1. 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 nps.gov.
- 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.).
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.