Montana, a state whose tourism board chooses to describe as “untamed, wild and natural”. As indeed it is… home to both the Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, it offers some of the best scenery in the US. Which isn’t to say it’s a state of nothing but beautiful views and craggy mountaintops. Nestled between its spectacular mountain ranges are some equally impressive towns, cities and villages. Here, in reverse order, we take a look at 20 of the best.
20. Columbia Falls
Columbia Falls is a town of 5,054 that combines the benefits of a small neighborhood (a low crime rate, an excellent sense of community, and a relaxed, friendly vibe), with the amenities of a much larger town, including a very popular community market, and more shops and restaurants than you could shake a stick at. Combine that with some excellent schools and and good job prospects, and you’re looking at a town that more than justifies its position on our list.
For just $844 a month (or a mortgage of $209,000 is you want to buy), you can move into Sidney, a place of low crime, good schools, and an abundance of amenities. If you want the inside scoop, check out some of the positive reviews on Niche. “Sidney is a very small, tight-knit town, where everybody might know your name, but you are very well cared for,” says one resident, while another enthuses, “Sidney, MT is, in my opinion, the best place to grow up in, and also raise your children and family in. The town is a very nice, close-knit community, and although everybody knows everybody, this means that there is an overwhelming amount of love for one another as well.”
Move into Laurel and you can expect a very comfortable standard at living: while the median income of $50,778 may be slightly lower than the average of $55,322, it’s more than balanced by the very reasonable cost of housing: $165,900 should get you a very respectable single family home of your own, while $737 will get you one on loan. Crime is low, the range of amenities is excellent, and there’s plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained. If you’re looking for a place with a strong sense of community, you’ll find it at Laurel.
The 2,253 residents of Colstrip enjoy some excellent perks. As well as having some of the best outdoor attractions in Montana right on their very doorstep, they also have the benefit of one of the highest median incomes in the state ($88,542), very affordable housing (to rent a property, expect to part with $818, while to buy, expect to pay around $137,500), almost no crime, great job opportunities thanks to a nearby power plant and mine, a good range of local amenities and attractions, and a close-knit, friendly community.
16. Great Falls
If affordable housing is one of your top priorities, you may want to add Great Falls to your list of possibilities. For just $663 (nearly $300 below the national average) you can find a decently sized property to rent. If your budget will stretch to buying, you can snap up a single-family residence for a more than reasonable $165,900 (over $200,000 less than the average of $184,700). If that wasn’t enough, you can also expect to access good schooling, excellent amenities and great hiking, biking and camping opportunities. The only thing stopping it claiming a higher position on our list is its crime rate, which, while by no means bad, is not quite at the level of some of our other higher-ranking entries.
Situated within spitting distance of the delightful Bozeman (more on which coming up), Belgrade is a great way of experiencing the best of Montana’s attractions for an affordable price. Rental properties can be had for as little as $793 per month, while the median home value is still reasonable at $209,700. Other keys attractions include easy access to the surrounding Rocky’s, a higher than average median income of $57,321, excellent schools, and a lower than average crime rate.
Not to be confused with its Scottish namesake, Glasgow, Montana, has a population of just 3,361. Safe, friendly, and highly affordable (a rental property can be had for as little as $500 a month, while the average home value is just $134,400), the town is proving to be highly popular among young, single professionals looking to save their cents while still enjoying a very comfortable existence. Its excellent transportation links is another huge draw, with lucky residents being able to swoop into Billings via the Glasgow Montana Airport in just over an hour.
With the Glacier National Park on its doorstep, there’s few places better positioned for nature lovers than the city of Kalispell (although that’s not to say it doesn’t have plenty going for it for those who prefer the usual city pursuits of shopping, clubbing, wining and dining, as well). While the median household income is slightly below the average at $44,800, the cost of living here is low enough to support it, with rent coming in at a very reasonable $749 and home prices being similarly decent at $205,500. ‘Having lived in Montana for more than 12 years, I thought I would never find a perfect combination of the outdoor lifestyle and modern convenience–until I moved to Kalispell,” … so says one reviewer on Niche, and so agree the other 21,992 people that choose to make the town their home.
Described by The Crazy Tourist as a hiker’s paradise, there’s no disputing the city of Billings is a great place to live for lovers of the great outdoors. Within minutes of leaving the city limits, nature fans will find all the natural beauty they could dream of. In contrast to its surrounds, the city itself has a very urban feel (which, with a population of 108,134 people, you’d kind of expect). Great nightlife and a fantastic range of recreational and entertainment pursuits are on offer, as are some excellent schools and first-rate infrastructure.
11. King Arthur Park
At number 11 is the tiny little residence of King Arthur Park. Home to just 1,125 residents, the town offers its population a high standard of living (you can expect a median salary of $64,194 if you join its ranks), some of the best-rated schools in Montana (Bozeman High School, Sacajawea Middle School, and Meadowlark Elementary School all manage to achieve an A grade on Niche, a low crime rate (there’s been no recorded incidents of either property or violent crime over the past year), excellent local amenities, and a safe, family-friendly vibe. If you do set your cap on King Arthur Park as being your next home (and why wouldn’t you?) there’s just one thing to be aware of: it’s going to cost you. Expect to part with $231,700 for a single-family residence if you buy or $1,351 if you rent.
Want to live somewhere where you can expect a salary of $40,612 and pay only $116,300 to buy a single-family home or $715 to rent one? If so, you may want to consider Lewistown. With excellent commuting options (the local airport serves Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle), a calm, friendly vibe, and plenty of affordable housing, it makes a great option for those looking to raise their family in a safe, peaceful environment without having to break the bank in the process.
9. Orchard Homes
The small suburb of Orchard Homes makes it to number 9. Affordable housing is a slight issue, forcing those who can’t make their budget stretch to $293,900 turn to renting at an average price per month of $1,095 (over a thousand more than the national average). Other than that, Orchard Homes ticks all the boxes: low crime, good schools, a good household income of $55,802, and some excellent local amenities and facilities.
8. East Helena
Small (just 2,265 residents call it home) but full to the brim with all the good stuff, East Helena is a dream destination for anyone who prizes a close-knit community, low crime rates, a good range of commuting options, excellent amenities and affordable housing over a buzzing nightlife.
If you’re a fan of art and culture, you may seriously want to consider making the beautiful city of Missoula your next home. Full of delights like the Missoula Art Museum and the historic Fort Missoula, it’s got plenty of great spots to while away the hours, while its city center has more than enough shops, bars, and restaurants for those that are intent on more earthly pursuits. With its sizable population of 70,847, crime is understandably higher than some of the smaller cities and towns to make our list, but it’s still low enough to justifies Missoula’s position at number 7.
“Dillon is a nice and quiet small town surrounded by beautiful mountains everywhere you look. The community is extremely welcoming and filled with genuinely good people.” “It has a great community with a lot of agriculture”. “Dillon can be fun if you like floating, hiking, or doing anything outside in the summer. In the winter there are ski hills close by (and cheap) and hot springs all around.” According to the consensus on Niche, Dillion is clearly well deserving of a place on our list at number 6.
With affordable housing (well, affordable if you rent (expect to pay just $797 against a national average of $949); buying a property will set you back a slightly more significant $220,100), excellent schools (Jefferson Elementary School and Four Georgians Elementary School both come particularly highly recommended), good jobs prospects and all the historical and cultural sites and attractions you’d expect of the state capital, it’s no mystery why over 30000 chose to live in the state capital.
With a friendly, welcoming community, Whitefish is sure to win a place in any newcomer’s heart. Surrounded as it is by some of the most stunning scenery in Montana, the town gets plenty of benefit from the tourist dollar, without ever getting overwhelmed by day-trippers. A combination of low crime, a buoyant property market (given the desirability of the area, you can expect to pay around $326,100 for a single-family home) and a temperate climate ensures there’s plenty to enjoy all year round.
Situated just an hour’s drive from the stunning Yellowstone National Park, Livingstone offers all the best things about city life with none of the disadvantages. With a low crime rate, affordable housing (the median home value is just $196,800) excellent schools, a buzzing nightlife, and an abundance of local amenities, it’s an equally attractive proposition to both Millennials and families alike.
2. Four Corners
Want to live in a town where you can expect a median income of nearly $30,000 more than the national average? Then you may want to consider Four Corners, a small town with just 4,051 residents and one of the best standards of living in Montana. With excellent commuting options thanks to the nearby Highway 191, some of the best public schools in the state, an almost non-existent crime rate, and a great range of shops, bars, restaurants, and leisure sites, its easy to understand why Four Corners is such a big draw with families.
At number one we have the beautiful little city of Bozeman. Small but perfectly formed, Bozeman is set against the beautiful backdrop of the Rockies, giving local residents plenty of eye candy and a host of outdoor pursuits to indulge in. The great features don’t end with the scenery; the town is replete with a host of recreational and leisure facilities, as well as some great schools, excellent health facilities, and a world-class (and free) transportation system. The local economy is buoyant, and the job market is booming, leading to an unemployment rate of just 5.1%. All in all, a city well deserving of its title of the best place to live in Montana.