, vertical relief of a mile of more in some valleys and broad U-shaped drainages. The rugged glaciated mountains along the Continental Divide covered in ice and snow descend into alpine tundra, primeval coniferous forest, deciduous forest and grassland. Glacier is world renown for its spectacular scenery of glacial lakes, glaciers, cirques, peaks, waterfalls, flower-strewn meadows and thick diverse coniferous forest. The west slope is very moist with over 100 inches of annual precipitation in places and lush old-growth forests of Douglas fir, Western Larch, Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir. Cedar, hemlock and white pine thrive in the McDonald Valley. On the much drier east slope, short grass prairie transitions into aspen, lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forest. Wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, gray wolf, moose, elk, mule and white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, lynx, marten, and wolverine.

Yellowstone National Park

Location: Southcentral and Southeast Montana, near Bozeman
Size: 2,219,791 acres
Description: Yellowstone was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and is primarily located in Wyoming, with only about 5 percent residing in Montana's Gallatin and Park Counties. With more than 3 million visitors visiting in 2011, it remains one of the biggest natural tourist attractions in the country. Known for its variety of animals, including hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, several that are either endangered or threatened, it has the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Visitors also get a chance to view favorites like grizzly bear, wolves and elk while taking in recreational opportunities like hiking, camping, boating and fishing the Yellowstone River, or visiting any number of geothermal areas, including the famous geyser "Old Faithful."