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Snowmobilers in Montana enjoy the opportunity to ride on over 4,000 miles of groomed trails Snowmobiling

Find a Trail

Montana offers over 4,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Trails are groomed by local clubs or the chambers of commerce with grant money provided by Montana State Parks. Grooming funds are derived from snowmobile gas tax refund and decal fees.

Trail maps are available from your local club, Forest Service offices, or the Montana Snowmobile Association.

Snowmobile Ethics & Safety

Snowmobiling is a fun and family-oriented activity.

A vast amount of National Forest land is open for winter travel. In some areas, those traveling by skis, snowshoes, and snowmobiles must share the same routes and areas. Common sense and courtesy will provide a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.

Represent the sport well
  • Be a savvy sports enthusiast. Recognize that people judge all snowmobile owners by your actions.
  • Use your influence with other snowmobile owners to promote good conduct.
  • Promote proper snowmobile education and training.
 
Care for the environment
  • Do not litter trails or camping areas. Do not pollute lakes or streams.
  • Snowmobile only when there is sufficient snow, so you will not damage the land.
  • Do not damage living trees, shrubs, or other natural features.
  • Do not harass wildlife. Avoid areas posted for the protection or feeding of wildlife.
 
Be considerate of others
  • Respect other people's property and rights.
  • Do not interfere with hikers, skiers, snowshoers, ice fishermen, or other winter sports enthusiasts. Operate at minimum speeds near other recreationists and do not accelerate until well beyond those on foot. Stop and yield the trail to dogsleds. Skiers and snowshoers should yield the track to oncoming and overtaking snowmobilers, unless the track is wide enough for safe passage.
  • Lend a helping hand when you see someone in need.
  • Make yourself and your vehicle available to assist search and rescue parties.
 
Respect wildlife

All winter recreationists should be aware that they have an impact on wintering wild animals, most notably that disturbing or displacing them causes them to burn more energy. Minimize your impact on wintering animals by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid winter range whenever possible.
  • Do not linger in the presence of animals, move along in a steady, deliberate fashion.
  • It is unlawful to chase, harass, herd, or rally wild animals.
  • Keep your machine in well-tuned condition to minimize noise and pollution.
  • Avoid areas designated as "closed" for wildlife protection.
 
Practice safety

Snowmobiling is a fun and exciting sport the whole family can enjoy. However, winter offers certain challenges that require snowmobilers to take precautions.

  • Ride smart, be prepared, and stay in control.
  • Check ice and weather conditions before riding. Dress appropriately.
  • Practice Zero Tolerance with respect to impaired riding.
  • Never travel alone. Let others know where you are going.
 
Perform a pre-ride inspection

The performance of a pre-ride inspection is paramount to a safe, stress-free ride. Most equipment failures can be avoided by periodic maintenance and inspection.

 
Safety on ice: know the rules

The safest snowmobiling rule is never to cross lakes or rivers. Besides the danger of plunging through the ice, you have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice than on snow.

Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of accidents. Don't hold the attitude that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction, without boundaries, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.

If you do snowmobile on the ice, make absolutely sure the ice is safely frozen. Don't trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. You are responsible for your own safety. Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities. Know what to do if you go through the ice. 

 
Be Avalanche Aware

Learn to recognize avalanche areas and avoid them. Carry avalanche rescue equipment including a transceiver, probe pole and shovel, and know how to use them. Review the local avalanche advisory when available.

Snowmobile Trail Pass & Permit

Snowmobiles operating on public land must be registered and display decals placed in a conspicuous space on the left side of the cowling. Registration is different for Montana residents and nonresidents. 

Residents

Registration

Montana residents must register their snowmobiles at the County Treasurer's office in the county where the owner resides. This is a one-time registration and valid until the current owner sells the snowmobile.

Resident Trail Pass

Residents must purchase a Resident Trail Pass to legally ride on any of the 4,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Montana. Trail Passes are valid for two seasons and are $20. Trail Passes apply to all “mechanized equipment” including snowmobiles, motorized snow bikes, and fat tire pedal bikes.

Anyone using groomed snowmobile trails for recreation is asked to please contribute and purchase the Trail Pass. The revenues go directly to grooming the trails.

 

Nonresidents

Nonresidents who plan to ride their snowmobiles and motorized snow bikes in Montana must purchase a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit for $35 per machine.

Nonresidents who plan to ride mechanized equipment which is exempt from registration in Montana such as fat tire bikes or e-bikes on groomed trails must purchase a Nonresident Groomed Trail Pass for $35 per bike. Passes are good for 2 seasons.

 

Where to Purchase a Permit or Trail Pass

Trail Passes are available seasonally from October to April.

  • Apply Online - You may purchase your Resident Trail Pass or Nonresident Snowmobile Permit through the Online Licensing System.
  • Vendor List - You can also purchase a Nonresident Temporary Use Permit or a Resident Trail Pass at any of the vendors in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.

 

BUY PERMITS AND PASSES

Snowmobile Laws

It is your responsibility to know and follow established rules and regulations. The following is a summary of those rules, but you should also review additional information available from your county treasurer's office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Forest Service offices and ranger stations, and other state and county government sources.

 

General Snowmobiling Laws

MCA 23-2-6 defines the rules for operating a snowmobile in Montana.

  • Operation at night — When operating during the hours between dusk and dawn a snowmobile must use a lighted headlight and taillight.
  • Accidents — The owner or operator of a snowmobile that is involved in any accident, collision, or upset in which personal injury or fatality occurs to any person shall report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency immediately.
  • Firearms — A person may not discharge a firearm from or upon a snowmobile.
 

Laws for Road Riding

MCA 23-2-631 states that snowmobiles may operate on maintained streets, roads, or highways only if:

  • the roadway is drifted or covered by snow to such an extent that travel is impossible by other motor vehicles;
  • the local government allows snowmobiles to travel on plowed roads with wheeled vehicles;
  • the snowmobile operator possesses a motor vehicle driver's license or a snowmobile safety certificate and travels under the visual supervision of an adult.

Snowmobile Education

Online Safety Education Course

Riders who do not possess a valid driver’s license must complete a Montana-approved snowmobile safety course for riding on public lands.

The Montana Snowmobile Safety Course is available online. You may work at your own pace through the courses. At the conclusion of the instruction, you will take a final exam. When you pass the certification exam, you will be able to print a temporary certificate and your permanent card will be mailed to you within a few weeks. There is a modest fee for the course, but the certificate has no expiration date.

 

Nonresident Snowmobile Safety Education Certificates

Nonresidents may wish to contact their state snowmobile association or the agency responsible for their state's snowmobile education program to find a snowmobile course offered locally. Official safety certificates from other states are accepted in Montana.

 

Snowmobile Information Center

The Snowmobile Information Center is a comprehensive online source for snowmobile training, safety, and access information.

 

Avalanche Education Classes

Snowmobile Associations & Clubs

Montana Associations & Clubs

Montana Snowmobile Association (MSA) – This organization is a group of individuals and Montana snowmobile clubs interested in maintaining backcountry access and promoting safe and ethical snowmobiling.

 

National Associations

American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) – ACSA is a national organization uniting the snowmobile community and promoting snowmobiling as a safe, fun and environmentally friendly family sport. ACSA has grouped similar or neighboring states together to work with each other on many of the snowmobiling issues/trends that may arise.

The Western Chapter of Snowmobile Associations as part of ACSA, includes the State Association Presidents from Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, California, and some providences of Canada. The Western Chapter meets together to discuss issues/trends affecting the western states such as avalanche safety, motorized snow bike trends, backcountry access issues, local and national legislation affecting snowmobiling, travel planning, and litigation affecting riding areas within the western states.

Snowmobile Advisory Committee

The Snowmobile Advisory Committee advises FWP on snowmobile issues in Montana relating to the funding, provision of, development, renovation, maintenance, management, usage and promotion of snowmobile trails in Montana. Visit the Committee page for members and more information.

Economic Impact

Contact

Visit the About FWP > Grant Programs page for details on the Snowmobile Grant program.

 

Seth McArthur
Montana Snowmobile Program Manager
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701
(406) 444-3753
smcarthur@mt.gov

Avalanche Safety Training in Cooke City

Providing training to save lives

This Cooke City Avalanche Training is funded in part by the Montana State Parks Snowmobile Program. This program provides grant funding to snowmobile trail grooming and education on over 4,000 miles of trail across Montana, so enthusiasts can ride safely. The Montana State Parks Snowmobile program is funded by Montana Fuel Tax Revenues. Learn about the impact these funds are having to save lives in Cooke City.  

Find more information on the Snowmobile Grant Program 

Be Prepared

Important information for getting outside safely and responsibly.