things to do in the winter
Everywhere you look there’s more untouched snow. Deciding how to play in it can be overwhelming (in a good way) when your options are as abundant as they are in Glacier Country. Winter in Montana offers hundreds of inches of snow on 7,000 acres of skiable terrain at six downhill ski resorts, plus endless miles of epic backcountry. We also specialize in hot springs, hot tubs and hot cocoa. Glacier National Park is open year-round and our small towns offer lively arts and culture scenes, not to mention delicious food and made-in-Montana beer and spirits. To help make trip planning easier, we’ve rounded up some single and multiday adventure suggestions for inspiration.
Fly nonstop to Missoula from San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Get some space and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Montana is calling.
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 suggestions: strap on a pair of snowshoes and head out along the east shore of Lake McDonald. Participate in a ranger-led snowshoe walk (free guided tours are held Saturdays and Sundays from January – March and depart from Apgar Visitor Center). Cross-country ski on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Or take Amtrak’s Empire Builder to the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex.
If you go…
Montana’s Flathead Valley is home to many snowmobiling trails and two ski areas: Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish and Blacktail Mountain near Lakeside. For ski-in access on Whitefish Mountain Resort, consider booking on-mountain lodging at Kandahar Lodge.
If you go…
For adrenaline-pumping fun, set out on a guided tour with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling. Swan Mountain is the valley’s premiere tour company and their seasoned guides will ensure you’re able to see the best of Montana from atop a snowmobile. Our favorite tours include Canyon Creek (where you’ll ride through snow ghosts on Whitefish Mountain Resort) and Desert Mountain, complete with stunning views over Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness.
If you go…
For a serene winter experience, plan to strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald Valley. During winter (January – March), the National Park Service offers free ranger-led tours on Saturdays and Sundays. Suitable for varying ages and abilities, the walks encourage participants to search for signs of wildlife and discover the plants and animals that call the park home. In addition, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the shores of Lake McDonald and the trail system at Marias Pass are prime areas for snowshoeing.
If you go…
Day One: Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Spend your first day hitting the slopes on Whitefish Mountain Resort at Whitefish Mountain Resort. With 3,000 acres of terrain, 105 marked trails and ample amounts of fresh powder, Whitefish Mountain Resort is an ideal mountain for skiers and boarders of all experience levels. Take a break for lunch and warm up at the Summit House. Plus, you’ll be able to see views of both the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park.
Overnight options include Hidden Moose Lodge, Good Medicine Lodge, Garden Wall Inn and Pine Lodge, all in Whitefish.
Day Two: Sled with Swan Mountain Outfitters
After a day of the slopes, trade your skis in for a snowmobile. While snowmobile rentals are available through Swan Mountain Outfitters, we recommend going on one of their guided tours. With various guided tour options ranging from two-hour jaunts to full-day fun, their seasoned guides will keep you safe while you whip down groomed trails and play in fresh powder bowls.
Round out your adrenaline-rush with a spa treatment or soak in the hot tub at Meadow Lake Resort in Columbia Falls, followed by dinner at Three Forks Grill.
If you go…
Day One: The Izaak Walton Inn
Start your journey at the historic Izaak Walton Inn in Essex. Located between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the Izaak Walton Inn is a quiet winter oasis that offers 20 miles of on-site groomed cross-country and skate-skiing trails. The inn also offers guided excursions in Glacier National Park. After a day in the mountains, unwind with dinner and local beer at the Dining Car in the Izaak Walton Inn.
Overnight at the Izaak Walton Inn.
Day Two: 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.
Overnight options include The Belton Chalet cottages and Historic Tamarack Lodge & Cabins.
Day Three: Canyon Creek Snowmobiling
Start your day with breakfast at the Historic Tamarack Lodge in Hungry Horse, and don’t miss out on one of their “larger than life” cinnamon rolls. Then, hook up with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling for a guided two-hour, half-day or full-day 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. Have a drink at the Summit House boasting jaw-dropping views of the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley.
Lodging options include Meadow Lake Golf & Ski Resort and North Forty Resort.
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.
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