By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director
Fall weather came back to Big Sky, giving us a few more sunny days to get out on the trail. During that sun-streak I chose to hike up Lemondrop Trail, also known as Lemon’s Knob. The trail is named after the Lemon family, early settlers in Gallatin Canyon who first purchased Twin Cabins Camp, now the site of Rainbow Ranch Lodge.
Lemondrop Trail begins at the Twin Cabins Trailhead 5 miles south of the traffic signal at the junction of Highways 191 and 64 in Big Sky. The trailhead is located behind Rainbow Ranch Lodge, on the other side of the Gallatin River and to the left.
The hike to the top of the knob and back is approximately 3.7 miles, and provides excellent 360-degree views of Gallatin Canyon, the surrounding mountains and the Gallatin River. From the trailhead, hike approximately 2 miles to a saddle where the trail intersects with Porcupine Creek Trail. Veering left at this junction will take you up to Lemon’s Knob.
The trail climbs quickly from the trailhead before plateauing on a saddle that looks north into the Porcupine Creek drainage. Porcupine Creek Trail continues south along this saddle. By taking a left you will climb small Lemon’s Knob to the west, and come down the same way.
When trail conditions are wet, there is an additional unmarked trail at the north end of the trailhead that climbs a south-facing slope up onto the saddle where the trail connects with Porcupine Creek Trail. This route is dryer than the marked trail that meanders through the forested gully, and is the recommended route during muddy conditions. Both trails are heavily used by horses and well-defined.
The Lemondrop Trail leads into the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area, so motorized vehicles are not allowed. Signage at the trailhead explains the Porcupine Aspen Project, which entails cutting down conifer trees and prescribed burns. This will enhance new growth in aspen stands that play a vital role in the ecosystem and creates habitat and forage for big game and upland birds.
The area is a popular access point for hunting, so remember to wear your blaze orange during the fall season and be bear aware while recreating in the area.
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: 3.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 6,206 feet at trailhead
Elevation gain: 1,135 feet
Uses: hiking, running, biking and horses
Directions: Take Highway 191 5 miles south of the traffic light at the junction of Highway 64. Turn left at Rainbow Ranch Lodge and take a bridge across the Gallatin River. Take an immediate left; the dirt road will lead to the trailhead where there is ample parking, an outhouse and horse hitches.