Photograph by Daniel R. Westergren

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Snowshoe tracks cross a wintry landscape along U.S. Route 191 near West Yellowstone, Montana.

Photograph by Daniel R. Westergren

Best of Montana in Winter: Scenic Drives and Trails

Strap in and get ready for a breathtaking driving experience across a wintry landscape in Big Sky Country.

Bozeman to West Yellowstone via Highway 191

This is one case where the shortest distance between two points actually is the most scenic. The 90-mile route south from Bozeman to West Yellowstone via U.S. Highway 191 slices through the Gallatin River Canyon, basically tracing the path of the Gallatin River. Before reaching the southern terminus, the drive briefly follows the Montana-Wyoming border on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park.

In winter, passengers (drivers need to keep full focus on the winding road) are rewarded with spectacular views of the towering Madison and Gallatin Ranges, rushing Gallatin River white water, and the snow-dusted spruce-fir forests and alpine meadows of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Although the highway is heavily traveled and maintained year-round, heavy snow and subfreezing temperatures can create treacherous driving conditions. To stay safe and enjoy the views, only attempt the drive on a clear day, take your time, and watch out for the bison, moose, and other wildlife often spotted in or near the highway.

Sunrise or Sunset Snowmobile Tour, Swan Mountain Snowmobiling, Flathead Valley

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Right around sunrise and sunset when the sunlight reflects off the snow, snowmobilers lucky enough to be out on a Flathead Valley trail can bask in the area’s serene “alpine glow.”

“The alpine glow here is a warm glow with pink tones, and it’s one of the most beautiful sights around,” says Aubrie Loroña of Swan Mountain Snowmobiling, located near Glacier National Park.

Swan Mountain’s experienced guides lead two-hour sunrise and sunset snowmobile tours. The treks follow an easy, groomed trail up to the summit of 6,368-foot Desert Mountain. At the top, there’s time to sip hot chocolate and take in the stunning views of Glacier National Park, Hungry Horse Reservoir, and the Great Bear Wilderness. "The beautiful colors coupled with the serenity of the setting is an experience to remember," Loroña says. "It makes people feel like they are experiencing something majestic.”