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On the Trail: Carlin’s Cruise to Joy Loop



By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director

Carlin’s Cruise to Joy Loop is exactly what the name suggests—a joyful cruise. This trail is perfect for beginner to intermediate-level Nordic skiers looking for a quick and scenic ski.

The 4.2-kilometer loop starts from the Lone Mountain Ranch outdoor shop on an easy, flat trail heading north. At the first intersection, take a left toward Carlin’s Cruise followed by a hard right onto the trail.

This section of the trail entails a gradual climb for another 0.5 km. During the climb, the trail slowly bends east until arriving on top of a small bluff above the ranch.

Continue for another 1.2 km on Carlin’s Cruise for a fairly flat ski with beautiful vistas of Lone Mountain to the west and the Meadow to the east. At the next intersection, continue straight onto Joy’s Loop for a shorter ski; or take a left onto the Ranch Loop for an additional 3.5 km of beginner to intermediate trail.

Joy’s Loop heads downhill around a sharp corner that leads to 1-km of gradual downhill. At the base of the bluff, a left will take you back toward the outdoor shop.

A fun loop for skiers of all ages and abilities, this trail is one of my favorites to take my children on when we want to get out of the house for a little exercise, or need a place to release some afterschool energy during our long winter months. Once back at the outdoor shop, my children’s favorite après ski activity is hot cocoa by the fire in Horn and Cantle Saloon.

An annual season pass or day pass can be purchased in the Lone Mountain Ranch outdoor shop. All proceeds from pass sales go toward the cost of grooming Big Sky’s Nordic trail system. For a complete map of Big Sky’s 85 km of groomed Nordic trails, visit

For more information about Big Sky’s parks, trails and recreation programs, visit 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.

Trail stats

Distance: 4.2 km
Difficulty: beginner to intermediate
Elevation: 6,700 feet
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Surface: skate and classic groomed trails
Uses: cross-country skiing
Directions: From the canyon, take Lone Mountain Trail west from U.S. Highway 191 for approximately 4.5 miles. Turn right at the Lone Mountain Ranch sign. The parking lot and outdoor shop is 0.5 miles up the road.

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