The rush of racing through a snowy landscape, the roar of the engine, the bite of the cold wind whipping past you—mitigated by heating seats and handlebars, plus plenty of layers—all combine to create the excitement of snowmobiling. When you arrive in the Gallatin Valley, the hardest part is choosing where to steer first. Here are just a few of the options when it comes to snowmobiling in this corner of Montana.
Just south of Big Sky in Gallatin Canyon, you’ll find miles of scenic snowmobile trails to enjoy. An area called Buck Creek Ridge brings out the best in panoramic snapshots, well worth a pause to let the engines idle.
To snowmobile in Yellowstone, you need to be one of the lucky permit-lottery winners or draw one of the daily permits. If that’s not in the cards, you can book a guided trip with one of the park’s approved outfitters. Experiencing Yellowstone in winter is well worth the effort, and snowmobile is the most efficient way to get around in many cases.
Just outside of the park in West Yellowstone, you’ll find much of that same natural beauty as you would inside the park, only with fewer restrictions on snowmobile travel. In the Gallatin National Forest, you’ll find 135 miles of groomed trails that are open from December 1 to March 31, as weather allows. You’ll find a wide range of terrain, from flat to mountain climbing, all with plenty of natural beauty.
Nonresidents can easily purchase a $25 snowmobile user permit from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce in order to ride on forest service land in Montana.
Just north of the Gardiner entrance to Yellowstone, the Paradise Valley lives up to its name. You’ll find nearly 45 miles of groomed trails right outside of Livingston, Montana, with varying skill levels to keep your whole party happy. You can hop on the 20-mile Shields Loop, or scoot down the 7.5-mile Cottonwood Trail, just to name a few options. No matter which way you turn your rig, you’ll find plenty of wilderness worth seeing.
As you head south toward Dillon, mountain ranges are yours to choose from, with groomed trails on Forest Service land in the Pioneer Mountains, the Gravelly Range, the Tobacco Root Mountains (North Meadow Creek Trail), the Boulder Mountains, and Georgetown Lake. It can definitely be worth the trip to go a little farther afield in this direction, especially with local breweries and distilleries to explore along the way—not to mention hot springs for post-ride soaking.
You don’t need to have any experience to get out there. Go with a guide to keep you and your party safe and having fun in the snow; no prior expertise or gear required. This can also be the best way to access some of those permit-required areas like Yellowstone National Park.
If you feel ready to ride, but you’re just missing the sled, there’s an easy solution. You can get rentals near wherever you wind up, with outfitters in Bozeman, Big Sky, West Yellowstone, Paradise Valley, Dillon, and beyond. Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Summit All-Terrain Rentals, Big Boys Toys, and Yellowstone Motorsports are all good places to start when you’re going the DIY route to hit the snow.