Best places in Western Montana for amateur photographers to explore

Montana is where Mother Nature goes to show off. Jaw-dropping, scenic vistas dominate the horizon as far as the eye can see, especially in our beloved Western Montana. The Bitterroot, Missoula, and Flathead Valleys are abundant visual treasures for amateur photographers. Here are just a few ideas to spark your creative shutterbug… 

Image via Kat Hobza

Skalkaho Falls

Just south of Hamilton is the Skalkaho Highway (also known as the Skalkaho Pass), which is the destination route leading to the Skalkaho Falls. Those of us who have lived here for decades remember when the Skalkaho Pass was a one-lane goat path with significant drop-offs. The road, while still narrow in places, is far improved now. It takes you to a wide turnout where you can enjoy Skalkaho Falls. From here, you can turn around and head back to the Bitterroot Valley, or you can continue on the road which will eventually take you to the charming town of Phillipsburg, Montana. On your way, you will snap pictures of wildlife, pristine water, old homesteads, and distinctly Montana scenery. 

Image via Kat Hobza

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge 

Located in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley in Stevensville, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is an expansive landscape with many walkable trails that skirt the Bitterroot River. An amateur photographer will find birds ranging from red-winged blackbirds to Sandhill cranes in the spring. The refuge is also home to over 400 plant species, deer, owls, and the occasional bear. The refuge’s wildlife, bird, and flora variety, paired with its accessibility, makes this a must-see destination for anyone with a photography hobby. 

Maclay Flats

Situated in the Blue Mountain region of Missoula, Maclay Flats is a photog paradise. Camera enthusiasts can leisurely stroll the Clark Fork River bottom and take in the impressive variety of birds that call the cottonwoods and Ponderosa Pines home. You may also catch glimpses of geese, ducks, eagles, and osprey. Watch the river’s surface for rising trout. Meandering through Maclay Flats is a little like strolling through your own private park. 

Image via Kat Hobza

Blue Mountain

If you have the time and inclination, continue past Maclay Flats and drive to the top of Blue Mountain. As you approach the top, you will see plenty of flat places to investigate and photograph. The views from this vantage point are outstanding – you can see all of Missoula Valley from Lolo to the Mission Mountains. 

Image via

Bison Range 

The Bison Range, just north of Ravalli, would be a gold mine of photo opps even if it didn’t feature a bison range! This is where travelers heading north get their first real glimpse of the Mission Mountains, and they are stunning – even by Montana’s standards. Visitors of the bison range are likely to see – you guessed it – bison. But this land preserve is also home to elk, bears, pronghorn, deer, and a plethora of bird species. If you venture to the bison range in the spring, you will catch the bison surrounded by wildflowers and snow-capped mountains. 

Image via

Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park

Just south of Bigfork is Wayfarers, a picturesque retreat on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake, punctuated by rocky cliffs and wildflowers. Beyond this park’s limitless photo choices, it also hosts a campground. This allows amateur photogs to stay over and enjoy the park in all lights – morning, noon, and night and to capture how the park changes throughout the day. 

Image via Whitefish Legacy Partners — The Whitefish Trail Facebook

Whitefish Trail

The town of Whitefish and the non-profit organization, Whitefish Legacy Partners, have built 47 miles of non-motorized trail. This trail system is an amateur photographer’s nirvana, with its quiet forests and tranquil lakes. This trail system’s flora and fauna allow new photographers to capture nature like a pro.  The trail system is so vast it begs to be explored over several days, making this amateur photographer destination a mini-vacation waiting to happen.

Kat Hobza has lived in Montana since she was nine and was raised in the mountains west of Victor, Montana. There, she learned to hunt, fish, shoot competitively, chop and stack firewood, and drive on icy and muddy roads. Kat has over two decades of experience in professional writing, content, and digital marketing and is a marketing consultant for Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty. When she’s not working, she’s either hanging with her hilarious adult kids or soaking up the sun somewhere – a riverbank, a golf course, or her deck. You can contact Kat through her business website, Way Easy Marketing.



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