Montana is a mecca for sled heads, where big skies and big powder give way to some of the country’s longest and most scenic rides. 4,000 miles of groomed trails crisscross sweeping mountain-meadow playgrounds, deep untouched backcountry, rugged ridgelines, frozen alpine lakes, old mining country and ghost towns, plus logging and Forest Service roads.
The best riding under the big blue sky is found in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and Yellowstone Country Montana, where epic terrain and stunning scenery overflow from the breathtaking national park landscapes that anchor each region. Both areas deliver world-class snowmobiling among premier mountain towns, thriving with a palpable exuberance for hardcore snow play. Locals wave and say hello, lodging and accommodations are warm and friendly, and the food and drinks are top-notch. After a day on the sled, pull up a barstool for a finely crafted beer or a whiskey made from glacial waters—countless breweries and distilleries dot each region.
The beauty of snowmobile season in Montana is that it’s long. It can begin in early November and last until April. Plow through fresh fluffy powder at the start, hit the hardpack when the season is well underway, and sled the soft stuff in your T-shirt come spring. Crush the adrenaline rush of a ride through crisp alpine air, watch wildlife, power past Montana’s famous “snow ghosts” and explore each region’s captivating basecamp towns. Sled Glaciers to Geysers in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and Yellowstone Country Montana.
Test your mettle in Montana’s rugged and remote Marias Pass Trail Complex, straddling the Continental Divide in the Lewis & Clark and Flathead national forests south of Glacier National Park. Riding ranges from intermediate to expert on 45 miles of groomed trails and 35 miles of ungroomed trails. Favorite trails include Two Medicine, Skyland and Pike Creek.
Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Bigfork, Swan Valley Western Montana’s recreation wonderland is a premier winter destination bordering Glacier National Park. Flathead Valley boasts 200+ miles of groomed trails and nearly 2,000 miles of Forest Service roads with phenomenal hill climbing and powder play areas, wildlife viewing and ridge-top views of the park and the Canadian Rockies. Don’t miss Stillwater, Canyon Creek and Desert Mountain Areas, and Swan Lake and Skyland trails.
Haugan combines extensive riding options with a family atmosphere, catering to all ability levels. Easy-to-intermediate trails and loop tours begin right off the interstate. Find friendly hospitality in Haugan, De Borgia and Saltese, with designated trails, wide-open meadows and scenic views. Explore Ford Hill/Old Mullan Pass, Packer Creek/Randolph Creek, Milwaukee/Dominion, Big Creek, Deer Creek/Up Up and Taft Summit.
Eureka, Libby, Troy Several stunningly scenic groomed trails wind through Kootenai Country. Sled the rugged Keeler-Rattle Trail System, with views of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness; 60 miles of loop trails in the Purcell Mountains; and the Pete Creek Trail, traveling into mountain bowls and alpine lakes. Explore Troy or the nearby town of Libby for a dose of warm western hospitality.
Missoula, Lolo From Lolo Pass or the soothing mineral waters of Lolo Hot Springs, set out and explore 250 miles of groomed connecting trails in the Lolo and Clearwater national forests. A series of interconnecting loop trails straddles the Montana-Idaho border. East Fork, Lost Park System, Elk Meadows and Moose Ridge are just some of the trails that lead deep into the heart of the Bitterroot Range, with plenty of meadows and play areas along the way. Adrenaline seekers hit the backcountry for the rush of challenging terrain.
Ovando, Missoula The Garnet Ghost Town trail system consists of 116 miles of groomed terrain about 30 miles east of Missoula. Views of the Blackfoot Valley, the Mission Mountains, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Pintler Range make for an especially scenic ride. Winter access to Garnet Ghost Town is only available by ski, snowshoe or snowmobile, and cabins are available for rent in the winter.
Tucked between the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range, Seeley Lake is one of Western Montana’s most popular year-round recreation areas and a prime snowmobiling destination with 350 miles of groomed trails. Starting from town, snowmobilers can fan out in every direction to scenic lookouts, cozy lodges, cafés and backcountry lakes for ice fishing. Popular trails include Double Arrow Lookout, with views of the Swan Range and Clearwater Valley; Lake Elsina, site of Sunday cookouts with the Seeley Lake Driftriders Snowmobile Club; Seeley Lake-Ovando; and Marshall Lake, a scenic 15-mile loop.
Hamilton, Darby One of Montana’s least-traveled snowmobile areas is also one of the most scenic. The Skalkaho Pass from Hamilton to Georgetown Lake is the kind of trail snowmobilers dream about. Get views of frozen Skalkaho Falls, tall peaks and deep canyons. Skalkaho Pass Area offers 26 miles of groomed trails. From there, open areas and ungroomed trails offer a wide variety of terrain for all skill levels. Skalkaho-Sleeping Child-Rye Creek Area has 32 miles of groomed trails, looping through higher elevations and a burn area. This system also includes trails near Lost Trail Powder Mountain ski area, which receives the greatest annual snowfall depths in Montana.
Often hailed one of the top snowmobiling destinations in the world, West Yellowstone is the hot spot to hop on a sled—right on the streets of town— and discover more than 400 miles of groomed trails, some of which lead into Idaho. West Yellowstone itself is a pretty impressive winter destination to hang out in, too. Favorite sled trails in the area include Two Top, Horse Butte, Madison Arm, Big Sky, South Plateau and Lionhead. Or, hook up with professional snowmobile guides for a jaw-dropping tour of Yellowstone National Park’s tranquil winter wonderland.
Find sought-after snowmobiling in Cooke City, with late-season backcountry riding extending into June and sometimes even July. Spring days make for longer daylight hours and more riding. Climb to Daisy Pass at 10,000 feet. Free ride Henderson Mountain. Explore old mining country, play in deep powder meadows and boondock through the trees. Then, tell your sled story at the local saloon.
Take a guided snowmobile tour with seasoned professionals through the serene landscape of America’s first national park, where steaming geysers and geothermal features are juxtaposed against a winter wonderland of pure white powder, big blue skies and majestic wildlife. This is truly a unique way and time of year to see the park.
Explore more than 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in and around one of Montana’s most exciting communities. Stay at Bohart Ranch and ride the short and scenic 6-mile Fairy Lake Road. Olson Creek Trail offers 24 miles and beautiful views of the Bridger and Crazy mountains. Find plenty of bowls in the Bridger Range. Other favorite trails include Brackett Creek, Buck Creek, Olson Creek, Hyalite Canyon and Squaw Creek.
This treasured winter resort town is known for the Biggest Skiing in America® so it stands to reason that the snowmobiling is pretty phenomenal, too. Doe Creek Trail is great for beginners and leads into the 16-mile Buck Ridge Trail, a favorite among locals because you can reach close to 9,500 feet, gaining 40-mile views on bluebird days. Fifteen miles south of Buck Ridge, Taylor Fork is groomed twice a week each winter and provides gradual riding with plenty of open play areas.
The Custer Gallatin National Forest and Gallatin Canyon offer stunning mountain terrain for mostly experienced riders. Big Sky Snowmobile Trail boasts 123 miles of groomed and ungroomed connected trails. Storm Caste to Moose Creek offers a challenging 15-mile ride. From Moose Creek, ride 11 miles to Porcupine Divide. Porcupine Divide to Buffalo Horn is another 12 miles, and is not recommended for novice drivers.
The towering peaks of the Custer Gallatin National Forest and Beartooth, Absaroka and Crazy mountain ranges call out to rugged winter snow seekers. Majestic wide-open vistas and deep forested canyons offer amazingly scenic riding. Try the 20-mile Shields Loop (with Forest Service cabins available for rent), the 7.5-mile Cottonwood Trail, the Ibex Cabin Trail (also with a Forest Service cabin rental), or Mill Creek and Rock Creek South, with trails for a variety of skill levels.
South of Big Timber in the Boulder River Valley, the groomed Boulder River Snowmobile Trail runs for 16 miles along designated wilderness and offers limited play areas. The 25-mile Boulder Canyon Trail runs along the river cutting through the scenic Absaroka and Beartooth ranges to the old mining town of Independence, which serves as a popular play area for sledders. The ungroomed 7-mile Dry Fork Trail has plenty of powder play areas as well, and a scenic view from Dry Fork Pass.
You’ll find snowmobile rentals and gear at friendly outfitters all over Western Montana’s Glacier Country and Yellowstone Country Montana. Some of the most experienced and knowledgeable snowmobile guides call this powder paradise home. Guided tours are available throughout the region, and offer a seamless riding experience for both beginners and experts.
Avalanche safety should always be top of mind when you're headed into the deep stuff. Carry avalanche safety gear, know the red flags of an unstable snowpack, check the avalanche forecast, and get educated in avalanche safety.
There are two permit requirements for residents of Montana: Snowmobiles must be registered with the state of Montana, and a $20 Snowmobile Trail Pass—valid for two seasons (July 1 through June 30)—must be displayed on all machines.
Snowmobiles currently registered in other states are not required to display a Montana registration decal. Out-of-state visitors riding snowmobiles are required to purchase a Nonresident Temporary Use Permit for $35, valid for two seasons (July 1 through June 30) and obtained by calling Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department headquarters at 406.444.3753 or visiting their website.
Snowmobilers riding on plowed streets that are open to snowmobile traffic must have a driver’s license or–if under age–must possess a snowmobile safety certificate and travel with an adult.
Groomed trails are maintained by local snowmobile clubs and chambers of commerce. Check trail specifics before you ride, as some trails are not groomed as frequently as others.
Montana Snowmobile Association is your go-to for snowmobiling in Western Montana's Glacier Country and Yellowstone Country Montana. Find trail maps, plus links to local snowmobile clubs, outfitter and guide information, as well as news and events, safety and avalanche resources, and more.snowmobilemt.org