What is Montana Like in December?
School vacations and the winter holidays make December a prime time to visit Montana. We have a hard time leaving Montana in December because it’s such a festive, fun time of year here. Plus, we usually have visitors coming into town!
So what makes Montana so special in December? Well, for one, the scenery. Eastern Montana is starting to get dustings of snow (though a white Christmas will be hit or miss); while most of Western Montana is already blanketed in the white stuff and there will likely be snow on the ground for Christmas.
Also making December a wonderful time of year in Montana is that most cities and towns in the state host special events and festivals throughout the month, from light parades to tree decoration ceremonies to festive sleigh rides.
You’ll also find plenty of outdoor activities. As a northern state, Montana is jam-packed with action as the weather gets colder and the winter snow sports season begins.
Most ski resorts in Montana are open by the first weekend in December so locals and visitors alike are excitedly grabbing their skis and hitting the slopes for some of the first powder of the season.
Read More: Best Ski Resorts in Montana
Whether you’re looking for a winter getaway or you’re visiting family over the holidays, here’s what you need to know to make the most of your time in Montana in December.
What’s the Weather Like in Montana in December?
December is Montana’s coldest month. While different parts of the state experience different weather, the statewide average high for this month is just under 33 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature reaches an average low of 12 degrees Fahrenheit at night, so pack some layers and warm outerwear!
What’s Open at Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in December?
Yellowstone National Park sees 10 days of snowfall on average in December, making activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing possible. While most roads will be closed in Yellowstone during the winter, you can do winter excursion tours that leave from both West Yellowstone and Gardiner.
The winter lodges of Yellowstone are open starting in mid-December. Consider spending your time at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins — the lodge, ski shop, gift shop, cafe, and bar open on December 15th. This lodge is easy to get to since you can drive right to it from the north entrance of the park by Gardiner, which is also the only entrance to Yellowstone that is open in the winter.
The only other option for lodging in the park in the winter is Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which also opens on the 15th. Once there, you can rent winter sports gear, ride a snowmobile, marvel at Old Faithful, and go on a guided geyser hike.
Most of Glacier National Park is closed to traffic in the winter and there are no lodges open. You can enter the park via the West Entrance and drive to the parking lot by Lake McDonald Lodge (though the lodge is closed) but will have to snowshoe or cross country ski to go beyond it.
The bathrooms at the Apgar Visitor Center remain open throughout the winter, along with its informational exhibit. However, the visitor center doesn’t operate help desks during winter
There are no lodges open in Glacier in the winter, but you can obtain a permit for backcountry camping, though be advised that there’s no running water and you’ll have to use a vault toilet. If you’re making a day trip to Glacier, head to the Apgar Village area or just past Lake McDonald to cross-country ski or snowshoe.
It takes a lot of planning and you need to be ok with the great outdoors and cold temps, but we still think Glacier is a wonderful place to visit in December. Read more about traveling to Glacier National Park in the winter here.
Other Things to Do in Montana in December
Even if you don’t ski, there are endless fun things to do in Montana in the winter.
The hot springs are coveted Montana destinations in the winter, especially since many springs have resorts attached to them. Click here to read about some of our favorites.
You can also tour the breweries of Montana, many of which are located in cities that may already be on your trip itinerary. Billings, Bozeman, Livingston, and Missoula are home to quite a few, so don’t leave those cities without trying some tap brews!
Read More: The Best Winter Activities in Montana
How Cheap are Flights to Montana in December?
While the national parks see far fewer visitors this season than they do in the summer, you shouldn’t expect your plane tickets to be cheap if you travel around the holidays. If your trip doesn’t overlap with Christmas and New Year’s Eve, though, you’ll likely save hundreds of dollars on flights. For the best prices, plan to return home before December 20th.
Read More: 12 Incredible Montana Winter Vacations
Have Fun Visiting Montana in December!
Visiting Montana in December is a truly rewarding experience. With so many natural wonders to explore and the opportunity to partake in winter sports, plus bright lights and festivities, this month may even end up being your favorite time to visit Montana — despite the cold!
You Also May Enjoy Reading: Local’s Guide to Visiting Montana in November