Favorite Cross-Country Ski Trails in Gardiner and Northern Yellowstone

Favorite Cross-Country Ski Trails in Gardiner and Northern Yellowstone

November 26, 2017

One of our favorite ways to experience Yellowstone Country is on a pair of cross-country skis. It’s a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy time with family and friends while taking in the rugged scenic beauty of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Check out a few of our favorite trails from Paradise Valley to Gardiner to northern Yellowstone National Park. And after a fun-filled day of skiing past sparkling snowy vistas, steamy thermal features, or even the occasional elk or bison, be sure to stop in to Gardiner for a cozy meal, warm bed, and a hot beverage!

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Paradise Valley and Tom Miner Basin

Mill Creek Road

The groomed trail begins at the Forest Service gate approximately 11 miles down Mill Creek Road, and is popular with snowmobilers and skiers alike. Expect friendly faces and plenty of dogs along the way. We like this one for a leisurely ski—turn around after a few miles or continue on to the East Dam Creek trailhead for a more difficult ski.

Directions: From Livingston, drive south on Highway 89 for 15 miles. Make a left onto Mill Creek Road and go just over 11 miles. The road ends at a gate. Park there after January 1, when the gate closes to wheeled vehicles and is open to winter recreation only.

Skill Level: Beginner

B Bar Ranch

B Bar Ranch, located in the incredibly scenic Tom Miner Basin, offers a number of groomed trails ranging from beginner to expert. Cost is $10 per person for day use; backcountry cabins are available for $50 per person. For a truly special winter getaway, treat yourself to a variety of front country accommodations at the guest ranch.

Directions: Take I-90 to Livingston, MT (Exit # 333). Head South on U.S. Highway 89, following signs to Yellowstone National Park. Turn right 36 miles south of Livingston (17 miles north of Gardiner.) Turn west on Tom Miner Creek Road near mile marker #17. Cross the Yellowstone River on Carbella Bridge. Turn left at the 'T' and continue 8.5 miles to the B Bar Ranch entrance on the right side of the road. Continue another mile to ranch headquarters.

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate 

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Gardiner and Jardine, Montana

Eagle Creek

This Forest Service road becomes a cross-country ski trail in winter. The trail begins at the gate just past Eagle Creek Campground and switchbacks up the mountain to offer great views of northern Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana. The trail is dog-friendly.

Directions: Driving out of Livingston toward Yellowstone National Park, head south toward Gardiner for 51 miles. Before crossing the Yellowstone River, veer left toward Jardine and drive a little over 5 miles. Follow the road approximately 2 miles and park at the gate on the left-hand side of the road, just past Eagle Creek Campground (Forest Service Road 3243, Custer Gallatin NF).

Skill Level: Intermediate

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Bear Creek

Bear Creek is a favorite with Gardiner locals, offering a well-used trail that winds through a peaceful, mature forest. We recommend following the ski trail to Timber Camp before turning around for an invigorating half-day ski (approximately 6 miles roundtrip). Expect great views of northern Yellowstone, including Electric Peak. The trail is dog-friendly.

Directions: Driving out of Livingston toward Yellowstone National Park, head south toward Gardiner for 51 miles. Before crossing the Yellowstone River, veer left toward Jardine and drive a little over 5 miles. When you get to Jardine, take a right just over a bridge onto Bear Creek Road. The parking area is 1.7 miles up on the left.

Skill Level: Intermediate to Difficult 

Yellowstone National Park

Upper Terrace Loop

If you’re looking for a classic Yellowstone skiing adventure complete with bison and hot springs, this loop is for you. The loop starts just above Mammoth Hot Springs and features inspiring views of Mammoth Hot Springs, northern Yellowstone and the surrounding mountains. Ski lessons are available through Yellowstone National Park Lodges in Mammoth. We recommend rounding out the day with a cup of hot chocolate at the Map Room in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

Distance: 1.5 miles

Directions: Enter Yellowstone National Park through the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. This loop begins at the Upper Terrace parking area just above Mammoth Hot Springs.

Skill Level: Easy to difficult (It’s easiest if you ski clockwise around the loop).

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Blacktail Plateau

This popular Yellowstone National Park ski trail traverses along broad vistas and through spruce-fir forest. Be on the lookout for elk, deer, coyotes, and occasionally bison.

Distance: 8 miles

Directions: The trail can be skied from either end. Enter Yellowstone through the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. The trail is 8 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs at a parking area across the road from a self-guiding trail, or at a service road approximately 1 mile farther east (see map).

Skill Level: Easy to Intermediate

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Bannock Trail

This trail takes its name from the Bannock band of the Shoshone, who used this route to reach the buffalo grounds of the Great Plains. The terrain is mostly flat and the trail traverses open meadows and mixed conifer forests. The North Absaroka Wilderness is approximately one mile from the trailhead. At two miles (3.2 km) you come to Silver Gate, Montana—follow the road to head into Cooke City for a hot meal at the end of your ski. We recommend taking two vehicles and leaving one in Cooke City for an easy shuttle.

Distance: 2 miles

Directions: Enter Yellowstone National Park through the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Follow signs for Tower Junction upon reaching Mammoth Hot Springs. Take a left at Tower Junction. The trail begins at Warm Creek picnic area, one mile west of Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance (just before Cooke City, Montana).

Skill Level: Easy

Tower Fall

We love bringing family members to this easy-going trail for the spectacular reward waiting at the end—frozen Tower Fall. The 132-foot waterfall is a popular destination in the summer but is even more stunning in winter—plus you’ll have the trail mostly to yourself. Watch for bighorn sheep, bison, deer, and elk along the way.

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip

Directions: Enter Yellowstone National Park through the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Follow signs for Tower Junction upon reaching Mammoth Hot Springs. The trail begins at the parking area just southeast of Tower Junction.

Skill Level: Easy

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