Montana in December Guide: Activities, Events, Weather, and Travel

Are you tired of the same old December routine: bustling cities, crowded malls, and the ever-present jingle of holiday cheer? If so, it’s a good time you explore Montana’s December.

Montana’s December is filled with vast snowy landscapes, charming mountain towns, and a variety of unique winter celebrations.

If you’re looking for a holiday season that’s both breathtaking and delightfully different, Montana is the place to be.

We’ll dive into the skier’s paradise that is Whitefish Mountain Resort, and journey into the heart of Yellowstone, where wildlife takes on a charm in the snow.

And yes, we won’t shy away from the perennial debate: should you ski or snowboard? We’ll discuss it all, leaving you better equipped to navigate the flurry of activities this state has to offer.

Whether you’re a traveler seeking adventure, a local in need of a cozy winter spot, or a family wanting a holiday nature escape, this Montana December guide is here to help you find your perfect winter destination.

Experience Montana’s December Activities and Events

A snow-covered wooden fence in Montana in December.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the excitement of Montana’s adventurous winter activities and events.

From winter sports and holiday festivities to cultural attractions and scenic wonders, this month offers a diverse range of experiences that will make your visit to Montana unforgettable.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a cultural enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful winter destination, Montana has something special in store for you this December.

1. Hit the Slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Whitefish Mountain Resort

When it comes to world-class downhill skiing experiences, I can’t help but tell the praises about Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Whitefish Mountain Resort is the best place to ski in Montana, especially in the month of December.

You don’t need to be an Olympic skier to appreciate the thrill of Whitefish Mountain Resort.

With 3,000 acres of pristine skiing terrain and 11 lift lines, you can reach your desired skiing spot with ease. This place is a haven for winter enthusiasts.

But the experience doesn’t stop at the top of the mountain. Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort offers a range of amenities to keep you comfortable and entertained during your stay in December.

Lodging includes everything from slope-side condos to full-service resort hotels, and the restaurants here cater to every taste, while others offer grab-and-go options if you’re in a hurry to get back out on the slopes.

When you’re not shredding powder, take some time to explore the shops at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Ski and snowboard rental shops, gift shops, and clothing stores await your visit.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Throughout the winter season, there are events and live music performances to keep you entertained.

And if you need a break from the slopes, indulge in the resort’s spa, fitness center, or indoor pool. Some lodging options even offer game rooms to further enhance your experience.

Of course, Whitefish Mountain Resort isn’t the only ski destination in Montana. The state offers a few other ski resorts that are worth mentioning such as:

  • Big Sky Resort
  • Bridger Bowl
  • Montana Snowbowl

So grab your skis, round up your fellow winter enthusiasts, and hit the slopes during your December trip for an unforgettable winter adventure!

2. Embark on a Cross-Country Ski Adventure in Yellowstone National Park

A group of skiers in Yellowstone's ski trails

I can confidently tell you that cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park, Montana should be at the top of your December ski bucket list.

If you want a ski at a slow pace while experiencing the beauty of Western Montana winter, then cross-country skiing is the more graceful way to do it and Yellowstone National Park is the best place to be.

Yellowstone National Park in Western Montana offers a vast expanse of skiable terrain that’s a haven for your December winter adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a beginner looking to try something new, Yellowstone National Park has something for everyone.

One of the highlights of cross-country skiing in Yellowstone is the groomed trails in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.

These trails, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty, provide a perfect opportunity to explore the park’s stunning beauty, especially the famous hydrothermal features of the park.

The Upper Terrace Loop Ski Trail, Bunsen Peak Road Ski Trail, and Sheepeater Ski Trail are just a few of the popular options in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. 

But the adventure doesn’t stop there. Yellowstone National Park has miles of trails that cater to cross-country skiers of all levels.

Some of the popular trails in addition to the Mammoth Hot Springs area include:

  • Indian Creek Loop Ski Trail
  • Bighorn Loop Ski Trail
  • Snow Pass Ski Trail

For the more adventurous skiers, chartering a snow coach allows access to further-reaching trails in the park.

So, grab your skis and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Yellowstone National Park.

As you glide through the groomed trails and soak in the awe-inspiring scenery, you’ll understand why this destination is a cross-country skier’s paradise!

3. Relax and Rejuvenate at Chico Hot Springs

Chico Hot Springs

Nestled in the breathtaking Paradise Valley near Pray, Montana, Chico Hot Springs has become a sought-after December destination for relaxation.

Chico Hot Springs has perfected the art of relaxation, offering guests a chemical-free, geothermally heated hot springs pool where you can soak, swim, and play to your heart’s content.

Trust me when I say there’s nothing quite like a toasty dip while snowflakes gently fall around you.

For those seeking relaxation during your Montana December trip, the Chico Day Spa is a haven of tranquility. Offering a wide range of massage therapy and body treatments.

The skilled therapists massage you, releasing tensions that will leave you feeling renewed.

When it comes to overnight options, Chico Hot Springs offers something for every taste.

From cozy rooms filled with antiques to luxury cabins with all the modern amenities, the resort’s accommodations are designed to provide a peaceful and comfortable retreat from the winter weather.

And let’s not forget about the dining experience at Chico Hot Springs. The on-site restaurant offers exquisite cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients.

From hearty breakfasts to elegant dinners, every meal is a treat for the taste buds.

And for those looking for some entertainment, the Chico Saloon hosts live music performances, adding another layer of charm to the overall experience.

So, if you’re in search of the perfect December vacation that allows you to relax, rejuvenate, and indulge in the finer things in life, look no further than Chico Hot Springs in Montana.

Just hop on the scenic Chico Road and prepare to be transported to a place of serenity and bliss!

4. Snowmobiling Adventures in Targhee and Flathead National Forests

A snowmobile is driving down in Montana

Snowmobiling in Targhee and Flathead National Forests in the Glacier National Park is an exhilarating adventure that showcases the stunning beauty of Montana’s winter landscape.

With over 500 miles of well-groomed snowmobile trails in Targhee National Forest, as well as backcountry riding opportunities for expert riders, there is no shortage of snowy trails to explore.

The Flathead National Forest in Montana during December also offers a variety of snowmobiling trails, ranging from groomed trails to backcountry riding opportunities.

For those without their own snowmobiles, rentals and guided tours are available, providing the opportunity to experience these snowmobiling adventures without the need for equipment.

Whether you choose to explore Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains or the Flathead National Forest near Glacier National Park, every ride promises to be an enjoyable adventure.

So, embrace the winter weather, and go on an adrenaline-pumping snowmobiling adventure in Targhee and Flathead National Forests.

Trust me, you won’t regret it!

5. Enjoy a Live Show in Missoula

A group of dancers in a Missoula live show

To truly immerse yourself in Missoula’s vibrant energy during the winter, there’s one thing you absolutely can’t miss: the rich tapestry of live shows.

Trust me, I’ve warmed countless theater seats and bopped around to the coolest beats; Missoula’s got it going on for winter entertainment.

Below are some spots you shouldn’t miss out on for your trip in December:

The Roxy Theater

If classic and indie films are your jam, the Roxy Theater comes highly recommended. The Roxy Theater is a nonprofit, community-owned theater on the Hip Strip in downtown Missoula. Their special events and film festivals will make your December evenings special.

The Wilma Theater

A little bit of history and a whole lot of soul, that’s the Wilma Theater for you. The Wilma Theatre is a Historical Landmark Theatre in the heart of Missoula’s Downtown. It hosts live storytelling, concerts, and even theater productions. Never miss going here if you’re in Missoula.

Top Hat and Zootown Arts Community Center

You’ll want to jot this down: 2 must-visit spots are Top Hat and Zootown Arts Community Center.

Top Hat is the go-to for local bands and the occasional bigwig act looking for some intimate vibes. On the other hand, Zootown is a bigger tent, hosting workshops and events year-round.

During December, live shows in Missoula, Montana don’t fail in bringing the holiday festivities in Montana alive. You can expect holiday-themed art exhibits and other seasonal events that create an enchanting atmosphere.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply looking for a memorable night out, Missoula’s live shows are not to be missed.

6. Experience the Thrill of Dogsledding in the Big Sky

In cold December in Montana, an energetic pack of dogs fearlessly pull a sled through the snow.

If you’re looking to take your snowy escapades to the next level, dogsledding in Big Sky is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Let’s address the safety concerns first. I can personally vouch that this is a safe activity approved for all ages. The dogs, these inimitable sled masters, are unbelievably well-trained and cared for.

Plus, the sleds are always in the hands of experienced guides who prioritize both your safety and your enjoyment.

There are several tour operators in Big Sky, Montana during December that offer dog sledding trips, including Spirit of the North Sled Dog Adventures and Husky Power Dog Sledding.

These commercial outfits provide everything you need for the best experience, from expertly trained sled dogs to knowledgeable guides who will teach you the ropes.

The duration of dog sledding trips in Big Sky typically lasts between 1-2 hours depending on the specific tour and package you choose.

This gives you plenty of time to soak in the scenery and enjoy the rush of speeding through the snow-covered trails. One of the highlights of dog sledding in Big Sky is the location.

Trips take place in the stunning Moonlight Basin, which is approximately 20 minutes above the Mountain Village. The pristine wilderness and mountains create a winter wonderland that is perfect for this adventurous winter activity.

If you can’t make it to Big Sky, don’t worry! There are other dog sledding opportunities available in Montana like West Yellowstone, Pray, Whitefish, and Bigfork.

Places in Western Montana, especially in December are a haven for dogsledding enthusiasts. You’ll find a variety of options to suit your preferences.

So, if you’re looking for an adventurous winter activity that will get your heart racing and leave you with unforgettable memories, I highly recommend dogsledding in Big Sky.

It’s a thrilling experience that allows you to connect with nature and discover the magic of Montana’s winter wonderland.

7. Explore Bozeman’s Museums

Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, the art-soaked heart of Montana.

Your Bozeman December agenda need not be all icicles and sleigh bells. When you’re ready to thaw out, these museums and galleries will be waiting to fill your itinerary with wonder and enlightenment.

When exploring Bozeman, Montana, there is no shortage of fascinating museums and art galleries to visit that will satisfy your curiosity during your December trip.

Here are some of the top-notch spots you should check out:

  • Museum of the Rockies – The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, is a world-class institution with the largest collection of North American dinosaur fossils. Trust me, the natural history specimens and cultural artifacts here are a feast for the mind.
  • Bozeman Art Museum – This one’s for the art connoisseur in you. Through exhibits, lectures, and workshops, the museum actively educates the public about art and its historical context.
  • Gallatin History Museum – It may not be an art haven, but history buffs will find solace here. It offers a fascinating window into Bozeman’s past, and it’s a nice alternative when you’ve had your fill of the contemporary.

If you enjoy history, and art, or simply want something to do on a cold day, Bozeman’s museums have something for you.

Take note that on December 24-25, The Museum of the Rockies the museum takes a siesta, so plan accordingly.

Consider including them in your winter plans, and let the museums in Bozeman amaze you during the cold winter season!

8. Explore the Wonders of Lewis and Clark Caverns

Lewis and Clark Caverns

Lewis and Clark Caverns are as captivating as they come.

Led by experienced guides, these tours provide not only the chance to marvel at the stunning formations but also a wealth of knowledge about the history, geology, and ecology of the caves.

As you walk through the caves, you’ll encounter impressive and delicate formations that resemble intricate crystal chandeliers.

If you’re up for a heightened adventure, the Paradise and Wild Cave Tours take you off the beaten path, literally.

It’s a totally different experience, with more physical challenges and in-depth analysis of the caves’ geology. A word of advice, this tour involves a 1-2 hour walk uphill, so pack your thermal socks!

Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana hosts a special holiday candlelight tour in December where you can walk along the entire developed cave route, illuminated only by the flickering glow of candlelight.

Entrance fees were a reasonable $8 per vehicle, allowing access to not only the cave tours but also the park’s hiking trails and picnic areas.

Here are the tour fees to keep you advised:

Tour NameAdult 15+Youth 5-14 yrsChild 4 & UnderSeniors 62+ yrs
Classic Cave$15$10$5$15
Wild Cave$40Must be 15+Must be 15+$25
Candlelight$25$15Must be 5+$25
Educational Group$12$8$4$12

For those who wanted to extend their stay, the park also offered camping sites. From tent sites to RV sites and even cozy cabins, there was an option for everyone.

Camping fees ranged from $4 to $34 per night, depending on the chosen site and amenities.

With its guided cave tour, holiday candlelight tour, and stunning self-guided nature trail, this hidden gem in Montana is a must-visit destination for all adventure seekers.

9. Get Your Skates On: Ice Skating in Kalispell

Two people ice-skating in Kalispell, Montana

When it comes to ice skating, Kalispell has it all.

The crown jewel of the ice skating scene is the Woodland Park Ice Rink, a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike.

This vibrant rink offers a winter wonderland for all ages, with its icy expanse beckoning you to lace up your skates and glide across the frozen surface.

During December Woodland Park Ice Rink in Kalispell, Montana hosts a variety of ice skating activities. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a first-timer, there’s something for everyone.

To plan your icy adventure, simply consult the rink calendar for open skate dates and times.

And if you’re in the mood for some friendly competition, the Flathead Valley Hockey Association offers an array of hockey programs and leagues for both youth and adults.

They operate the Woodland Park Ice Rink and ensure that hockey enthusiasts have their skating dreams realized.

So, grab your mittens, bundle up, and prepare for a delightful day on the ice!

10. Ice Fishing Adventure Near Helena

A hooked fish in a hole in the ice in Montana during December.

If you find yourself in Helena in December, make sure to hit the frozen lakes and enjoy ice fishing, you’ll find a range of options to make your winter angling adventure a success.

There’s plenty to catch in these frozen waters. Rainbow trout, known for their vibrant scales and delicious taste, are a common find.

Perch, abundant in these lakes, offers sweet fillets perfect for a winter meal. Also, Kokanee, a slightly smaller but equally scrumptious fish.

For those seeking guidance, consider opting for a fishing guide during the trip. These expeditions equip you with all the necessary gear and knowledge to enhance your fishing experience.

As for what to bring on your ice fishing adventure, prepare for the cold with warm layers. Don’t forget your fishing permit if you’re 14 or older; it’s a must-have.

If you are all equipped here are popular spots in Helena where you can ice-fish:

  • Holter Lake
  • Hauser Lake
  • Canyon Ferry Lake
  • Helena Valley Reservoir

So, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, an ice fishing adventure near the capital city promises excitement, beautiful scenery, and a chance to reel in some impressive catches.

11. Cozy Up in a Forest Service Cabin

A cozy log cabin nestled in the snowy mountains of Montana in December.

When it comes to winter getaways in Montana, there’s nothing quite like the charm and coziness of staying in a Forest Service cabin.

Forest Service Cabins in Montana offer a unique experience for your December trip, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of winter while enjoying the comfort of a cozy cabin.

Forest Service cabins vary in their amenities, but most offer basic furnishings, a stove or fireplace for heat, and a kitchen area with a propane stove and refrigerator.

Some cabins may even have electricity and indoor plumbing, while others provide a more rustic experience. It’s important to check the specific cabin’s amenities before booking to ensure that it meets your needs.

Located in remote areas, the access to Forest Service cabins may vary depending on the season and weather conditions.

Some cabins are easily reachable by car, while others may require a hike or snowmobile ride. Before booking, make sure to check the specific cabin’s access to ensure a safe and hassle-free journey.

To secure your stay in a Forest Service cabin, reservations can be made online through the website or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

However, keep in mind that Forest Service cabin’s availability may vary depending on the season, with more options open during the winter months.

To ensure you don’t miss out on this cozy opportunity, it’s best to book well in advance.

So, if you’re seeking a classic Montana adventure that combines the simplicity of nature with the warmth of a cozy cabin for your December trip, look no further than a stay in a Forest Service cabin.

December in Montana: Weather and What to Expect

A view of a snowy landscape with mountains in Montana.

December in Montana offers a picturesque winter wonderland, ideal for those seeking a festive atmosphere and outdoor adventures.

However, be prepared for sub-freezing temperatures, limited daylight, and potential travel challenges due to icy roads.

December in Montana can bring some seriously bone-chilling weather. Daily high temperatures hover around a frosty -0.8 ºF, while the average low nudges up to a chilly 11.8 ºF.

It’s a time when winter wraps its icy grip around the state, and you’ll need to bundle up in your warmest gear to stay comfortable.

Although Montana is known for its cold winters, extreme temperature lows are a rare sight. The coldest known low was during January’s first week with -46 ºF.

Montana also holds the national record for a cold reading of -70 ºF near Helena.

When venturing into Montana’s winter wonderland in December, it’s essential to come armed with the right apparel.

December in Montana: Where to Stay

Stay in Bozeman

An aerial view of Bozeman, Montana

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Bozeman, affordability, location, and amenities are key factors to consider.

Luckily, this charming town offers a range of lodging options that cater to different budgets and preferences. Here are a few of the top options for you in Bozeman:

The Lark: Bohemian Chic – With its rooftop deck, complimentary bicycles, and in-house coffee shop, you might just be tempted to live like a local during your stay.

La Quinta By Wyndham Bozeman – Located near Montana State University, this mid-range hotel is perfect for the academically or athletically inclined.

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman – If luxury and location are your top priorities, the Hilton Garden Inn, near the airport, is ready to roll out the red carpet for you.

With a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, and fitness center, you might just end up spending more time in the hotel than you initially planned.

No matter which lodging option you choose, Bozeman offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs for your Montana December trip.

From affordable comfort to trendy boutiques and upscale elegance, finding the perfect place to stay in Bozeman is a breeze.

Stay in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park in December

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Yellowstone National Park, you have a range of options to choose from.

  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge -The Old Faithful Snow Lodge is a full-service hotel located in the Upper Geyser basin in Yellowstone National Park. The lodge offers clean and comfortable accommodations with great views of the snow-covered trees.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel – The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is a seasonal retreat located in Yellowstone National Park. Guests can enjoy the beautiful snow-covered scenery and wildlife from their rooms.
  • Gardiner – Situated near the North Entrance of the park, Gardiner is another gateway community with a range of lodging options.

No matter where you choose to stay, each lodging option in Yellowstone, Montana offers its own unique charm and comfort for your December stay.

Montana in December Final Thoughts

A snow-covered slope with mountains in the background in Montana

With temperatures ranging from freezing to sub-zero, it is rule to layer up with winter clothing that can withstand the chilly air.

But this winter wonderland offers an abundance of activities and events that are guaranteed to warm your spirit. From cozy lodging options to snow-covered outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone in December. 

In December, snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing are the crown jewels of winter recreation in Montana, and why not? The weather practically demands it.

But let’s not forget the events that make this season truly special.

The month of December in Montana brings a lot of great events, such as the live shows held in Missoula and the ice skating competitions in Kalispell.

Despite the crowds in winter and holiday buzz, you always have the option to explore the state’s museums and art galleries to feed your curious mind during the month.

When it comes to lodging, you’re not lacking in choices. Cozy up in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel within Yellowstone or choose the convenience of West Yellowstone’s proximity to the park.

Montana in December is a place where adventure and tranquility coexist, making it the perfect destination for your winter vacation.

Montana in December FAQs

1. What Is the Coldest Month of the Year in Montana?

The coldest known low was during January’s first week which was -46 ºF, and temperatures during this period can typically range from -10ºF to -50ºF or colder.

2. When Does the Winter Season End in Montana?

The hunting season calendar of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks shows that the winter hunting season runs from December 1 to April 14.

This further supports the idea that winter lasts until April.

3. Does Montana Close Some Roads During Winter?

Some of the roads may be closed due to extremely hazardous conditions or an accident.

Blocked lanes due to an avalanche, rock slide, or accident may also force a road closure.

Travelers should never travel on a road that is closed. During closures of passes, crews are working in this area to expedite re-opening the road. Check for road closures before you travel to avoid any surprises.

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Written by:

Ashley Smith
Hello there! I'm Ashley Smith, born on a chilly winter's day, Montana has been my playground since childhood. The first snowfall of the year always brings back memories of building snowmen and winter hikes. Co-founding was my way of sharing the magic of Montana's seasons with the world. While Chris dives deep into the landscapes, I'm obsessed with Montana's rich culture, from the local festivals to the tales passed down generations.

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