12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Big Sky, MT

Written by Brad Lane
Jan 13, 2021

Big Sky is a destination for big adventures in Southwest Montana. Quintessential Western experiences surround the whole town, which lies halfway between Bozeman and West Yellowstone. From guided horseback rides to casting a line in the Gallatin River, every activity in Big Sky resembles a postcard image of the state.

Glacial hiking trails, iconic white water, and neck-craning waterfalls define other adventures in this year-round mountain town. And don't forget about skiing. Big Sky is also home to one of the top ski resorts in the country, Big Sky Resort, which offers some of the Biggest Skiing in America.

After the snow melts, the chairlifts at Big Sky Resort service hikers and mountain bikers throughout the summer. And if this larger-than-life landscape of Lone Peak isn't enough, Yellowstone National Park is an hour to the south. This proximity makes Big Sky an excellent basecamp for extended Yellowstone adventures.

Find your next unforgettable Montana memory with our list of the best things to do in Big Sky.

1. Ski at Big Sky Resort

Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Resort | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Big Sky is best known for Big Sky Resort – home to the Biggest Skiing in America. Centered around the imposing Lone Peak and encompassing over 5,800 acres, this mountain mecca easily earns its reputation as one of Montana's best ski resorts.

On top of the abundant acreage, the resort also accumulates an average of 400 inches of snow each year, offering powder stashes galore. Thousands of skiers descend upon Big Sky Resort in the winter. Still, with an incredible 36 lifts, skiers can spread out nicely. A signature ride up the mountain is on the Ramcharger 8. This state-of-the-art, eight-person lift features heated seats and a weatherproof bubble.

The real pièce de résistance at the resort, however, is the Lone Peak Tram. This Doppelmayr lift transports 15 skiers at a time to the top of Lone Peak (elevation 11,166 feet). From the summit, skiers choose a black-diamond route down the mountain. For those just interested in the 360-degree views, the tram can also be top-loaded for a quick ride back down.

Official site: https://bigskyresort.com/

2. Get Inspired by Ousel Falls

Ousel Falls
Ousel Falls

Among the many iconic hiking trails near Big Sky, the hike to Ousel Falls stands above the rest. The hike's proximity to the town center adds to its popularity, as does the family-friendly nature of the short trek. But what makes the 100-foot Ousel Falls so iconic is the spectacular scenery experienced along the way.

Visitors have two hiking options to visit Ousel Falls. The official Ousel Falls Park and Trailhead are just outside the center of town. It's approximately 1.6-miles and less than 400 feet of elevation gain to make it to the falls and back. Along the short route, hikers cross three scenic bridges spanning the South and West Forks of the Gallatin River.

Alternatively, hikers can make a round trip from the city center by following a five-foot-wide gravel trail next to Ousel Falls Road. By making the car-free trip from the city center, Ousel Falls is approximately a 5.6-mile round trip.

The waterfall hike entices throughout the year. Visitors in winter will want to bring along traction devices for slippery conditions. Dogs are welcome on-leash throughout Ousel Falls Park.

3. Sample the Summer Activities at Big Sky Resort

Lone Peak at Big Sky Resort in summer
Lone Peak at Big Sky Resort in summer

Big Sky Resort isn't only an adventure hub during the winter. Resort activities blossom alongside the greener surroundings of the mountain come summer, and this time of year offers a great season to appreciate the stunning mountain scenery encompassed by the resort.

The Mountain Village at the resort is bustling with family-friendly activities and tourist attractions throughout summer. Kids enjoy activities like a bungee trampoline, while adults tend to discover the shopping and dining outlets punctuating the space. However, for the real excitement of Big Sky in summer, it pays to buy a ticket for a Scenic Lift Ride.

Alongside a bird's-eye view of the jagged topography, Scenic Lift Rides access other adventures like downhill mountain biking and disc golf. Hiking and trail running are also popular ways to explore from the lifts. The resort features guided hiking opportunities and mountain bike rentals.

A signature 18-hole golf course at the resort also attracts summer attention. This Arnold Palmer, par-72 golf course features elevated fairways and great views of the mountain. Tee-times are recommended throughout the summer season.

4. Fly Fish Blue Ribbon Waterways

Fly fisherman on the Madison River
Fly fisherman on the Madison River

Anglers from around the world travel to Montana to fish in the many rivers and streams surrounding Big Sky. The movie A River Runs Through It prominently features the nearby Gallatin River. And it's just one of many excellent blue-ribbon waterways in the area.

The Yellowstone and Madison Rivers are also prominent places to cast a line near Big Sky. Including the Gallatin, these three rivers rank high as some of Montana's best places to fly fish.

Consulting a local gear and guide shop is always the best way to go when considering where to cast a line. And local places like Grizzly Guides or Gallatin Outfitters offer guided trips for those looking for some friendly help. While spring and summer are excellent times to wade into the water, fishing is accessible throughout the year in Big Sky.

5. Hike the Beehive Basin Trail

Beehive Basin Trail
Beehive Basin Trail

The miles of hiking trails accessible from Big Sky could make it to the moon and back. Adventures big and small stem out from the community and into the Custer Gallatin National Forest. With many other trails vying for attention, the 6.6-mile round trip to Beehive Basin is arguably the most iconic.

One of Montana's best hiking trails, the trip to Beehive Basin features big mountain views the entire way. The trailhead is near the Big Sky Mountain Village and is extremely popular on the weekends. The one-way route is just over three miles in length, covering 1,500 feet of elevation gain along the way. It's mountain meadow paradise for much of the trek, so factor in some time for taking pictures.

At the end of the Beehive Basin Trail, a beautiful glacier cirque encourages an afternoon of leisurely exploring. The crystal-clear water left by the melted glacier and the upright mountains offer classic Montana scenery.

Summer is the best time to make the hike, when the snow has melted from higher elevations and wildflowers have achieved full bloom.

6. Visit Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Big Sky is an excellent basecamp for exploring Yellowstone National Park. The park's West Entrance is accessible with less than an hour's drive – and a very scenic drive at that. With this proximity, Big Sky enables multi-night adventures or memorable day trips into the nation's first national park.

It takes many years to bask in all the subtle (and not so subtle) beauty of the park, which encompasses a staggering 3,472 square miles. Key highlights include the reliable nature of Old Faithful geyser, the mesmerizing colors of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, and classic traffic jams created by wild bison.

Other impressive features of the park, like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs, are best explored via Yellowstone's best hiking trails.

Several guided sightseeing trips are available in Big Sky, including day trip options from Big Sky Resort. The park itself offers many places to stay the night, including Yellowstone's best campgrounds.

Recommended places to visit from the West Entrance are Steamboat Geyser and the Norris Geyser Basin.

7. White Water Raft on the Gallatin River

Rapids on the Gallatin River
Rapids on the Gallatin River

The Gallatin River begins in Yellowstone National Park and parallels Highway 191 up towards Bozeman. This iconic Montana river passes right by Big Sky as it begins a tumultuous journey through a rocky canyon. This section of the river near Big Sky, with challenging rapids like House Rock and the Mad Mile, earns its designation as one of Montana's best rivers for white water rafting.

Outfitters in Big Sky offer half- and full-day trips on the Gallatin. An upper and lower section divides the white water, with the lower half providing bigger rapids to paddle through. Some guides also offer scenic floats through the Gallatin's upper canyon, where the chances of seeing wildlife are high.

Geyser Whitewater Expeditions is one of the most prominent guides on the Gallatin out of Big Sky. This family-friendly agency offers special packages that combine white-water excursions with other activities like guided horseback rides and zipline adventures. Montana Whitewater is another popular local guide company with trips on the Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Madison Rivers.

8. Tour the Countryside by Horseback

Horseback riding in Big Sky
Horseback riding in Big Sky

There's something about riding a horse through the Montana landscape that feels right – like it's the way the rugged trails and wide-open country should be experienced. Several outfitters in Big Sky enable this type of hoofed travel.

Places like Cache Creek Outfitters, 40 miles north of Big Sky, offer full-day, half-day, and two-hour tours. They also specialize in Horseback Fly Fishing tours, which combine two iconic Montana pastimes.

In Big Sky, Lone Mountain Ranch is another popular equestrian outfitter. This all-inclusive luxury ranch features personalized guided horseback rides with a professional wrangler. Guided rides are offered between June and early October as part of a lodging package or an individual adventure.

9. Tap Your Feet at the Music at the Mountains Summer Concert Series

On Center Stage in Town Center Park, the annual Music in the Mountains summer concert series is a community tradition. This weekly musical showcase takes place every Thursday between June and September. The organizers put together a venerable lineup every year filled with free and family-friendly performances.

It's a good community gathering every time an artist hits the stage. And the beautiful outdoor park venue highlights why summer in Montana is a special time. Visitors are encouraged to bring blankets to sprawl out on the grass. The series also sponsors a spectacular July 4th concert complete with fireworks.

Official site: http://bigskyarts.org/programs/musicinthemountains/

10. Run the Rut

The Rut Mountain Runs is a three-day trail-running celebration based out of Big Sky. The festival includes three long-distance running events and one Vertical Kilometer race on the Big Sky Resort property.

The weekend's biggest distance event is a challenging 50-kilometer trail race that summits the 11,166-foot Lone Peak. This thigh-busting run climbs more than 10,000 feet of elevation and includes steep and exposed ridgeline traverses. For many in the running community, this spectacular trail race is the epitome of their sport.

The weekend also hosts a 28K and 11K race, with less distance but still challenging terrain. The Vertical Mile event features a straight-up-the-mountain route that climbs over 3,600 feet in three miles. Festivities and events backdrop the entire weekend, including a jolly after-party in the Huntley Dining Room at Big Sky Resort.

For those interested in running The Rut, check the official website for information on when entry first goes on sale. All the racing events at The Rut typically sell out within hours.

Official site: https://runtherut.com/

11. Mush a Team of Huskies

Dogsledding in Big Sky
Dogsledding in Big Sky

Dogsledding is one of the top things to do in Montana in winter, and Big Sky is a central destination for guided trips. Two Big Sky outfitters offer guided dogsledding adventures. Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures and Spirit of the North Dog Sled Adventures each offer two-hour tours.

Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures also includes the chance to mush your own dog team. Each guiding company travels deep into a Big Sky backcountry covered by snow. Participants are asked to dress warmly for this family-friendly adventure.

12. Find Some Fresh Food at the Big Sky Farmers Market

Colorful ears of corn at the farmers market
Colorful ears of corn at the farmers market

A great taste of community flavor is at the Big Sky Farmers Market every Wednesday between early June and late August. Taking place in Town Center Plaza, this celebrated weekly event features over 100 stalls and local vendors.

Many of the offerings include seasonal produce from farms within a short driving distance. But the farmers market is also well known for a variety of artisan crafts and goods. Live music often provides a lively soundtrack to the affair, and the warm summer glow of evening casts a laid-back light onto the whole event.

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