February 4, 2014

Canine-friendly cross-country skiing at Como Trails


On Sunday, we traveled south of Hamilton to give the dog-friendly Como Trails cross-country ski area a try and found near solitude, encountering only a handful of people in the first and last mile.

There are plenty of places around Missoula to ski with dogs, but Como is one of only two that allows them on groomed trails. (The other is at Lubrecht Experimental Forest.) It's also the newest cross-country ski area in the region, opening in the winter of 2009-10, and this was our first trip there.

The trails begin above the shores of Lake Como, weaving over and among the ridges to the south. Not being familiar with them, we chose a loop that included Panorama Point, hoping for a good view.


Our route began on a groomed road, then turned onto a narrower trail through the trees. After about 1 1/2 miles, we ascended a steep, untracked section of powder called Uff-Da to Panorama Point. Atop the ridge, we could see the surrounding mountains - the Bitterroots continuing to the west and the Sapphires across the valley to the east - but Lake Como was out of sight, beyond a ridge to the north.

After stopping briefly at the point, we followed a flat trail along the ridge to the next junction, then turned south and skied down to the Chute, which drops steeply to a lower trail at about three miles.

From the bottom of the Chute, it's five miles back to the parking lot on a wide, groomed trail that rolls through a relatively open forest of tall pine trees. Along the way, we passed a couple of parcels of fenced-off property that required a little dog calling - there were horses in one area - but otherwise were no trouble.


We never did get a view of the lake, but there are more trails to explore in the future.

Here are more photos from skiing at Como Trails.

Distance: 8-mile loop. The area has a total of more than 30 miles of groomed trail.

Trailhead: Parking for Como Trails is 12 1/2 miles south of Hamilton on U.S. Highway 93, then 4 miles west on Lake Como Road, above the boat ramp.