The Top 8 Best Places to See Wildlife in Montana

The beautiful Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.
© Nicholas Courtney/

Written by Rachael Monson

Published: December 6, 2023

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One of the most beautiful states in the U.S., Montana boasts a magnificent variety of wildlife across its various environments. The state’s geography creates habitats for an abundance of creatures and plant life. Everywhere you look nature flourishes, from mountains and canyons to river valleys, vast forests, and grassy plains. In fact, Montana touts a whopping 668 different species! The state also houses the largest grizzly bear population of the lower 48 states. With so many animals and beautiful places to visit, researching the best places to see wildlife in Montana saves you time and money. Not only that, but it will give you the best chances to see awesome wildlife in their natural habitats. Let’s learn about them below!

#1 Yellowstone National Park: The Famous Wildlife Park in Montana

scenic winter landscape on a sunny day at mallard's rest fishing access along the paradise valley scenic loop of the yellowstone river and gallatin range, south of livingston, montana

The part of Yellowstone National Park in Montana includes Paradise Valley.

©Nina B/

One of the most famous places to view wildlife in Montana is Yellowstone National Park. While just a small portion of the park spills over into the state, the area plays a huge role in wildlife conservation in both Montana and Wyoming. Visitors to this park can expect to see grizzly bears, gray wolves, American bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, and more! Not only that, but hundreds of bird species call the park home, too.

Yellowstone is the number one destination for those wishing to see the multitude of wildlife found in Montana. The immense array of camping spots and expertly guided tours in Yellowstone will provide a bounty of thrilling experiences and breathtaking sights.

#2 Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge: Bird Conservation in Montana

Rough-legged Hawk - wildlife in Montana

Rough-legged hawks make their homes in the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.

©Eivor Kuchta/

Situated at the massive Ninepipe Lake, the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana protects many bird species including ducks, geese, and swans. Depending on the part of the year, visitors may see bald eagles, golden eagles, red-winged blackbirds, swallows, grebes, ospreys, and rough-legged hawks. This refuge doesn’t just appeal to bird watchers, though. Pronghorns and American bison move through the area, too. The refuge encompasses over 2,000 acres, surrounded by several other conservation areas.

#3 Glacier National Park: Unique Wildlife in Montana

Mountain Peaks in Glacier National Park - wildlife in Montana

The beautiful landscape of Glacier National Park makes the perfect home for wildlife in Montana.

©pabradyphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Covering more area than the entire state of Rhode Island, Glacier National Park provides a home for more than 70 mammal species and over 200 bird species. Due to the elevation and its cold, hostile environment, very few reptiles live among the wildlife in this part of Montana. Despite its tendency to catch fire every year, visitors interested in viewing wolves, beavers, lynx, and more will find the area teeming with creatures they love! The region also boasts a healthy wolverine population, with a documented count of over 50 specimens.

#4 Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness: See One of the Largest Elk Herds in the U.S.

Western Montana, Bitterroot Mountain Sunset

The Bitterroot Mountain Range in Montana is surrounded by more than a million acres of wildlife refuge.


Ranging on both sides of the Bitterroot Mountain Range along the Montana-Idaho border, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness encompasses 1.3 million acres filled with wildlife. It is one of the largest designated wildlife areas in the country. No cell phone service helps visitors connect with nature, while breathtaking views inspire artists and photographers alike. Traveling the primitive one-way road into the area can be dangerous and taking low-clearance vehicles is not recommended. Visitors come from far and wide to see one of the largest elk herds in the U.S., bighorn sheep, and gray wolves. You might even see a rubber boa!

#5 Custer Gallatin National Forest: Amazing Camping

Young Buck Mule Deer

More than 30,000 mule deer call the Custer Gallatin National Forrest home.

©epantha/iStock via Getty Images

Interestingly, Custer Gallatin National Forest is made up of 10 different sections across several states in the U.S. Covering more than 1.1 million acres, this area boasts the highest population concentration of merlins in the country, a rare falcon species. Other wildlife in the Montana section include mule deer, cougars, moose, and black bears. Over 30 vehicle-accessible campgrounds and hundreds of picnic areas make this national forest a great place for day trips or overnight camping.

#6 Gates of the Mountain Wilderness: Dramatic Views

Gates of the Mountains at Upper Holter Lake in Montana

The Gates of the Mountain Wilderness is known for two huge mountains forming a water passage into the area.

©Radoslaw Lecyk/

The Gates of the Mountain Wilderness area spans more than 28,000 acres managed by the Helena National Forrest. It’s listed as a High Potential Historical Sight on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. That means the area is close to or part of the historical route taken by these explorers. While no vehicles are allowed, the huge network of connecting trails welcomes hikers. This includes bicycles. Among the numerous wildlife species in this Montana wilderness area, river otters capture the attention of many visitors. The playful, adorable creatures offer an exciting view for those lucky enough to witness them. Other animals in the area include bald eagles, cougars, and black bears.

#7 Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Bird Watchers Paradise

A Flock of pelicans in the water - wildlife in montana

Thousands of pelicans return to Medicine Lake each year to nest.


With more than 30,000 acres of rolling plains and wetlands, the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge provides the opportunity to watch hundreds of thousands of birds making their annual migration each year. In fact, between 3,000 and 5,000 pelican nests appear there each year, making it one of the largest colonies of pelicans in the country. Also, it’s listed as one of the top 100 Globally Important Bird Areas in the U.S. by the American Bird Conservancy.

#8 The Bison Range: A Cultural Project

Bison Kansas

The Bison Range protects wild American bison so they can reproduce and prosper.

©Ricardo Reitmeyer/

Sacred to the local Native Americans, The Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation started back in the 1800s by Tribal members. Their goal was (and still is) to preserve the quickly disappearing American Bison. Owned by the federal government and entrusted to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the Tribal Council adopted a management plan in 2019 to ensure the survival of this formerly widespread species. The Tribe provides a wide variety of field trips and tour opportunities. These adventures serve to teach visitors about the cultural and ecological importance of bison. The Tribe currently manages a herd of approximately 350 animals.

Summary of the Top 8 Places to See Wildlife in Montana

Place — LocationWildlife to See
Yellowstone National Park Montana/Wyoming Bordergrizzly bears, gray wolves, bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, etc.
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge
Charlo, MT
hundreds of bird species, pronghorn, American bison, etc.
Glacier National Park
Montana’s Rocky Mountains
wolves, beavers, lynx, wolverines, etc.
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Bitterroot Mountain Range
elk, rubber boa, bighorn sheep, wolves, etc.
Custer Gallatin National Forrest
Nye, MT
mule deer, cougars, moose, black bears, etc.
Gates of the Mountain Wilderness
Helena, MT
river otters, bald eagles, cougars, black bears, etc.
Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Medicine Lake, MT
birds (annual migrations)
The Bison Refuge
Charlo, MT
American bison

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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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