Skiing Grist Road to Fish Creek

If you head west from Apgar in Glacier National Park and cross over McDonald Creek, the first road on your right is called Grist Road. Along this quaint road are a collection of private inholdings. The road dead-ends and one of Glacier’s few “bike-able” trails continues on to the Fish Creek Campground Road. I wouldn’t normally travel this section of trail in the summer, but in the winter, it is a delightful little cross-country ski.

There hasn’t been much in the way of snow in the Flathead Valley, so when some fell on the valley floor a couple weeks ago, we got the itch to take the skis out. There wasn’t enough in town to ski, but there has been up in the park, so we drove up for a little winter excursion.

In the past, we’ve driven to Lake McDonald Lodge and skied Going-to-the-Sun Road, but this time we decided to ski to Fish Creek. They had yet to plow over to the gate on Camas Road, so we started in Apgar and skied over the bridge. A flock of Common Goldeneyes were feeding in the creek as we passed. Just after the bridge, we turned right onto Grist Road and began gently climbing.

This aspect of the ridge is cool and shaded, so it’s home to cedar and hemlock. These tall trees create a cathedral hall and a perfect place for us to slog through the deep powder. Thankfully the snow was light and fluffy, but we were definitely breaking trail.

We passed the small, summertime cabins and listened to the absolute stillness as the snow absorbed what little sound there was. The road transitioned to trail. Tracks and tunnels from squirrels, deer, and other mammals left stories on the white blanket.

We eventually hopped up onto Fish Creek Campground Road and skied a little bit to where we could see the lake. The cloud bank was low and we could barely see out. We had to head back, so we turned around and made great time over our tracks.

Snowing over Lake McDonald

I’ve since been back up into the park where it was raining in West Glacier. It’s been a warm winter this year. There’s not a lot of snow cover down low. Thankfully, the snowpack looks really good. We’re actually over 100% for the year.

I’m not sure what this means for trails opening up heading into the summer. A lot depends on how much more snow we get and when/how much it warms up. In the meantime, we’ll try and get up and ski a few more times… and make plans for when the trails lose their white blanket.

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8 responses to “Skiing Grist Road to Fish Creek”

  1. Always great to hear your stories Jake. See you this Summer.

  2. Thanks Jake for the winter time update in the park. I do not cross country ski however i do like to snow shoe. I live just 3 hours away and was wondering if its worth driving up to take them for a walk, perhaps to Avalanche Lake? Thanks in advance Jake.

    1. Always! I think it’s great to explore Glacier in the winter due to less folks around and just seeing it with a completely different personality.

  3. Jake,

    Yes, thanks for the winter update. We ski at Essex a lot (from Great Falls) and would love more ideas for trails in the Glacier area suitable for nordic skiing or snow shoeing.

    Doug O

    1. I’ve skied the road to Two Medicine (if the road is clear, you can always bike in as far as you can, then ski the rest). Also skiing up around Polebridge on the other side. There are a few meadows and you can try making it to Bowman Lake. Obviously Camas Road, Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Grist Road over to Fish Creek are also options… as well as the bike paths around Apgar. I’ve also skied the old Flathead Ranger Station trail which is great… as long as there isn’t too much downfall. 😀

    2. Marjorie Avatar

      Jumping in here, a year later (Hi Jake!):
      SE of Essex (Izaak Walton Inn) on Rte 2 is Marias Pass and Autumn Creek Trail, a favorite of XC skiers. It’s point to point.
      For more ideas, the Glacier Mountaineering Society
      (glaciermountaineers-dot-com) organizes skiing and snowshoeing events in and around Glacier. The viewable Event Calendar gives an idea of where they go.

  4. hi and tnx for share your experiences
    it’s amazing for ski

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