Montana is a last frontier of the American West in a way, with half the state covered by some of the more formidable peaks in the lower Rocky Mountain chain and the other half flatlands of the uppermost Great Plains. As of July 2008, the state's population was under 1 million. Yet with a number of small but open-minded towns and gorgeous scenery, Montana has places worthy of settling down in.
With the University of Montana at its center and a young, liberal mindset, Missoula is one of the best places to live in Montana. Environmentally minded and full of active young people, Missoula has a surprising number of cosmopolitan restaurants and shopping options, as well as access to rivers, mountains and ski resorts. With the turnover of young people from the university, there are always fresh thoughts and faces around town, at restaurants and bars, allowing the city to change and evolve.
Just north of Yellowstone National Park and located between three world-class skiing destinations, Bozeman is a wonderful small community nestled in the Rocky Mountains. With a population of about 30,000 and Montana State University to supplement its younger population, Bozeman thrives off the tourists who know about it, enjoying the simple, active outdoor lifestyle Montana natives take pride in. Fly fishing, cross-country skiing, weekend-long hiking and camping trips -- they are all part of living in Bozeman.
In the northwest portion of the state just south of Glacier National Park is Kalispell, whose population has grown steadily to about 40,000 in the past decade or so. In the summer it swells considerably with tourists heading to the national park or camping nearby, but even all the outsiders can't distract from the gorgeous scenery in the Flathead Valley, with Flathead Lake, the largest body of fresh water found west of the Continental Divide, and the Jewel Basin hiking area, considered one of the state's best. Kalispell is quite small and isolated, best suited for people who are really ready for the quiet, settled small-town experience.