Montana, like many other western states, has seen a flood of newcomers in the last year. And not everyone has been met with welcome arms. Many natives and long-time locals are worried that the influx of new residents will have a negative impact on our way of life here in Montana. As the population grows, we hope that all of the things that make Montana great won't fade away. If you are a newcomer, we truly hope that you feel welcomed by your community. We also hope that you make a conscious effort to help keep Montana the special place that it is. Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t trailblaze
There is a reason the trail is there, you are meant to stay on it! You know those logs and branches that are laid over the shortcut you want to take? They are there for a reason! When you go off-trail, you trample on the vegetation and leave marks that encourage others to do the same. Not only does this create an eyesore on the trail, but it also causes erosion and other long-term damage. We have a number of organizations and volunteers who work very hard to keep our trails maintained and in good condition, so please respect the work that they do and stay on the trail!
2. Look up from your phone
This rule applies everywhere, but seriously, did you move to Montana to stare at your phone? Look up! There are mountain views, friendly people, cute dogs, and pedestrians who would really love it if you would keep your eyes off your phone, especially while driving.
3. Leave no trace
There are thousands of us heading to the hills to bike, hike, camp, fish, and float, and if we aren’t careful, the impact of all of us will quickly overwhelm the wilderness we all love. This is why it is so important to leave nature as you found it, maybe even a little better. Don’t leave toilet paper on the side of the trail, pick up after your pet, minimize campfire impacts, pack out what you pack in, be thoughtful about where you set up camp, and whatever you do, don’t sink your cans in the river! To learn more about how to leave no trace click here.
4. Don’t come here for a photoshoot
We know Montana is pretty and all, but if you came here to up your Instagram game, you are not going to fit in well with the locals. If you’re the guy pretending to meditate at the base of Ousel Falls, the girl in spandex perched on the rocks on the M trail, or the naked guy trying to get a cool picture at Pine Creek Lake, please consider enjoying and respecting the wilderness that surrounds you rather than exploiting it.
5. Put out your fires
None of us want Montana to catch on fire. That is why it is so important that act with care and do our part to keep the seasonal wildfires limited to naturally caused fires, not human-caused. Always, always, always put out your campfire completely. Burn all the wood completely, pour water on the fire until all embers have been completely soaked. If you don’t have water, stir dirt or sand into the fire to bury it. Continue until the fire is completely cool and remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!
6. Get snow tires
If we had a nickel for every out-of-state plated car that we’ve seen sliding through an intersection, we could afford a home in Bozeman! (it’s a joke, kind of...) While you might think your Toyota Camry will do just fine with the tires it has, you don’t want to find out that’s not the case as you are sliding right into an F-150. Do yourself and all the other drivers on the road a favor and get yourself some snow tires.
7. Use the pullouts
If you are new to Montana, our mountain roads can feel a little out of your comfort zone. We know you may want to take it slow, either to enjoy the view or just to stay safe on the road. But if you are driving well below the speed limit on these two-lane roads, please pull over when you notice cars pilling up behind you! There are pull-outs all along the road for this reason, let’s use them.
8. Let people pass you on the trail
Speaking of letting people pass if the person hiking behind you is moving faster than you are, please be courteous and step aside to let them get by! This helps to avoid congestion on the trail and lets people hike at the pace they would like, not at yours. To brush up on your hiking manners, click here.
9. Don’t play music on the trails
With all the AirPods, Beats, and good old-fashioned headphones out there, it's amazing how many people still feel the need to share their music with everyone within earshot on the trail. But please remember, not everyone wants to jam with you. Many people head to the trails for some peace and want to be surrounded by the sounds of nature, not The Weeknd’s latest hit.
10. Be nice to people
One of the things that makes Montana so special is the kindness that people show to others, whether they know them or not. Many newcomers feel uncomfortable with this blatant display of friendliness. I mean, who lets you pull out in front of them in traffic, or tries to look you in the eye when you pass on the sidewalk? But these little displays of kindness are what keeps Montana, well, Montana. And as our population grows, it seems that these little acts of kindness have gone from a daily occurrence to a rare occasion. The spirit of Montanan’s is probably one of the reasons you fell in love with this place, whether you know it or not. So, let’s not let that disappear. Smile at strangers. Let people cut in front of you in line. Shovel the sidewalk for your neighbor. Open the door for someone. Help the person on the side of the road. Let’s all do our part to keep the Montana spirit alive.
11. Slow the heck down
It’s just like the bumper sticker says “did you move here to be in a hurry?” If you really want to live the Montana life, take a deep breath and stop racing everywhere!