Three winter getaways at Montana state parks.
Whether you love it or dread it, winter has arrived. It’s a time of transition, as many people trade their road bikes and running shoes for skis and snowshoes. Perhaps now you’re making space for a Christmas tree in your front room, or gazing out your back window at the early-morning frost. Traditions like these, combined with spectacular views and recreation opportunities, make winter life in Montana joyful.
Whatever the season, some of the best of Montana can be found in its 55 state parks. If you haven’t visited a state park in winter, new views and experiences await. So, as you make plans for the months ahead, here are three state-park opportunities close to Bozeman that deserve a spot on your 2021 calendar.
Escape on Lost Creek Trail
If snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snow biking is your jam, Lost Creek State Park has the scenery to fit it. The park, located just north of Anaconda, boasts immense limestone cliffs that rise 1,200 feet above a narrow canyon floor.
The entrance gate is closed during winter, but non-motorized travel is welcome on the main Lost Creek trail, which runs about 1.5 miles over a mild grade to Lost Creek Falls. Here, fresh white snow contrasts vividly with pink hues of lichen-covered granite, and icicles dangle like organ pipes from the delicate falls.
For a longer trek, continue on the U.S. Forest Service trail, which winds for several more miles along Lost Creek through meadows and timber.
Detour at Bannack
Bannack State Park, 25 miles southwest of Dillon, is known for its ghost-town charm that immerses visitors in the epicenter of Montana’s first major gold rush. More than 50 historical buildings have been preserved along the town’s Main Street.
Bannack is open year-round to visitors. In winter, a network of trails offers cross-country skiers and snowshoers a new perspective on this nugget of Montana history. Most years, the park hosts a hike on January 1 to bring in the new year. So hit the trails, walk down Main Street, then head to Dillon for dinner.
Rent a Cabin at the Caverns
If you’re looking to spend the weekend outside but don’t feel like setting up a tent, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park has you covered. In addition to its regular camp sites, the park also rents cabins, which have heat and electricity. They are booked first-come, first-served, but call 406-287-3541 to check availability. Bring your own bedding and a good book.
Tours of the caverns are available May through September. However, the park’s trail system usually sees very little snow accumulation, so bring your mountain bike and hiking boots.
Morgan Jacobsen is the Region 3 information officer for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.