We picked Big Sky, MT somewhat at random. We were also looking in Bozeman and other city type places within an hour of Yellowstone to stay. Settling on Big Sky for the summer was the single best decision we could have made. If you haven’t been, Big Sky is on the South Western edge of Montana near the border of both Idaho and Wyoming. The town itself is actually split up into three different segments: Canyon, Village, and Mountain. We didn’t know this at the time of booking, but we booked a place in Mountain. Because of that random chance we were in the shadow of Lone Peak and walking distance to the ski resort attached to it almost all summer. You can see some of it here in the background of the totally not instagrammed photo of Giselle the Travel Corgi!
The town itself is pretty small and isn’t exceptionally busy in the summer. That meant we had the trails on and around Lone Peak all to ourselves. The ski resort has what seems like hundreds of miles of running and cycling trails encompassing two mountains, all of which are open all summer. It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable running on the trails. Needing to carry bear spray while running was a new experience. Once I got out there and saw cyclists and runners training for The Rut, an ultra marathon on Lone Peak, I felt a little better. That gave me the confidence to run on some of the best singletrack trails I have ever been on.
Nearby, you have hikes like Beehive Basin, one of the most popular hikes in the area. Popular means something entirely different in Big Sky, though. Where you would normally be walking single file with people all weekend, the remoteness of the hike and the limited parking make it a fairly lightly populated hike by White Mountain or Rocky Mountain standards.
Just outside of Big Sky is the Gallatin National Forest. The hiking in this area is easy from an East Coasters perspective. Lots of switchbacks with dirt packed trails at a nice easy incline. The trails in GNF were just as underused as the trails in Big Sky. It made for spectacular hiking in midsummer with the crowds of shoulder season back home. The best hike in the immediate area was Storm Castle, a nice 5 mile out and back with some spectacular views of the surrounding area. It also sounds cool to say: “I hiked Storm Castle today”
In both the village and mountain parts of town there were events during the week like free live music and food trucks in the village park every Thursday. We also had a few higher brow events, notably the Big Sky Vine and Dine. This was an outdoor festival of all things fancy wine and cheese. We don’t always indulge, but when we do, it’s a fancy wine and food fest. It helped that business casual dogs were allowed.
One of the best features of the town though, was it’s proximity to Yellowstone. In Mountain Village, we were 20 minutes from the border of Yellowstone and about an hour from the West Gate. We spent a few weeks staying in the park because of this. We hopped in and out of the park regularly finding trails that regular visitors to Yellowstone would and did overlook. If it’s on your list, and it should be, book it sooner rather than later. Eventually people are going to start figuring out Big Sky is a great place to be and it’s going to get crowded. Until then, enjoy the great sparsely populated trails and impeccable weather. Did I mention it was no hotter than 80 F the whole time we were there? Yeah…I miss it already.