Big Sky Country happens to be primo snowshoeing country, too. Montana’s world-famous scenery—which ranges from the boundless prairie and fossil-jammed badlands to spectacular Rocky Mountain heights—and its extensive public lands, not to mention an amazing spectrum of wildlife, are draws in any season, to be sure. The Crescent Moon-foam snowshoe clad snowshoer, though, gets to appreciate this vast and gobsmackingly beautiful part of America in arguably its most all-around grand guise, swaddled and swirled in winter powder.
It’s no easy feat drilling down to the very best snowshoeing destinations in such a sprawling and snow-blessed state. Still, if nothing else, we’re confident the spots below show off just how awesome wintertime Montana can be!
Glacier National Park
Glacier’s “Crown of the Continent” peaks can hold their own with any mountain scenery in North America, and boy, do they look royal under the park’s hefty winter snowpack! You’re spoiled for choices when it comes to wintertime trails in Glacier, not least those out of easily accessible Apgar, including the 6-mile (round-trip) Rocky Point and 10.5-mile Apgar Lookout trails. Both deliver knockout views of utterly postcard-perfect Lake McDonald and its fringing, white horns. Beyond Lake McDonald Lodge, the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road traversing the national park is unplowed, making it a popular snowshoeing (and cross-country skiing) trek with oodles of stop-you-in-your-tracks vistas.
Most of Yellowstone National Park lies in Wyoming (and there’s a slim portion in Idaho, too), but the park’s main winter portals are in Montana. The year-round route traversing the Yellowstone Northern Range between Gardiner and Cooke City—prime wintering hangout for bison, elk, and pronghorn, and well-prowled by wolves—provides excellent snowshoeing access to this “American Serengeti.” Meanwhile, the Paradise Valley along the meandering Yellowstone River to the near north, stretching roughly between Yankee Jim Canyon and Livingston, serves as a jumping-off point for snowshoeing forays into the Gallatin National Forest’s Gallatin Range and Absarokas: stunning Rocky Mountain wilderness of the same caliber as the national park itself.
Chief Joseph Pass
Head south from Sula on Highway 93 or west from Wisdom on Highway 43 into the Bitterroots, and you’ll find one of the great Nordic areas in Montana. The vicinity of 7,264-foot Chief Joseph Pass includes nearly 20 miles of multi-use trails edging the Continental Divide that are open to snowshoers: You can’t go wrong!
Kings Hill Pass Area
The Little Belt Mountains of central Montana, mostly contained within the Lewis and Clark National Forest, are far from the highest range in this mountain-heavy state. Still, they’re beautiful and accumulate quite the snowfall. The Kings Hill Pass vicinity on Highway 89, which cuts across the Little Belts north to south, loads up with 50 to 70 inches of snow annually and gives winter-sports enthusiasts plenty of opportunities to enjoy it. Situated just north of the Showdown Ski Area, the pass includes the snowshoeing circuits of the Silver Crest Nordic Area as well as other routes such as the Deadman Ridge Trail, Jefferson Creek Road, and the trek up to Porphyry Peak and its lookout tower.
The Last Best Place in Crescent Moon Snowshoes
The freedom of coasting over a sparkling snowpack in our lightweight, foam snowshoes with a rocker-platform is a marvelous sensation—and there aren’t many better corners of North America for experiencing that sensation than Montana, that’s for sure.