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Mar 10 2017

Last Call for Winter Fun

With mostly good snow conditions across the state, now is the time to hit the ski or snowshoe trail

Exploring Montana, Featured

This time of the year offers unique opportunities to explore our public lands. Snow is very much still here, and with our days getting longer, the opportunities to cross-country ski and and snowshoe are rich.

Winter is a special time to take in the beauty of Montana. It lends itself not only to quiet and solitude, but excellent naturalist opportunities. Animal tracks are more visible in the snow, and the silence can be a real treat if you like birding by ear. If you have a favorite summer or fall trail that you frequent, exploring it on skis or snowshoes can provide a surprisingly different experience. But if you are looking to shake up your winter routine, or want to try cross country skiing or snowshoeing for the first time, we’ve laid out some options to fit every level of adventure.

More in-depth descriptions of these trips and other winter ideas can be found on MWA's trail guide, hikewildmontana.org.

Cross-country Ski  (beginner)
Lubrecht Experimental Forest - Greenough, MT

The University of Montana’s experimental forest is a great option for all skill levels, but lends itself well to novice skiers. With over 12 miles of groomed trail, you and your four-legged friend (dogs are allowed) are sure to find an adventure that suits you. Learn more.

Cross-country Ski (intermediate)
Ross Creek Cedars – near Libby, MT (7.5 miles RT) 

In this summer, this 0.9 mile scenic trail offers easy access to an old-growth cedar grove. During winter, the last 3.25 miles leading to the loop is behind a locked gate, making for great cross-country skiing along the road and the loop. This magical winter day trip is well worth it to see towering cedars (some over 1000 years old!) and enjoy a quiet ski. Parking outside the gate is permitted. Learn more.

Cross-country Ski (beginner, overnight) 
May Creek Trail to May Creek Cabin – west of Wisdom, MT in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest

This overnight adventure is fit for all levels and is well worth hauling in an overnight backpack. A flat two-mile ski will get you into May Cabin where you can build a fire and warm up. The cabin was built by miners in the early 1900s and has since been renovated by the Forest Service as a rental. The cabin can sleep four people and costs $25 per night. For more information and to reserve a spot, visit recreation.gov and search for May Creek Cabin. Learn more.


Left: Swan River Nature Trail (photo by Barbara Geller). Right: May Creek Cabin (photo courtesy of USFS).

Snowshoe (all skill levels)
Blodgett Creek Trail – near Hamilton, MT 

Blodgett Creek canyon offers scenery year round, but many people overlook it during winter. This is a great time of year to escape the crowds that can be found during summer and fall. This fairly flat trail takes you along Blodgett Creek with sweeping views of towering rocks and meadows. The trail in its entirety is around 25 miles, but even just a few miles of snowshoeing will prove to be rewarding. Learn more.

Family Friendly Winter Walk (no gear needed)
Swan River Nature Trail – Bigfork, MT 

This accessible and scenic trail is located in the heart of Bigfork. A flat historic roadbed makes for an easy family stroll along the Swan River. The first mile will take you along a cascading river, which feeds Flathead Lake. The second mile is beyond the dam and provides placid waters with good fishing and waterfowl viewing. Learn more.

- Emily Harkness, MWA volunteer