By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
Beehive Basin in Big Sky is one of Southwest Montana’s finest trailheads, both winter and summer. Starting at 7,800 feet, it allows access to terrain spanning the spectrum from mellow hiking to serious ski mountaineering.
But as the private land surrounding the trailhead has been developed in the last decade, there have been increasing user conflicts in the area. This is private land, and backcountry users have been given tickets for trespassing here.
The first half-mile of the trail (F.S. trail #40) crosses through private land on its way to National Forest and wilderness land. Wooden posts with trail blazes mark the 20-foot wide public easement through the meadows, and a trail corridor is cut through the trees.
The various other trails that leave from the trailhead are all on private land. This includes a popular skin track that winds up a wooded ridge on the north side of the basin, as well as the jumps that are often built in this area.
“We want [people] to follow the trails(s) to the public land and then have a ‘ball’,” said Corey Bronstein, a Beehive Basin Homeowners Association board member. He also wants to remind backcountry users people about avalanche danger in the basin: “It is real and quite dangerous.”
Although the BBHOA doesn’t own the road, it plows a mile prior to its private gates. The cost to plow from October to June is about $25,000-$30,000, Bronstein said. The association covers all of it, and since the Big Sky Owners Association doesn’t participate, there is no financial burden for the local community, he said.
The trailhead this year has reduced parking capacity due to a culvert replacement project paid for by homeowners and the Forest Service. The project wasn’t finished due to October snowfall, according to Jonathan Kempff, the lead engineer for the Gallatin National Forest.
Because there will only be room for a few cars to park there this winter, Kempff suggested backcountry users ski from the lower trailhead parking in the highway turnout, which adds several miles for skiers looking to tour out of the basin.
Road paving, rebuilding the parking lot, seeding, signing and other cleanup will likely resume in June, Kempff said, and ultimately the lot will be expanded and have room for eight or nine vehicles.
Bronstein requested that users not park on the steep hill just before the lot, which makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass through. Other Beehive trailhead parking ethics: don’t block others in, and don’t park in front of the gate.