7 of the best winter activities in Montana

Winter in Montana is a harsh but magical season. A wintry silence descends on a landscape so cold that even the sound seems frozen. But for those who are well equipped and with a certain level of experience, there are some amazing ways to get out and explore the breathtakingly beautiful mountainous terrain.

Whitefish and the surrounding Flathead Valley are unbeatable for almost any type of winter activity, as is the Gallatin Valley between Big Sky and West Yellowstone. For pristine ski touring and snowmobiling, as well as access to Yellowstone National Park, the secluded town of Cooke is a great known destination. Here are Montana’s best winter activities.

Snowshoeing, skiing and spotted wolves in Yellowstone National Park

Winter is the favorite season for many people to visit Yellowstone National Park. There are hardly any crowds, the geysers are at their peak and the frozen landscapes are simply breathtaking.

There are two main parks to visit in the winter. From West Yellowstone snowcoach tours, shuttle bus to Old Faithful, where you can take ski or snowshoe trips around the park’s geyser pools, before a hot chocolate and overnight at the cozy Snow Lodge.

Further north, the park entrance to Gardiner and its route to Cooke City are the only ones open to cars in winter. This opens up a plethora of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails around the Mammoth region, some of which are serviced by snowcoachs.

Wildlife viewing in Yellowstone is legendary in the winter as it is easier to spot the animals against the white background. For an unforgettable chance to meet a Yellowstone Wolf, sign up for a wildlife viewing trip with an expert local company like Yellowstone Wolf Tracker.

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Snowmobiling is an exciting way to navigate Montana’s winter landscapes © Per Breiehagen / Getty Images

Snowmobiling in Targhee or Flathead National Forests

It might not be the most eco-friendly activity (with access to places like Yellowstone National Park long mired in controversy), but if you’re a confident cyclist, it isn’t. There’s no more exciting way to traverse Montana’s epic landscapes than on a snowmobile.

Cooke City is one of Montana’s most remote towns, with only one access road in the winter (through Yellowstone National Park), but once there the snowmobiling is amazing; rentals and guides are available in town, and a network of groomed Forest Service roads climbs up to the passes with sweeping views of the powder-filled Beartooth Mountains.

As the gateway to winter excursions to Yellowstone, West Yellowstone is also well-appointed for snowmobilers, who can choose from hundreds of miles of spectacular trails in the nearby Targhee National Forest.

Other must-see sites include the 250 miles of Lolo Pass trails in the Bitterroot Mountains southwest of Missoula, or the Flathead National Forest near Glacier National Park, where you can rent snowmobiles or take tours through Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.

Watch the curious sport of skijoring

Combine Montana’s western cowboy heritage with its Norwegian immigrant history and you get skijoring, in which a skier is towed by a horse on a series of jumps and through slaloms at speeds of up to 40 mph. It’s the kind of sport that feels like it was invented during a night of heavy drinking.

A woman in ski gear walks down a deep snow covered hill in the backcountry.  She smiles widely
Experienced skiers should head out into the backcountry for an unforgettable time in the wilderness © Noah Clayton / Getty Images

Ski unobstructed slopes from a yurt or backcountry lodge

Montana has mind-blowing off-piste skiing, but it’s the kind of terrain for experienced skiers and it doesn’t come cheap. That said, it’s an unforgettable experience skiing down powder-filled slopes all day, then returning to your private accommodation surrounded by nature, miles from the nearest civilization.

Several companies offer accommodation and guides in the backcountry. You can settle into cozy yurts with Yurtski in the Swan Mountains, with the Big Sky Backcountry Guides in the Bitterroot Mountains, or with the Beartooth Powder Guides in Cooke City. All offer a range of avalanche and ski touring lessons, which are a wise investment.

Hellroaring Powder Guides offer both self-guided and guided ski touring from their cabin in the Centennial Mountains, 25 miles from West Yellowstone.

Great Northern Powder Guides in the Whitefish area offers the state’s only Cat ski, using its 14-person cabin as the base for incredible, pristine descents.

The cheapest way to do gentler cross country skiing in the backcountry is to rent a cabin from the Forest Service. For $ 65 you can get a basic cabin for four, but you’ll have to chop wood and pack all your food.

Learn to boil on a dog sledding trip

It’s hard to think of a more romantic way to traverse the forests and snow-capped winter valleys of Montana than in a dog sled. Besides the thrill of the scenery and learning to porridge, interacting with the dogs is a highlight in itself.

Two cyclists on bicycles with very wide tires stop to look through a snowy landscape
Ride the winter terrain on a fat bike © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Try the fat bike on the Whitefish Trail

A fat bike is essentially a mountain bike fitted with large double-width tires for riding on packed snow. This increasingly popular sport extends the biking season, opens up whole swathes of winter terrain for non-skiers, and allows you to really push your ride – don’t worry about fading, the snow will cushion your fall.

The 22-mile Whitefish Trail is one of the best places for snow biking in the state. The Trailside Whitefish Bike Retreat, 9 miles west of Whitefish, offers fat bike rentals, groomed trail access and accommodation, plus plenty of trail advice and occasional fat bike clinics. three days.

Ski the Going-to-the-Sun Route in Glacier National Park

For something really special, consider a winter visit to Glacier National Park. Most park roads and lodgings close in winter, but you can ski or snowshoe from Lake McDonald Lodge near Apgar on the west side of the park, or along Going-to-the- Road. Sun from St Mary on the east side. There are also remote wilderness trails leading into the park from the Polebridge Ranger Station or Marias Pass.

The great Montana sky will take your breath away

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