10 Winter Vacation Ideas In Southwest Montana

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Southwest Montana makes for the perfect stop on your way to Yellowstone pretty much any time of year. There are plenty of winter activities to try, each available at a host of different locations around the region.

Hot Springs

What could be better in the cold winter than a hot spring? Come visit any one of the many hot springs in Southwest Montana. There are a variety of hot spring hotels to choose from. Every setting from the most rustic, to luxury resorts are scattered throughout the region. Southwest Montana is home to six hot springs from natural geothermal features. Several resorts have recently taken on major renovations to make them even more inviting to visitors and locals. On the Backroad, a favorite hot spot is  Norris Hot Springs, also known as the “Water of the Gods.”

Ice Fishing

father and son ice fishing in montana

It’s not uncommon to hear southwest Montana referred to as the Ice Fishing Capitol of the world. We’ve got plenty of lakes and reservoirs to choose from, it’ll be difficult to pick just one spot! What are you in the mood to cook up tonight? Salmon at Georgetown Lake? Trout from Ruby Reservoir? Rainbows or browns from Hebgen Lake?  Walleye at Canyon Ferry Reservoir or Perch at the Clark Canyon Reservoir? Each lake has its own special assortment of fish. And if you just can’t decide what you’re in the mood for, there’s always Hauser lake with a little of each type of fish.


Ski Resorts in Southwest Montana

big sky skiing resort

Looking for a winter skiing experience without shelling out a fortune to visit the rockies? Check out Maverick Mountain, or the Great Divide Ski Area and Discovery Ski Area. These are more intimate resorts with a Montana flavor.  Southwest Montana has some of the best snow around for skiing and snowboarding. Each of them lies in its own unique setting with a beautiful view of the mountains. Grab yourself a season pass, or just ski for the day on your way down the backroad to Yellowstone.


snowmobiling through montana

No matter where you are in Southwest Montana, there’s bound to be a snowmobiling trail nearby. We’re talking about thousands of miles of trails designated for snowmobiling in the winter.  In Virginia City, riders gather for Poker Rides.  Near the Idaho/MT border, Island Park, ID and West Yellowstone boast deep powder and “jump on your machine and ride” snow throughout the winter.  West Yellowstone hostsJust be sure to wear a helmet, and obey all safety laws while you’re on the trails.

Ice Skating

Ice skating Ennis Lake


One of wintertime’s oldest and most graceful traditions is alive and well in southwest Montana. Ice skate outdoors in Bannack State Park or on Ennis or Hebgen Lakes or try your skill with a local hockey team!

Ice Boating



Or Ice Yachting, if you’re one of the elite, is a wonderful pastime in southwest Montana. Canyon Ferry Reservoir is the perfect spot for these winter water sports, due to its massive size.



Similar to kite surfing, snowkiting allows you to ski or board around a snow covered area pulled by a special steerable kite. Here in southwest Montana, Georgetown Lake is host to some exciting snowkiting this winter.  Snowkiters have also been spotted on Norris Hill!

Cross country Skiing

cross country skier montana

How much of a workout are you looking to get? There are plenty of trails of varying difficulty no matter where you are in southwest Montana.

  • MacDonald Pass Trail
  • Stemple Pass Ski Trail
  • Mount Haggin Nordic Ski Area
  • and more

Plenty of trails offer nearby lodging, you can practically ski right out the front door of your room!

Up for a real challenge? Check out Birch Creek Ski Trail or Elkhorn Hot Springs Ski Trail near Dillon. These challenging trails have been known to stay ungroomed through the winter.


snowshoeing montana

For those who enjoy the quiet of a winter forest (and sleeping bears) snowshoeing is a low-impact aerobic way to spend time outdoors.  The Madison Valley has trails for snowshoeing and cross country skiers that can be enjoyed away from the sounds of the snowmobile enthusiasts.  Cross tracks with moose, elk, wolves and weasel as you wind through the woods.

Yellowstone National Park hosts snowshoeing adventures guided by Park Rangers.  Click for up to the minute information on schedules and tours.

Southwest Montana is home to plenty of snowshoeing trails, ranging anywhere from one tenth of a mile to 25 miles of hikeable trail!

Things to eat, places to stay, and ways to play