Big Sky may have built a reputation as a winter wonderland, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have just as much to offer in the summer! As the snow clears out, the trails open up, and nature comes to life, you’ll discover a whole other side to the magical mountain town. While winter is ideal for snow sports, summer gives you the chance to have exciting adventures throughout Big Sky’s many beautiful parks. You can hike, bike, and climb all through the season! But with so many parks, how can you decide where to begin? We’ve curated a list of can’t-miss parks and trails around town so that you can have the best, most adventurous summer ever!
Custer Gallatin National Forest
Custer Gallatin National Forest is a sprawling, diverse landscape that covers more than 3 million acres in Montana. This forest is considered the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. It contains ample opportunities for adventures, as it is home to the tallest mountain in Montana (Granite Peak), remote buttes, rugged bluffs, and more. Animals that you may spot while you’re visiting include four federally listed threatened species- grizzly bears, gray wolves, bald eagles, and Canada lynx.
Hiking is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in all that Custer Gallatin has to offer. For those based in Big Sky, we recommend…
- North Fork Trail (moderate, 705 ft elevation gain, 5.8 miles, out-and-back)
- Lemonknob Loop (moderate, 1095 ft elevation gain, 3.5 miles, loop)
- Moose Tracks Snowshoe Trail (moderate, 1660 ft elevation gain, 6.1 miles, out-and-back)
- Cinnamon Mountain Trail (hard, 2621 ft elevation gain, 8 miles, out-and-back)
- Bear Basin (hard, 2060 ft elevation gain, 12 miles, out-and-back)
- Lone Mountain (hard, 3677 ft elevation gain, 7 miles, out-and-back)
For more trails in Custer Gallatin National Forest (not sorted by proximity to Big Sky), visit the park’s AllTrails page.
Be sure to check out Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn (HPBH) Wilderness Study Area while you’re exploring Custer Gallatin National Forest. One of nine Wilderness Study Areas in Montana, this section of the forest contains 31 named mountain peaks, plus valleys, cirque basins, and other unique features. It is a fantastic place to hike.
A great first hike to tackle in HPBH while you’re visiting Big Sky is Windy Pass Trail. This 6.9 mile out-and-back trail is moderate and scenic. Rocky and largely uphill, this hike will take you through the woods and across water, past stunning open fields of colorful wildflowers. There are also a number of lookout points along the trail- and a waterfall!
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park became the country’s first national park in 1872. It has delighted generations of visitors since then! The unique hydrothermal and geologic features are a major draw, but there is plenty to do and see across the park’s 2.2 million acres.
Yellowstone is worthy of a dedicated trip- but if you just want a taste of the action, then you can visit and hike for a day while you’re in Big Sky. Big Sky is only a short drive from the western entrance to the park, so it is easy for visitors to get to. The difficult part will be deciding when to leave!
There are miles and miles of trails to hike in Yellowstone. If you’re coming from Big Sky, then there are a few that are more accessible than others. We recommend…
- Sky Rim Loop Trail (hard, 4675 ft elevation gain, 18.2 miles, loop)
- Daly Creek Trail (hard, 1774 ft elevation gain, 11 miles, out-and-back)
Not in the mood for a challenging hike? Check out these tours that are endorsed by Big Sky Resort: https://bigskyresort.com/summer-activities/yellowstone-national-park
Do you have a favorite park or outdoors space to visit during the summer in Big Sky? Share it with us in the comments!