7 of the best hikes in Big Sky, Montana.
The Southern Gallatins near Big Sky provide a stunningly-beautiful landscape that is quintessential Montana: wide, shallow rivers; endless meadows; rolling ridges covered in towering pines; and vaulted peaks off in the distance standing sentry above the more moderate landscape below. By "more moderate" and "rolling ridges," I mean mountain ridges that require 4,000-5,000 vertical feet of climbing to ascend. From a distance, the mountains look soft, but up close, the sheer scale of the undertaking weighs down on you, and you realize you're in for a big day in the mountains no matter what.
As you progress from the softer mountains to the vaulted, rocky peaks, the challenge only gets more formidable. In places like the Spanish Peaks, towering spires of sheer granite rise dramatically above you. Entire mountain ridges are composed of treeless, barren rock cliffs that provide a beautiful tableau from below or a dramatic challenge if you attempt to scale them directly.
Thankfully, the renowned mountain destination of Big Sky offers hiking opportunities for all levels of skill and fitness. Close to downtown, you can find an easy tourist hike that leads to the spectacular Ousel Falls. You can even hike into the Spanish Peaks area via a relatively easy (but again, popular) hike on the Beehive Basin trail. Beehive Basin is arguably the most renowned hike in Big Sky, and for good reason!
These two hikes are easily the most famous in the area, but they are constantly crowded every day of the week, all season long. While much of Montana may be wild and remote, and many of the trails are disappearing from lack of use, Big Sky is one of the destinations that most definitely suffers from overuse by the never-ending waves of tourists. That said, there are so many trails in the area that if you do a little bit of planning, you can escape the crowds.
That planning may, ironically, consist of planning hikes that aren't included in this guidebook. But for a fairly well-known hike that's long enough and difficult enough to leave many of the crowds behind, consider this out-and-back route to Summit Lake. At 15.8 miles and 3,658 feet of climbing round-trip, this is an ambitious day hike that could also be turned into an easy overnight backpacking trip or the first leg on a longer excursion.
For even more recommendations, dive deeper into this guidebook. You'll find the classic hike to the peak of Lone Mountain, two fantastic spots to fly fish at Golden Trout Lake and Lava Lake, and a little-hiked yet easily-accessible route known as "Grizzly Loop." Whichever hike you choose, you're in for a fantastic adventure in the heart of the Montana wilderness!
The Big Sky area is renowned as prime grizzly bear country. Signs at every trailhead warn that bears are highly active in the area. To mitigate the risk of bear encounters, make plenty of noise while hiking, try to hike with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your backpack. Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you hike, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.