Summertime in Montana is filled with many opportunities to experience history, explore nature and try new things. Whether you are planning activities for wedding guests or just visiting for the summer, Montana has unique offerings for everyone. Madison County, located in southwest Montana, is one of my favorite areas for recreation because of its natural beauty, small town feel, historical roots, and exciting adventures for all ages.
Here are just a few notable places and activities that will give you the true Madison County experience!
Big Sky is a small, but growing community that shares a respect for nature and a passion for outdoor recreation. Along with its world-class winter sports, Big Sky also offers many great summer activities in a breathtaking setting.
- Let your inner thrill seeker loose with Big Sky Resort’s Basecamp. Fly over the slopes and trees on the Zipline. Connect with your inner acrobat on the Bungee Trampoline. Other activities include disc golf, golf, paintball, lasertag, hiking, scenic lift rides, archery, and much, much more. This is truly fun for everyone!
- Listen to Music in the Mountains every Thursday at the Town Center Stage. Oh, did we mention that it’s free?!
- Become a member and play the RESERVE, a Jack Nicklaus signature par-72 course at Moonlight Basin. Don’t worry, the course provides bear spray just in case you get a close encounter with the wildlife!
- Pamper yourself with a seaweed body wrap at the Moonlight Spa. Afterward, enjoy the breathtaking slope side view in the heated outdoor pool and hot tub.
- Hike, Bike, and BBQ on Tuesdays at Moonlight Basin. Explore 16 miles of scenic trails with a complimentary guide or on your own, followed by live music and slow roasted BBQ. Rentals available.
At the heart of Madison Valley you will find a small community of avid anglers and hunters in what looks like the set of an old western movie. This is Ennis. Beyond the famous fishing holes, and unique shops and delicious eateries on Main Street, there are many activities in Ennis for the whole family.
- Attend fly fishing school at the Madison River Fishing Company. If you are already a skilled angler, then book a trip with MRFC or any one of Ennis’s many outfitters, including Montana Trout Stalkers and fish a blue ribbon stream or two!
- Ride horses in the gorgeous backcountry through mountain trails and wildflowers. Book a trail ride with Wolfpack Outfitters or Adventures Outfitting.
- Celebrate a famous patriotic Ennis tradition: Ennis Rodeo, live music and dancing, and 4th of July Parade!
- Nab some fresh produce and handmade goodies at the Madison Farm to Fork farmer’s market.
- Escape the summer heat and float the majestic Madison River with inner tubes and coolers. Please float responsibly!
- Play the most challenging par 5 in the state of Montana at Madison Meadows Golf Course.
- Lounge on the Kobayshi Beach at Ennis Lake. Take a boat or jet ski down the beautiful canyon and try out the rope swings!
Virginia City and Nevada City area
Virginia City was the site of one of the most successful gold mining claims in Montana history. Now, Virginia City and Nevada City are ghost towns that come alive every summer with living history, live entertainment, tours, and unique shops and restaurants.
- Ride the steam engine and pan for gold.
- Get a belly full of laughs at the Brewery Follies. WARNING: The humor can be raunchy, so I suggest maybe leaving the kids at home!
- Enjoy a night of authentic 19th century melodrama with the Virginia City Players at the Opera House.
- Go on a Ghost Walk Tour starting at the Bale of Hay Saloon.
- Stay in one of the preserved historic cabins in Nevada City.
- Immerse yourself in the rich history of Boothill Cemetery, where the Road Agents (outlaws) were hanged by the Vigilantes in order to restore justice in Virginia City.
- Try one of the many flavors of homemade salt water taffy at Cousin’s Candy Shop.
Harrison, Pony, and Norris area
Harrison, Pony, and Norris are three small communities all located within 17 miles of each other. This area’s offerings largely include family-run diners, dive bars, lake outings, and other homegrown fun.
- Visit the Pony Bar on Memorial Day for the famous Duck Races. Live music on Friday & Sunday Nights.
- Soak in the Water of the Gods at Norris Hot Springs. Enjoy organic food, beer, and wine along with live bluegrass on the weekends.
- Go boating on Harrison Lake. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Hop on the Madison River in the Beartrap Canyon outside of Norris for a fun day of floating!
Sheridan and Twin Bridges area
- Attend the Madison County Fair in Twin Bridges in August and enjoy 4-H shows, rodeos, and barbecues.
- Get a true feel for Montana fishing with Four Rivers Fishing Company located in Twin Bridges. Be sure to pack the bug spray!
- Visit Silver Star, the third oldest town in Montana, where Lewis and Clark passed through in 1805.
- Stop by Chick’s Bar in Alder (between Virginia City and Sheridan) for a round of beers and some shuffleboard!
The bottom line: There are many great ways to enjoy Madison County, so get out there and start exploring, and help your wedding guests have the total Montana experience!