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A Guide to Havre, Montana

Downtown Havre, Montana
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Havre is the largest town on the Montana Hi-Line, with a population of 9600 people, and serves as the retail and business hub of the area. Havre is located more or less “midway” down the Hi-Line. Because of this, Havre is a popular stop for travelers, especially since it is only about 3 hours away from Glacier National Park. Additionally, unlike many other Hi-Line towns where US Highway 2 manages to avoid the downtown areas, in Havre, the highway plows right through town. As such, visitors to the Hi-Line area will get a first-hand look at the downtown area.

And happily, Havre has a nice downtown. Most of the buildings in the downtown area have been restored and renovated to some degree. The downtown and residential areas outside of it are also full of trees, reflecting the foresight by previous town leaders of Havre.

Havre has avoided the population decline problem that has befallen many of the other communities on the Hi-Line. There are several reasons for this. First, its central location on the Hi-Line has allowed the town to function as the business hub of the region, attracting regional businesses (not just town specific ones) that serve the whole area.

Secondly, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad has a major rail yard in town, providing many well paying jobs. Havre is also the location of Montana State University-Northern, the only College in the Hi-Line area. As such, Havre has developed a diversified economy that most of the other Hi-Line towns in Montana have not been able to develop.

GN Engine in Havre at the Train Station
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Finally, Havre’s central location on the Hi-Line has led to some growth in businesses that cater to the passing motorist and tourists who are on their way to Glacier National Park and other areas in Montana.

Havre has a sizable business district, both in the downtown area and on the towns edges. The downtown area is full of local businesses that provide one service or another. The downtown area also has a great movie theatre called the Cottonwood Cinemas, a 4-plex. While it doesn’t look like much on the outside, the theatre has been recently renovated on the inside, with some of the theatres having stadium seating – something that is highly unique on the Hi-Line.

More businesses are located on the perimeter of the town, particularly on the western side along US Highway 2. Here you’ll find a very small shopping mall, the usual assortment of fast food joints and restaurants that cater to the passing motorist, as well as the only big box store on the Hi-Line, a Super K-Mart.

Many people first see Havre from the train. Havre is the second busiest Amtrak stop in Montana. Because the train has a re-fueling stop in town, the train generally lays over for at least 20-30 minutes, giving people on the train time to get out and explore a bit. Located right at the train station in Havre is a beautiful Great Northern Railway Steam Engine. Anyone who likes railroad history will most definitely want to take a look at it, as the engine is in perfect condition.

Contrary to popular belief, Havre actually has a decent location for people who like outdoor recreation. Granted, people just passing through on US Highway 2 are unlikely to notice it. But for the more adventurous, there is no shortage of outdoor activities just outside of Havre.

Milk River Outside Havre
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The angler will find quality trout fishing in Beaver Creek, Bear Paw Reservoir and Beaver Creek Reservoir, all of which are located south of town in and around the Bears Paw Mountains. The Milk River also passes through town and can provide for some decent warm water fishing in spots. Fresno Reservoir, located about 15 miles to the northeast of town, also has excellent fishing for Northern Pike.

Hunters will also find some great places to hunt around town. The Bears Paw Mountains have excellent deer and elk hunting, as do the nearby Sweet Grass Hills. Additionally, the vast fields around Havre provide excellent upland bird hunting.

Additionally, a small ski area called Bears Paw Ski Area is also located in the Bears Paw Mountains and is open on the weekends when there is enough snow.

Finally, the Bears Paw Mountains Backcountry Drive begins just to the south of Havre. This scenic byway takes adventurous travelers through the heart of the remote Bears Paw Mountains and is a beautiful drive.

Overall, Havre is a nice town that sits in the middle of the Hi-Line region. The town has a diversified economy, a university and a good location for people who like outdoor recreation. Moreover, like other Hi-Line towns, the costs of living are low - with housing prices being very reasonable - and far less than what is found in the mountainous areas of the state.

To see more photographs of Havre, visit the Havre Photo Gallery.

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