Planning a winter vacation to southwest Montana and looking for winter activities in Yellowstone, Gardiner, West Yellowstone, Big Sky or Bozeman?
There is so much to do in Big Sky Country, below are some of our favorite winter activities!
1. Cross-country skiing at Hyalite
Hyalite Canyon and Reservoir is about 45 minutes from Bozeman. In the winter, this area is a paradise for cross-country and backcountry skiers alike. Park at History Rock trailhead and head west on the cross country ski trails towards Hyalite Reservoir. The trails are groomed and maintained by Bozeman Ski Foundation; for the most part, they go up and down, but this area has beginner and intermediate trails. This area is especially beautiful when fresh snow dusts the pines.
2. Downhill skiing or snowboarding at Bridger Bowl
Bridger Bowl is located about 30 minutes from Bozeman. There is a free ski shuttle bus to and from the mountain, with multiple pick up locations throughout Bozeman.
We recommend going to Bridger Bowl on a weekday because there are less people typically. The mountain has everything from a bunny hill to double black diamonds; and the trails are well-maintained and well-marked, so all abilities can have a great time and feel safe. There are two lodges at the base of the mountain, and two in the middle of the mountain that you can ski to for a quick drink or bite to eat!
If you need to rent skis or a snowboard, there are two rental shops at the base of the mountain. If you decide to rent with the Bridger Bowl Ski Shop, you can reserve your rentals in advance, when you purchase tickets, to avoid the line.
Also, check out Bridger's snow report to make sure you're going during the best conditions!
3. Cross-country skiing at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky.
Located in Big Sky, the nordic trails at Lone Mountain Ranch are ranked some of the best cross-country ski trails in all of Montana. The lodge offers rentals, and recommends using the app "Avenza Maps" to access your location in real-time. There are so many trails, you could spend days at Lone Mountain Ranch, and never ski the same trail twice!
4. Cross-country skiing in West Yellowstone.
West Yellowstone is an amazing jump-off spot of cross country skiing. Freeheel and Wheel (right across from the Yellowstone Visitor Center in West Yellowstone) offers rentals, waxing services, lessons, and great coffee.
One of our favorite trails in West Yellowstone is the Riverside Trail. The trail takes you through the trees for about 1.5 miles, and then presents you with epic, wide-open views of the Madison River, and Gallatin and Madison ranges in the background. The trail is fantastic with lots of ups and downs, and plenty of scenery to take in.
If you are interested in skate skiing, West Yellowstone is home to the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Again, there are so many trails, you could ski here for multiple days, each on a different trail with different views.
5. Cross-country skiing on Bighorn Pass Ski Trail.
Located between West Yellowstone and Big Sky, the Bighorn Pass ski trail can be as long of a ski as you like! The distance to the pass is 10.5 miles one way, so most likely you won't make it all the way up there, but the scenery along the way is incredible. The trail takes you along a creek, into an open meadow, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. This is one of the most scenic cross-country skis we have ever done in Montana.
Wildlife is typically abundant in this area. Once while cross country skiing, our group came upon a wolf carcass, so always keep an eye out!
Check the weather before you head out, because this clear meadow is wide-open and can get cold and windy!
6. Cross-county skiing on Fawn Pass Ski Trail.
Located about 20 miles north of West Yellowstone on US-191, the Fawn Pass ski trail is an out-and-back trail can be up to 11 miles, but the views are amazing right off the bat, so you can go for as long as you want and then turn around. The trail provides impeccable views of the Gallatin Range and the spacious meadow allows you to see forever.
7. Snowshoeing or hiking in Yellowstone.
In the winter, only the north and northeast entrance of Yellowstone are open to passenger vehicles. If entering from the north, we recommend stopping at Park's Fly Shop, in Gardiner to rent some snowshoes. There are many trails in the northern range that are perfect for snowshoeing-- we like Beaver Ponds or Rescue Creek. Afterwards, make sure you stop at the Mammoth Hot Spring terraces; it is very interesting to see the dichotomy of hot, steaming hot springs, surrounded by snow and ice.
Wildlife is commonly seen in the northern range, so look for pronghorn, big horn sheep, elk, and bison!
8. Wildlife watching in Yellowstone.
We highly recommend waking up before sunrise to drive to Lamar Valley, which is extremely rich with wildlife, and commonly known as "the Serengeti of the West". Once in the valley, be on the lookout for wolves, coyotes, foxes, pronghorn, bison, elk, big horn sheep and moose. Seriously, this is the place to see wildlife! Please RESPECT all wildlife and view from a DISTANCE!
Wear layers because it can get VERY chilly in Lamar Valley, and always have your camera and binoculars handy.
Check out Yellowstone's current conditions before heading into the park, and always be prepared.
(After wildlife watching all day, we like to visit Yellowstone Hot Springs, just north of Gardiner, to soak after a long, chilly, awesome day.)
There you have it-- our favorite things to do in the winter in southwest Montana. It truly is a winter wonderland!
Featured Trip: Heart Lake to Mount Sheridan
This guided trip offers backpackers a little bit of everything Yellowstone has to showcase— thermal hot springs, pristine lakes, big rivers, remote valleys, and mountain summit views.
We camp on the shores of Heart Lake, one of the largest backcountry lakes in Yellowstone. Weather permitting, you'll have a chance to summit Mount Sheridan, with views all the way to Grand Teton National Park. Once leaving Heart Lake, we traverse Snake River and travel far into the southern boundaries of Yellowstone.
On this trip you'll have excellent opportunities to spot wildlife, soak in hot springs, and experience remote parts of Yellowstone National Park.