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Montana Stops on the Way

Big Sky’s Two Rs

Born next to a ski area, the town of Big Sky offers music, food and miles of trails under its piece of the enormous Montana sky.

If there was ever a town that truly lived up to its name, it’s Big Sky. It’s tucked in the flanks of the green mountains that roll up to Big Sky Resort, a huge ski area with 39 chairlifts and nearly 6,000 skiable acres. Born in 1973 when the ski resort was created, Big Sky is a relatively new town where you’ll find easy-going people who love sharing where they live with people who visit.

You come here for the two Rs, say locals. The first is recreation like hiking, biking, rafting and in the winter, skiing. The other R is relaxation. You recharge. You rejuvenate before you go home.

Big Sky is situated perfectly between Yellowstone National Park and Bozeman, Montana, the latter being a major hub for Yellowstone travelers to fly in and out of. Just 45 minutes from Bozeman and under an hour’s scenic drive from the park, Big Sky offers a range of restaurants, outdoor activities and unparalleled lodging accommodations, the higher end of which you cannot always find closer to Yellowstone.

Tips Up in Big Sky, Montana
Tips Up in Big Sky, Montana (Photo: Visit Big Sky)

You won’t find the shopping experience in Big Sky like you do in Aspen or Vail. But you will find luxury hotels like the Montage Big Sky and The One and Only, set to open its doors in 2024. You’ll also find trendy hot spots like Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge, Tips Up and Pinky Gs, a great spot for pizza and casual food. The Wilson Hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, is within walking distance of food and shops, right in the heart of town center.

Get Outside in Big Sky

There are few better places to reconnect with yourself and family than in the great outdoors, so hit the trails when you’re in Big Sky. Get insider tips and use the public restrooms at the Big Sky Visitor Center located at 88 Ousel Falls Rd Unit A1. Just as in Yellowstone and Glacier, bring bear spray with you every time you hike as bears inhabit the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, of which Big Sky is a part. While hiking, make noise, so that wildlife can hear you coming and not be surprised to see you on the trail.

Ousel Falls near Big Sky, Montana
Ousel Falls near Big Sky, Montana (Photo: Visit Big Sky)

For an easy but pretty hike, head to Ousel Falls. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the falls, depending on how often you slow down to smell the amazing wildflowers along the trail. It’s 1.6 miles out and back. If you stop first at the Hungry Moose Market & Deli, 209 Aspen Leaf Dr., before you drive to the Ousel Falls trailhead, you can buy pre-packaged sandwiches and killer breakfast burritos to enjoy on the trail.

For a longer hike, do the Beehive Basin Trail that’s 6.6 miles roundtrip and worth every step uphill. It’s a moderately challenging hike to the top with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. After just over 3 miles, you’ll enter Beehive Basin with a clear lake with views of Lone Mountain. Pack a lunch and eat at the alpine lake. Find the trailhead on Beehive Basin Road.

Hiking trail in Big Sky
Hiking trail in Big Sky (Photo: Visit Big Sky)

In the Gallatin Canyon, you can hike to Lava Lake, a 6-mile roundtrip hike that climbs 1,600 feet above the canyon floor. It’s popular and gorgeous. The trail head is 15 miles north of Big Sky off of US Hwy. 191 at the Cascade Creek Bridge.

Raft or Ride Horses in Big Sky

Rafting near Big Sky, Montana
Rafting (Photo: Visit Big Sky)

Tired of hiking? Then hit some of the best whitewater rafting or float trips in the West. Raft the Gallatin or float the Madison by rented inner tube. Or experience the rivers in a different way by hiring a fly-fishing guide and discovering some of the best fly-fishing spots in Montana. The team at Gallatin River Guides will give you an unforgettable experience on the river.

Or go on a trail ride with Canyon Adventures or Jake’s Horses.  And then there’s Yellowstone, just under an hour’s drive down the road, where you can explore the world’s first national park. Drive yourself to the West Entrance and explore ton your own or, hire a guide. Most guide companies, like Yellowstone Scenic Tours, will pick you up from your lodging in Big Sky so you don’t need to plan any details about your day in the park.

Where to Eat in Big Sky

A down-home place to hit after a day out on the trails that’s family friendly is the Riverhouse BBQ. You can eat onion rings or fried okra, play corn hole, sit by the outdoor firepit and listen to live music. Known for its Texas Hill Country-style BBQ, it’s got beef brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, burgers and more. When you pair the food with the views of the river, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in paradise. It’s at 45130 Gallatin Road.

Looking for a Montana breakfast spot with a creative flair? Head to The Corral Bar, Steakhouse & Motel five miles down Hwy. 191 from Big Sky. You’ll find buffalo sausage and eggs, along with your standard greasy spoon fare. Knotty pine chairs and tables line the room.

Horn & Cantle in Big Sky
Horn & Cantle in Big Sky (Photo: by Teri B courtesy of Visit Big Sky)

Looking for a more upscale meal in a gorgeous setting? Treat yourself at the Horn and Cantle. Think beautiful wood-hewn bar, floor-to-ceiling windows and leather bound stools. The Horn and Cantle Restaurant is located at the Lone Mountain Ranch and is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cabin Bar and Grill is a Big Sky favorite of both visitors and locals. Located at the base of Big Sky Resort, owners Curly and Kelly Shea have lived in Big Sky for more than 30 years. Their culinary team uses local and regional ingredients for a unique flair in Rocky Mountain Cuisine.

For more information:
Visit Big Sky
(406) 995-3000
55 Lone Mountain Trail, Big Sky, MT 59716