One of the easiest ways to enjoy nature in Montana during the winter is through cross country skiing; an activity that can be enjoyed across the state. With Montana’s average yearly snowfall of 49 inches, there is no shortage of snowy areas to explore. The western part of the state, however, offers uniquely magical areas that we just can’t ignore. Below are a few of our favorite cross-country ski locations for you to explore while out west.
Pattee Canyon Recreational Area
Want to get into the woods but don’t have all day to ski? Pattee Canyon is a quick 5 miles east of Missoula deep in the mountains. When you get to the Pattee Canyon Recreational Area you feel like you are far away from your everyday worries. With 6 miles of groomed trails, come here with friends for a quick afternoon of cross-country skiing before heading back into town for a beer at a local favorite brewery, Kettlehouse.
Chief Joseph Pass
Located 95 miles south of Missoula at the junction of Hwy 93 and Hwy 43 at Lost Trail
Living in Montana provides the opportunity to really get out and explore nature. Get out of town and take the two-hour drive to Chief Joseph Pass located down the Bitterroot Valley. This is one of the must-visit cross-country ski trails in western Montana. Pack a lunch to enjoy while warming up in the log cabin with family and friends. With 31 miles of trails for classic and skate skiing, your whole family can find a trail to enjoy.
Located 45 miles west of Missoula along highway 12
Visitor Center opened Thursday – Monday
Day pass: $5.00
5 Day pass: $20.00
Season pass: $35.00
As you drive along Highway 12, you realize there is no better place to spot to see deer, elk, and moose. Winding up the mountains and following the West Fork Lolo Creek, the views take your breath away as you make your way to Lolo Pass to enjoy cross-country skiing. Lolo Pass has some of the most consistent snowfall in the region making it a great spot for the avid cross-country skier. Lolo Pass has groomed trails and a variety of multi-use trails. Make sure you stop into the Visitor Center to pick up your pass to enjoy your time on the trails.
Echo Lake Trail Head, Anaconda, MT
What sets Echo Lake apart from the other trails is the beauty of Echo Lake itself. Located between Anaconda and Philipsburg near Discovery Ski Area, these cross-country ski trails are breathtaking. While Echo Lake has wonderful groomed cross-country ski trails, it also offers great snowshoeing opportunities. A favorite pastime of many is to snowshoe to the lake and enjoy a peaceful wintery lunch while taking in the breathtaking views.
Don’t own your own set of cross-country skis or just aren’t sure if it’s the right winter activity for you? You can rent a set of skis and boots from the following shops and make a few new friends in the process:
The Trail Head
221 E. Front St.
Day rental: $18.00 Kids/ $24.00 Adult
Deposit: $400.00 Kids/ $500.00 Adult
One of Missoula’s best outdoor shops and located downtown, the Trail Head is a must-stop for outdoor clothing. Beyond the outdoor clothing and accessories, you can find great outdoor gear for purchase or rental. Stop in to see the wonderful staff at the Trail Head for your cross-country ski rental needs and more.
MTCX Skis, Bikes, Events
837 Woody Street, Suite 101
Day rental: $40
Children seasonal rental: $150
This locally owned shop has all your specialty needs for cross-country skiing. If you are looking to talk to someone that has experience in cross-country skiing and how to begin your personal journey in the outdoor sport, then stop in to talk with someone at MTCX. This local shop gives you the full experience while helping you navigate Montana’s many outdoor activities.
As you head out to ski it is important to remember that some of the best ski spots in Montana are not always clearly marked or are just off the beaten path. This abundance of outdoor experiences is what continually keeps us heading out to enjoy the winter wonderland that Montana has to offer.
If you are as eager as we were to make this your “normal” instead of just your vacation, take the first steps on your next adventure by looking at some of our beautiful Montana properties here.