Montana may be known for its stunning hikes through springtime wildflowers and lakes, epic mountain views, grazing bison, and fast whitewater turns, but as the seasons change, it transforms into an entirely new landscape.
There are so many reasons to push your comfort zone and visit Montana as the seasons’ turn. Fresh, ripe huckleberries become satiating huckleberry jam, time is well spent around the fire with friends and family, iced lattes transform into peppermint mochas, and everything just gets a bit more still in the quiet of winter.
But that doesn’t mean you have to hibernate along with the bears – unless, of course, your idea of wintertime in Montana involves burrowing into a fleece blanket with a savory mulled wine (Same!).
While skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities, we wanted to highlight some of the more unique winter activities that make Montana great – and yes, that includes the windswept, fevered rush of downhill skiing.
Even though national parks have some restrictions in the wintertime, entrance fees are lower, making it the perfect time to pull out your cross-country skis and fat bikes.
Alright, grab that mulled wine and a winter coat, and let’s get to exploring a few of the many things to do in Montana in Winter!
Best Things To Do in Montana During the Winter
- Hot Springs
- Dog Sledding
- Ice Fishing
- Winter Glamping
- Winter Festivals
- Ice Climbing
- Winter Spa
- Fat Biking
Soak in a Hot Springs
Don’t threaten us with a good time! We absolutely love soaking in Montana’s natural hot springs – especially Chico Hot Springs.
As a bonus, some of Montana’s hot springs also have lodging and restaurants to help you weather the low temps.
Located near Pray, Montana, Chico Hot Springs is the perfect winter getaway, and we love it for the accommodating staff, affordability ($10 for a day pass and towel!), and – most of all – the ability to bring our drinks into the hot springs.
Our second favorite is Fairmont Hot Springs in Anaconda, a gem of a spot that is a bit more family-friendly, even though it can get a bit loud during winter break (fair warning!). Still, we’ve found some real moments of solitude at this resort.
Other hot springs in Montana offer campsites with hookups, like the more rustic Norris Hot Springs, or live music to vibe to while you’re getting your soak on.
Personally, we wouldn’t visit the more primitive sites during the winter (like Upper Potosi Hot Springs), but if you’re really keen on the adventure, be sure to bring warm clothes and some great hiking shoes.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing – so dress like you mean it!
Practice Your “Mush!” with Exhilarating Dog Sledding
But after all of that relaxing, it’s time to get back into the fray and channel your adventurous spirit into something new.
Like so many American activities (including hot springs!), dog sleds were utilized by the indigenous peoples before the colonization of the United States. Typically a means of transport, dog sledding has emerged as an iconoclast wintertime activity deep in the heart of the Montana mountains.
Dog sledding with an expert is a real treat: instead of being sight-seeing based, the focus is on the dogs, as it should be!
We love that they have an accessible hour-long tour to watch the world spin by, as well as a 2.5-hour-long extended tour that lets you drive your own sled. (Go on, practice that mush, and pet a few cute huskies!)
There are plenty of other dog sledding events, like the annual 300-mile Race to the Sky which attracts sledders from around the country.
If you’re looking for a free sledding event, we highly recommend the Montana Mountain Mushers Fun Run. There are so many opportunities to spend time with these beautiful dogs – go out and explore!
Breathe in the Cold Air While Ice Fishing
We’re huge ice fishing fans, and you don’t have to go all the way to Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic to participate in this adventure sport – although we will definitely request photos if you do.
No surprises here: similar to dog sledding, ice fishing was created out of necessity by indigenous tribes around the world (Let’s just say access to food isn’t as easy in the winter months!).
The tiny Harrison Lake in southwest Montana is an ideal spot for ice fishing, as well as Georgetown Lake near Anaconda (Life Tip: head to Fairmont Hot Springs after a morning on the ice!).
Most people have luck with trout, salmon, and pike in these peaceful spaces – but we love Flathead Lake for its one-size-fits-all mentality. You never know what you’re going to find there!
For more information on fishing licenses, be sure to check out the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks website.
Go Winter Glamping in a Tipi
This one is not for the faint of heart.
While we wholly recommend that experience during the year’s other seasons, there’s something intimate and primal about tipi camping in the depth of winter.
If you’re up for the adventure, we suggest camping in a tipi at Bodhi Farm on the outskirts of Bozeman. Available from October to March, you’ll definitely be roughing it in these accommodations – but that’s part of the fun.
The good news is that they still offer heated restrooms (yes), another portable restroom (yes!), and a sauna (YES) for your Into the Wild moment.
If this option speaks to you and your insulated socks, head to their website above for reservation details.
Attend a Community-Oriented Winter Festival
We’ve already mentioned dog sledding races (the best!), but there’s just something about gathering with your community during the wintertime.
Also worth checking out in February is the Nordic-themed Whitefish Winter Festival for its Penguin Plunge, snow sculpture contest, and an epic parade of mythological proportions.
For a different perspective, we recommend visiting a Blackfeet reservation for their wintertime community gatherings, especially the winter solstice that marks the return of the sun, or Naatosi.
Dancing, singing, and drumming was and still are synonymous with the Blackfeet wintertime ritual that connects them with the earth.
Push Your Limits with Ice Climbing
Now for something a little more reckless: ice climbing.
This sport is similar to rock climbing, another popular Montana sport – except you’re ascending up ice formations instead of rock (Sounds safe, doesn’t it?).
Well, with an experienced guide, this sport will get you out of your comfort zone with precision and care. All you’ll need is an ice ax and some chutzpah!
At the top of the ice climbing list is Hyalite Canyon, which features jaw-dropping and gulp-inducing ice cliffs and is good for rookies and intermediates alike, as well as the similarly beautiful Ousel Falls.
We recommend Montana Alpine Guides for a reliable team of experts!
Rejuvenate at a Winter Spa
You’re gonna need a break to recoup after that intense ice climbing, so we’re heading back inside for one of our favorite restorative activities: the winter spa.
Lucky for you, we’ve already compiled a list of our favorite spots!
First on the list is Sage Lodge in Pray – which you may remember as the home base for Chico Hot Springs – we love its bright, calming energy, high, spacious wooden beamed ceilings, and, of course, their facials and gua sha contouring.
We also love The Resort at Paws Up for its hot stone massage and, okay, also the resort’s huckleberry pancakes. And lastly, a big thumbs up to Solace Spa at Big Sky Resort for their blissful full-body CBD experiences.
Alright, back to adventuring!
Try Fat Biking
Let’s head back to Whitefish, Montana – home of that eccentric winter festival – for some fat biking trails.
What’s fat biking? Well, it’s mountain biking on steroids. These off-road bicycles have larger tires and better traction more suitable for snow and extend your biking season out to the whole year.
Whitefish Bike Retreat has plentiful fat biking trails, offering 19 acres of land to explore and multiple forms of lodging to rest your tired bones (Side note: they have the best sauna!).
Fat biking has revolutionized recreational cycling as a whole, and we’ve seen fat bike opportunities pop up in Bozeman, Missoula, and elsewhere. Even better: all of these locations have rental options available.
See you out there!
Watch or Participate in a Skijoring Competition
Okay, if you add horses and skiing together, what do you get? No, it’s not horses on skis, but you’re on the right track – it’s skijoring!
Horses pulling skiers through obstacles, over jumps, past turns – it’s a spectacle. And unsurprisingly, kooky Whitefish takes center stage again with their Whitefish Skijoring Championship.
Originally a Norwegian sport, skijoring fits perfectly into the Montana multiverse.
If you happen to be near Whitefish in February, this event can’t be missed. If you’re looking to participate, head back over to that Montana Winter Fair and sign up, but there are plenty of skijoring associations in the state – and opportunities to get your thrills at Glacier National Park.
Also incredibly fun: horseback riding in the winter months! Stay in Whitefish and explore Whitefish Trail with a horse companion.
Visit Montana’s Abundant Breweries
Last but certainly not least, all of these adventurous moments call for good drinks with friends – and Montana has so many opportunities to relax with a cold one.
But we want to tip our cowboy hats to the Ronan Cooperative Brewery, Montana’s only community-owned brewery with insanely delicious beers on tap.
These folks genuinely love their town and want to see it succeed, so they created a gathering space – together. It doesn’t get more Montana than that!
Things To Do in Montana in Winter–Final Thoughts
There are so many opportunities to get outside in Montana’s beautiful winter months – or to stay inside and rejuvenate if that’s more your thing.
We honestly could have kept going with our list (hello, snowshoeing!), but we hope we’ve provided a great starting list for your Treasure State adventures.
Let us know if you make it to the Whitefish Skijoring Championship or get to try ice climbing!