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On the Trail: Spring thaw



The author’s dog, Sammy, enjoying the South Fork Loop. PHOTO BY SARA MARINO


The first day of spring is right around the corner and while Big Sky will surely see springtime snowstorms, we will also be starting to thaw out in the coming weeks. Don’t let the slushy conditions stop you from getting outside, just be prepared with these tips.

Trail Etiquette

As the snow melts, trails become wet and messy, and most susceptible to damage. Although it’s tempting to walk along the sides of the trail to avoid that big mud puddle, stick to the center of the path and walk through it to protect vegetation and avoid widening the trail through erosion.

Also, do all your fellow trail users a favor by picking up after your pet. When the snow melts, we see what happens when our best friends have been pooping on the trail all winter long.

Consider helping the whole community out by participating in the second annual Runoff Cleanoff on April 25 at the Big Sky Community Park hosted by Big Sky Community Organization and Gallatin River Task Force. Prizes will be awarded to those who pick up the most weight in pet waste.

Wildlife Awareness

Last year, the first grizzly bear sighting in Yellowstone National Park occurred March 8, so it’s time to start being bear aware. Bear Smart Big Sky has some tips for hiking and biking in bear country on their website at

Remember to:

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Travel in groups of three or more and stay together
  • Make sure everyone has bear spray
  • Carry bear spray in an accessible location (hip or chest holster) and know how to use it
  • Stay alert
  • Always keep children and pets close and within sight
  • Make noise to avoid surprising a bear

What to Bring

This time of year, we see warm, sunny days followed by cold nights. That means slick trails in the morning. Yaktrax or trekking poles can be useful to help you stay on your feet in icy conditions.

Make sure you’re prepared with weather-proof boots, clothing layers you can add or subtract, and don’t forget basic items like sunblock, sunglasses and of course a snack and hydration. One great benefit to hiking this time of year is you can probably leave the bug spray at home.

Keep in mind that a slushy or muddy trail will slow your pace, so give yourself enough time to finish your hike without rushing and possibly twisting an ankle, or just plan for a shorter trip. Most important, enjoy taking this time for yourself to connect with nature and leave your worries behind at least for a few hours.

Visit to learn more about Big Sky’s parks, trails and recreation programs.

Sara Marino is the Big Sky Community Organization community development manager. BSCO engages and leads people to recreational and enrichment opportunities through thoughtful development of partnerships, programs and places.

Joseph T. O'Connor is the Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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