11 Montana Nicknames and the History Behind Them

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A lush mountainside, a glacial lake, and a snow-covered rocky mountain range
Montana's stunning outdoor spaces inspired many of the state's monikers

From the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the beauty of Glacier National Park to the endless expanse of its rolling plains, Montana is a much-loved place for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. Beyond its breathtaking landscapes, this state has acquired a fascinating array of nicknames, each reflecting a different facet of its history and culture.

These Montana nicknames range from well-known monikers like the Treasure State to more unusual names, such as the Huckleberry State or the Headwaters State. Whether you're a curious traveler, a history buff, or a local Montana resident, keep reading to uncover the meanings, origins, and significance of Montana's diverse nicknames.

11 Nicknames for Montana

A lake surrounded by mountains and forests under a blue sky with clouds
Big Sky Country is one of the well-known monikers for Montana's scenic landscapes

Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country is probably the state's most well-known nickname. The name relates to Montana's landscapes, which are engulfed by expansive skies. As you explore, you'll discover many wide-open outdoor spaces with skies that stretch seemingly uninterrupted, resulting in the moniker Big Sky Country.

This name is also connected to a novel by Alfred Bertram Guthrie Jr. called The Big Sky. It covers the American West, the Oregon Trail, and the early history of Montana.

Ez 2 Luv

Ez 2 Luv is a unique nickname that was adopted by Montana's tourism bureau in the 1990s. Interestingly, it was based on a local university student's license plate. The name references how it's easy to love the state based on its beautiful outdoor areas, many recreational activities, and friendly residents.

Most Montana nicknames, including Headwaters State, refer to its nature spots
Headwaters of the Missouri River can be found in Montana

Headwaters State

Headwaters State is a somewhat lesser-known nickname for Montana. This moniker relates to the fact that the area features the headwaters (a tributary that's close to or part of the source of a river) of a few rivers, including the headwaters of the Missouri River. Additionally, you'll find Missouri Headwaters State Park in Montana, another link to the Headwaters State nickname.

Land of Shining Mountains

Land of Shining Mountains is another of the Montana slogans relating to the area's natural beauty. Notably, the state features two major mountain ranges, the Rocky Mountains and the Bitterroot Range. When the sun shines, it reflects off of these often snow-capped mountains, making them appear to shine.

The name was given further prominence in the book Montana: The Land of Shining Mountains by Katharine Berry Judson, which covers Montana history.

A man walking a rough trail on a mountain surrounded by trees
If you want to find huckleberries, hiking Huckleberry Trail in Montana is a must

The Huckleberry State

Huckleberries are a popular fruit in Montana as the berries grow well on bushes that are at a high elevation. Locals enjoy the fruit freshly picked as well as in jams and pies, among other confectionaries. This has led to the casually used Huckleberry State nickname.

However, this moniker recently became more official. A fun Montana fact is that the huckleberry became the state fruit in mid-2023, officially making Montana a Huckleberry State!

Mountain State

One of the more literal Montana State nicknames is the Mountain State. This name occurs due to the mountainous landscape the area is known for, which includes natural Montana landmarks, like the Rocky Mountains. In fact, there are over 100 mountain ranges and sub-mountain ranges in the state.

Additionally, the name Montana came from a Spanish word, montaña, which means mountain. Despite this nickname being used by some for Montana, it's most associated with another state, West Virginia.

Black cattle on a lush field on a cloudy day
Cattle ranching boosted Montana's economy during the 19th and early 20th centuries

The Cattleman's Paradise

The Cattleman's Paradise is a more historical Montana State nickname. It dates to the 19th and early 20th centuries when cattle ranching was central to the area's economy. It was seen as a "paradise" for this industry due to the vast areas of flat, open land.

This industry's start is connected to a Canadian, Johnny Grant, who established a cattle ranch in the area. Today, that site is known as the Grant–Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and cattle ranching remains important to Montana's economy.

The 406

The nickname the 406 is a pretty easy one to understand; it comes from Montana's area code. While many states have multiple area codes for different counties and cities, Montana has just one for the entire state, which it has used since 1947.

As the whole of Montana shares this area code, it's become a symbol of the state. This moniker is so loved that it features on merchandise and is used in local business names, like 406 MT Sports.

A small red barn next to snow-covered mountains under an icy blue sky
Montana's location and snowy and icy climate gave it the nickname the Frozen North

The Frozen North

Another quite literal nickname is the Frozen North. Montana is a northerly state that sits right on the US-Canada border with Alberta and Saskatchewan to its north.

Due to this location, it can get very cold, with temperatures below freezing, and ice and frost are common. In fact, Montana has around 200 days a year with frost or freezing occurring. Therefore, the name Frozen North was created.

The Treasure State

The Treasure State is a very recognizable Montana nickname. This moniker refers to the area's many resources. In particular, it relates to the area's mineral wealth, which includes "treasures" like gold, silver, and copper. It has also appeared on the state's license plates.

Mountain goats walking on a hill next to a river and a snow-covered mountain
The Last Best Place is one of the Montana nicknames that refer to its scenery

The Last Best Place

The Last Best Place is a quite well-known moniker, especially among Montanans. While its exact origin is unknown, its first usage is generally thought to be in the book A Beast the Color of Winter by Douglas Chadwick.

The saying gained more relevance when William Kittredge's book The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology was released. It relates to the state being full of some of the best landscapes and natural beauty in the country.

In Conclusion

Montana is a unique state with breathtaking natural landscapes and a fascinating history and culture. These elements have resulted in the creation of various alternate names for Montana.

From the renowned Treasure State to the more obscure Huckleberry State, this list should have helped you learn about the background of some of Montana's nicknames. It may have even encouraged you to visit the area to see the beauty of Big Sky Country for yourself!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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