Discover the Coldest Place in Montana (-70°F!)

Montana
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Written by Colby Maxwell

Updated: May 31, 2023

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Key Points:
  • Roger’s Pass is a mountain pass located in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
  • Depending on the source, Roger’s Pass has a recorded lowest temperature of either -70 or -46 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roger’s Pass is known for being the coldest place in the state, with temperatures regularly dropping below freezing, even in the summer months.

Of all the states known for being cold, Montana is usually on most people’s top-5 list. This magnificently beautiful state has sweeping landscapes and rare wildlife but also has some of the most severe weather anywhere in the United States. We are going to take a look at the coldest place in Montana, plus learn about some of the other regions in the state and how Montana wildlife handles the freezing cold. Let’s get started!

Roger’s Pass is the coldest place in the state of Montana.

The Coldest Place in Montana

In rather interesting events, there is a lot of debate online about the coldest place in Montana.

The primary reason there is so much debate has to do with two potential temperature measurements; both centered around a place known as Roger’s Pass. Depending on the source, Roger’s Pass has a recorded lowest temperature of either -70 or -46 degrees Fahrenheit.

ROGER'S PASS

Roger’s Pass is named after the famous explorer and surveyor, Major A.B. Rogers, who was the first person to discover the Pass in 1881.

©Alessandro Zappalorto/Shutterstock.com

Either way, it’s incredibly cold and is probably the coldest spot in the entire state. If the -70 degree measurement is correct, it would solidify Roger’s Pass as having the coldest recorded temperature of any state in the contiguous United States. This would mean that the only other places in the world that have had colder temperatures would be Alaska, Antarctica, Canada, Greenland, Russia, and China.

Since the establishment of a modern weather station, the temperature hasn’t fallen below -46 degrees Fahrenheit, so debate around the exact number ensues. For anyone looking to read the current conversation about the temperatures recorded at Roger’s Pass, you can check it out here.

What Makes Roger’s Pass So Cold?

Rogers Pass in Canadian Rockies (Glacier National Park).

Rogers Pass in the Canadian Rockies (Glacier National Park).

©Tupungato/Shutterstock.com

Roger’s Pass is a mountain pass located in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. It is known for being the coldest place in the state, with temperatures regularly dropping below freezing, even in the summer months. The pass is named after the famous explorer and surveyor, Major A.B. Rogers, who was the first person to discover the pass in 1881.

The pass is located at an elevation of 5,610 feet, contributing to its cold temperatures. The high altitude and exposure to the elements make it a challenging place to live and work, but it also offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests. The region slopes towards the pass, making it a cold sink for the coldest air to get stuck in the pass itself.

Where Is Roger’s Pass Located on a Map?

Roger’s Pass is in Lewis and Clark County. It is more than 100 miles south of Marias Pass. It’s near Helena National Forest and traversed by Montana Highway 200, which is the shortest route connecting Great Falls and Missoula.

The Coldest City in Montana

In the winter, temperatures in West Yellowstone regularly reach between 14°F and 0°F, with January being the coldest month.

©Edward Fielding/Shutterstock.com

Since people don’t necessarily live in Roger’s Pass, it isn’t a place, and it isn’t as relevant to the coldest temperatures humans generally encounter in Montana. That honor goes to the small town of West Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone is easily among the coldest cities in Montana and may just be the coldest of them all. It is a small town located on the edge of Yellowstone National Park and it is known for its extremely cold temperatures. The town has a high elevation of 6,000 feet, which primarily contributes to its cold climate. In the winter, temperatures in West Yellowstone regularly reach between 14°F and 0°F, with January being the coldest month. During this time, highs typically reach about 25°F, meaning the warmest days are still well below freezing.

Officially, West Yellowstone is the coldest city in the contiguous United States. It holds the record for the all-time lowest recorded temperature in any residential community, at −66 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Extremely Hardy Wildlife of Montana

Balsam Fir in Winter

The balsam fir has needle-like leaves that are covered in a waxy substance, which prevents moisture loss and protects the tree.

©Sonia Horowitz/Shutterstock.com

Animals and plants in Montana are, succinctly, pretty resilient. In order to live in the state year-round, they have evolved some serious ways of dealing with the cold and staying warm.

One plant that can thrive in Montana’s cold climate is the balsam fir, a type of evergreen tree. The balsam fir has needle-like leaves that are covered in a waxy substance, which helps to prevent moisture loss and protects the tree from freezing temperatures. It has a shallow root system that allows it to easily absorb moisture from the ground, even when the ground is frozen.

Grizzly bear

Grizzly bears hibernate each year to survive the cold conditions.

©Perpis/Shutterstock.com

One species of animal that is well-adapted to living in Montana’s cold climate is the grizzly bear. The grizzly has a thick coat of fur and fat that insulates it from the cold, and it is also able to conserve heat by hibernating during the winter months.

Another creature that is able to thrive in the cold is the wolverine. The wolverine has a thick, shaggy coat that helps to insulate it from the cold, and it is able to forage for food even in deep snow. Wolverines don’t hibernate, but they are excellent hunters and extreme scavengers.

Wolverine walking on grass

Wolverines have extremely dense fur and large snowshoe-like paws that allow them to stay on top of deep snow.

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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