Helena, Mont. -- There are few places that beckon adventure lovers like Montana does, especially when it comes to adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities like snowmobiling. While Big Sky Country's trails are prime for thrill seekers, there's also ample terrain for any experience level, from novice snowmobilers on well-groomed trails to powdery play areas ideal for family-friendly outings and mountain trails for expert riders.
Throughout Montana, snowmobilers will find powder-filled playgrounds that include the Beartooth Mountains, groomed trails in Yellowstone National Park, backcountry tours in northwest Montana's Flathead National Forest and the Little Belt Mountains outside of Great Falls.
One of the best snowmobiling destinations in Montana is Cooke City, a mountain town that sits at an elevation of 7,600 feet and welcomes around 200 inches of snow each year. While it serves as an automobile entrance for the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park for much of the year, during the winter season Cooke City is only accessible by car from the park's north entrance in Gardiner, MT, or by snowmobile from the east.
Once in Cooke City, sledders can ride trails that take them to elevations of 10,000 feet, visit the "top of the world" on the Beartooth Mountain Range or explore backcountry trails in the Gallatin National Forest. Before embarking on your adventure, be sure to pay attention to snow and avalanche reports. While some lodging properties close during the winter season, many remain open and provide accommodations that include cabins, motels, hotels and lodges, including Skyline Guest Ranch, a ride-in only property during the winter season.
Another hub of snowmobiling is West Yellowstone, Montana. While West Yellowstone serves as the appropriately named west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, this town of 1,300 residents offers more than just the world's first national park. From West, as it's affectionately known, snowmobilers can access more than 400 miles of trails, with a mountain trail system that begins in town and leads to terrain in the Custer Gallatin, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Caribou-Targhee national forests. There's also a hearty serving of experienced snowmobile guides and rental companies in the area who make it easy to explore the area's trails on both guided and unguided trips.
Mix up your West Yellowstone getaway by spending the day in Yellowstone National Park. During winter, most of the park's roads and entrances are closed to vehicular traffic (including the west entrance) and instead are open for oversnow travel only, including snowmobiles and snowcoaches. Several companies are authorized to provide snowcoach and snowmobile tours into the park, making it easy to see Yellowstone during winter.
West Yellowstone also has a variety of well-rounded winter activities—including the Kids'N'Snow program, held monthly during winter, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and the Yellowstone Giant Screen—making it one of the best family-friendly winter destinations in Montana.
Not to be outdone by its southern neighbors, northwest Montana has thousands of miles of trails for snowmobile aficionados, including groomed trails in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, the snowmobile mecca that is the Seeley-Swan Valley, the Kootenai National Forest near Libby and the Lolo National Forest and Flathead National Forest near Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell. You'll find experienced outfitters and guides throughout this region, as well as off-the-sled activities that include hot springs, museums, downhill ski areas, breweries, events and more. Plus, Glacier National Park is open year-round, with winter providing an ideal setting, complete with stunning views, for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
For snowmobilers looking to get off the beaten path, Central Montana's Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest are a prime location. While the area does not offer snowmobile rentals or guided trips, it's an ideal place for snowmobilers with their own sleds. The Kings Hill Recreation Area has more than 200 miles of marked snowmobile trails, include loop trails, powder playgrounds and stunning views. Accommodations can be found in the nearby city of Great Falls or the town of White Sulphur Springs where visitors can end their day in the snow with a soak in natural hot springs.
More information about Montana's powder playland can be found here; you can also start planning a sled-powered trip at VISITMT.COM.