Public lands, state and national forests, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land constitute roughly 35 percent of the state, opening much of the state up for recreation and a plethora of other uses.
Montana operates more than 40 state parks (406/444-2535, http://fwp.mt.gov ) focusing on both recreation and history. Many of the parks include campgrounds, which are open from mid-May to mid-September. Day-use fees for non-Montanans are $2–5 at most state parks, with an additional $12–15 for overnight campers. Some parks feature yurts, tepees, and cabins for rent. The state’s parks are diverse, including historic ghost towns, Native American museums, and lakeside campgrounds.
Much of the public land in Montana’s western and southern mountains is administered by the U.S. Forest Service (406/329-3511, www.fs.fed.us/r1 ). Forest Service ranger stations are good places to get information on camping and recreation. All national forests contain developed hiking trails, and Forest Service roads in winter become de facto cross-country skiing trails. Most national forests also have developed trail systems for mountain bikers and can provide maps highlighting roads and areas best suited for backcountry cycling. Much of this land is also open to hunting in season—usually late September through November. Forest Service maps are good for exploring and for spotting hiking trails and campsites.
Forest Service campgrounds are widespread in western Montana. Fees range from free to $16, depending on the amenities (free campgrounds are those with a pit toilet and no running water—they’re usually remote and rarely crowded). The Forest Service also rents out some rustic cabins and fire lookouts, usually for about $20–50 per night. Check the individual national forest’s website for cabin descriptions, accessibility, information about what supplies you’ll need to bring along, and details about reserving a cabin.
Montana has 17 federally managed wilderness areas, roadless and closed to mechanized use, including mountain bikes. Designated wilderness areas are sometimes more heavily used than remote nonwilderness areas. Stop in at a Forest Service ranger station and ask which local trails they favor. In addition to the wilderness areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, there are several tribal wilderness areas in Montana. Before hiking or fishing on tribal land, be sure you have the necessary permits.
Glacier National Park  (www.nps.gov/glac ) falls entirely within Montana, and its Canadian counterpart, Waterton Lakes National Park , is directly above the border. Although the bulk of Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/yell ) is in Wyoming, three of the park’s entrances, as well as its northern edge, are in Montana. Entrance fees are $25 for either Glacier or Yellowstone (or $80 for a year-long pass to any national park). This pays for a week’s unlimited entrance into the specified park. An extra fee is charged to camp in park campgrounds.