Music & Mountains

bridger brewing

A roundup of live music and nearby recreation.

What’s the best thing about summer in Montana? Undoubtedly, you just thought of sunshine and being outside with your favorite people. Live music, road trips, adventuring in the mountains... it’s about making memories. It’s about nourishing the soul and rejuvenating the spirit. It’s the soliloquy of morning birds chirping with your first sip of coffee. Or the over-competitive backyard cornhole duo as the grill-master clacks his tongs: “Who wants cheese on theirs?”

Better yet, it’s one of your favorite artists or bands finally rolling through Montana. It’s clinking glasses at a new favorite dive bar after a rowdy bike ride. There’s an undeniable magic when you combine the exhilarating synergy of nature by day and the electrifying energy of live music by night. No matter your outdoor pursuit, let the following roundup of live-music showcases with proximity to wilderness recreation be a spark of motivation to create lasting summer memories.

Kettlehouse Amphitheatre
This is one of Montana’s most iconic outdoor music venues. Nestled in the foothills of Woody Mountain and tucked in a bend of the Blackfoot River, it has epic daytime views, a killer nighttime vibe, and the Kettlehouse Brewery is just 100 feet away. Spice up the day with your crew and check out the ample hiking options right from town such as the classic Mount Sentinel, which surpasses the Missoula ‘M.’ Or try mountain biking the Rattlesnake and topping it off at the Kettlehouse Brewery. And if that’s not rad enough for you, get after it on the Twin Lakes and Stuart Peak Trail system which accesses multiple glacial lakes.


Pine Creek Lodge
A staple of live music in the renowned Paradise Valley, this rustic venue is a must. Though not the biggest of venues, some of the biggest touring names in Montana make it a point to play here. It’s no wonder, with the tremendous backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains. This range has it all—hiking, biking, fishing, and climbing. Always a go-to is the hike to Pine Creek Falls and Pine Creek Lake. For a more mellow option, take grandma and grandpa on a beautiful car ride through Paradise Valley. With the Park nearby, go visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There is no wrong option near Pine Creek Lodge, and at the end of a long day, the venue offers cabins to stay in as well as glamping tents.

Pine creek music

The Old Saloon
Another Paradise Valley treasure, this bar brings in some of the state’s best summer bookings. Go ahead and saunter through the swinging saloon doors like John Wayne, grab a drink, and find yourself a spot at the outdoor stage. Seated right off the Yellowstone River, the location is also a magnet for fishermen. Grab some beta from the local guide shops and cast your fly on the Yellowstone. Alternatively, with Chico Hot Springs nearby, and Yellowstone Hot Springs not much further down the road, take advantage of some of Montana’s best natural hot springs. Get out of the busy city life, make it an overnighter, and pitch your tent at one of the many camp spots such as the Paradise Fishing campground for a serene, relaxing reset.

Music in the Mountains
What’s better than live music amidst panoramic sunset mountain views? This wonderful event occurs every Thursday from June through September. It’s free, and it showcases both local and touring acts. Plus, it’s family friendly. But if you’re heading up to Big Sky, might as well make a day of it. Big Sky Resort offers adrenaline-pumping downhill biking descents that are lift-accessed. Options are equally as abundant for hikers, with Ousel Falls being an option your sea-level cousin can handle, while Beehive, Middle, and Bear basins offer more demanding outings. Lastly, Big Sky is also known for its fishing and whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River. There’s no shortage of activities before resting (or dancing) on the lawn in Big Sky.

Music in the Mountains

Bridger Brewing
With its own unique flair to that of its sister location in Bozeman, Bridger Brewing in Three Forks just keeps improving. Known for their darn good beer, locally-sourced ingredients, and sustainable practices, it’s quickly becoming one the most sought-after music hotspots in southwest Montana. Recreation comes in abundance nearby. With Copper City just a few minutes north, rip your mountain bike on over 30 miles of gentle rolling hills, steep technical berms, and gut-wrenching drops. Or, go a few minutes south to Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, and walk along the same outcrops that Native Americans used for harvesting bison. The park also has an interpretive center with information about history, geology, and ecology. Whether you’re at the Brews and Beats benefit for KGLT or watching Paul Cauthen deliver a passionate outlaw-country performance, you’ll feel the gratitude of what “Montana’s Favorite Small Town” has to offer.

live music

Forget Me Knot
This annual music festival was born out of an effort to revitalize the devastating economic hit that Silver Gate and Cooke City experienced when the upper drainage of the Yellowstone released its fury of flooding in 2022. This festival seeks to elevate culture, music, and art in the area. While you’re supporting the festival, explore the endless recreational options. For hiking, check out Sheep Falls, Lady Lake, or Aero Lakes. For fishing, the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River and Soda Butte Creek are teeming with trout. Or, do some horseback riding with Skyline Guest Ranch. Expand on your photography skills and wildlife-watching in the Lamar Valley. For local restaurants, you can’t go wrong with the Beartooth Cafe in Cooke City or the Log Cabin Cafe in Silver Gate. And of course, hailed as one of the most scenic drives in the United States is the Beartooth Highway, with panoramic views of the Beartooths and access to challenging hikes like Beartooth Lake or Grasshopper Glacier.

Forget me Knot

Red Ants Pants
Celebrating our rural heritage, this music festival gives you a taste of what Montana is all about. It prides itself on celebrating women in agricultural and rural communities, with high-profile Americana staples gracing the stage. While you’re getting a feel for Montana roots, cast your line in the renowned Smith River or one of the nearby reservoirs. There are also amazing hiking options in the Big Belts. Or, take a leisurely drive along the Kings Hill Scenic Byway or the Smith River Canyon for a chance to spot some deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. And finally, you’d be foolish not to finish off your hard-earned efforts at the unassuming, mineral-rich Hot Springs Motel.

Red ants pants

“Where the West is still the West.” Stacey’s holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Expect a full dance floor and enjoy a good ol’ Montana-style meal (try the prime-rib sandwich or Stacey’s burger). Stacey’s has even expanded with a brand-new bar: the Westerner. You’ll be transported back in time to a rustic 1990s honkytonk bar, but with current touring national acts. The acoustics are exceptional and there’s not a bad spot in the house. Nearby, there are many outdoor opportunities near Gateway, but first try the cabin at Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout. Though you must reserve the hut, it has unparalleled views of Hyalite Canyon, the Gallatin Range, and the Spanish Peaks. Another excellent outing is Spanish Creek Road: a public easement crossing private land into the unbridled Spanish Peaks. Just on the drive alone you may see deer, antelope, or bison. Once at the trailhead, set out for the Spanish Lakes and Mirror Lake, where time seems to stand still as your soul recharges. There are also excellent rock-climbing options in Gallatin Canyon such as “the Tower.” Finally, check out Storm Castle Peak, which peers through a large door-sized hole formation onto a vast Montana expanse.

Staceys bar

Gravel Bar
A hole-in-the-wall treasured by the locals of Ennis, here you will catch some great tunes by local musicians and even travelers passing through. It’s affectionally called the “G-Bar,” and you’ll hear stories of the day that flow as freely as the whisky behind the counter. Saddled up to the bar will likely be local town workers, mountain guides, river guides, Sphinx hikers, Ennis Lake swimmers, labor workers, and business folk alike. So sit back, fight the urge to stare at your phone, and have a chat with the neighbor sitting next to you. Make a new friend over one of the local favorite brews. Enjoy the live music, be kind, and throw some bread in performers’ jars.

Nearby, practice your casting on one of the most famous trout streams in the world: the Madison River. The river is also popular for floating, so rent a tube and get your crew together for some lazy river fun. Or hire a horseback guide and go on a day trip of a lifetime through the mountains and native-grass hills. If you want to rip some dirt, go to Moose Creek Trail, which has some fantastic singletrack. And don’t forget about Ennis Lake, where lake-life takes top form in motorboating, jet skiing, and wake-boarding. The options are endless in Ennis, and beyond. So this summer, hit the road to some of the best music and recreation locales in Montana, all within a few hours from home.