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Montana State Parks report record visitation for 2020

Lone Pine State Park
Posted at 10:49 AM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 12:51:21-05

GREAT FALLS — Montana State Parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a 29.5% increase over 2019.

Visitation increased every month in 2020 over 2019, despite temporary closures at several parks and the absence or sharp decline in school field trips, events and other group activities.

“These record-setting visitation numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone who visited any of our parks in 2020,” said Beth Shumate, Parks Division Administrator at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in a news release.

“The increased amount of people outdoors was evident, and our staff went above and beyond the call of duty to keep our parks safe and accessible. Montana State Parks provided immediate physical and mental health relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Park visitation was up all around the state. Here are some key visitation numbers.



The five most-visited state parks in 2020 were:

  1. Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 471,690 visits (up 32.9%)
  2. Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls - 384,309 visits (up .1%)
  3. Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts - 359,607 visits (up 104.5%)
  4. Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 231,388 visits (up 27.1%)
  5. Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 178,156 visits (up 32%)

Here is a list of the most-visited state parks around the state:

  • Northwest Montana: Flathead Lake State Park (all units) had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 471,690 visits, an increase of 32.9% over the same time period last year.
  • Western Montana: Placid Lake State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 90,179 visits, an increase of 33.2% over the same time period last year.
  • Southwest Montana: Missouri Headwaters State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 70,917 visits, an increase of 36.6% over the same time period last year.
  • Central Montana: Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation in the region, with an estimated 384,309 visits, an increase of 0.1% over the same time period last year.
  • South central Montana: Cooney Reservoir State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 359,607 visits, an increase of 104.5% over the same time period last year.
  • Eastern Montana: Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 128,288 visits, an increase of 50.4% over the same time period last year.


Though the increased visitation in 2020 was remarkable, FWP says it continues a trend over the past decade; state park visitation has increased 83 percent over the last 10 years.

“While we don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, we will continue to manage Montana's state park system with public safety and the safety of our staff as our highest priority,” said FWP director Hank Worsech. “We know how much people value all the amenities we offer and we look forward to another year of welcoming visitors to enjoy Montana’s outdoor opportunities.”

Click here to read the complete report (PDF).