After enduring a long, snowy winter, Montana welcomes summer with open arms on Memorial Day weekend. By late May, the snow has melted from the lower elevations, the sunshine is back, and Montana residents and visitors are getting back into the swing of warm-weather activities. And if you’re not quite ready to let go of winter, don’t worry — the snow often sticks around in areas situated in higher elevations well into the summer, so you can get in a few last-minute runs. Take advantage of stunning scenery and legendary outdoor recreational activities by staying at one of many Montana vacation rentals in these beautiful cities and towns.

1. West Yellowstone

Source: Flickr/Yellowstone National Park

Get a peek at Yellowstone National Park before the summer crowds descend with a Memorial Day getaway to West Yellowstone. Vacation rentals in this laid-back town are just minutes from the park’s west entrance, so you can get in early to check out Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and Yellowstone Lake. By late May, most of the park’s roads and visitor centers are open, and wildflowers bloom in the lower elevations. In town, be sure to stop by the excellent Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to learn about local wildlife.

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2. Red Lodge

Source: Flickr/kcxd

Get in one final weekend on the slopes near Red Lodge. This tiny town puts you near Beartooth Pass, which offers some of the best Memorial Day backcountry skiing in the state. Head up Highway 212 to the Gardner Headwall, and enjoy untouched lines down spectacular chutes. Bring a friend and two cars for easier shuttling up and down the pass. Nearby, the Rock Creek Headwall offers another set of challenging rock-lined chutes and a near-complete lack of competition for fresh powder.

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3. Whitefish

Source: Flickr/Jodie Wilson

Escape the holiday crowds in Whitefish; Memorial Day weekend falls between the ski season and summer in this beautiful town, so you can enjoy the wilderness in peace. Head up to Whitefish Mountain Resort to hike the low-elevation trails, which are usually snow-free by the end of May. If you’d prefer to get out on the water, rent a kayak or canoe from the Marina at Whitefish Lake and enjoy a scenic paddle. On Memorial Day, head downtown to see the annual parade, and stick around to watch the laying of the wreath at Veterans Memorial Bridge.

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4. Glacier National Park

Source: Flickr/Lindsey Turner

If you’re interested in hiking or biking, beautiful Glacier National Park is a fantastic destination on Memorial Day. The legendary Going-To-The-Sun Road is usually still closed to cars at the end of May, but open to hikers and bikers. Load up your day pack with snacks, and enjoy the unprecedented chance to explore the park’s spectacular wilderness without traffic. The park operates shuttles with bike trailers between the Apgar Visitor Center and Avalanche Creek, so you don’t have to worry about a return trip.

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5. Seeley Lake

Source: Flickr/Bitterroot

Learn the true meaning of “Big Sky Country” in Seeley Lake, where the views are expansive – and mind-boggling. Book a vacation rental on the lake shore and wake up each morning to the reflection of forests and snow-capped mountains in the crystal-clear water. Hike the Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail, fish for bass in the lake, or go mountain biking on the singletrack trails in the surrounding mountains. Memorial Day weekend also brings the annual Loon and Fish Festival, which features an art show, guided hikes to loon nesting sites, and spectacular wildflower hikes.

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6. Bozeman

Source: Flickr/T. Boni

Enjoy a getaway to one of Montana’s biggest cities in Bozeman. If the holiday weekend weather is cold or rainy, check out dinosaur fossils at the fantastic Museum of the Rockies or learn about the history of the American Indian tribes of the Gallatin Valley at the Gallatin History Museum. On Memorial Day, downtown Bozeman comes alive with the American Legion Memorial Day Parade; beforehand, join the locals in a breakfast at the Legion Club and stay after for a special ceremony at the Sunset Hills Cemetery.

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7. Fort Peck

Source: visitmt.com/listings/general/lake/fort-peck-lake-reservoir-and-recreation-area.html

Get away from it all on Memorial Day weekend in Fort Peck, which sits on the banks of the Fort Peck Lake Reservoir. Pack your best fishing gear; the lake is home to a huge variety of fish, including walleye, lake trout, chinook salmon, and northern pike. Launch a boat at Fort Peck Marina or Hell Creek Bay. If fishing isn’t your thing, head into the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge for hiking and stunning lake views.

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8. Bigfork

Source: bigforkwhitewaterfestival.com

As the snow melts in Montana’s mountains, the state’s rivers run high with incredible rapids; Bigfork celebrates the snow’s melt on Memorial Day weekend with the Bigfork Whitewater Festival. Head to this friendly town to watch professional and amateur paddlers shoot the class IV rapids on the Swan River’s challenging “Wild Mile.” Races include slaloms and sprints – enjoy watching from the shore, or pack your kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or raft if you want to participate in the fun.

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9. Missoula

Source: Flickr/Wesley Fryer

Rejoice in the return of summer weather in Missoula. Ride bikes along the Riverfront Trail next to the Clark Fork River, or hike to the “M” that hovers above town on Mount Sentinel. If you’re bringing little ones, head to the Splash Montana water park, which opens each year on Memorial Day weekend. With multiple water slides, a lazy river, and kids’ activities, this compact park is the perfect place to cool off when late-May temperatures rise. On Monday, honor veterans at ceremonies in Caras Park and the Missoula county courthouse.

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