Aurora Tracks See Northern Lights

Where & When Can You See Northern Lights in MONTANA USA?

where and when can you see northern lights in montana usa

Want to see the aurora borealis without traveling too far? In this article, we explain where and when can you see northern lights in Montana USA, with a comprehensive list of aurora-chasing hotspots in the state.

Montana is a popular destination for those wishing to view the vast landscapes and Big Sky that have captivated visitors for generations. It is one of the most remote states in the lower 48 yet has some of the most well-known locations imaginable, such as Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, as well as Yellowstone Park. The winter night skies out in Big Sky Country provide visitors with truly memorable experiences of vivid and breathtaking auroral displays.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly where can you see northern lights in Montana USA, and when to plan your aurora hunt, for the best chances of seeing the lights for yourself.

Can You See Northern Lights in Montana?

Although Montana USA is located well below the auroral oval, it is natural to ask “Can you see northern lights in Montana, at all?” The answer in short is yes, with proper planning. During the solar cycle peak and periods of high geomagnetic activity, Montana is a popular spot in the US lower 48 to see the aurora borealis, and sightings there are well-documented. However, to give yourself a good chance of seeing the lights you will need to plan your timing and choice of location carefully, as we’ll explain here.

where can you see northern lights in montana lake mcdonald
Where can you see northern lights in Montana USA? Lake McDonald (pictured) is one of the most popular aurora-gazing spots in the state.

When Can You See Northern Lights in Montana?

An essential part of your trip planning, the very first question you need to ask and plan around is ‘When can you see northern lights in Montana?”. Proper timing is crucial for northern lights watching in any regions south of the auroral oval, and you should align your trip with a solar cycle peak. The best time of year to visit Montana to view the northern lights will be from late September until early April. However, it is best to visit during the peak of winter due to the longer and darker nights, which provide visitors with ample opportunities to capture a glimpse of the ghostly lights as they dance through the night skies.

Best Months for Aurora Activity

Although you can view the northern lights at any point from September until April, you are generally more likely to capture a glimpse of the phantom lights between October and March. For the optimal viewing conditions, you should plan your trip between the months of December and February, due to the clearer skies and extremely long nights.

Best Years Based on Solar Cycle

The visibility of the aurora borealis is dependent upon the amount of solar activity and radiation being ejected from the sun. The sun operates in an 11-year cycle, during the peak of which, the aurora tends to be more frequent and vivid. Since the last peak occurred during the 2012 –2013 season, 2024 –25 is expected to provide some of the most impressive displays in recent history. For more information, check out our article on the best years to see the northern lights.

Moon Cycle and Other Timing Considerations

Always make sure that when you plan your trip to go aurora hunting, you plan around the phases of the moon. You never want to go hunting for the aurora borealis when it is a full moon, or even when it is in its crescent phase. Instead, to reduce the amount of light pollution created by the moonlight reflecting off the snow-covered landscapes, always make sure to visit Montana during a new moon.

For more timing tips, check out our article on how to choose the best time of year to see northern lights.

Where Can You See the Northern Lights in Montana

Best Places for Montana Northern Lights

Glacier National Park

Closest City: Kalispell, MT

For viewing the northern lights, nothing beats the Glacier National Park. This popular destination is known for its stunning landscapes and pristine wilderness, and for offering visitors some of the most spectacular views of the aurora borealis imaginable.


  • Check up on Local Road Conditions
  • Address and Layers and Bring Extra Cold-Weather Gear
  • Some Areas of the Park May Be Limited during the Winter
  • Be Cautious of Wildlife Encounters

Flathead Lake

Closest City: Polson, MT

While the Great Lakes are well known in the eastern United States, Flathead Lake is considered to be the largest freshwater lake in the western part of the country. As a result, many locals make their way to Flathead to view the aurora borealis thanks to its calm waters and the surrounding mountains. You are bound to find a secluded location along the shorelines, far away from any urban center or light pollution.


  • Check for Ice Conditions before Venturing out on the Lake
  • Be Prepared for Subzero Temperatures
  • Where Extra Layers of Clothing Due to Wind Chills
  • Bring Your Snowshoes or Cross-Country Skis

Yellowstone National Park

Official Website:

Closest City: West Yellowstone, MT

Yellowstone is probably the most famous Park in the United States, thanks to its many geothermal wonders. Far away from any populated area, the park’s geysers and hot springs provide visitors with some of the most surreal experiences imaginable. Nothing beats seeing Old Faithful erupting with the auroras lighting up the night skies behind it.


  • Check for Park Closures
  • Book Accommodations and Advanced
  • Follow Park Guidelines for Winter Travel
  • Be Cautious around Geothermal Features
glacier national park is one of the most popular places for montana northern lights
Glacier National Park is one of the most popular places for Montana northern lights chasers.

Missoula Valley

Closest City: Missoula, MT

Surrounded by mountains, the Missoula Valley is a popular destination for those looking to view the northern lights in a more peaceful and serene setting. Far away from any major city lights, visitors to the Missoula Valley can find several excellent vantage points overlooking the valley, providing them with unobstructed views of the night skies.


  • Research Optimal Viewing Spots
  • Pay Close Attention to Weather Conditions
  • Dress in Layers and Bring Extra Clothing
  • Bring Your Hot Beverages and Snacks

Lake McDonald

Closest City: West Glacier, MT

Located within Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald is a prime location for viewing the northern lights. This secluded lake destination is perfect for viewing the auroras during the winter months, as the phantom lights reflect off the frozen surface and surrounding snow-covered mountains.


  • Check for Road Conditions
  • Visit the Apgar Visitor Center
  • Be Aware of Wildlife Encounters

Seeley Lake

Closest City: Seeley Lake, MT

You will find the popular Seeley Lake nestled in the Swan Range of the Mission Mountains. This amazing destination provides peaceful surroundings and scenic lakeside spots that provide visitors with unobstructed views of the northern skies.


  • Check for Ice Thickness before Venturing out onto the Lake
  • Book Lodging Well in Advanced
  • Bring Snowshoes or Cross-Country Skis

Bitterroot Valley

Closest City: Hamilton, MT

The Bitterroot Valley is a stunning and serene location that is flanked on one side by the Sapphire Mountains, and on the other side by the Bitterroot Mountains. During the peak of the winter months, this secluded location offers visitors dark skies and minimal light pollution.


  • Check for Local Road Conditions
  • Can Be Quite Expensive
  • Make Sure to Bring Extra Winter Gear

Flathead National Forest

Closest City: Kalispell, MT

You will find Flathead National Park next to Glacier National Park. The park offers an expansive wilderness area with minimum light pollution, which is ideal for aurora hunting. With the help of some snowshoes or cross-country skis, you can reach some secluded locations, perfect for viewing the impressive auroral displays.


  • Follow Park Regulations
  • Some Areas May Be Inaccessible
  • Some Trails May Be Closed during Wintertime
  • Make Sure to Bring Outdoor Safety Gear

Garnet Ghost Town

Closest City: Drummond, MT

Montana isn’t just known for Yellowstone National Park, it is also home to a number of well-preserved ghost towns. One of the most popular ghost towns in the state is Garnet, which dates back to the late 19th century. This historical site provides the perfect backdrop for those wishing for a more unique view of the northern lights.


  • Check for Road Conditions
  • Respect Site Regulations
  • Show Respect to Historical Artifacts
  • Join a Guided Aurora Tour

Big Sky

Official Website:

Closest City: Bozeman, MT

Known as one of the most expansive ski resorts and all of Montana, Big Sky offer some of the darkest skies for viewing the northern lights in the entire state. Thanks to its location far away from any urban areas, and close proximity to amenities, Big Sky is a unique destination for those wishing to find some of the most amazing auroral displays imaginable.


  • Book Accommodations in Advance
  • Sign up for Aurora Tours
  • Be Prepared to Spend A Lot


This brings our guide to where and when to see northern lights in Montana USA to an end. If you are still wondering, “Can you see northern lights in Montana?” the answer is yes, with proper planning. To see the Montana northern lights, make sure you factor these points into your trip planning:

Can you see northern lights in Montana USA? Trip planning essentials:

  • The aurora borealis will be more active and visible during periods of high geomagnetic activity, such as during a solar cycle peak. Plan your trip for a year that falls on a solar cycle peak, and keep an eye on geomagnetic activity with a good aurora forecast app.
  • The aurora is best viewed in total darkness. Avoid light pollution of all forms including cities, towns and full moon, and plan your trip for the darkest months.
  • Travel as far north as you can manage, and ensure the destination you choose has sky clearance to the north, so that your view is not obstructed. All the locations listed here are excellent vantage points.

Good luck and happy aurora hunting!

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