11 Best Winter Activities in Red Lodge Montana
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In this post, I’m sharing the top winter activities in Red Lodge, Montana! Despite being a small town tucked in the Beartooth Mountains, there are a ton of fun activities to keep you busy in the colder months. As you’ll see in my list below, Red Lodge has a little something for everyone. Let’s dive right in!
If you’re planning a trip to Red Lodge in the winter, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the activities there are to enjoy.
While the winter weather can be harsh here in Montana, there are plenty of ways to still get out and enjoy nature. But first, a little more about the town of Red Lodge…
Where is Red Lodge, Montana?
Red Lodge, Montana is a small town located at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains in South Central Montana. It’s about 1 hour south of Billings, Montana. If traveling to Red Lodge by plane, the Billings International Airport is the closest major airport.
Like so many other small towns in the West, Red Lodge was built on mining. In this case, it was coal mining.
Today, Red Lodge is known for its many outdoor recreational opportunities, from hiking, and riding ATVs, to fly fishing, climbing, and so much more – this small town really is the gateway to many wonderful outdoor experiences.
It’s also close to Yellowstone National Park and the famous Beartooth Highway.
Summer is the main tourist season in Red Lodge with visitors coming from all over to drive the Beartooth Highway which takes you from Red Lodge all the way to the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
This road is only open in the warmer months, so in the winter, the town is much less crowded and mostly draws in people for skiing and snowboarding at Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort.
Whether or not you ski, Red Lodge has something to offer for almost everyone in the winter. Many of the activities I’ve listed below are inexpensive and a great way to enjoy some of the things Red Lodge has to offer when it’s cold and snowy.
Best Time in Winter to Visit:
Red Lodge is known for its later snowfall. I think the best months for winter activities in Red Lodge are January, February, and March.
11 Top Winter Activities in Red Lodge, Montana
1. Ski or Snowboard at Red Lodge Resort
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first! Red Lodge Mountain is such a fun mountain for skiing and snowboarding.
Skiing and snowboarding are very popular winter activities in Red Lodge. The ski mountain has 70 trails and 1,600 acres of terrain to explore!
It has all the small-town mountain things you love, such as no crowds, but tons of big mountain fun with a range of challenging and easy terrain to choose from.
Don’t forget about those great views too! I think Red Lodge Moutain is one of the most scenic I’ve been to.
Now if you’re not into downhill skiing, but you still want to get outside and enjoy the scenery and get some exercise, give snowshoeing a try!
Before going on any winter hike in the area, it’s important to check the weather and trail conditions. Also, check for any local avalanche warnings and always make sure to dress appropriately in layers.
Believe it or not, I bought my snowshoes from Costco and they are awesome! I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on snowshoes since I don’t go often enough, but the Costco ones I purchased are actually really nice and comfortable.
If you prefer, you can rent snowshoes at the Silvan Peak gear shop in town.
Below are some popular trails for snowshoeing and XC skiing:
- West Fork Trail – This is a road that’s closed in winter to cars, but groomed for XC skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing. You can park at Wild Bill Lake and you’ll see a sign from there if you continue up the road on foot. This trail is really pretty and not too challenging. This is an out-and-back trail. Hike as far as you want, and then simply turn around.
- Lower Lake Fork Trail – This is another popular area for XC skiing and snowshoeing. Again, this hike goes along the road to the Lake Fork Trail parking area. This area is beautiful and not too challenging.
See here for more information on these areas.
3. Try Cross-Country Skiing at the Nordic Center
Red Lodge has an awesome Nordic Center with some scenic, easy-to-access cross-country skiing trails. This is a great place to go if you want to try the sport for the first time. They also have volunteer instructors that you can contact for lessons.
You can rent XC skis in town at the Silvan Peak gear shop.
Both snowshoeing and XC skiing are so much fun and a whole lot cheaper than skiing at Red Lodge Mountain Resort.
4. Visit the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
Red Lodge is home to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. This wildlife sanctuary provides lifelong care to wildlife from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that are unable to survive in the wild.
At the sanctuary, you can see bears, bison, bobcats, fox, wolves, various birds, and more.
If you want to visit the animal sanctuary, make sure to plan your trip in November or December because the sanctuary is closed from January through March each year.
November and December are great months to visit the sanctuary because the animals love the snow and cold! They are more active in colder weather too. During these months, the sanctuary is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
January through March, the sanctuary is closed, except for private tours.
5. Check out the Montana Candy Emporium
This is an iconic shop in Red Lodge! If you love candy, this is a must-visit. Even if you don’t eat a lot of candy, still pop in and take a look around. The shop itself is so cool and nostalgic.
The walls are covered with old photos of the town of Red Lodge, signs, animals, and more. They also are stocked with every candy you can imagine. For example, they have gummy ‘fried’ eggs…
6. Visit Wild Bill Lake
Wild Bill Lake is a small lake located along West Fork Road. It’s a beautiful spot and an easy place to access to get out and walk around. The loop around the lake is about 0.5 miles in total.
In the summer, it’s a popular fishing spot for kids, but in the winter, the lake is usually covered with snow. A visit here probably won’t take you too long, but it’s still worth a look. Note that it can be very icy here, so having microspikes is always a good idea.
This is also where you would park if you want to snowshoe or XC ski the West Fork Trail mentioned above. The road ends here at Wild Bill Lake.
7. Skate at the Red Lodge Ice Rink in Town
The Red Lodge Ice Rink is a free community-run ice rink in town. It is one of the things I love most about visiting Red Lodge in the winter!
I love to ice skate and it’s so cool that you can just hop on the ice whenever you want, at no cost.
The ice conditions do vary, and if it happens to snow while you’re there, well… there are plenty of shovels around the rink!
If you want to rent skates, The Ski Station in town rents them for $20 for 24 hours.
8. Ice Fishing at Cooney State Park
The Cooney Reservoir and Dam is about 30 minutes from Red Lodge and it’s a popular spot for ice fishing. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about ice fishing, but if you have the gear and the know-how, this might be a great spot to check out!
9. Enjoy the Delicious Restaurants in Town
For being such a small town, Red Lodge really has some incredible dining opportunities!
Here are some of my favorite places in town to eat:
- Cattail Bakery – Of course, we need to talk about the bakery first because I love to bake, and I’m always really excited when I find a good bakery! And this bakery is GOOD. Everything I’ve tried from here has been excellent. My favorites are the croissants and the danishes. Start the day with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee!
- The One-Legged Magpie – This restaurant has a really cool vibe inside. They have fun cocktails and a small selection of individual pizzas. The pizzas are delicious. They often have live music too so check the schedule if that’s your thing!
- Black Canyon Bistro – This is one of the newer restaurants in town, and everything I’ve eaten from here has been awesome! Their menu is unique with quite a few wild game options. They have a bar and a good happy hour deal too.
- Regis Cafe – This is my favorite place to eat for breakfast. Breakfast is served all day and is always delicious!
- Ox Pasture – For more of a fancy Italian dinner, check out Ox Pasture. Note, they are not open year-round. Most years they are only open in the winter in the months of December and January. The pasta is made fresh and all the meals I tried were delicious!
- Marli’s – Marli’s is the restaurant connected to the Pollard Hotel. I don’t think it really gets as much attention compared to the other restaurants in town, but I really enjoyed my dinner when I went and I loved the menu options! They also have a breakfast menu and a full bar.
10. Catch a Movie at the Roman Theater
An Austrian immigrant named Steve Roman built this theater in 1917. Today, the theater is Montana’s oldest continuously operating theater. Doors open at 6:30 pm with showtimes starting at 7:00 pm.
11. Watch Red Lodge Winter Festivals and Competitions
There are typically a lot of winter festivities going on in the first 2 weeks of March in Red Lodge. You can find the calendar of events in Red Lodge here.
Here are some interesting events to check out:
- The Annual Monster Dog Pull – This event is hosted by Red Lodge Ales/Sam’s taproom. Dogs compete for the fastest race time while pulling a keg in a sled.
- Red Lodge Ski Joring – Ski-Joring originated in Scandinavian countries as a form of winter transportation. Now here in Red Lodge, it’s an action-packed competition on a 700+ ft course. The horse and horse rider tow a skier as the skier navigates a course full of slalom gates and jumps with speeds sometimes reaching around 25 mph. Craziness.
The Red Lodge Ski-Joring Association has been hosting the National Finals Ski-Joring Races since 1980. This is definitely a unique western winter experience!
As you can see, there are a ton of winter activities in Red Lodge, Montana!
I love this town in all the seasons, but there’s something extra special about the winter months.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend escape, or you want to hit the slopes for a full-on ski vacation, Red Lodge has a little something for everyone in the family.