Montana in January: Winter Travel Guide

If you’ve ever felt the urge to experience a winter wonderland, but hesitated due to the chilly temperatures and potential travel hiccups, fear not!

I’ll guide you through the challenges and explain why visiting Montana in January is a fantastic idea.

After years of exploring Big Sky Country’s hidden treasures, I’ve focused on finding the top winter activities.

This travel guide is tailor-made for adventurous souls seeking a winter escape filled with breathtaking scenery and unforgettable memories.

Whether you’re a solo traveler, a nature enthusiast, or a family looking for a magical winter experience, I’ve got you covered.

So let me guide you through the enchanting winter wonderland of the Treasure State. Get ready to be captivated by the beauty of Montana in January!

Montana in January: Reasons to Visit

A snow-covered slope with mountains in the background.

Montana offers a wide range of winter activities in January. There are activities suited to every individual, ranging from cross-country skiing and downhill skiing to snowmobiling and other winter sports.

It’s also a great time to take in the natural beauty and relaxation of Montana’s hot springs.

Plus, visitors can explore Bozeman’s fascinating museums.

January also hosts a variety of exciting events which you should check out.

With fewer crowds compared to the holiday season, the entire month allows for a more peaceful and intimate experience.

However, being prepared for winter conditions is crucial. With a little planning and the right gear, visitors can fully enjoy all that Montana has to offer in the winter months.

Montana in January: Weather Conditions

A snow covered mountain in Montana with a winding road.

Like Montana’s December climate, the weather in January can be unpredictable, with temperatures ranging from frigid to surprisingly mild.

Snowfall is also frequent, and icy winds can make outdoor activities challenging.

However, the stunning winter landscapes and the chance to experience unique winter sports make it an exciting and visualizing time to visit.

Average Temperatures During January

A view of a snow covered mountain range in Montana.

January brings cold temperatures, consistent snowfall, and predominantly overcast or mostly cloudy conditions.

This necessitates readiness for winter weather among both residents and visitors.

LocationAverage TemperatureWarmest Temperature Mean Coldest Temperature Mean Precipitation
Billings29.6°F (-1.3°C)39.5°F (4.2°C)19.7°F (-6.8°C)0.39″
Kalispell24.8°F (-4.0°C)31.3°F (-0.4°C)18.3°F (-7.6°C)0.94″
Missoula25.0°F (-3.9°C)31.9°F (-0.1°C)18.1°F (-7.7°C)1.09″
Bozeman23.6°F (-4.7°C)33.1°F (0.6°C)14.3°F (-9.8°C)1.20″
Helena31.2°F (-0.4°C)31.7°F (-0.2°C)16.7°F (-8.5°C)0.81″
West Yellowstone13.9°F (-10.1°C)25.2°F (-3.8°C)2.7°F (-16.3°C)2.47″

Temperatures vary across different locations, offering a spectrum of climates.

West Yellowstone stands out as the coldest spot in January, with an icy atmosphere that’s strikingly frosty compared to other areas of Montana.

Bozeman presents a cold yet milder climate compared to West Yellowstone. It experiences cooler temperatures but doesn’t reach the same extremes, providing a balance between winter’s bite and more moderate winter conditions.

Helena maintains a fairly moderate temperature range, not plunging to the frigid depths experienced in some parts of the state.

When it comes to precipitation, West Yellowstone stands out with notably higher levels. Its cold weather coincides with increased snowfall.

Meanwhile, places like Billings showcase a milder winter with lower precipitation levels, offering a more tempered climate. It also has the highest maximum temperature.

While Billings may experience some snow, it doesn’t accumulate to the same extent as areas with higher precipitation rates.

What to Wear in Montana During January

A man in a gray parka standing on a snowy road in Montana.

Preparation for a winter adventure in Montana requires careful consideration of gear to combat the harsh elements.

In January, to beat Montana’s frigid weather, wear a thick layer. The 3-layer system—comprising a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating mid-layer, and a waterproof, windproof outer layer—is essential for effective temperature regulation.

Investing in insulated, waterproof boots with sturdy traction is crucial for navigating snowy terrains while ensuring warmth and dryness. The boots should accommodate thick socks without being overly spacious to prevent blisters and slipping.

Protecting the head, hands, and neck is also essential. A warm hat, gloves, and a scarf or neck gaiter offer vital coverage against extreme cold.

Wool or synthetic socks are recommended for their warmth and moisture-wicking properties.

Specific activities like skiing or snowshoeing demand specialized gear such as ski pants, a jacket, goggles, hand warmers, and extra thick socks for prolonged outdoor exposure.

Montana’s January weather necessitates proper gear to fully enjoy its outdoor winter landscapes.

Being equipped with the right clothing and accessories ensures comfort and safety while exploring the snowy wonderland.

Montana in January: Things to Do

A snow-covered slope in Montana.

In January, Montana shows off its beautiful snowy scenery and offers lots of fun things to do for adventurous people.

Despite the cold climate, this region boasts pristine forests ideal for snowshoeing and skiing.

January in Montana offers an unforgettable experience with diverse activities and stunning scenery.

1. Enjoy Cross-Country Skiing at Yellowstone National Park

Two people cross country skiing on a snowy trail Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park in January is accessible through its northern entrance in Gardiner, Montana.

Lodges like Mammoth Springs Lodge and Old Faithful Winter Lodge are open in January and provide amenities like ski rentals, lessons, shuttles, and guided tours, as well as dining and lodging options.

Visitors can explore extensive cross-country skiing trails and snowshoeing options throughout Yellowstone, with tracks set on select trails and all unplowed roads and trails open for exploration.

Ski gear can be rented at various park locations like Bears Den Ski Shops in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Aside from cross-country skiing, guided snowmobile and snow coach tours are also available for accessing parts of the park inaccessible by vehicles during winter.

The winter landscape of Yellowstone is truly stunning, with snow-covered landscapes, abundant wildlife, and a serene atmosphere that is perfect for a peaceful and memorable experience.

2. Explore Glacier National Park

An aerial view of Glacier National Park

If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park during the winter, be aware that much of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed due to snow.

However, the lower elevation sections remain accessible year-round, providing plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

Apgar Village and Lake McDonald Lodge located in Lake McDonald are notable locations within the park where visitors can pursue activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking in January.

For those interested in guided experiences, the park offers two-hour ranger-led snowshoe hikes, with snowshoes available at the Apgar Visitor’s Center.

Reduced entrance fees are in effect during the winter season, making it an affordable time to visit Glacier National Park and admire the stunning winter landscapes.

Before heading out, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly.

3. Hit the Slopes at Montana’s Ski Resorts

Two people sitting on a ski lift with their snowboards.

When it comes to skiing, Montana is a hidden gem, offering some of the best skiing destinations in the country.

Big Sky Resort and Whitefish Mountain Resort are top destination choices in January, with ample snow, minimal crowds, and minimal wait times as the holiday crowds have already left.

Big Sky Resort boasts an impressive vertical drop of 4,350 feet and covers a whopping 5,850 acres of terrain, making it the second-largest ski resort in the United States.

The resort offers a diverse range of skiing experiences, from wide, rolling groomers to gnarly chutes, inviting bowls, and extensive glades.

Whitefish Mountain Resort, located in Western Montana, is another excellent option, with 3,000 acres of accessible terrain, 11 chairlifts, and breathtaking views of Glacier National Park.

The resort also offers diverse dining options, including cafes, bars, and restaurants. Some dining establishments even offer slopeside views, and grab-and-go meals are available.

January is a great opportunity to visit Montana’s ski resorts, with fewer crowds offering a more peaceful and immersive experience.

If you’re looking for a memorable skiing adventure with plenty of snow and minimal wait times, Montana’s ski resorts are the perfect choice.

4. Soak at Chico Hot Springs

A hot spring swimming pool in Montana.

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa in Paradise Valley, Montana, provides a year-round rejuvenating soaking experience, even in January.

Their chemical-free, geothermally heated hot springs pool is the perfect place to soak, swim, play, and just let go. It’s a truly unique and relaxing experience.

Aside from the hot spring, Chico Day Spa offers a range of massage therapy and body treatments that will leave you feeling completely refreshed.

Chico Hot Springs also has lodging options, from cozy rooms to luxury cabins and rustic accommodations, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

There’s also exquisite cuisine available at the resort’s restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

To top it all off, Chico Hot Springs hosts various events, including live music performances in the Chico Saloon, throughout the year, adding another layer of entertainment and enjoyment to your stay.

January is an ideal month to visit Chico Hot Springs and escape from the cold winter winds. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind in a truly special setting.

5. Tour Around Bozeman’s Museums

Two t-rex skeletons on display in Bozeman's museum.

The museums in Bozeman cover a wide range of viewpoints, showcasing natural and cultural history, the development of computing, and local heritage.

Each museum provides visitors with a well-rounded cultural and educational experience.

Bozeman’s museums that you should check out:

  • Museum of the Rockies – The Museum of the Rockies is a world-class institution that showcases cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.
  • Bozeman Art Museum – The Bozeman Art Museum is dedicated to enhancing the culture of the community, providing art education, and exhibiting artwork.
  • American Computer & Robotics Museum – This is a museum of the history of computing, communications, artificial intelligence, and robotics located in Bozeman, Montana.

Exploring a museum in Bozeman during January serves as an excellent escape from the cold outdoor weather.

It offers a chance to immerse yourself in history, art, or culture while staying cozy indoors.

Montana in January: Events and Festivals

A group of huskies gracefully maneuver through the snow-covered terrain.

January is a unique and vibrant month in Montana, filled with events and festivals that showcase the state’s rich culture and community spirit.

Join me as I delve into the top events and festivals happening in Montana this January, giving you a glimpse into the diverse and exciting events in the Treasure State.

Valier Ice Fishing Derby

In the snowy state of Montana, a man braves the cold of January to enjoy a serene day ice fishing on a frozen lake.

The Valier Ice Fishing Derby is an annual event held in January on Lake Frances in Valier, Montana.

Anglers compete for cash awards by catching the top three biggest Perch and Pike, with a 100% payout.

Running from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., participants pay an entry fee that contributes to the prize money.

Valier Ice Fishing Derby attracts fishing enthusiasts looking to embrace winter, enjoy friendly competition, and appreciate the beauty of Lake Frances.

Popular among locals and visitors alike, the derby offers an exciting and enjoyable experience.

The 2023 event took place on January 14, 2023, while the specific dates for the 2024 derby are yet to be announced.

Great Rockies Sportshow

A group of people engage in the serene activity of fly fishing amidst the picturesque river landscapes of Montana.

Great Rockies Sportshow is an annual event in Billings, Montana that showcases a wide array of outdoor-related goods and services.

The extensive exhibition featured hundreds of exhibitors offering various outdoor adventure gear, services, lodges, and resorts.

It will be a 3-day affair held at the MetraPark Arena from January 19th to January 21st, 2024.

Great Rockies Sportshow’s focus on outdoor, marine, and adventure-related products and services was impressive, and it was open to the public and family-friendly.

The event provides a platform for businesses and organizations to engage with the community and exhibit their products to outdoor enthusiasts.

It offers an enriching experience, allowing attendees to explore new products and connect with individuals who share a passion for outdoor activities.

For more details, you can check out the official website of the Great Rockies Sportshow.

Montana Winter Fair

An older couple buying coffee at a winter market in Montana.

The annual Montana Winter Fair in Lewistown, Montana, celebrates the state’s agricultural lifestyle during the last week of January.

This event offers diverse activities suitable for all ages, ranging from farm forums and youth livestock shows to cooking contests and carnival attractions for children.

Spread across Lewistown Downtown and the Fergus County Fairgrounds, the Montana Winter Fair is easily accessible to visitors.

Among the highlights is the Skijoring competition, a thrilling winter sport where a horse pulls a skier through a course filled with jumps and obstacles.

For those interested in engaging with Montana’s agricultural heritage and participating in events that highlight the state’s distinctive culture, the Montana Winter Fair presents an excellent opportunity. The upcoming fair is scheduled for January 26-28, 2024.

To stay up-to-date on the fair’s schedule and activities, visit the official website of the Montana Winter Fair.

Explore and experience the unique charm of Montana’s agricultural lifestyle at this exceptional event.

Montana in January Final Thoughts

A view of a ski slope in Montana with trees and mountains in the background during January.

In January, Montana provides a wide range of winter activities, catering to outdoor enthusiasts with options like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Although the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is closed in January, the lower elevation sections are still accessible year-round. Making it a great location for various winter activities.

Visitors can also take advantage of the amenities and winter activities offered at the Mammoth Springs Lodge and Old Faithful Winter Lodge as they are the only open lodges in Yellowstone National Park.

January is also the perfect time to beat the cold and relax in Montana’s hot springs, such as the Chico Hot Springs.

Exploring the museums in Bozeman, including the Museum of the Rockies and the American Computer & Robotics Museum is also a great choice.

Montana also hosts a variety of events in January such as the Valier Ice Fishing Derby, the Great Rockies Sportshow, and the Montana Winter Fair, providing insight into the local culture and heritage.

However, it’s important to note that January in Montana brings cold temperatures, snow, and mostly cloudy skies, so travelers should be prepared for winter weather conditions and plan accordingly.

Be sure to check local weather stations for the most up-to-date information to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Montana in January FAQs

1. 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.

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 early April.

3. What Is the Coldest Place in Montana?

West Yellowstone is popularly known as one of the places with the coldest temperature in Montana.

Annual total precipitation is 21.56 inches and occurs year-round.

West Yellowstone receives an average of 160.4 inches of snowfall per year, making it one of the snowiest places in Montana.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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