12 Best Snowmobiling Spots in Montana

Jason Gass
Last Updated: February 27th, 2023

We are not the sort of family that spends our winter vacations sitting by the fire, watching the snowfall, drinking hot chocolate. We love great winter adventures and getting outdoors, even on those blustery days. 

One of our favorite winter activities is snowmobiling and one of our favorite places to snowmobile in Montana. From high mountain peaks to beautiful valleys, the snowmobiling adventures are almost endless in Montana. 

However, in this post, we give you the 12 best snowmobiling spots in Montana, the ones we like best and that offer something for everyone.

The 12 Best Snowmobiling Spots in Montana

Montana offers more than 4.000 miles of groomed trails for snowmobilers. Serviced by local clubs or the chamber of commerce with grants provided by Montana State Parks, there is no shortage of pristine Montana snowmobile trails complemented by the beautiful views of Big Sky Country.

  1. Seeley Lake
  2. West Yellowstone
  3. Flathead Valley
  4. Cut Bank
  5. Kootenai Country Region
  6. Elk Lake
  7. Garnet Ghost Town
  8. Skalkaho Pass
  9. Haugan
  10. Lolo Pass
  11. Mission Mountains
  12. Cooke City

seeley lake

1. Seeley Lake

Seeley Lake is one of the most popular snowmobiling areas in Montana. You’ll find this area tucked between the Swan Range and the Mission Mountains. This area is a favorite of Montana locals because it usually gets hit with early snow and lots of it. 

You will access the Seeley Lake area from the scenic Montana Highway 83 between the towns of Clearwater and Condon. This area boasts over 350 groomed snowmobile trails for every level of rider.

Trails in the Seeley Lake area boast some of the most beautiful scenery in Montana, and trails like the Double Arrow Lookout provide stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains. 

We said there was something for everyone in this area, and that is not an understatement. Beginners will enjoy the 15-mile loop around Lake Elsina. More experienced riders will enjoy the miles and miles of groomed trails that are well-maintained thanks to the Seeley Lake Driftriders

For those expert riders looking for a new challenge, the burn scar between Lincoln, Ovando, and Seeley Lake provides amazing snowmobiling terrain.

The Seeley Lake area has plenty of places where you can rent equipment, and there are plenty of great places to stay like the Double Arrow Lodge and Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch.

2. West Yellowstone

west yellowstone

There are some people that say that the West Yellowstone area is the best place in the United States to snowmobile. The town of West Yellowstone is located just outside the park boundaries at the junction of Highways 191 and 20. The town has tons of resources for snowmobilers and even has a regional airport to make getting there just a bit easier.

The West Yellowstone area has around 200 miles of designated trails for snowmobiling. Most of the trails in this area sit at 6,000 feet to 10,000 feet of elevation, and many are located within the National Park.

Only a small portion of Yellowstone National Park lies in Montana, but this small area offers some of the best snowmobiling opportunities in the state.

If you want to access the National Park, you will need to get permits from the Park Service, and we suggest using a guide service to help make this easier. Once you’re in the park you’ll experience the awe-inspiring wilderness and a side of the Park that most tourists miss. 

If you want to skip the hassle of getting a park permit, there are plenty of great snowmobiling opportunities around West Yellowstone that will not disappoint.

3. Flathead Valley

The Flathead Valley sits at the edge of Glacier National Park, and the towns of Kalispell, Whitefish, Bigfork, and Columbia Falls are located within the valley. The Flathead Valley is full of wide-open spaces that are perfect for snowmobiling, and there is no shortage of amazing views wherever you turn.

Within the Flathead Valley region, you’ll discover more than 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails along with over 2,000 miles of Forest Service roads that will get you to some of the most amazing places within the valley. Trails that you cannot miss include the Skyland or Stillwater Trails, the Canyon Creek Trail System or the Crane Mountain trail system.

Flathead Valley is about as close to the northern border of the United States as you can get, and it gets a ton of snow every winter, so if you love to cut fresh trails, you won’t be disappointed making the trek so far north. Our favorite part of this area is that if you make the climb, the views of the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park are amazing, and you won’t find a ton of tourists in the area over the winter.

The best source of trail information for the Flathead Valley comes from the Flathead Snowmobile Association. Hit their website before you hit the trails for the most up-to-date trail news.

4. Cut Bank

cut bank

This area is not for the beginner. The Cut Bank area sits along the Continental Divide and the trails here are secluded, steep, and rough. While this area offers some of the most amazing views and riding experiences, only experienced intermediate and expert riders should test their skills at Cut Bank.

Trails in Cut Bank start at Marias Pass. The area has 35 miles of ungroomed trails and 45 miles of groomed trails. Don’t let the groomed trails fool you. This area is not for the faint of heart and most certainly isn’t a good spot for novice riders.

Some of the most popular trails that start at Marias Pass include Two Medicine, Pike Creek and Skyland. You can certainly head out on these trails on your own. However, locals will recommend guides for these trails due to the challenging terrain and the potential for extreme winter weather to set in at a moment’s notice.

Access the Marias Pass area from Highway 2, headed west from East Glacier Village and Browning. This area has plenty of lodging opportunities, though most are a good drive from the Cut Bank area trail heads.

5. Kootenai County Region

kootenai county region

Kootenai County and National Forest is located at the very northwest corner of Montana, and into the northeastern part of the Idaho panhandle. This area boasts hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. 

Some of the trails are managed by the Try Snowmobile Club and Lincoln County Snowkats, while other trails in this area are managed by the US Forest Service.

Popular trails in this area include the Purcell Mountain trails which boast over 60 miles of groomed loop trails perfect for a range of skill levels. The Grave Creek trail starts in the Birch Creek Recreation area and travels all the way to the Canadian border. This is a great ride but be prepared for some time in the saddle. A great day trip in this area is to start your day in Troy, and follow the trails to Libby, where you can enjoy lunch, and a hot beverage.

The US Forest Service has a great trail listing for this area and the USFS website has lots of helpful information about snowmobiling in public lands in Montana.

6. Elk Lake Resort

elk lake resort
Image: Elk Lake Resort

Elk Lake Resort is a very popular place for snowmobilers thanks to its remote location, soft powder days, and miles and miles of trails that aren’t packed with other users. The resort is a private resort that offers an amazing experience in the winter and the summer.

Start your snowmobile adventures at Elk Lake Resort, with thousands of acres of national forest and wilderness to explore. The resort staff can help you with equipment and then you are off for a day of adventure. When you return, there’s a hot meal and a soft bed waiting for you, which is a perfect end to a day of amazing snowmobiling

The great thing about this location is that it is close to Yellowstone National Park, so you can take advantage of the peace and quiet of this resort but still enjoy the natural wonders in the park with just a short drive. Elk Lake Resort is located off of Forest Service road 8384 and is only an hour’s drive from West Yellowstone.

7. Garnet Ghost Town

garnet ghost town

Garnet Ghost Town is the most intact ghost town in the state of Montana. It lies in the Garnet Mountain Range, east of Missoula, MT. While the draw to the area is the well-preserved ghost town, the area also boasts some of the best snowmobiling in Montana.

The Garnet Ghost trail system has around 100 miles of trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing throughout the winter. Trails in this system can climb to 7,000 feet of elevation and offer spectacular views of the Garnet Mountain Range. 

Many of the trails are maintained and groomed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). However, some trails are not maintained and can only be accessed by snowmobile, due to heavy drifting. For a trail map of the area, visit the BLM regional office in Missoula.

To reach Garnet Ghost Town and its trail system, exit off of I-90 in either Drummond or Bearmouth. Both towns offer lodging and food and are good places to stay if you want to explore the Garnet Ghost Town area.

8. Skalkaho Pass

Located in the southwest part of Montana, Skalkaho Pass is situated along Montana State Highway 38 between Grantsdale and Anaconda, within the Bitterroot Valley. The road to Skalkaho Pass is closed during the winter, turning this area into a winter sports paradise.

Because this area is closed to automobiles during the winter, it is inaccessible to most winter tourists. However, for avid snowmobilers, this is a dream come true. With 26 miles of designated trails and another 30 miles of groomed trails, this quiet and secluded area is perfect for families and beginner snowmobilers.

Because of the secluded nature of this area, it is really popular with locals, so do be respectful of the land and make sure that you are aware and thoughtful of other riders that you may encounter.

The proximity of this area to the I-90 makes it easily accessible for most of the winter. Both Grantsdale and Anaconda have lodging, food, and equipment rentals for your Skalkaho Pass adventure.

9. Haugan

Haugan is likely the most family-friendly place to enjoy snowmobiling in Montana. It has tons of trails to explore, and most are beginner to intermediate friendly.

We know that sometimes traveling with kids can change the way you travel and the places that you want to go. If your family loves snowmobiling, but you don’t want to get too far off the beaten path, Haugan is a great answer. 

The Haugen area has a huge number of well-maintained trails into the Lolo National Forest. Some trails start right off of the interstate, making this a great stop for a partial day of riding, or for getting your kids out and experiencing the fun of snowmobiling.

Popular trails in the Haugan area include the Packer Creek/Randolph Creek trail, Ford Hill, and Big Creek trails. All of these trails are groomed and are perfect for beginner riders. For up-to-date trail information visit the Montana Nightriders Snowmobile Club.

The towns of Haugan, Saltese, and De Borgia are right off the highway and have plenty of family-friendly options for lodging and entertainment.

10. Lolo Pass

lolo pass

Lolo Pass sits right along the Montana – Idaho border on Highway 12. This area was first explored by Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago. Today, visitors can continue to explore this area, and in the winter it is home to some of Montana’s best snowmobiling.

The Lolo Pass area has around 250 miles of interconnecting loop trails that crisscross through the Lolo and Clearwater National Forests. Check out the Moose Ridge, Elk Meadows, East Fork, and Lost Park trails that take you deep into the Bitterroot range where open meadows provide plenty of space to play, and backcountry terrain provides plenty of thrill for the more experienced riders.

At the end of the day, check out the Lolo Hot Springs which were first enjoyed by Lewis and Clark’s expedition team.

Oh, and you’ll need a parking pass if you’ll be in the area snowmobiling. Parking passes can be purchased at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. The visitor center also has flush toilets, hot beverages, and information about the area.

11. Mission Mountains

mission mountains

The Mission Mountains area scares off a lot of snowmobilers. At first glance this area seems to be highly technical, filled with steep rugged peaks. However, if you take a chance and look deeper, it’s actually a great place to explore by snowmobile in the winter.

While this is a hidden gem in Montana, there are some important things you need to know about snowmobiling in this area. First, most of the recreational trails in this area are on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

To access these trails you will need a reservation permit from the tribal wildland recreation program. Second, there is no snowmobiling allowed in the Mission Mountains Wilderness area, so be aware of the boundaries of this area before you arrive. 

Snowmobiling is best around Flathead Lakes and the Boulder Trail System. The first 10 miles of this trail system are maintained but then connect with more rugged trails. The Jocko Lake trail is a popular option for snowmobilers and will connect you with the groomed trails around Seeley Lake.

12. Cooke City

cooke city
Image: Intermountain Forest Service

Finally, we come to Cooke City. This gem is located in the Gallatin National Forest, along Highway 212, on the Montana-Wyoming border. The draw to this area is its expanses of backcountry riding opportunities that are accessible to all skill levels.

Most of the trails in the Cooke City area are not groomed and maybe a bit challenging for beginner riders. However, there are a few groomed trails that can be accessed from the town of Gardiner and Yellowstone’s northeast gateway. More remote trail options can be accessed from the Pilot Creek parking area.

The best information on trails in this area can be found on the US Forest Service website for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, including information on permit requirements and avalanche reports. The Forest Service also has a great map that shows the major trail systems in the area.

About The Author

Jason Gass

Jason Gass is a Colorado based freelance writer and blogger whose goal is to share a good cup of coffee and great stories around a campfire with close friends. When he’s not working, he spends most of his time traveling, searching for the best breweries, and road-tripping in his teardrop trailer with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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