Take a hike: Blaze some new trails

Story and photo by Katie Alvin Explore Big Sky Contributor

Ask any local where you should hike and most will list the same handful of Big Sky standbys: Ousel Falls, Beehive Basin, or Porcupine. But while these hikes deliver easily accessible, quintessential Montana scenery, there are countless additional trails worthy of exploration. Here are a few short, easy hikes that will offer you new views that are just as memorable this summer.

These first two hikes are on Big Sky Community Corporation trails, located in the heart of the Big Sky Meadow area. The nonprofit BSCC works to create and maintain a beautiful trail system that connects developed areas with meadows, mountains and streams. Stay tuned for two new BSCC hikes opening in the Big Sky Meadow in August. All of these trails are perfect for days when you have a short hiking window.

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Little Willow Way and Black Diamond trails, Big Sky Meadow
A local hike perfect for pausing to appreciate the Big Sky community

How to get there: From Lone Mountain Trail, take Little Coyote Road north to the Community Park in the meadow. Park and access the trailhead at the pavilion.

What you’ll find: While the Little Willow Trail is popular for dog walkers and locals on their lunch breaks, it’s a jewel in the BSCC trail system. The trail runs along the Middle Fork of the West Fork, which is chock-full of lively small trout. The creek is easily accessible and offers many spots for well-supervised kids to play on the banks. At Little Willow Way’s end, take the Black Diamond Trail to the north and loop back for expansive views of Big Sky with Lone Mountain in the background. As you return through the disc golf course, looking across sports fields, climbing boulders, the summer camp yurt and playgrounds, be sure to pause for a moment and appreciate all that BSCC has done for recreation in the community.

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Swan Creek, Gallatin Canyon
A magical, forested hike along the creek to an open valley with a beaver pond

How to get there: From the Big Sky stoplight on Highway 191, drive nine miles north toward Bozeman to access the Swan Creek road on the right. The trailhead is about one mile down the road, past the Forest Service campground.

What you’ll find: This beginner trail meanders along a tumbling mountain stream, through old growth forest, over 2.5 billion-year-old rock, past a tiny spring-fed waterfall, and into a beautiful valley with an active beaver pond, just over a mile in. Bring a small-stream fly rod to cast at spunky tributary trout. In late summer, keep your eyes out for wild raspberries and thimbleberries along the trail.

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Lemon’s Knob (or Lemondrop), Gallatin Canyon
The area’s easiest summit with 360-degree views

How to get there: From the Big Sky stoplight, drive five miles south to Rainbow Ranch. Turn left, go over the bridge and head north to the Twin Cabin Trailhead. Take the trail on the south end of the parking lot. Just over a mile in, take the trail to the left and ascend another half-mile to Lemon’s Knob.

What you’ll find: The Twin Cabin Trail is the less-traveled side of the Porcupine drainage, offering the same views with fewer people. A moderate climb takes you along a creek, through open meadows and wetlands, and to the trail junction in a sweeping valley carpeted with wildflowers and framed by mountain peaks. Hike up to Lemon’s Knob for 360-degree views of Lone Mountain and Yellowstone National Park.

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NEW TRAILS OPENING IN AUGUST! Hummocks and Uplands trails, Big Sky Meadow
What you’ll find: These two new public trails, built and managed by BSCC, are in the final stages of construction. Both trails traverse the area’s “hummocks,” bumpy topographic features created by ancient, ice-age landslides. These hummocks are made up of moist, well-drained soil, creating a perfect habitat for aspen trees. The trails pass over exposed Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, volcanic rock formed by the 2.1 million-year-old Huckleberry Ridge eruption of Yellowstone’s caldera, thought to be the largest in its history. Information on the trails’ grand opening will be posted at bsccmt.org and on the Big Sky Community Corporation’s Facebook page.

Why not make it a point this summer to try something new? For information and maps of BSCC trails and the larger Big Sky area, stop by one of the local outdoor shops. Have fun and get outside!

Katie Alvin has lived in Big Sky for more than 20 years. With degrees in environmental studies and soil science, she has been involved with environmental and outdoor education for 25 years, and owns East Slope Outdoors with her husband Dave.