The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 would mark the first time that European explorers would set foot in the land that would eventually be called Montana. It would not take long after this expedition for fur trainers to begin setting up shop in the region, creating a thriving economy for them, but disease and decimation to the native populations. After people stopped wearing the beaver hat and the animals were becoming scarce, this initial effort at settlement would eventually fail.
It would be Roman Catholic missionaries that would help to save the effort of westward expansion, establishing Saint Mary’s Mission in the Bitterroot Valley. They built a sawmill as part of their community and promoted agriculture, making it be the first permanent settlement in the state.
By the 1860s, gold fever had struck the region, with prospectors quickly coming into the area to find their fortune. Montana would become a territory in 1864, but the rapid influx of people quickly stopped as the boomtowns disappeared when the gold ran out. Miners, cattle ranches, and supportive industries would remain, running into conflicts with local tribes that required the intervention of the U.S. Army.
When the railroads finally crossed into Montana in the 1880s, enough people called the land their home that it could become a state.
List of the Pros of Living in Montana
1. There are plenty of outdoor adventures to enjoy when living in Montana.
Montana is the state which is known for its natural beauty. You will see plenty of staged shots in movies and television because of how the mountains, valleys, and glaciers to come together in a spectacular combination. There is so much of this land that is empty, with the state’s population density the third-lowest in the country, behind Wyoming and Alaska.
Living here gives you an opportunity to be active like no other state can, who is again perhaps the exception of Wyoming and Alaska. Many residents are working outside as part of their employment as well, whether they are farmers, ranchers, or oil industry professionals. Then everyone takes the chance to get some camping, hiking, and hunting in whenever possible.
2. You can get a decent education when you live in Montana.
The University of Montana and Montana State University are both highly regarded public institutions of higher education that you can attend after establishing residency in the state. Whether you have kids that are looking to study something specific in these schools or you were wanting to come back to our year degree, these public options are definitely a solid choice to consider. One of the best ways is to take advantage of this benefit is the take an early retirement here, and then take classes at the university by using the Lifelong Education Status that is available at Montana State.
3. The population density levels in Montana give you space.
If you are in the middle of a road trip, then driving through Montana can seem like it takes forever. There are more than 500 miles of interstate highway to diverse when you are taking the east-to-west journey across the state. When you live here, then these wide-open spaces become a place where you can settle down and embrace nature in a way that is ideal to you. Even if you decide to live in a city like Helena, there are numerous chances to get outside and enjoy the extra space. There are plenty of real estate opportunities where your nearest neighbor will be several miles away.
4. Winter sports in Montana are always world-class.
One of the most significant tourism industries in Montana comes during the winter time. Winter sports are huge here in the state. They are currently 15 skin resorts in areas from which to choose, including the 5,800-acre Big Sky Ski Resort that gives you access to world-class runs at an affordable price.
If you decide to call this state your home, then it is essential to remember that the active lifestyle does not stop once the snow flies. The only real divide is between the people who decide to participate in these activities, and those who do not.
5. Ranching is alive and well in the state of Montana.
Did you know that the state of Montana has more cows living with orders then it does people? The agriculture industry here in contributes about $4 billion per year to the overall economy. Livestock sales make up about 50% of this overall figure. If your desire to live in the state involves ranching, farming, or the cowboy lifestyle, then you are going to have plenty of opportunities to pursue your dream. There are over 28,000 farms and ranches currently operational.
6. Hunting and fishing are significant components of tourism.
Even the people who do not work in the outdoors will still source some of their food from the hunting and fishing activities which are allowed in the state. Both are very popular in Montana, with gun ownership and an appreciate of the outdoors serving as strong cultural values almost to the point where it could be considered a religion. You will want to ensure that you obtain all of the correct licenses before you head out into the open spaces, and then remember to store your firearms correctly when driving.
7. Rental costs are comparatively cheap in Montana compared to the United States.
Studio apartments in Montana average about $800 per month in rent. If you can spend another $50 per month, then you can upgrade to a one-bedroom apartment. Two-bedroom rentals are also under $1,000 per month, while single-family homes with three bedrooms or more average $1,200 per month in the state. That puts your housing costs at a much lower rate compared to what you will experience across the rest of the country.
Your utility costs when living in Montana are also much lower compared to most other states. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the average bill for homeowners is less than $87. That beats the national average by almost $30 per month. It isn’t the lowest cost in the country, but it is pretty close to it.
8. You are going to have plenty of run-ins with wildlife after moving to Montana.
Wildlife shares the wide-open spaces with you when your home is in Montana. You will find several different creatures here that are not always present elsewhere, such as the sandhill crane. You can also run into bears or rattlesnakes, so it is wise to be cautious as you move about – even if you’re living in the city.
The state also works hard to manage the deer population, which is why hunting is just part of the way of life here. If you decide to purchase a house in Montana, then you will want to learn how to live with the wildlife. It could be a disadvantage if someone keeps eating your garden, but it can also be one of the best experiences of your life.
9. Beer is a way of life in Montana.
Montana is like many of the other Western states in the fact that it supports a large craft brewing industry. There are currently more than 50 licensed breweries operating here, employing over 500 workers and making an economic impact of more than $60 million each year. Home brewing is expanding throughout the state as well, with kits available at many retailers. If you have a love affair with beer and like to try different varieties, then you’ll love living in this state.
10. The people of Montana are warm and friendly.
You will discover that the people living in Montana are generally quite friendly. Even if someone doesn’t know who you are, there is usually a friendly way of waiting for you when you pass on the road. It is not unusual for someone to chat with a stranger in a diner simply to pass the time. If you are used to the atmosphere from the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest where people sometimes stick to their comfort zone, you might find that this is a unique change of pace.
11. Neighbors help one another here in Montana.
When you live in Montana, then you will discover that neighbors rely on one another to make it through the difficult times. It is not unusual to hear a knock on your door when someone needs a helping hand out in the fields or has a problem to solve with their vehicle. If you have a specific skill to contribute to your neighborhood, community, or ranching area, then people will rely on what you can do to make life better for everyone. There is a very real attitude here of encouraging the community to lift everyone up so that each household receives the same chances to succeed.
List of the Cons of Living in Montana
1. The weather in Montana can be challenging to manage at times.
There might be big skies to go explore in Montana, but there are also some challenging weather events that you will need to manage. Despite the location in the mountains, the state can’t endure some severe thunderstorms from the spring to the autumn. Summers can be downright hot, unless you end up living in one of the mountain communities. Winter can bring freezing temperatures as early as October in some years when you live up near the border with Canada. Between the months of November and March, it is not unusual to experience 100-degree swings and temperature from week to week, going from -50°F to 50°F above. That means it is essential to dress in layers, and always keep a survival kit in your car.
2. Politics in the state of Montana are divided based on where one lives.
Many of the political divides that we experience in the United States are evident when you start living in Montana. The most significant difference occurs between the urban and rural voters here. Households in the city has typically vote toward Democrats, well those living in the rural areas tend to vote for Republicans. The delegates of the state typically vote Republican, but it is not unusual to have a Democrat representing Montana in the senate either.
Most people in Montana will let you go about your business without complaint. If you bring up a political conversation, then expect to get some pushback if there is someone around who holds a different opinion.
3. You can pretty much forget about the idea of public transportation.
Unless you decide to live in Helena and never want to leave, then you can forget about the idea of living in Montana without owning a vehicle. Because the winters can be difficult here, it is almost 100% necessary to own a four-wheel drive vehicle to support your needs. The rural roads do not receive as much care as you think they would, and many of them are still gravel. If you get caught in a storm or stuck in the snow, chains aren’t always going to get you out of that predicament.
Whether you decide to buy a vehicle or lease one, you are going to want to own something that can handle the difficult winters that are in the state.
4. Finding a home can be challenging when moving to Montana.
You will want to have a temporary rental set up for your family if you are moving to Montana in the near future. The housing market is not very strong, and it really never will be. Affordable housing is almost nonexistent throughout much of the state. Even if you can find a great job in one of the cities, 4 out of 5 people will commute to work from a rural home because they can’t afford a property within the community.
There are some places where housing is exceptionally affordable, with Blaine County seeing an average selling price of just $59,500. The average cost of a property in the state is just $99,500, but there are some places where you can’t find a place for less than $600,000 as well.
5. New trends take forever to reach Montana compared to the rest of the country.
If you see a new trend happening in California or New York, there is an excellent chance that you will not get to experience whatever is hot right now for at least two years – and that is assuming you’ll ever get to in the first place. Fashion trends operate the same way here in the state. You really can’t wear something that is fancy and formal when going out to the truck means mucking through mud and who-knows-what else. Everything here is about being as practical as possible.
If you are the type of person who enjoys staying informed on the latest trends and experimenting with them, then living in Montana is going to require a significant adjustment.
6. Montana requires you to be self-sufficient.
In the rural areas of Montana, it is not our usual to run into issues like a power outage after a storm that can leave the lights off for several days at a time. You might experience a car battery that freezes and fails to start your vehicle thanks to the weather that you can find here. It is imperative that you have the basic survival supplies needed for at least seven days when you have your home in the state. It will also help to keep at least three days’ worth of supplies in your vehicle. You don’t need to become a doomsday prepper to manage this disadvantage, but it may be some time before you can find some help.
A Final Thought on the Pros and Cons of Living in Montana
There are some people who see the state of Montana as a rugged wonderland that is filled with many outdoor adventures that are available throughout the year. From Glacier National Park in the northern part of the state to the border of Yellowstone in the south (with 3 of the park’s 5 entrances), you can choose plenty of trails when the itch to explore needs to be scratched. Additional sites managed by the National Park Service include Big Hole National Battlefield, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Nez Perce National Historic Park, and the Bighorn Canyon Recreational Area.
At the same time, it is easy to see how Montana could be mistaken as a place for farming, ranching, and a rural lifestyle without any urban development. The state is large and there are challenges to face when living here, but those who call it home would say that you are a stronger and better person when you can conquer those difficulties.
The pros and cons of living in Montana show us that this option is not for everyone. It is a very different lifestyle than what you will find along the East or West Coast. For some, living here brings them the peace they need, while others discover exciting new opportunities to explore.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.