Wild Winter Adventures

Home Discover the Wild Wilderness Walks Wild Winter Adventures
Photo by Steven Gnam

Get out and explore Montana's winter wonderlands

Cross-country skiing activities now available!

Montana Wilderness Association is excited to announce the brand new season of 2019’s Wild Winter Adventures (formerly Wild Winter Offerings)!

Adventures are available for all skill levels and take place throughout the winter and across the state. And we are excited to now offer cross-country skiing as an option for exploring your public lands with MWA. To register, contact the organizer directly with the information provided for their respective adventure.

How to sign up for a walk

  1. Choose an outing that fits your ability and desires

  2. Activities are organized by chapter area and are listed by offering date

  3. Review the details of the outing and contact the organizer directly to register

All future communication will occur between you and the activity organizer. Should you have questions, please contact the organizer directly. Carefully review the descriptions and make your selections of activities based on your physical abilities, general state of health, hiking/snowshoeing experience, and available equipment. To learn more about difficulty levels and expectations for snowshoe hikes and cross-country skiing activities, please download the PDF featured below. In the meantime, here's a summary of what to expect:

  • Snowshoes will be provided by most chapter areas. However, please check with your adventure leader to see if you’ll need to rent or borrow your own.

  • Cross-country skiing gear will not be provided; please bring your own or rent. 

  • Children with adult guidance are welcome unless it is noted that an activity is not suited for children.

  • Please bring your own gear, food, and water.

  • No dogs are permitted, in fairness to fellow hikers and wildlife, and please leave all firearms at home.

  • The winter season brings cold temperatures, winter storms, and changing conditions. Be well-prepared for your winter adventure by selecting proper fabrics and layering your clothing to help maintain a constant body temperature. Check the weather before you go and be aware of the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Carry the necessary emergency equipment and medications if you require them.

Download Activities Guide

Eastern Montana

Eastern Wildlands Chapter

Snowshoe: Pryor Mountains Loop

Date: Saturday, January 26th
Nearest town: Bridger
Miles (round trip): 6
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous 
Description: Join president of the Eastern Wildlands Chapter Roger Otstot and MWA's Aubrey Bertram for a loop hike on the western side of the Pryor Mountains. This is not an officially named trail, but makes use of old roadbeds. The hike first ascends a moderate but steady climb to a ridge with beautiful views of the Sage Creek Valley before a short but steep descent into a limestone-and-pine filled bowl. The hike finishes with an easy walk along the road to connect the loop. Come learn about important land-management planning processes that will affect the future of the Pryors and opportunities for quiet recreation in these unique wilderness-quality mountains.

To register, please contact Aubrey Bertram at abertram@wildmontana.org or 303-956-5263.

Snowshoe: Mystic Lake

Date: Saturday, February 2nd
Nearest town: Roscoe/Fishtail
Miles (round trip): 5.5
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Join MWA's Aubrey Bertram and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation’s Heather Briggs for a snowshoe hike to Mystic Lake in the Beartooth Mountains. (Depending on snow conditions, there may be a few sections that will be easier to navigate without snowshoes, so be prepared to carry them for short sections.) We will discuss the ongoing Custer Gallatin National Forest forest plan revision process and the opportunities to manage more areas - like Mystic Lake - for their wilderness qualities. We’ll also discuss the importance of the mountains' water resources for surrounding communities and practice Leave No Trace principles to remind us how to ethically enjoy the lake come summer camping season.

To register, please contact Aubrey Bertram at abertram@wildmontana.org or 303-956-5263.

Snowshoe: Sykes Arch

Date: Saturday, February 9th
Nearest town: Lovell, Wyoming
Miles (round trip): 6-8
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description: he Pryors are unlike any other landscape in Montana. They are geologically, ecologically, meteorologically, and culturally unique – an island of mountains rising from the prairie, formed by erosion of uplifted limestone instead of glacially sculpted granite.  This hike will explore numerous, rugged, and spectacular limestone canyons and rock formations with viewpoints from which to enjoy the solitude.

To register, please contact Rita Harding at mtroses22@gmail.com or 406-698-2628.

Snowshoe: Natural Bridges

Date: Saturday, February 16th
Nearest town: Terry
Miles (round trip): 3
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Hike to naturally eroded bridges deep in the expansive Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area, where famous wild west photographer and homesteader Evelyn Cameron once took her famous self-portrait atop the bridges. The natural bridges hike begins at the end of the Calypso Trail (a rustic road) and takes hikers through prairie fields where one can catch glimpses of beautiful badlands and abundant wildlife. The trail will curve west and south, crossing downstream of a broken earthenworks dam. It soon reaches an eroded valley, the edges of which are lined with natural bridges. Please know that there is no water available along hike or in adjacent areas and very little tree cover. Be sure to expect winds!

To register, please contact Aubrey Bertram at abertram@wildmontana.org or 303-956-5263.

Snowshoe: Pompeys Pillar

Date: Saturday, March 16th
Nearest town: Billings
Miles (round trip): 3-4
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Pompeys Pillar National Monument is the site of the only visible evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Clark’s signature on a sandstone formation. It also has an area of critical environmental concern (ACEC) that most visitors don’t see. To learn more about the ACEC and the Pillar’s history, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff will accompany us. The BLM representative will discuss efforts to improve wildlife habitat as well as wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities. We will see panoramic views of the Yellowstone Valley and hopefully a variety of local wildlife. Pompeys Pillar is a testament to the importance collaboration efforts between public land agencies such as the BLM and other organizations such as Montana Wilderness Association.

To register, please contact Roger Otstot at rotstot53@gmail.com or 406-671-0928.

North Central Montana

Island Range Chapter

Snowshoe: Pioneer Ridge, Little Belt Mountains

Date: Tuesday, January 15th
Nearest town: Monarch
Miles (round trip): 4-6
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description: This hike is moderately strenuous but can be adjusted to the will of the group. The trailhead is located across the highway from Belt Creek ranger station on US Highway 89. The trail is well maintained and follows a contour with a moderate grade, achieving good views within the first half mile. The round trip outing will take about 3 to 4 hours depending on the speed of our group, and we’ll gain about 1000 feet in elevation. We will meet at the 4 B’s restaurant parking lot (4610 10th Ave. S) at 8:00 a.m. for carpooling. For those living east of Great Falls, we will meet you at the Armington Junction rest stop at 8:30 a.m.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: Middle Fork Teton/Lonesome Ridge

Date: Saturday, January 19th
Nearest town: Choteau
Miles (round trip): 7-10
Difficulty: Strenuous
Description: Join leaders Bill Cunningham and Len Kopec for a snowshoe hike near Cave Mountain. This outing visits the spectacularly rugged valley of the Middle Fork of the Teton, an area bounded by the peaks of the majestic Rocky Mountain Front. This out-and-back hike crosses the Middle Fork and climbs to the broad open saddle of Lonesome Ridge.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: Middle Fork Judith Wilderness Study Area - Little Belt Mountains

Date: Saturday, January 26th
Nearest town: Utica
Miles (round trip): 4.5
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Experience the scenic canyon of the Middle Fork of the Judith Wilderness Study Area. Charlie Russell described this backcountry as a “hunter’s paradise," writing "Nature had surely done her best, and no king of the old times could have claimed a more beautiful and bountiful domain.” Learn about the effort to restore the fishery to a blue ribbon trout stream and protect the wilderness character of this area. From the Yogo Trailhead we’ll snowshoe to the Middle Fork and if the ice is solid, follow the creek down through the canyon. Snow conditions are unpredictable so bring boots for hiking too. We’ll make a decision at the trailhead about whether to snowshoe or hike. Bring a lunch, plenty of water, and layers of clothes. After the hike, we can stop for some hot drinks and the famously large burgers at the Oxen Yoke Inn in Utica.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: McGee Coulee

Date: Sunday, January 27th
Nearest town: Monarch
Miles (round trip): 6
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description: This hike starts at the trailhead on the Dry Fork of Belt Creek, about 3 miles east of Monarch. This is essentially an up-and-back hike. The first 2.5 miles of hiking is very gradual. At the 3-mile mark, we’ll have the option of hiking up a steep half mile for great views of Otter Mountain (6683 ft), Sawmill Ridge, and Barker Mountain (8309 ft.). Alternatively, we may turn around at the 3-mile mark and head back by a different route, which would take us by an amazing natural arch, eventually connecting back to our incoming trail.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: Holden Ridge, Big Snowy Mountains

Date: Saturday, February 23rd
Nearest town: Lewistown
Miles (round trip): 3.3
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: The hike goes through a mix of timber and meadows. After the first mile, if the day is clear, we will have breathtaking views of the Judith Mountains and the Moccasin Mountains north of Lewistown. The trail is 25 miles southeast of Lewistown. The length of the hike will depend on weather and the wishes of the hikers. Be sure to layer and prepare for wind (no jeans, please). Bring plenty of water, lunch, and snacks.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: Lime Kiln Loop CANCELLED

Date: Saturday, March 2nd
Nearest town: Lewistown
Miles (round trip): 3-6 (depending on snow depth)
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description: Join leaders Susan Lohmuller and Rachel Stansberry for a snowshoe hike through an open forest and up to the ridge of the Judith Mountains. This area sees little human use during the winter months, making this the perfect time to visit. The Limekiln Trail Loop provides expansive views of the island ranges in Central Montana.  

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: Sawmill Gulch CANCELLED

Date: Sunday, March 3rd
Nearest town: Monarch
Miles (round trip): 2
Difficulty: Easy
Description: This hike follows an old logging road across a gorgeous meadow to a wooded lunch spot, where we will build a fire to warm up and roast s'mores. The hike leaders will provide the makings. Sawmill Creek supports Westslope Cutthroat Trout and American Dippers, and as we hike through the snow, we just might see snow fleas, tracks of elk, mountain lions, and other wildlife. The Sawmill Gulch is currently managed as a quiet, non-motorized roadless area.

To register, please visit http://islandrange.eventbrite.com/.

Snowshoe: South Fork Two Medicine

Date: Saturday, March 23rd
Nearest town: East Glacier
Miles (round trip): 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Join MWA's Lailani Upham with co leads, Craig Falcon and Carrie Bear Chief in a wintery enlightening walk through the grounds where their ancestors (Blackfeet/Pikuni people) have camped and lived for thousands of years. While hiking you will hear traditional stories of the wilderness land area that have been carried down to the trio from their family tribal elders. Bear Chief will bring countless tribal stories of Bigfoot, while Falcon shares cultural significance of the area with hikers, including the Blackfeet Creation story that comes from the Badger Two Medicine area. This hike will pass through large open meadows, along semi-groomed trails, and down a gradual descent until we reach the South Fork of the Two Medicine River.

To register, please contact Lailani Upham at lupham@wildmontana.org or 406-936-0209.

South Central Montana

Madison-Gallatin Chapter

Winter Outdoor Safety: Avalanche Awareness

Date: Tuesday, January 22nd
Nearest town: Bozeman
Miles (round trip): 0
Difficulty: Easy
Description: A 90-minute course, presented by Mark Greeno of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, is designed for backcountry skiers, cross-country skiers, snowshoe enthusiasts, snow bikers, and winter hikers – in other words, anyone interested in human-powered transportation in the backcountry during the winter. Mark will talk about avalanche safety, weather conditions, snowpack, and human factors to be aware of so that you can be safe while enjoying public lands in our own backyard. He’ll discuss how to plan ahead, how to dress for the weather and the gear you need to carry in your pack. This presentation will take place indoors.

To register, please contact Jeanette Hall at chall59715@hotmail.com or 406-580-3038.

Snowshoe: Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Date: Saturday, January 26th
Nearest town: Three Forks
Miles (round trip): 3-4
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: This small, hilly park is filled with Native American history and was the site of many buffalo hunts. This area provides great views of the Tobacco Root and Bridger mountains. This is an ideal hike for families with children at least 5 years old.

To register, please contact Catherine Nelson at cnhobbit@gmail.com or 406-585-8025.

Snowshoe: Lava Lake

Date: Sunday, February 24th
Nearest town: Gallatin Gateway
Miles (round trip): 6.5 
Difficulty: Strenuous
Description: Beginning on the banks of the Gallatin River, we'll follow frozen Cascade Creek upstream into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness to beautiful Lava Lake at 7100 feet, nestled below 10,000-foot peaks in the heart of the Madison Range. We'll have lunch at the lake and then return via the same route. This trail is steep and shaded and often packed enough that snowshoes aren't required.

To register, please contact Tom Ross at tom.ross51@gmail.com or 406-548-7484.

Central Montana

Wild Divide Chapter

Snowshoe: Sweeney Creek Loop

Date: Saturday, January 12th
Nearest town: Helena
Miles (round trip): 1.5-2
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Experience the winter beauty and solitude of Sweeney Creek! This sweet spot close to Helena is a favorite of winter wildlife. The loop passes through an open forest, along the small frozen creek, and back to the trail head through an open ponderosa pine forest. The terrain protects the route from the weather, but bring along layered clothing for changing winter conditions, water, and a snack or lunch.

To register, please contact Bill Hallinan at wjhallinan@gmail.com or 406-461-9876.

Snowshoe: Travis Peak

Date: Saturday, February 2nd
Nearest town: Helena
Miles (round trip): 2-4
Difficulty: Strenuous 
Description: We will start our snowshoe hike by walking the trail that accompanies the old Park Ditch that wraps around the southwest side of Travis Peak. Once on the west side of the peak, we will have delightful views of Red Mountain, Colorado Mountain, Black Mountain, and the scenic roadless area spread out below us. Once we have come to the end of the Park Ditch trail, the group can decide where to go next: up to Travis Peak for a higher vantage point, farther west toward Nelson Gulch, or down the drainage into the heart of this roadless area.

To register, please contact Bill Hallinan at wjhallinan@gmail.com or 406-461-9876.

Snowshoe: Trout Creek Canyon

Date: Saturday, February 16th
Nearest town: Helena
Miles (round trip): 3
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Join us for a slow journey up a limestone canyon and back down. The trail is not too steep in either direction, and provides lots of time for enjoying the quiet winter wonderland. It’s a great introduction to the Big Belt Mountains. We have the option of stopping for burgers in York afterwards, too!

To register, please contact Hank Hudson at Hkhudson@aol.com or 406-459-8561.

Snowshoe: MacDonald Pass

Date: Saturday, February 23rd
Nearest town: Helena
Miles (round trip): 3-4
Difficulty: Easy
Description: In partnership with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, enjoy a wonderful late morning snowshoe along the beautiful snow drifts on MacDonald Pass! The wind piles up snow on the edge of the forest and we will walk along gentle rolling terrain before eventually heading into a quiet snow-covered forest. From there we will follow a portion of the Continental Divide Trail south and observe the winter tracks of the forest inhabitants. Be prepared for windy conditions on the pass before heading into the woods, so good winter gear is a must. Bring a lunch and something warm to drink for our rest stops.

To register, please contact Laura Parr at lparr@wildmontana.org or 406-443-7350 ext. 110.

Western Montana

Shining Mountains Chapter

Snowshoe: Lolo Pass

Date: Saturday, January 12th
Nearest town: Lolo
Miles (round trip): 3-4
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: This will be a pleasant tromp through the forest along an old logging road, looking for animal tracks, sharing experiences and tips on snowshoeing and backcountry winter travel along with occasional views of distant mountains.

To register, please contact Steve Seninger at steve.seninger@business.umt.edu or 406-531-8348.

Cross Country Ski: Lake Alva

Date: Saturday, January 19th
Nearest town: Seeley Lake
Miles (round trip): 3
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Public lands surround Lake Alva, which features an island that makes a tempting ski destination. Skiing on and around Lake Alva provides scenic pleasures along with the chance of seeing animal tracks and otters fishing. This will be an easy ski in a remarkable location. Accomodations for various snow and ice conditions will be made to ensure a safe and enjoyable ski adventure.

To register, please contact Lee Boman at lee.boman@icloud.com or 509-521-3646.

Cross Country Ski: Explore the Ungroomed Trails at Chief Joseph Pass

Date: Saturday, January 19th
Nearest town: Darby
Miles (round trip): 10
Difficulty: Strenuous
Description: An intermediate 5-mile out-and-back ski on the Anderson Mountain Road to a natural meadow with great views, with the opportunity for experienced skiers to link turns once or twice down the meadow before returning to the Chief Joseph trailhead. This road is opposite the groomed ski trails also accessed from Chief Joseph Pass. This trip will give you a glimpse of wild (not wilderness) country that you might not be as likely to explore, given the proximity of well-signed, groomed trails also accessible from the trailhead. The Anderson Mountain Road is used by folks who don't enjoy crowds and folks who want to yo-yo ski through openings off either side of the trail (we won't be doing so). Chief Joseph has some of the most reliable powder snow in western Montana. It can also be cold and blustery. Bring a lunch, water, wind layers, and warmth layers. Because we will not be skiing on groomed trails, backcountry ski gear (wider skis, sturdier boots) is preferred.

To register, please contact Bert Lindler at blinder@montana.com or 406-396-0567.

Winter Outdoor Safety: Survival Awareness Seminar

Date: Saturday, January 26th
Nearest town: Missoula
Miles (round trip): 0
Difficulty: Easy
Description: This four-hour, classroom-based workshop will increase your risk awareness and management skill set, so that you can survive the wildest places Montana has to offer. Through presentation materials, small group exercises, and discussions you will develop wilderness ethic and trip preparation skills. Please note this seminar will take place indoors and will not include a field component or a hike/snowshoe, but we promise it will get you ready for some memorable outdoor experiences. The workshop will be delivered by Jerry Bailey, a Green Beret and SEAL trainer and instructor of the Utah State University outdoor survival program.

To register, please contact Jerry Bailey at jbscabin@gmail.com or 406-560-7100.

Winter Shelter Building: Lolo Pass

Date: Sunday, January 27th
Nearest town: Lolo
Miles (round trip): 1.5
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Learn how to build igloos and snow trenches during this skills trip. We'll ski or snowshoe approximately 3/4 of a mile from the Lolo Pass Visitor Center and spend about three hours building an igloo and trench. We'll celebrate our learning before the day wraps up with hot cocoa and tea. Several snow saws and snow shovels will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own snow saw, snow shovel, or both. Please bring your lunch, water-repellent parka and pants, and water. We will carpool from the southwest corner of the Highway 93 Walmart parking lot.

To register, please contact Bert Lindler at blindler@montana.com or 406-396-0567.

Cross Country Ski: West Fork Clearwater and Marshall Lake

Date: Saturday, March 2nd (formerly February 9th)
Nearest town: Seeley Lake
Miles (round trip): 12, with possible 6 mile option depending on conditions
Difficulty: Strenuous 
Description: The names Marshall Lake and the Marshall Creek Wildlife Management Area come from Bob’s exploration of the area. The route takes you through some of the best Lynx habitat in the lower 48. Expect to see a bunch of tracks, especially those made by snowshoe hares. There’s also a good chance of seeing lynx and wolf tracks. The biggest draw of this route might be the views of the valley and Swan Range that begin to appear after about 1.5 miles. It’s about six miles to Marshall Lake from the starting point on the West Fork Clearwater road. Conditions may influence the route and destination. The intended route is also a snowmobile route.  

To register, please contact Jim McLean at jimmclean1207@icloud.com or 406-544-1350.

Snowshoe: Monture Creek

Date: Friday, February 22nd
Nearest town: Ovando
Miles (round trip): 6
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: This out-and-back snowshoe hike follows Monture Creek, the upper tributary of the North Fork Blackfoot River. The trail takes you through timber and meadows at a leisurely incline. The drainage is currently managed as wilderness, and is one of the jewels slated to be an addition to the Bob Marshall Wilderness should the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act be signed into law.

To register, please contact Anson Nygaard at anygaard@wildmontana.org or 435-647-6929.

Northwest Montana

Flathead-Kootenai Chapter

Wildlife Tracking: Winter Beaver Ecology with Swan Valley Connections

Date: Saturday, January 5th
Nearest town: Condon
Miles (round trip): 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: Have you ever wondered how beavers survive the winter – under ice, without access to fresh trees, and in a dark lodge? If so, please join Swan Valley Connections’ Rob Rich for an adventure exploring the seasonal adaptations of beavers and the diverse habitats where lake and forest meet. Along the way to Holland Falls, we will visit a beaver lodge and interpret the tracks, sign, and behaviors of wildlife living near this keystone species.

Swan Valley Connections is a collaborative conservation and education nonprofit that provides educational opportunities to people of all ages through our K-12, community programs, and our experiential college courses accredited through the University of Montana. Our goal is to connect people to one another and to this extraordinary landscape.

To register, please contact Lindsay Wancour at Lindsay@svconnections.org or 406-754-3137.

Snowshoe: Stanton Lake

Date: Saturday, January 12th
Nearest town: West Glacier
Miles (round trip): 4
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description: Join leaders Ellen Horowitz and John Hartlieb to learn about winter ecology while snowshoeing to Stanton Lake in the Great Bear Wilderness. This outing is geared towards novice snowshoers and families with children. We will climb ~300 feet to reach the Great Bear Wilderness boundary. Along the way, there will be opportunities to stop and look for tracks and other wildlife signs and talk about the ways animals cope with cold and snow. The hike will be complete with a lunch stop at the lake, which sits beneath Great Northern Mountain, the highest peak in the Flathead Range.

To register, please contact Ellen Horowitz at horowitz@centurytel.net or 406-752-2909.

Snowshoe: Flatiron

Date: Wednesday, January 23rd
Nearest town: Libby
Miles (round trip): 4
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Description:  Explore the Yaak with us, and experience the solitude of one of Montana's quietest landscapes in the magic of winter. We'll search for snowshoe hare tracks in the snow as we make our way up Flatiron Mountain. Plan to dress warmly for the weather and pack in your food and water for the day. Since the Yaak is usually foggy at this time of year, plan to embrace the mystery of the trail and enjoy the quiet hike rather than chasing a view. (Maybe we'll get lucky!) We will hike at a slow pace, for as far as conditions allow or until the group is ready to head back.

To register, please contact Grete Gansauer at ggansauer@wildmontana.org or 303-726-3931.

Winter Survival Skills with Ravenwood

Date: Saturday, February 2nd
Nearest town: Columbia Falls
Miles (round trip): 1
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Learn basic survival skills like fire by friction, finding/creating dry wood and tinder in wet conditions, winter shelter basics, self rescue and aid-less navigation, advanced knife skills, and more with your expert guides from Ravenwood Outdoor Learning Center!

To register, please contact Brett Holmquist at brett@ravenwoodolc.org or 406-260-8620.

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