By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director

From the U.S. Forest Service North Fork Trailhead, you can enjoy an early season 7.5 kilometer Nordic ski along the North Fork Trail, also known as Walkin’ Jim’s Loop. The trail falls within Lone Mountain Ranch’s 85 km groomed trail system, but provides an excellent opportunity to ski before LMR begins grooming in early December. The densely forested area retains snow pack, and being fairly flat, the trail is accommodating to early season conditions.

The loop begins with 1.1 kilometers of easy skiing that passes through private property on an easement the USFS holds. The trail then cuts through a ravine, with the North Fork of the West Fork tributary found on the east side of the trail at the bottom.

After crossing a paved road, the trail continues for another 0.8 km of intermediate terrain that features some short climbs and descents. After a total of 1.9 km, you will come to the lollipop loop junction.

From here, you can continue on for a 3.7-mile intermediate level loop. This section of the trail offers the solitude of nature and the benefits of an aerobic ski.

If you get tired or are skiing with youth, there is a cut-off trail in the middle of the loop that will greatly shorten the distance of the trail. Upon completion of the loop, you return to the intersection where you began, and enjoy a relatively gradual downhill ski back to the trailhead on the same trail that led to the junction.

The trail is a backcountry ski until LMR begins grooming, so classic or backcountry Nordic skis are recommended. The road to the trailhead is not entirely groomed, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is also recommended.

Once LMR begins their grooming season, Walkin’ Jim’s Loop—named after the late poet, musician and environmental activist Jim Stoltz who drove the horse drawn sleigh at Lone Mountain Ranch for over 25 years—can be accessed from the ranch itself.

Walkin’ Jim’s Loop can be found on LMR’s winter trail map at lonemountainranch.com/the-ranch/.

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.

SIDEBAR: Trail stats

Distance: 7.5 km out-and-back loop

Difficulty: intermediate

Elevation at trailhead: 7,170 feet

Surface: classic track with both skate and classic groomed trails

Uses: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking

Directions: From the Canyon: Take Lone Mountain Trail west from Hwy 191 for approximately 4.7 miles. Past the entrance to Lone Mountain Ranch, turn right onto North Fork Road and then take a left onto Ridge Road for approximately .3 miles to the trailhead.