Nothing says winter like cozying up next to a wood stove in a little cabin in the woods. Imagine–As the sun breaks through the trees in the morning, you strap on your snowshoes right outside the front door and head into the woods. Chickadees chirp, squirrel prints ramble around tree trunks, and snow creaks beneath your snowshoes.
We can’t all own winter cabin getaways, but we can rent them in Montana. Forest Service and private cabins are great getaways any time of the year, but they can be especially fun in winter. As the snow falls and icicles grow, they can provide a toasty home base for winter activities.
Want to have your own backcountry experience? There are many cabins, yurts, and huts for rent in Montana. Here are a few favorites rented by skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and other winter enthusiasts.
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Forest Service Cabins
These Montana winter cabins are (mostly) built in the 1920s and 30s for use by Forest Ranger. A few are fire lookouts, but most are rustic one-roomed log cabins. Now that Rangers live in town, you and I can rent these cabins for $30-$45 per night. Most sleep four to six people.
Many have electricity, but not all do. None have running water in the winter (fortunately, there is almost always ample snow for melting or a creek nearby.) All have wood or electric stoves for cooking and heating, and some have both. Outhouses are a short walk from the cabins. Wood is supplied, as are dishes, cutlery, cleaning supplies, and often some strange magazines.
Find photos and descriptions of all Forest Service cabins on the specific website. To rent one, log on to recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777 up to 180 days in advance. To guarantee your spot for a particular day, make your reservations as far in advance as possible.
Kings Hill Cabin – Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Situated two miles from Showdown Ski Area and up the road from the Silver Crest Cross-Country Ski Trails, Kings Hill Cabin is a winter lover’s delight. At 7,600 feet, the snow is sure to be good, and you’ll find miles of trails leaving right from the cabin.
According to Marc Hamlen, Fire Management Officer for the White Sulphur Springs Ranger District in central Montana, this cabin fills up quickly. So make sure to book this one in advance!
This log cabin is in a deep woods setting of lodgepole pine. Highway noise is minimal, and the snowmobile noise is minimal, too, if you go midweek. In the winter, guests need to hike about 100 yards from parking to the cabin entrance.
Amenities: Two rooms, electric lights, refrigerator, electric stove, fully-stocked kitchen, firewood, wood stove, outhouse. No running water.
Zip’s Place – Flathead National Forest
This winter cabin is near the southern boundary of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. Zip’s Place was originally part of a 1937 homestead, and the structure is named for “Aunt Zip,” who first owned the property. Bite marks from the Geifer Grizzly of 1974-75 remain on the cabin door and a cupboard above the stove. The cabin borders the Great Bear Wilderness and was sold to the Forest Service in 1993.
Zip’s Place accommodates up to eight guests. It’s a 1.5-mile ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile ride from the plowed parking area to the cabin on a county road.
Amenities: Electric stove, refrigerator, lights, electric and propane heat, a stocked kitchen, cleaning items, outhouse. No running water.
Gordon Reese Cabin – Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
If you’re up for a larger-sized cabin for your vacation, the Gordon Reese cabin at Chief Joseph Pass fits the bill.
It’s a half-mile walk to the “ski mansion.” The first floor is a warming hut for area skiers and snowshoers, while the upper floor loft is for sleeping. The cabin can be reserved at no charge during the non-peak season (December 1 – April 14).
The Chief Joseph trails surround the cabin. The groomed and ungroomed trails provide a variety of lengths and skill levels for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Amenities: Solar and propane lights; the main floor has benches, tables, a stocked kitchen, a propane range, a drainage sink, firewood, and a wood stove. No electricity or running water. Outhouse.
Maxey Cabin – Gallatin National Forest
The cabin’s window frames Hyalite peaks, and trails surround Maxey Cabin. Moreover, outside the front door, there are days and days’ worth of snowshoeing fun on the forested trails surrounding the Hyalite Reservoir. Also, it’s not far from frozen Emerald Falls.
As long as the road is plowed up Hyalite Canyon (south of Bozeman), you can walk into the Maxey cabin in just a mile. The cabin sits in a large meadow begging for snowpeople or a quinzee.
Amenities: Firewood, woodstove, dishes, utensils, cutlery, pots and pans, table and chairs, some cleaning supplies, bunk beds, outhouse. No electricity or running water.
Read More: Beyond Bozeman: Snowshoeing Bridger Canyon
Window Rock Cabin – Gallatin National Forest
The Window Rock Cabin near Bozeman sits just below some of the country’s best ice climbing and sleeps up to 4 people.
“I rented it over Valentine’s Day one year,” recalled Livingston resident Felicia Ennis. “It was convenient to stay there rather than driving back and forth from Livingston every day to ice climb…It was peaceful and relaxing, and the nights were so quiet,” Ennis said.
She continued, “It was really nice having a winter experience in the mountains without having to do it from a tent. There is something different about being in nature in the winter. The snow muffled the sounds, and it’s a more intimate experience—both with the people you are snowshoeing with and with nature.”
Prepare with a 4 x 4 vehicle in the winter since they rarely plow the road to the cabin. Alternatively, you can snowshoe for the 12 miles along the road to the cabin.
Amenities: wood-burning stove, table with chairs, broom, dustpan, campfire ring, outhouse, no water or electricity
Private Cabins and Yurts
In addition to the cabins you can rent through the forest service, here are a few private winter cabins and yurts to enjoy your Montana vacation.
Yurtski – Lolo National Forest
The Yurtski yurt in the Swan Mountains is one of my favorites. Yurtski has two yurts in the Swan Mountains—one located at 6800 feet, the other about a mile below it.
It’s an eight-mile walk or ski to get there, mainly on Forest Service roads. Bring a sled to carry your gear, or pay for a snowmobile ride! Trips into the yurts are guided or self-serve.
I love the whole experience of skiing to the cabin and staying out there. You can cuddle up by the fire and stay toasty warm, or take a moonlit walk and gaze at the stars. Thus, it’s something I cherish.
Yellowstone Expeditions Yurt Camp – Yellowstone National Park
The camp comprises two attached yurts, which house the kitchen and dining area—the social center of the camp—and individual “yurtlets” that serve as private sleeping quarters. In addition, there is a hot shower and a sauna.
From the Yurt Camp, snowshoers can flat track the meadows of Cascade Creek, travel to several backcountry hot spring basins, walk the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone or play on the slopes of the Washburn Range.
It’s a deluxe rustic vacation with guided tours and delicious food.
Read More: Exploring Yellowstone’s Winter Wonderland
Wade Lake Cabins – South of Ennis, Montana
Stay in one of five cabins and ramble along lakeshores, riversides, valleys, aspen groves, old-growth fir forests, and wide-open rolling hills with spectacular views of tall peaks.
Add snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, and photography to the list of winter activities. Then, read next to the fire and sip hot cocoa.
Wildlife viewing is best in winter because Wade Lake stays partially ice-free, providing excellent habitat for wildlife and waterfowl. You may get to watch hundreds of spawning rainbow trout in the stream below the cabins.
Rent one of the five cabins, and you get a gear shuttle in and out.
What are your favorite winter cabins in Montana? Have you stayed at any of these? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
This article was first published on December 20, 2014. Susan Wowk most recently updated it on September 13, 2022.