Montana in January – Things To Do, Weather, Travel & Events

When the holidays are over and a new year has begun, the short days and fierce cold of winter in Montana can begin to feel oppressive. But local Montanans have a remedy for the winter doldrums: plenty of winter activities and indoor spaces designed for comfort and relief from the bristling outdoors.

You could view the weather as cold and snowy, but you can also choose instead to see it as sparkly and bright. The charms of a Montanan winter, if you know how and where to look, can easily outweigh the drawbacks.

A visit to Montana in January can be an extraordinary experience, and whether you’re planning to go skiing, visit a hot spring, or even just relax by a roaring fire, there are a plethora of options available to make your trip truly memorable.

Keep in mind that if you plan on visiting Montana’s national parks, there are some restrictions in place during winter. While you’ll find in-park lodges open in January – this is the middle of their winter season – some roads may be closed or require a guide to traverse. On the upside, entrance fees for Glacier National Park are reduced during this time to account for the lack of open facilities within.

What’s The Weather In Montana Like In January?

montana in january

One of the coldest months of the year, January in Montana is blanketed in snow at most elevations, and temperatures hover just below freezing. A 35º day can feel like a respite this time of year, especially when you consider that nights can reach lows of -10º or colder. While snow may linger on the ground for days on end, there are usually only about 10 actual days of snowfall in January in Montana.

Travel To Montana in January

reserve street in missoula

Alaska Air dominates low-priced flights in January, especially from Seattle into Bozeman. But vigilant flight-hunters may find some steep discounts on flights from Salt Lake City, Newark, and many other second-tier airports.

Roads can be treacherous in January, and you may only want to consider a road trip if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and adequate snow tires. If you’re sticking to the interstates, at least carrying a set of chains would be wise, they are sometimes required when traversing mountain passes.

Events in Montana in January

landscape of Montana

The natural landscape of Montana has inspired many artists over the years, and no event honors this tradition more than the annual Yellowstone Art Auction Exhibition. This fundraiser for the Yellowstone Art Museum is the largest of its kind in the area and features fine-art pieces from both regional and visiting artists.

It starts as an exhibition of all the collected works, which you can view starting at the end of January. If you find something you simply can’t live without, come back in March for the live and silent auction. All the proceeds from sales benefit the curatorial and educational programs at the museum.

And if you’re itching to get outside despite the cold temperatures, you can check out the Montana Winter Fair in Lewiston in the last week of January. This annual fair originally began in Bozeman in 1946 and is one of the longest-running Agricultural fairs in Montana.

You can expect typical state fair vibes – food and drink, livestock, and carnival activities for kids – but with a decidedly Montanan flair: you won’t be able to miss the clear influences of western Americana.

Things To Do In Montana In January

glacier national park montana

If the frigid temperatures in Montana in January aren’t quite your cup of tea, you may want to visit one of the state’s many hot springs resorts. This is a perfect time of year to enjoy the spoils of Montana’s unique geography, wherein underground springs are heated by the earth’s mantle, leaving hot, mineral-rich waters to bubble to the surface ready to be harnessed.

These occur in several spots in western Montana, and over the years many of them have been corralled into elaborate man-made pools and incorporated into some of Montana’s best lodges. While the “curative properties” of these waters is unproven, it’s hard to deny the singular pleasure of taking a hot-dip on a freezing day surrounded by the natural spoils of western Montana.

One of the largest is Bozeman Hot Springs, which is near Big Sky Resort and the north entrance to Yellowstone. It has four outdoor and eight indoor pools, so if the cold weather turns to stormy weather, there are sheltered options available. And favorite with families, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort even has a water slide that empties into their enormous outdoor pool.

But for those looking for a true getaway replete with rest, relaxation, and all manner of luxurious amenities, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort is the perfect Montana hot spring. Epitomizing rustic elegance and prioritizing guest comfort, Quinn’s well-appointed cabins and lodges are supplemented by some of the state’s finest hot springs set in a picturesque mountain setting.

Planning Your Trip To Montana In January

winter bull elk standing

  • The holidays may be over, but January in Montana means fun activities on weekends and cozy evenings indoors.
  • Some roads may be closed, but if you’re planning a visit to the parks, you can schedule a snow coach tour to take you where private vehicles aren’t allowed.
  • Reduced entrance fees continue through the winter for Glacier National Park.
  • February in Montana is quite cold, visitors should be prepared with a full complement of winter clothing and gear.
  • If you’re traveling by car, make sure you have a set of tire chains on hand for when highways and interstates require them for travel.
  • The Yellowstone Art Auction Exhibition is one of Montana’s premier annual events; viewing begins at the end of January.
  • Montana’s many hot springs resorts offer a warm and welcome respite from the frigid temperatures.

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