things to do in the winter
Did you know Glacier National Park is open all year long? That’s right! What’s more, it’s an incredible place to visit in the wintertime. It’s a peaceful, gorgeous wonderland of snow, perfect for adventures like Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching. And when your daytime fun comes to a close, you can cozy up fireside at a lodge, resort, cabin or hotel in one of the charming gateway communities such as Columbia Falls, Hungry Horse or Essex.
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.
This is the time of year to take in the tranquility and solitude of the park’s cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Breathtaking winter views of snow-covered landscapes abound. You’ll find trails for all ability levels. Consider a guided snowshoe or ski tour with Glacier Adventure Guides or Whitefish Outfitters & Tours.
Several trails in the Apgar Village area are open for skiing and snowshoeing, and the unplowed section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, beyond Lake McDonald Lodge, is also a popular winter ski and snowshoe route. Winter recreation brochures and maps are available at Park Headquarters and the Apgar Visitor Center.
Here's a list of the park's Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing trails. You can also download the National Park Service's Skiing and Snowshoeing brochure for more information on trails, maps and avalanche safety. Always check for area and trail closures before heading into the park. Avalanche safety should always be top of mind when you’re headed into the deep stuff. Carry avalanche safety gear, know the red flags of an unstable snowpack, check the avalanche forecast, and get educated in avalanche safety.
While you're out on the trails, you're likely to spot some of the park's majestic wildlife, probably white-tailed deer, but moose and elk sightings are not unheard of. Several species of birds winter in the park as well, and keep an eye out for beavers in Lake McDonald. As always, keep a safe distance from all wildlife.
You can camp in the park year-round at Apgar and St. Mary Campgrounds. Apgar Campground is on the west side of the park and St. Mary Campground is just inside the park’s east boundary in St. Mary. Did you know? Glacier National Park is a Dark Skies Park, and you’re more likely to see the northern lights this time of year. Add stargazing to your itinerary. The store in Apgar Village may be open for snacks and drinks, but plan ahead.
As lodging in the park is closed during the winter months, you'll want to look beyond the park to Glacier Country's charming small towns that make up the Glacier National Park Surrounding Area. For comfortable lodging, fun to fine eateries, and winter + holiday events, make one of these communities your home base for Glacier National Park exploration.
West Glacier’s Apgar Village provides stunning views and access to snowshoeing and skiing around Lake McDonald. Just 15 minutes outside the west entrance to the park, Columbia Falls makes a great home base for park exploration. Hit up this charming Montana town for shopping, dining, and some local Montana flavor at Backslope Brewing. Cedar Creek Lodge is open year-round and their hot tub feels amazing after a day in the snow. Coram’s Glacier Distilling Company offers small-batch alpine whiskeys and spirits crafted from glacial waters and pure passion, plus you’ll find plenty of lodging options, like cabins and lodges. Nearby Hungry Horse is also home to quaint mom-and-pop shops with plenty of huckleberry treats.
On the park’s east side, the towns that make up the Blackfeet Indian Reservation offer a chance to immerse yourself in the heritage of the Blackfeet Nation. Explore American Indian history and culture in Browning at the Museum of the Plains Indian. If you’re feeling lucky after a day of park play, head to Glacier Peaks Casino for good food, good cocktails and good fun. East Glacier Park offers access to the amenities you need for the perfect winter adventure in Glacier National Park. At the east entrance to the park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the community of St. Mary is a prime starting point for exploring the area. One of the largest lakes in the park, St. Mary, offers incredible views of stunning mountain peaks.
Most of the park's roads are closed during the winter, but the Going-to-the-Sun Road from West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge is open year-round, weather permitting. Drinking water and restrooms are available in at the Apgar Visitor Center. Remember to plan ahead, travel and recreate responsibly and leave no trace.
It's cold out there! Avoid hypothermia by drinking liquids, staying dry, carrying survival gear, wearing layers of clothing, and snacking frequently.
Be aware that cell service is limited or nonexistent in the park.
Check the National Park Service for more information about visiting Glacier National Park in the winter.
While July and August are the most popular times to visit Glacier National Park, the park is open—and lovely—year-round, and each season provides its own distinct experience within the Crown of the Continent. Plus, winter is one of the most peaceful times to visit the park. Our suggestion: Strap on a pair of snowshoes and head out along the east shore of Lake McDonald, or cross-country ski on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. For a complete map, visit . The trail system at Marias Pass is also a prime area for snowshoeing. Local outfitters, including Glacier Adventure Guides and Whitefish Outfitters and Tours, offer guided snowshoeing and cross-country excursions into the park.
If you go...
Many travelers to Montana 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 road-trip itineraries that offer authentic park-to-park experiences. For inspiration, visit Glaciers to Geysers.
Day One: Downhill Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Spend your first day hitting the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort. With 3,000 acres of terrain, 111 marked trails, four terrain parks and a skier/boardercross course, vast amounts of bowl and tree skiing and a 3.3-mile-long run (Hellfire), Whitefish Mountain Resort is an ideal mountain for skiers and boarders of all experience levels. Take a break for lunch and warm up at their mountaintop restaurant. Plus, you'll be able to see views of both the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park.
Ever been night skiing? Ski under the lights at Whitefish Mountain Resort on chairs 2, 3 and 6, including the terrain parks.
If you go...
Day Two: Nordic Ski With Glacier Nordic Center in Whitefish
At Glacier Nordic Center, enjoy 13 km of trails groomed daily for skate skiing and classic techniques. When the sun goes down, take advantage of 4 km of trails that are lit for night skiing 7 days a week. Trails meander over the Whitefish 36-hole golf course. Glacier Nordic Center also grooms trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort, where snowshoes and dogs are allowed on the trails.
If you go...
Day One: Dog Sled With Base Camp Bigfork
Mush your own team of friendly and hardworking Inuit sled dogs with Base Camp Bigfork’s hands-on approach to this wildly fun adventure in the gorgeous northwest Montana landscape. After your sled trip, book a relaxing winter sauna session on-site at Base Camp Bigfork.
Overnight in the Base Camp Bigfork lodge.
Day Two: Snowshoe or Nordic Ski the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Make your way to the snow-covered Going-to-the-Sun Road. During the winter, most of the road is closed to vehicular travel as snowfall creates a sanctuary for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The road is plowed from the west entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge, and snow lovers can access the road just past the lodge.
Day Three: Snowmobile Canyon Creek
For adrenaline-pumping fun, set out on a guided tour with Swan Mountain Outfitters for a guided two-hour, half-day, full-day or twilight snowmobile tour of the Canyon Creek trail system just north of Columbia Falls. Take in spectacular ridge views and play in deep powder bowls before summiting Whitefish Mountain Resort. See jaw-dropping views of the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley.
Overnight at ROAM Beyond in Columbia Falls.
If you go...
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