Much is made of increased tourism rates for our national parks, but how about state park uptrends?

Logically, you could say that one is likely to coincide with the other. And while there were more visitors, the growth from 2022 to 2023 was far from staggering. Montanans do love their state parks, though, thanks in part to their abundant locations and amenities, creating easy access for recreation lovers regardless of wherever they happen to be in the state.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tells us that last year, more than 3.1 million visitors took advantage of hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and site-seeing available in our 55 state parks. The visitation numbers for 2023 showed a 2.4 percent increase from 2022, part of a 42 percent increase over the past 10 years.

RECREATION MEETS EDUCATION

In addition to outdoor recreation, Montana FWP touts our state parks as providers of opportunities for visitors to learn about land and water stewardship and the cultural, natural and recreational heritage of our state. FWP Parks and Outdoor Recreation Administrator Deb O'Neill was quoted as saying, “We are happy to see many people getting outdoors and enjoying our parks, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t been to a state park to visit at least one and experience what so many people love.”

Montana State Parks
Image courtesy of MT FWP
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THE TOP 5

So, what are Montana's most-visited state parks? Here's FWP's Top 5 for 2023:

1 - Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls – 584,810 visitors

2- Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 332,063 visitors

3 - Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena – 169,348 visitors

4 - Lake Elmo State Park, Billings – 165,041 visitors

5 - Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts – 148,344 visitors

Montana State Parks
Image courtesy of MT FWP
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MOST POPULAR BY REGION

FWP saw an estimated 1,359,538 visitors across its 24 western Montana state parks, in no small part due to the popularity of the Flathead Lake state park system, which includes six parks. That was a 3.3 percent increase in visitation compared with 2022.

In central Montana, there were an estimated 1,484,293 visitors across its 23 parks, an estimated 1.7 percent increase in visitation compared with 2022.

And eastern Montana had an estimated 264,438 visitors across its seven parks, an estimated 1.4 percent increase in visitation compared with 2022 (management of Hell Creek State Park was transferred, and visitation estimates have not been calculated since).

If you'd like to get a park-by-park report, check out this page of Montana FWP state parks, and enjoy as many as you can in 2024.

What $1 Million Dollars Gets You for a Home In Whitefish. Montana

Gallery Credit: kc

Best Looking State Patrol Cars In (Almost) Every State

For the past 10 years, the American Association of State Troopers has held a contest to determine which state has the best looking patrol cruiser. Nearly every state police agency submits their best photo of their sharpest patrol vehicle a chance to win the coveted cover photo on the association's annual calendar. From cop cars rushing through blizzards to vehicles on the Grand Ole Opry stage, here are this year's nominees.

Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

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