By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director
Indian Ridge Trail is within the Custer Gallatin National Forest and links to several other trails that venture into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and beyond. A moderately difficult trail with a longer distance and gratifying vistas, Indian Ridge Trail starts in a large meadow located directly off of Highway 191.
From the meadow at the trailhead, you’ll travel through a damp, thick forest full of vegetation with mossy ground cover. You’ll follow Logger Creek for about 0.5 miles before crossing the creek on a log bridge and starting to gain elevation.
The climb involves several long switchbacks of moderate grade that lead out of the heavily forested area and into wide-open meadows where glacier lilies, arrowleaf balsamroot, and lupine are in bloom. After cresting the hillside, you’ll begin a climb (approximately 1 mile) onto the ridge. The ridgeline provides beautiful vistas of the Spanish Peaks and the Tobacco Root and Bridger mountains in the distance.
From the ridgeline, you can continue onto Little Hellroaring Creek Trail No. 400. If you opt to turn around and go back down the way you came up, you will have gone 10.9 miles round-trip. If you’d like to continue along Indian Ridge Trail, you’ll follow the ridgeline to Arrow Lake and beyond.
Just beyond the Hellroaring Trail junction, this trail system enters the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and continues as far as Beacon Point, Gallatin Peak or Spanish Creek. This trail network makes Indian Ridge Trail a good launching point for multi-day trips or summiting nearby peaks.
Indian Ridge Trail is an excellent full-day outing for hikers of intermediate level or those training for longer excursions. Much of the trail has a south-facing orientation that allows for early season sun and dry conditions, making this a great spring hike. The varying environment, from heavy forest to mountain meadows, provides exceptional views.
The trail is horse-, hiking- and biking-friendly, so please yield appropriately to the various user types. The Spanish Peaks are common bear habitat so please be bear aware when on this trail and come prepared.
For more information about Big Sky’s parks, trails and recreation programs, visit bscomt.org. The Big Sky Community Organization is a local nonprofit that connects people to recreational opportunities by acquiring, promoting and preserving sustainable places and programs for all.
Distance: 5.4 miles one-way
Elevation gain: 3,869 ft
Uses: hike, trail run and bike
Directions: from Big Sky, drive 17 miles north on Highway 191. Indian Ridge Trailhead is located on the west side of the highway in a large meadow across from Storm Castle Peak. Beckman flats and Hell Roaring Creek Trailhead are located one mile south of the trailhead.