things to do in the winter
Glide through miles of pristine snow in the serene Montana wilderness. Cross-country and skate-skiing allow you to tour the terrain in a more intimate way than downhill skiing does. With groomed trails offering views of Glacier National Park peaks, the Cabinet Mountains and the Swan Mountains, Nordic skiing in Western Montana is one of the most popular ways to really witness the wonder of winter around here.
Sled the best of the West in the unreal landscapes and premier small towns between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. Plan ahead, play it safe and tread lightly.
Glide through the Lolo National Forest and open meadows along the Montana-Idaho border, where you’ll find some of the most reliable snow in the region groomed for classic and skate skiing, as well as a warming hut and the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Along the trail you’ll pass the historic Glade Creek area where Lewis and Clark camped.
Length: 13 km
East of Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley find groomed skiing on the Skalkaho Highway through the Sapphire Mountains and over the pass to just 1 mile short of the sapphire mine in Philipsburg.
Length: 19 km
This seasonal road winding through the Sapphire Mountains is closed to traffic in winter and groomed once a week from Skalkaho Pass road to within 6 miles of U.S. Highway 93 south of Darby.
Length: 45 km
At the southern tip of the Bitterroot Valley on the Continental Divide, eight loop trails provide a variety of lengths, and skill level ranges from beginner to expert.
Length: 49 km; 33 km groomed for skate and 16 km for classic.
This series of mostly loop trails winds through pristine meadows and wooded terrain. Trails are groomed weekly and the inner loops are very family-friendly.
Length: 20 km
This extensive series of trails includes the 51 km Garnet National Winter Recreation Trail through the beautiful and quiet Garnet Mountain range. Ski into Garnet Ghost Town and even stay overnight in one of two rental cabins on the property.
Length: 186+ km
Take in phenomenal views of Flathead Lake from this system of trails 8 miles above the town of Lakeside. The North Shore Nordic Club grooms the varying terrain for skate and classic skiing daily.
Length: 25 km
Skiing in the park requires the purchase of a park entrance pass.
From West Glacier, follow Going-to-the-Sun Road for 12.9 km along Lake McDonald, to Lake McDonald Lodge.
Length: McDonald Falls: 2.9 km; Sacred Dancing Cascade: 8.5 km round trip; Avalanche Picnic Area: 18.6 km round trip
These trails begin at the Polebridge Ranger Station. Access to the area is via county road 486, running north from Columbia Falls. This road is infrequently plowed and skiers should check on local road conditions. Park on the east side of the North Fork Bridge at Polebridge Ranger Station.
Length: Big Prairie: 6.4 km round trip; Bowman Lake: 19.3 km round trip; Covey Meadow: 4.8 km loop trail; Lone Pine Prairie: 9.6 km round trip
This is the most popular ski route in this area. The trail begins at the summit of Marias Pass and crosses into the park.
Length: 9.6 km
Start skiing at the end of the plowed road (6.4 km north of East Glacier) near the junction of U.S. Highway 49 and Two Medicine Road. Destinations include: the park boundary: 9.6 km round trip; Running Eagle Falls: 16 km round trip; and Two Medicine Lake, a strenuous and hilly 25.7 km round trip.
East of scenic St. Mary Lake, the main trailhead for these trails is the parking area near the 1913 Ranger Station.
Length: Beaver Pond Loop: 4.8 km and Red Eagle Lake Trail: 12.8 km round trip
This trail system runs north from West Glacier, west of Lake McDonald, and the trails can be accessed from two separate parking areas.
Length: Lower McDonald Creek: 3 – 5 km round trip; Rocky Point: 9.6 km round trip; Apgar Lookout: 16.9 km round trip; Site of Old Flathead Ranger Station: 16 km round trip; McGee Meadow Loop: 18.5 km round trip
This Meadow Lake Golf Course trail system at Meadow Lake Resort in Columbia Falls offers gently rolling terrain for all skill levels.
Length: 6 km
Many cross-country skiers wisely plan their trips to include both of our national parks: Glacier and Yellowstone. To help make the most of your time, we’ve put together several Nordic skiing-based itineraries. For inspiration, visit Glaciers to Geysers
Some of the highest snowfall amounts in the state are recorded at Lookout Pass downhill ski area just off Interstate Highway 90 on the Montana-Idaho border. The Lookout Pass Cross Country Ski Trails surrounding the mountain offer multiple options for a day on the skis. Take an 8 km loop around Lookout Pass starting from the parking lot. Multiple trails fan out from the lot, covering ground around Taft and the Hale Fish Hatchery. There are also some backcountry routes in the area, for expert Nordic explorers.
Length: 8+ km
The Missoula Nordic Ski Club provides groomed classic and skate trails in this pretty, wooden canyon area close to town. The south side trails offer hills and the north side is much flatter.
Length: 10 km
This Missoula ski trail groomed for classic skiing offers a slight but easy upgrade to Pilcher Creek.
Length: 8 km
Nine trails and several loops close to the town of Libby range from easy to difficult. Bonus: Friday night skiing features lanterns and a warm bonfire. Trails are groomed twice a week.
Length: 14 km
These four trails on mixed terrain south of Libby are groomed every seven to 10 days and terrain ranges from easy to difficult.
Length: 5.5 km
This system offers classic and skate ski trails and loops for all skill levels. The area gets reliable snow and more of it than surrounding valleys. The trails are groomed regularly and there’s a warming hut near the parking lot.
Length: 18 km
Just northeast of Bigfork at the corner of Foothills Road and Jewel Basin Road these flat and gently rolling trails are maintained by the Bigfork Community Nordic Center and groomed 5 days per week—Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Length: 10 km
Ski among giants on this intermittently groomed single track that gains 400 feet in elevation to the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, where you’ll find 1,000-year-old western red cedars up to 12-feet in diameter. Ski to the observation point for Cabinet Mountain views.
Length: 5.3 km
For advanced skiers, these cedar forest trails are groomed daily and offer exceptional views of Whitefish Lake, Flathead Valley and the surrounding mountains.
Length: 25 km
Located on the gently rolling terrain at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course, the skate and classic skiing trails are groomed daily by the Glacier Nordic Club and offer great views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Plus, 4 kilometers of trails are lit for night skiing until 10 p.m. Skiers must purchase a day or season pass.
Length: 12 km
North of Whitefish, Round Meadow has seven interconnecting nicely wooded loop trails on easy to difficult terrain that’s groomed weekly. Round Meadow offers a quiet escape in the Flathead National Forest.
Length: 20 km
1200 U.S. Highway 93 (Whitefish Lake Golf Course)
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