The Garden of 1000 Buddhas
Location: Arlee, Montana (34574 White Coyote Rd, Arlee, MT 59821)
When to visit: Between 9 am and 5 pm (sometimes open as late as 9 pm, depending on season)
Time needed: 30-60 minutes
Website: Official Site
I’m walking slowly down a corridor of Buddhas. They sit motionless, eyes closed, mouths frozen in a slight grin, looking identical as they sit upon concrete perches evenly spaced apart in a perfectly symmetrical arrangement.
This may be the last thing you’d expect to find in rural Montana. Yet it’s here, for those with an adventurous spirit who make the journey to the town of Arlee.
The Garden of 1000 Buddhas is one of the most unique attractions I’ve visited yet. Located way off the beaten path, the site is literally one thousand white Buddha bodies scattered around a piece of private property, with temples and gardens all around.
The location of this Buddha Garden in Montana is 29 miles north of Missoula, meaning that it’s only 30 minutes off Route 90. I was able to visit on my Seattle to Chicago road trip.
I’d recommend this place for anyone into interesting roadside attractions. If you can’t make the journey yourself, here’s a peek at what the Garden of a Thousand Buddhas in Montana has to offer.
History of the Buddha Garden in Montana
The Garden was founded by Tibetan Buddhist lama Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, who purchased the Arlee property in 2000. By 2011, after much planning, work had begun in earnest on casting the statues. That work was completed five years later.
The purpose of the Garden, according to its website, is “to bring about positive transformation within those who visit, in response to the negativity that abounds in the world today.”
Operated by the non-profit Ewam International, the site also hosts Tibetan Buddhist studies, in addition to being a place where people can come and worship or enjoy the quiet of the Garden.
The Garden is located in Montana’s Jocko Valley on the land of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.
What You’ll See at the Garden of 1000 Buddhas
The main section of the Garden is circular, with a spoke design of rows extending from the center, meant to evoke the eight-spoked Dharma wheel. Each row has 125 Buddhas statues sitting next to each other.
Each Buddha sits in a traditional pose, with legs crossed and the right hand hanging over the knee. The sight of hundreds of Buddhas lined up next to each other is remarkable.
At the center of the Garden sits Yum Chenmo, or the Great Mother of Transcendent Wisdom. This is the largest and most colorful item in the Garden.
Yum Chenmo represents the manifestation of the perfection of wisdom. Her image is 24 feet tall.
Most of the Buddhas are in fine shape, though a few show signs of wear and tear from over the years.
When the weather is clear, you can see the nearby mountains towering in the background, which adds to the majesty of the experience.
Beyond the statues, you will encounter the small pond. Several more statues stand around the edges of the pond.
If you’re spiritual person, you may find yourself compelled to do some meditating or reflecting on life. If not, you will still be impressed with the size of the garden and the amount of time and effort it took to create all of this.
In addition to the 1000 Buddhas, the site also has 1000 stupas, taller stone structures which each contain an image of the female deity Tara.
The grounds also have rocks with messages inscribed on them. One rock holds the following quote from Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Visiting the Garden: Ticket Prices, Hours, Lodging
Buddha Garden Hours and Pet Policy
As of this writing, the Garden is open at 9 am everyday. Its closing hour depends on the season. From November to February, the site closes at 5 pm. From June through August, the Garden is open until 9 pm. During the spring and autumn months, the Garden closes at 7 pm.
Note: The Garden is considered a sacred place for quiet reflection, and therefore pets are not permitted on the grounds.
The Garden of a Thousand Buddhas is completely free! The creators of the site wanted everyone to be able to experience the tranquility of the Garden without fee.
There is a sign on the property noting a suggested donation of $5-10, but this is not required. Donation boxes are located near the central statue, the pond, and the store. No tickets are necessary. Just show up and walk in!
While most visitors wander the grounds on their own, tours are available from April through October. You can even hold weddings and events here if you contact the facility to plan ahead. This place would make for some unique wedding photos!
Lodging Near the Garden of 1000 Buddhas
As for lodging, the nearest place to stay would be the Jocko Hollow Campground in Arlee. If you’re not up for camping, the closest hotels are the Motel 6 and Days Inn on I-90, located 20 miles from the Garden.
How to Get to the Garden of a Thousand Buddhas
For GPS driving directions, the Buddhas are located at: 34574 White Coyote Rd, Arlee, MT 59821.
As noted, this is about 26 miles north of Missoula, the second-largest city in the state, and the home of the University of Montana.
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a 47-minute drive from Flathead Lake, a popular recreational area. It’s 2 hours south of Whitefish and Columbia Falls, which are essentially the gateways to Glacier National Park.
The easiest way to reach the Garden in Arlee is to travel via Interstate 90, a cross-country route that goes from Seattle to Boston. The Garden is 20 miles north of I-90, just off Highway 93.
The site has plenty of room and a parking lot where you can park for free while you enjoy the site.
Wanna read more about Montana? Check out our feature on Polebridge, the town without electricity. And here’s a post about the state’s most delicious culinary export, the huckleberry. Finally, read about one of the top places to experience nature in Montana, Bowman Lake.