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Best Places to Live in Montana

As the ninth-least populated state in the U.S., there definitely aren’t a whole lot of people in Montana.1 But the people who are there love Big Sky Country because it provides an escape from big cities while offering loads of incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation and plenty of peace and quiet.

If you’re considering a move to Montana, you’ll need to pick a city or town that fits your budget, personality and any other needs you and your family have. So, to give you a peek at some of your options, let’s take a look at eight of the best places to live in Montana.

Where Are the Best Places to Live in Montana?

The best place for you and your family to live in Montana (or anywhere else for that matter) will depend on your individual situation and preferences. You may really like the idea of living in a quiet town with a beautiful lakeside view, or you may be the type that can’t survive without skyscrapers and a big-city vibe. You may be looking for a great retirement destination, somewhere to raise a family, or a place to launch your career.

As you go through this list (which is in no particular order), think about which cities are the best fit for you.

Missoula

First up on our list is Missoula, home to the University of Montana. If you’re passionate about the outdoors, you’ll feel right at home in Missoula. The western Montana city has three rivers, lots of bike paths (even some along riverbanks) and plenty of opportunities for wintertime outdoor activities, like cross-country skiing and the annual outdoor Winter BrewFest.

Even though Missoula has the second-highest population of all the cities on our list, you definitely won’t find a crowded downtown scene if you move there. No, it’s not some kind of abandoned desert (there are two Walmarts in Missoula, after all), but Missoula definitely operates more like a smaller community than a major metropolis.

How so? Look no further than how Missoula treats its food. A lot of restaurants in the city use locally-sourced food—often from one of several farmers markets—and lots of folks living there grow their own food. Yeah, definitely closer to Mayberry than Manhattan.

Population

74,8342

Median Household Income

$63,2703

Median Home Listing Price

$654,9004

Median Rent

$1,5005

*Data in tables collected in June 2023.

Helena

Looking for a city with a small-town feel that still has a Walmart and a Costco? Montana’s capital city, Helena, may be the perfect spot. With a population of just over 30,000, Helena isn’t an overwhelmingly big city—but it’s also not overwhelmingly small.

Because of its low cost of living and quieter atmosphere, Helena is a great place to retire in Montana. Retirees who move to Helena don’t have to dip into their retirement savings too much to stay afloat, and they have plenty of opportunities to stay active—like hiking at Helena National Forest or going fly fishing in the Missouri River.

Culturally, Helena does have a bit of a political atmosphere. Since it’s Montana’s capital city, a lot of its residents work for the state government. So there’s a good chance your circle of friends in Helena would include at least one person who works for a government agency.  

Population

32,0606

Median Household Income

$59,7127

Median Home Listing Price

$519,9008

Median Rent

$1,5009

Whitefish

Whitefish is a northwestern Montana ski resort town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The Whitefish Mountain Resort attracts visitors during the winter for skiing and during the warmer months for gondola rides, hiking trails and an alpine slide. Like most cities in Montana, Whitefish is full of opportunities for outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking and golfing. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Montana city without a farmer’s market!

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

Because Whitefish is a popular travel destination, living there comes with a pretty big price tag. Housing costs are very high, with a median rent of $3,200 and a median home listing price of $1.5 million. So, this probably isn’t the best destination for starting a family or jump-starting a career as a young professional. If you can afford to live in Whitefish—either because you make a really nice salary or you’ve worked hard to build wealth—it’s a favorite spot among Montanans.

How do you know if you can afford to live in Whitefish (or anywhere else)? A good rule of thumb is to keep your monthly housing payment to less than 25% of your take-home pay. Our free mortgage calculator can help you get a better idea of exactly how much house you can afford.

Population

7,78310

Median Household Income

$64,59511

Median Home Listing Price

$1.5 million12

Median Rent

$3,20013

Bozeman

Up next, another college town! Bozeman is where you’ll find Montana State University, which means the city is full of all the common college-town staples. It’s got great coffee shops, like Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot. It’s got great bookstores, like the local Country Bookshelf. And of course, Bozeman has great restaurants—many locals agree Blackbird is the best of the bunch.

Though Bozeman’s population certainly isn’t the biggest, at just over 50,000, that number is quickly going up. The city is consistently ranked at the top of various lists of America’s fastest growing “micropolitan” cities, which means the city is constantly seeing new people and construction. It’s why some locals have jokingly begun referring to the city as “Boz Angeles.”

The cost of living in Bozeman is pretty steep—22% higher than the national average, to be exact.14 So if you’re looking for an easy-to-afford destination, you can take Bozeman off your list. But if you can afford the higher costs, and you’re looking for a city that’s full of energy while providing access to the incredible outdoor activities Montana is known for, Bozeman could be a great choice.

Don’t worry: If you can’t afford the housing market in Bozeman, there are plenty of other, more affordable options on this list.

Population

51,57415

Median Household Income

$67,35416

Median Home Listing Price

$950,00017

Median Rent

$2,50018

Billings

Next up is the city on our list with the highest population: Billings. Nicknamed “The Magic City,” Billings has a population of over 117,000 and is about a three-hour drive from Yellowstone National Park. While Billings has the most residents of any of the cities on our list, it’s got one of the lowest housing costs, with a median home listing price of $426,000 and a median rent of just $1,444.

That means Billings is a great option for young families who want some Montana flavor in an affordable location. It’s also a great destination for folks looking to move or start a business, since Montana has no state sales tax and Billings has several programs to assist business owners, including grants for creating jobs.

Population

117,45319

Median Household Income

$65,81820

Median Home Listing Price

$426,20021

Median Rent

$1,48722

Kalispell

It may be a small town with a population of just over 24,000, but that doesn’t mean Kalispell doesn’t have places to work! Kalispell Regional Medical Center, a hospital, provides plenty of jobs for folks in the medical sector. Other big employers in the area include Glacier Bancorp, a major banking company in the western United States that’s headquartered in Kalispell, and a farm service company.

Now, while Kalispell certainly doesn’t have an issue with the number of jobs available, there isn’t a whole lot of variety. If you don’t work in the medical, banking or farming industries—or you don’t have a skill to offer companies in those sectors—then it may be tough to find a good fit in Kalispell. If you do work in those industries, though, then Kalispell is a great destination.

Kalispell isn’t on an interstate highway, but it is the home of Glacier Park International Airport, which offers daily direct flights to Seattle, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Denver through major airlines like Delta and United.23 Kalispell is also close to Glacier National Park, which means world-class hiking and backpacking is always just a short drive away.

Population

24,26024

Median Household Income

$55,41125

Median Home Listing Price

$674,95026

Median Rent

$1,85027

Great Falls

As you might have guessed, Great Falls gets its name from pretty great waterfalls. Specifically, the name is inspired by a series of five major waterfalls along Montana’s portion of the Missouri River, the longest river in the U.S. Great Falls is also known as the “Electric City” thanks to its many power plants and dams. (Sorry to disappoint fans of The Office, but Scranton isn’t the only city with that nickname.)

The best part of living in Great Falls? Its cost of living is super reasonable—13% lower than the national average. Great Falls’ affordable housing prices have a lot to do with that—it’s got the lowest rent on our list and the lowest home prices. And with a population of over 60,000, it’s not like you’d be moving to some tiny, remote city to take advantage of those prices.

Population

60,38128

Median Household Income

$53,12629

Median Home Listing Price

$329,90030

Median Rent

$1,30031

Hamilton

If you love moose, turkeys, deer, lakes, rivers and mountains, then have we got the place for you! That’s right, Hamilton is full of all that stuff. And what else would you expect from a quiet, small town in western Montana?

With a population of under 5,000, Hamilton certainly is small, but it’s not completely remote. Sure, you’d have to drive 40–50 miles to get to the nearest Walmart or Burger King, but Hamilton has all the essentials within its city limits—like drugstores, grocery stores and restaurants. It’s also close to other bigger Montana cities, so Hamilton residents are never too far from even more dining and shopping options.

Folks who live in Hamilton love it because it’s the largest town along the 95-mile Bitterroot Valley, which means it’s full of—you guessed it—things to do outdoors. It’s also home to the Bitterly National Forest and Naps Grill, which consistently ranks at the top on lists of the best burgers in Montana (and even some lists of the best burgers in the U.S.)

Population

4,63232

Median Household Income

$37,86833

Median Home Listing Price

$577,45034

Median Rent

$2,10035

Ready to Move to Montana?

If you’re ready to pack up and head west to the Treasure State, start by finding a real estate agent.

Why? Because an agent will help you find the right house, walk you through the complicated paperwork, and keep things moving smoothly even if something goes wrong. They’ll also help you plan for moving costs.

For a fast and easy way to find top-notch Montana agents in any of the cities on this list, try our RamseyTrusted program. The agents we recommend will serve you with excellence and help you wind up in a home that’s a good fit for you and your family.

Connect with a RamseyTrusted agent today.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best place to live in Montana for you will depend on what exactly you and your family are looking for. Want to be somewhere more remote and peaceful? Hamilton is a great choice. Somewhere affordable to start a family? Great Falls fits the bill. A place to retire? Helena would make a lot of sense.

Montana is a more remote state without a whole lot of people living there. For folks who can’t survive without having a skyscraper in their backyard, that’s a con. For others, who want to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities, it’s a pro. Another pro to living in Montana is the state’s relatively low cost of living. Another con is its limited business opportunities.

Great Falls and Billings are both among the best places to live in Montana for families. Both cities have a low cost of living and offer plenty of things for families and kids to do. Plus, Great Falls and Billings are both big enough to offer amenities like big chain grocery stores and pharmacies.

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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