Visitors trek to West Yellowstone in the winter to take advantage of world-class opportunities for seasonal recreation and to experience Yellowstone National Park draped in winter splendor. Whether you’re in the area to snowmobile, cross-country ski, or simply enjoy a picturesque vacation, consider renting one of the area’s Forest Service cabins during your stay. The cabins offer remote, rustic accommodations suited for exploring the area’s national forests and spending cozy evenings by the wood stove. Venture off the groomed trail to a Forest Service cabin on your next visit for a timeless winter experience in Greater Yellowstone.
Forest Service rangers constructed basic, no-frills cabins during the 1920s and 1930s to facilitate projects in the field. Today, area visitors can rent the cabins on a nightly basis for use as backcountry basecamps or rustic retreats. Though access to Forest Service cabins can be more challenging during the winter months, visitors will experience the serenity of winter in Greater Yellowstone and enjoy unlimited opportunities for backcountry recreation.
There are four Forest Service cabins available for nightly winter rentals near West Yellowstone in the Hebgen Lake District of Custer Gallatin National Forest. Some cabins are easily accessible via a short cross-country ski or snowmobile ride, but others require a longer trek. Be sure to contact the Hebgen Lake District Office prior to your stay for winter access details.
Beaver Creek Cabin (21 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Beaver Creek Cabin is located in Gallatin National Forest just below Hilgard Peak, which rises to an elevation of 11,316 feet. The cabin is well-positioned to serve as a basecamp for long days of winter recreation in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Visitors must cross-country ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile for 3.5 miles through a scenic forested canyon along Beaver Creek to reach the cabin. Bighorn sheep, moose, elk, and other wildlife call the area home.
- Know before you go: Beaver Creek Cabin is heated by a wood stove. Limited firewood is provided for use inside the cabin from October to May. The cabin can sleep up to four people, but mattresses are not provided in the winter. Cooking facilities and kitchenware are not available. Come prepared with your own cooking equipment, bedding, and firewood.
- Winter access: Winter access to Beaver Creek Cabin is available from November through May. Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 8 miles. Turn left at Highway 287 and continue for 14.5 miles. To reach the cabin, park in the Refuge Point parking lot on Highway 287. Continue on Beaver Creek Road via cross-country skis, snowshoes, or snowmobile for 3.5 miles.
Basin Station Cabin (10 miles west of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Basin Station Cabin is an easily accessible forest service cabin-even in the winter! The cabin sits in the Upper Madison River Valley near the South Fork Arm of Hebgen Lake. Visitors only need to cross-country ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile for two miles to reach the cabin from the highway. Once inside, guests will enjoy stunning mountain and valley views. Since Basin Station Cabin is only a short distance from West Yellowstone, it’s an ideal location for visitors seeking a rustic retreat that’s still close to area amenities.
- Know before you go: Basin Station Cabin is equipped with an old-fashioned wooden cookstove and kitchenware. The cabin sleeps up to four guests and has a year-round supply of firewood. Guests must bring their own mattresses and bedding.
- Winter access: Take Highway 20 west from West Yellowstone for 8 miles. To access the cabin in the winter, cross-country ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile two miles north from Highway 20 along Denny Creek Road.
Wapiti Cabin (Approximately 39 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Wapati Cabin is a great option for visitors who want to explore the Taylor Fork area between the Madison Range and the Gallatin Range. The cabin sits at an altitude of 7,000 feet in an alpine meadow that offers access to trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Off-trail snowmobile opportunities around the cabin are restricted, however, since it is located next to a winter wildlife closure area.
- Know before you go: The cabin sleeps up to four people and has a wood stove as well as a wooden cookstove with kitchenware. A limited supply of firewood is available from October 1 through May 31 for use in the wooden cookstove only. Come prepared with mattress, bedding, and plenty of firewood.
- Winter access: Snowshoes, cross-country skis, or snowmobiles are required to access Wapiti Cabin in the winter. Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 33 miles to Taylor Fork Road (Forest Service Road #134). Taylor Fork Road is not maintained in the winter and may not be passable. Wapiti Creek Road is closed to vehicles from December 2 to May 15.
- Skis or snowshoes: If Taylor Fork Road is drivable, continue west for four miles until you reach Wapiti Creek Road. Park off the road and cross-country ski or snowshoe the remaining two miles south to the cabin. If Taylor Fork Road is not drivable, park at the Sage Creek Winter Trailhead off Highway 191 and continue on skis or snowshoes for four miles along Taylor Fork Road and two miles along Wapiti Creek Road until you reach the cabin.
- Snowmobiles: Park at the Sage Creek Winter Trailhead off Highway 191. Continue on the Big Sky/Carrot Basin Snowmobile Trail for six miles until you reach the cabin.
Cabin Creek Cabin (22 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, $30/night)
Cabin Creek Cabin offers stunning views of the Madison Range from an elevation of nearly 8,700 feet. The cabin sits in a wooded area on the edge of a meadow where visitors might catch sight of moose, gray wolves, elk, or other area wildlife. Winter access is by snowmobile only due to the difficult terrain. From Cabin Creek Cabin, visitors can explore the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and access the Big Sky Snowmobile Trail.
- Know before you go: The cabin sleeps up to four people, but guests will need to bring their own mattresses and bedding. The cabin has a wood stove for heat, but firewood is not provided. Cookware and dishes are available.
- Winter access: Take Highway 191 north from West Yellowstone for 10 miles. Park at the Fir Ridge Trailhead and continue on the Big Sky Snowmobile Trail for approximately 11 miles until you reach the cabin. Skiing and snowshoeing to the cabin are not recommended due to the difficult trail conditions.
How should I prepare for a winter stay?
Winter temperatures in West Yellowstone can plummet well below zero, so it’s important to bring appropriate clothing, plenty of firewood, and water to stay warm and hydrated during your stay. Check in with the Hebgen Lake District Office prior to your visit to confirm available amenities and accessibility. Since none of the cabins in the West Yellowstone area have electricity or indoor plumbing, be prepared for a chilly walk to the outhouse!
Visitors can reserve a Forest Service cabin online if they plan to book a stay more than three nights in advance. To make a reservation less than three nights in advance, guests must contact the Hebgen Lake District Office at (406) 823-6961.
For those eager to explore the rustic side of Greater Yellowstone and venture off the beaten path, Forest Service cabins are the perfect alternative for a remote, scenic winter getaway. Book your reservation today!
AUTHOR: CAILTIN SYRSKY