THING TO DO

Visit Craters in Winter

A cross-country skier travels down the groomed park road in winter.
When the Loop Road is closed, winter visitors tour the volcanic landscape on skis and snowshoes.

The winter landscape at Craters of the Moon is one of black and white. Deep snow obscures the once fiery lava. Dark, jagged rocks protrude here and there through the backdrop of snow. It is a landscape of dramatic contrasts and rugged beauty.

Craters' Loop Road is typically closed for motorized travel between mid-November and mid-April. Winter visitors can explore a snowy wonderland of lava on skis or snowshoes, an experience quite different from the rest of the year.

Check the Current Conditions page for seasonal updates and the status of the park road.


Skiing

Although the Loop Drive is closed to motorized travel in the winter, those who are properly prepared can explore the monument on the winter trail. The winter trail is groomed as snow pack and staffing allow. This is usually during the period from December to March.

The groomed track is 4-7 miles in length with mostly level terrain or gentle hills. There is one steep hill on the southwest flank of Inferno Cone. Novices should ski the loop clockwise to avoid coming down this hill. Although skiing time varies with ability and snow conditions, most people can ski the entire loop in 2 to 4 hours. There is no charge for skiing at Craters of the Moon.

For more details on the Winter Trail conditions, visit the Blaine County Recreation District site and click on the "Craters of the Moon" tab at the top right.

The open slopes of the cinder cones scattered along the Loop Drive provide perfect telemarking terrain. Skiers may wish to leave the groomed track and venture onto these slopes to carve some turns!

Tips

Weather conditions may change rapidly and skiers should be prepared for the worst. The average high temperature for January is 29 degrees F and the average low is 10 degrees F. Even on the best of days, wind is common.

  • Carry extra clothing, water, and a snack.
  • Know your own abilities and do not ski so far that you become exhausted.
  • Use caution if you leave the groomed track. The surface of the lava beneath the snow is very uneven and may conceal cracks and sharp rocks.

Regulations

Dogs are not permitted on the groomed ski track. Dogs tear up the groomed track and detract from the skiing experience for others. They may also disturb wildlife. Bicycles are also not permitted on the Winter Trail.


Snowshoeing

The snow-covered landscape of Craters of the Moon offers many opportunities for visitors on snowshoes to enjoy the monument during the winter months. Follow the orange snow poles (starting near the visitor center and campground) to explore a 1-mile Snowshoe Loop Trail through the monument, or venture off of the winter trails and climb a cinder cone.

Snowshoe Walks are typically scheduled for groups and individuals on Saturdays in January and February. No prior snowshoe experience is required. Check the park calendar for a schedule of programs.

The Craters of the Moon Natural History Association has snowshoes available for loan at the visitor center. Donations are accepted for the upkeep of the equipment.


Early-Late Access

During the period before and after the Winter Trail is actively groomed, there is a brief period when the Loop Road is still closed to motorized travel but is open to other types of access. This car-free period is a great time to hike or bike the Loop Road. Bicyclists should be aware that snow, ice, and water are likely to be on the road and depending on conditions, snowbikes may be necessary to ride the Loop Road. Dogs on leash are also permitted on the roadway, but not on trails, during this time. Please pick up after your pet.

Snow removal operations in the spring may require temporary closures. Portions of roads and hiking trails (including the caves) may remain covered in snow and ice well into May, so plan accordingly.

Details
  • For most of the year, leashed dogs are allowed on the park road, except for when it is groomed for winter travel. Dogs are not permitted on the groomed ski track.
  • In order to protect fragile resources and to prevent disturbance to wildlife, dogs are not allowed on any park trails.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
Accessibility Information
During winter, Craters of the Moon is covered in snow. The park road, typically used to access the park's trails and natural features, is closed to motorized travel.

Travel through the park is via ski or snowshoe. The groomed ski track is mostly level, with one steep grade near Inferno Cone.

Roads and walkways may be covered in slippery ice or snow.

Last updated: August 20, 2021