Winter Itineraries Glacier National Park & Western Montana

Winter Itineraries

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Winter in Montana Itineraries

Winter in Montana is the stuff that powder-lovers dreams are made of. With plentiful choices that include six downhill ski resorts, thousands of miles of groomed trails, Glacier National Park (open year-round) and a lively arts and culture scene, it can be hard knowing where to start your winter adventure. To help make trip planning easier, we’ve rounded up some suggestions to get you started. Happy winter.

The Yellowstone you haven’t seen yet.

The wild beauty of Yellowstone National Park spills over for miles. Snow seekers come to Yellowstone Country Montana for panoramic expanses of pure white against impossibly blue skies.

One Day in Montana's Winter Wonderland

Visit Glacier National Park

While July and August are the most popular times to visit Glacier National Park, the park is open 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 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…
  • Keep in mind that many of the park’s roads are closed by snowfall during winter.
  • Popular cross-country ski trails are found in the Apgar and Lake McDonald areas. For a complete map, visit
  • When recreating in the backcountry, always check current snow and avalanche conditions.
  • Skiing on frozen lakes is not recommended.
  • After a day playing outside, fill your tummy at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier. During winter, the dining room is open Fridays (3 p.m. – 8 p.m.), Saturdays (3 p.m. – 8 p.m.) and Sundays (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).

Ski the Flathead Valley

Montana’s Flathead Valley is home to plentiful snowmobiling trails and two ski areas: Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish and Blacktail Mountain near Lakeside. For ski-in access on Big Mountain, consider booking on-mountain lodging at Kandahar Lodge.

If you go…
  • Rub elbows with the locals by enjoying après at the Bierstube or Hellroaring Saloon, both located in the upper village at Whitefish Mountain Resort. For a lively event, check out the Frabert Awards (held Wednesdays at 5 p.m.), where ski patrol awards the person who did the dumbest thing that week.
  • End your day with dinner at Whitefish’s Café Kandahar (located inside Kandahar Lodge). Chef Andy Blanton serves up mouth-watering dishes made from local Montana ingredients.

Sled the Flathead Valley

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 Big Mountain) and Desert Mountain, complete with stunning views over Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness.

If you go…
  • Warm up with a stop into Glacier Distilling Company’s Whiskey Barn for a locally made spirit created from Montana grains.
  • Be sure to take a camera on your snowmobile. You’ll see plenty of gorgeous views and may even see wildlife.
  • Take time to explore some of the small towns in the northern end of the Flathead Valley. Peruse local artwork and jewelry in Bigfork’s galleries and studios and stroll through locally owned boutiques on Central Avenue in Whitefish.

Snowshoe Glacier National Park

For a serene winter experience, plan to strap on 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 plans and animals that call the park home. In addition, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the shore of Lake McDonald and the trail system at Marias Pass are prime areas for snowshoeing.

If you go…
  • Plan to pack a snack, water or lunch, as services are limited during the winter.
  • Check weather and trail conditions before you go.
  • Warm up after a day outside at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier. The chalet is open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, and brunch on Sundays.
  • Local outfitters, including Glacier Adventure Guides and Izaak Walton Inn offer guided snowshoeing and cross-country excursions into the park.

Two Days in Montana's Winter Wonderland

Day One: Ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Spend your first day hitting the slopes on Big Mountain 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 into 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 that range from two-hour jaunts to full-day fun, their seasoned guides are sure to keep you safe while you whip down groomed trails and play in fresh powder bowls.

Round out your adrenaline-filled day 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…
  • Take a few laps at Whitefish Mountain Resort while the little ones are at the on-site Kids Center (for 3 – 6 year olds).
  • Rub elbows with the locals by enjoying a pint at Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish.
  • Make the drive to Glacier National Park (located 35 minutes from Whitefish and 15 minutes from Columbia Falls) for an opportunity to see the park during winter, one of its most beautiful and quietest seasons.

Three Winter Days in Glacier National Park

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 33 kilometers of on-site groomed cross-country and skate skiing trails. The inn also offers guided excursions in Glacier National Park. After a day in Montana’s 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

Today will take you 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: The North Fork + Columbia Falls

Start your day with breakfast in Columbia Falls before venturing to the North Fork and the electricity-free town of Polebridge. The North Fork Road will likely have some snow on it, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to travel the road and take in the views of this wild corner of Montana. Once in Polebridge, stop into the Polebridge Mercantile for baked goods and sandwiches. If you want to do some hiking, be sure to bring your snowshoes for a heart-pumping walk along the Camas Road before returning to Columbia Falls and relaxing your muscles with a massage at Meadow Lake Resort.

Lodging options include Meadow Lake Golf & Ski Resort and North Forty Resort.

If you go…
  • For a guided winter tour in Glacier National Park, book a trip with Glacier Adventure Guides. Their experienced team of guides can tailor trips to your needs and ensure you have a memorable time discovering Glacier National Park.
  • Take advantage of the free snowshoe tours offered by the National Park Service on Saturdays and Sundays from January – March.
  • After a day in the park, unwind with a delicious dinner at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier. The Belton is open for dinner on Fridays and Saturday nights, and brunch on Sundays during the winter months.


Winter Itineraries for Western Montana & Glacier National Park

Western Montana's Glacier Country

News from Glacier National Park: Currently 12.5 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.

Bird Woman Falls

An icon in Glacier National Park, Bird Woman Falls is a glistening 492-foot-high waterfall that cascades down the side of Mt. Oberlin. From West Glacier, travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Bird Woman Falls Overlook, located on the west side of the Continental Divide.

Trail of the Cedars

This short boardwalk trail (ADA accessible) takes visitors through an old growth cedar forest. It’s also the beginning of the Avalanche Lake Trail (just over two miles long) that leads to Avalanche Lake—one of the most popular day hikes in Glacier National Park. Trail of the Cedars is located about five and a half miles north of Lake McDonald Lodge.

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road

If your time in Glacier National Park is limited, one must-see attraction is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile long road takes travelers between St. Mary and West Glacier through the heart of the park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. There are numerous pullouts along the road, ideal for taking photographs and enjoying the scenery.

See a Glacier

As you’re traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road, pull over at Jackson Glacier Overlook (located east of Logan Pass). The overlook offers the best opportunity to see a glacier from the road.

Many Glacier Valley

Home to incredible mountains, active glaciers, abundant wildlife and miles of hiking trails, Many Glacier is located in the northeast section of Glacier National Park. Trails leave from this valley in numerous directions, with popular hiking destinations including Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel.

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