Montana : Safety by City
- Big Sky
- Great Falls
- Miles City
- West Yellowstone
Miles City, Montana, sits on I-94, where the Yellowstone and Tongue Rivers meet.
It’s an Old West Town where cowboy boots beat sandals, and rodeo is a way of life.
Recreation options are on the edge of town or the middle of nowhere.
Hunters and anglers flock to this area while bucking horses take over the town in the spring.
Sophistication meets solitude with a winery nearby, and there are endless miles to explore Big Sky Country through small towns.
This is a transition point between the Badlands of the east and the mountains of the west, with Bighorn National Forest just three hours away.
Miles City is small, with 8,000 residents, and you aren’t going to find the most robust nightlife or daytime scene, but what is there is purposeful, from an art museum to an 1800 saloon still serving brews to a few fine dining options.
Warnings & Dangers in Miles City
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here with crime rates that look more concerning than they really are, given the math that is done to figure out crimes per 100,000.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Custer County has a small on-demand public transportation service, but it's geared toward local residents who need a ride to the store or doctor. You'll likely need a rental car to get here, anyway, so might as well keep it instead of trying to find rideshares or taxis.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, but during events like the rodeo, use extra caution since the crowds will be bigger.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
You'll face a lot of potential risks here, but nothing that doesn't come with a warning. There's winter weather, severe storms, flooding, flash flooding, extreme cold and heat, and occasional tornadoes. It's a year-round medium risk, so stay informed about the weather. The major interstate here isn't above being shut down due to winter weather.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, especially involving tourists. Miles City hasn't had a robbery since 2017, and no more than two a year going back to 2011.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a risk so low that even the Emergency Management Department in Custer County doesn't offer a terrorism plan! But seriously, this is a small town in a very large rural area. The risk is low because there's really nothing to target. You can sign up for Terrorism Bulletin Advisories, which are routine communications from Homeland Security giving the most common concerns across the country.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
If there is a new scam in town, it will be posted on the social media sites of the city or police department. There aren't big tourism scams in this area, but there have been reports of common social media or text message scams. Just be aware that anyone who asks you to purchase gift cards for, well, anything, is a scammer.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women have a low risk, but this is a true old-fashioned Western town. It's not cosmopolitan. Women who want to stay here should be smart about wildlife, wildfire, and wilderness safety.
TAP WATER RISK: MEDIUM
Miles City makes it very hard to find a Water Quality Report, which is required to be posted and mailed to residents. You can ask for the latest report from the water department by emailing email@example.com. Due to the lack of transparency, we're giving this a medium risk. That's mostly to prompt you to check before you go, not because there's any indication the water isn't safe.
Safest Places to Visit in Miles City
Miles City Chamber is the tourism site for the city, run by the Chamber of Commerce.
They do have a YouTube Channel with videos of attractions and promotions @milescitychamber.
You can also download a Southeast Montana Travel Guide on the website without having to give personal information.
Even if you’re just passing through, the Range Riders Museum is worth a stop.
With more than a dozen buildings showcasing Old West artifacts and even some dinosaur fossils, this feels like you’ve been thrown back in time.
It’s open from April through October, but appointments are available in the off-season.
Waterworks Art Museum is a classic art showcase that might make you forget you’re in the middle of a Western town were it not for the artwork detailing every beautiful landscape and evolution of the city.
Vintage & Rustics is a mall, antique store, and flea market with everything from handmade Native American jewelry to retro items to Western clothing.
The trinkets and souvenirs are beyond what you’ll find in a gift shop.
You can even pick up your own cowboy hat here.
When you want to get outdoors, drive a few miles north of Pirogue Island State Park and feel like you’re a world away.
This is a great wildlife viewing spot without having to worry about running into a bear or moose, like in western Montana.
Spotted Eagle Recreation Site is open daily and offers swimming in the summer, with life jackets available for rent.
You can hike through 123 acres or just sit and relax.
Matthews Wildlife Habitat Management Area is great for those with mobility issues, as the layout includes paved trails, wide sidewalks, and accommodations for anglers in wheelchairs.
The Holy Rosary Story Walk is a great place for kids to get some exercise and follow the story told along the way.
There’s also a Riverwalk along the Yellowstone River at the northeastern edge of the city.
Places to Avoid in Miles City
Miles City doesn’t have bad neighborhoods or dangerous parts of town.
The Lower Yellowstone River Guide should be read to find the safest places to enjoy the river.
In some parts of the state, this river is far too dangerous for swimming.
Other parts open up and allow for swimming, kayaking, and floating.
I won’t go as far as to tell you to avoid Miles City in winter, but it can be brutal.
If you don’t like winter weather, you probably won’t like Miles City in winter.
The interstate can close, and roads can be impassable.
During blizzards, white-out conditions can reduce visibility to the point it’s too dangerous to even drive across this small town.
Please note if you see any offering for a “Miles City Plus” app to collect rewards and get discounts, that program shut down in September 2022.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Miles City
- Miles City has its own police force, with Custer County Sheriff picking up outside the city boundaries. Follow them @MilesCityPD and @custercountymt. Be warned there are several other Custer County listings on social media, one in Colorado and another in South Dakota. Look for the 406 area code to be sure you’re in the right place.
- Since Miles City is a transient town, meaning a lot of people come and go on long trips down the interstate, you should stay hyper-aware during any gas station stop. Credit card skimmers, desperate people trying to sell you fake gold with a sob story on top of it, and purse thieves can be waiting for you to create a crime of opportunity.
- The Native American reservations to the south are policed internally. That means Miles City or Custer County law enforcement can’t help you there. While the groups work in tandem when needed, if you’re speeding on a reservation and get pulled over, you’ll need to ask about the different rules for paying a ticket.
- Use 511 MT to stay on top of traffic throughout the state. This website and app will detail road conditions, construction, traffic backups and offer live cameras to view.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. A non-resident license is easy to get, but you do need to have it with you at all times.
- If you’re interested in hunting, the rules are much stricter. You’ll be required to show proof of or obtain safety training, and international visitors need to ask specifically what documents are needed to hunt.
- Never assume a body of water is warm. Even in the hottest part of summer, the snow runoff can make a river or lake too cold for swimming in a bathing suit. The water temperatures can also change quickly.
- Use Inciweb to track wildfires and air quality from distant wildfires. If there’s a wildfire in the western part of the state, there’s a good chance air quality will be impacted in southeastern Montana. Those COVID masks can come in handy.
- Before you head to any state park, check the Alerts and Closures section of the website. There’s an interactive map.
- If you truly want to explore the outdoors but need some expert guidance, sign up for the Montana Outdoors magazine. You’ll get great information there but also information about local experts who can help you out.
So... How Safe Is Miles City Really?
Miles City is somewhere in the middle of a dangerous and safe city, but it’s often overlooked in any ranking list for either one.
It actually did make a list of being one of the most boring cities in the state, but it’s interesting for those seeing it for the first time or just passing through.
Before 2021, Miles City didn’t have a year with more than 23 violent crimes since at least 2000.
The surge in 2021 brought the number up to 55.
If you figure that out to “per 100,000 people,” as the FBI does for official crime data, that’s a 150% increase in violent crime.
Over the five years between 2017 and 2022, just 15% of violent crimes happened against strangers.
That does lower your risk during your visit, provided you mind your own business and don’t go looking for trouble.
Even theft rates are low here, with the 2020s bringing the lowest rates since 2011.
The biggest risk is letting your guard down and creating a crime of opportunity.
Miles City is great for those who want a taste of the Old West or want to explore the outdoors.
In a highly competitive state for outdoor activities, Miles City offers solitude, while places like Missoula will be more crowded in the wilderness.
How Does Miles City Compare?
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
International Visitors need a visa or visa waiver, depending on which country they are from. That information can be found on the U.S. State Department website. A passport no more than six months from expiring is required too.
Don't wait until you get to Miles City to exchange currency, and you'll need the U.S. Dollar to make any purchase here. Airports should have currency exchange options, but your home city's bank will give you the lowest fees.
You'll need warm, insulated, waterproof winter clothing from October through May, and keep a few layers for the warmer months since the nights get cold. It's a casual town where cowboy hats and boots are normal. You'll want some sunscreen too.
Billings is the closest airport, 140 miles to the east, but at some point, the Miles City airport might get its own commercial airline.
Travel insurance for your flights and the rental car is important because of all the weather and risks that can happen throughout the year.
Miles City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Montana - Safety by City