The Blackfoot Valley can usually find itself in snow from November through March. With long nights, short days and temperatures as low as 40 below zero some years, you’d think we would hate it out here. But we love it! For one thing it is beautiful outside. For another, we are not lacking of recreational entertainment.
Winters are long out here so you always make the best of it. Snowmobiling IS the best of it with over 500 miles of groomed trails to partake in, and you can reach most of them straight out of Ovando, all on groomed trails. Drive across Highway 200 to either Monture Road [to head to Seeley Lake] or Boot Tree Road [to head toward Lincoln]; or do the entire Lincoln to Seeley trek!
Tucked between the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range on scenic MT Hwy 83, Seeley Lake is one of western Montana's most popular year-round recreation areas. Starting from town, snowmobilers can fan out in nearly every direction to scenic lookouts, cozy lodges, cafes and backcountry lakes for ice fishing. The area provides over 230 miles of groomed trails. Located only 30 miles from Ovando, take Highway 200 west to Highway 83. Go north 12 miles to Seeley Lake. Rentals are available at two locations.
Explore more than 250 miles of groomed trails and unlimited play areas. Eight major trails start right in town where sledding is permitted on roadway shoulders. Most trails are lightly traveled, with breathtaking views around every turn. Deer, elk and an occasional moose may be seen. Located only 35 miles from Ovando, take Highway 200 east to Lincoln. Several rental sites are available along the highway.
A favorite day long snowmobile tour is to travel Lincoln to Seeley Lake via Huckleberry Pass with a stop over in Ovando for food, drink, and gas.
Garnet Winter Recreation Trails:
More than 100 miles of trails, including the 31.5-mile Garnet National Winter Recreation Trail, are open for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Visitors can rent two rustic cabins in the Garnet Ghost Town for overnight stays (reservations necessary for cabin rental). A major attraction along the trails is the Garnet Ghost Town with a visitors center. The ghost town is located 11 miles south of the parking lot off Montana Highway 200. The elevation here ranges from 4,200 to 7,000 feet. Pets are allowed.
For some people nothing beats a cold, breezy, winter day, sitting on a frozen lake, with your favorite ice fishing pole, sitting on a milk carton or in a warmed hut, hovering over a 12” deep hole jigging for fish. For others, this sounds like utter nonsense. But for the former, there is plenty of ice fishing to keep you busy during the winter.
A very popular ice fishing spot, and located only 9 miles from Ovando this is the place to be for large winter trout. Take the Ovando-Helmville Road east of Ovando and watch for the sign on your left to the lake.
Numerous lakes dot the Seeley Swan Valley, and most feature excellent ice fishing--including Salmon Lake, Holland Lake and Placid Lake. Prevalent species in these lakes include bull trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon and northern pike.
This small beautiful lake is packed with perch and use to be the home of some very large non-indigenous northern pike.
It's quite easy to get to a cross-country skiing destination in Montana. First, step out of your door. Then, strap on your skis. The fact is, Montana has millions of acres of public lands open to cross-country skiing just about anywhere you go.
Exit Ovando on the west side, travel across the highway to Monture Creek Road. Drive up to the bridge that crosses the creek, in the forest area and park. You can ski the same groomed trails that the snowmobilers use.
Seeley Lake also boasts a world-class Nordic ski trail system. Folks can enjoy the serenity and beauty of this winter wonderland on a horse-drawn sleigh ride or on a guided sled dog ride.
Race to the Sky:
The Race to the Sky Sled Dog Competition is one of Montana’s premier winter events occurring every February. The 350-mile race is one of the most physically and mentally challenging races of any kind. Dozens of mushers and dog sled teams from around the country test their strength and strategy in this long distance winter run across Montana’s mountainous backcountry. Public viewing areas are located at guest ranches, lodges and restaurants along the route which also serve as check points for the human and dog team competitors. All events are public.
Lincoln is the home to many a musher. Many of them provide sled rides within the regional trail system. Be ware though. What looks to the untrained eye as a smooth “cool running” ride, can be quite different depending on the conditions.