Winter Walking: Big Sky
Working a winter hike into your vacation plans doesn’t have to be as arduous as it sounds. In our region, there are many places to access vast expanses of public land that are interconnected by marked trails and riddled with stunning views. These trails range in length and difficulty from short and sweet to day-long adventures, so read-up and find the hike that suits your group best.
Easiest: Ousel Falls Trail
Centrally located, just south of Big Sky Town Center, the Ousel Falls Trail is the best option for groups and individuals looking for a short half-day hike. The trail starts in Ousel Falls Park and follows the South Fork of the Gallatin River for 1.6 miles to, you guessed it, Ousel Falls. The falls themselves are especially beautiful during the winter months. As the spray from the powerful feature freezes on the ravine’s walls, rainbows of water create a dramatic scene as they morph into an ever-changing wall of ice. This trail sees a fair amount of traffic, so it can usually be tackled with no more than a good pair of winter boots and plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Moderate: Porcupine Creek
The Porcupine Creek trailhead is located just 3 miles south of Big Sky on US 191, where the creek meets the Gallatin River. Although it connects with various other trails, the best way to hike Porcupine during the winter is by doing an up-and-back trip. The main trail follows Porcupine Creek through prime elk wintering grounds to its mountainous origin and provides breathtaking scenery the whole way through. The Porcupine trail only has a moderate pitch, but it isn’t very heavily traveled, so snowshoes are often helpful, if not necessary.
Difficult: Beehive Basin
Popular among backcountry skiers, Beehive Basin is a high-elevation trail that starts between Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village and the Moonlight Basin side of the resort. The total distance for this out-and-back hike is 7.1 miles and is a mix of wide-open meadows, steep pitches and dense forest. Since the trail runs up a steep drainage to a high-alpine basin, hikers are surrounded by snowy ridgelines the whole time and also gain a unique perspective on the vastness of Big Sky Resort’s terrain. Once at Beehive Basin, the views can’t be beat—you’ll be surrounded by mountains with elevations well over 10,000’ in a setting so tranquil you’ll probably have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming. Make sure to rent some snowshoes and consult a local outfitter before you tackle this one; having up-to-date trail information and proper equipment can make or break this hike.