On the Trail: The Ranch Loop
By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director
Named after the beautiful ranch it encircles, Ranch Loop is an intermediate 5-kilometer cross-country ski trail that calms the mind and elevates the soul.
Skiers will start at the Lone Mountain Ranch Outdoor Shop, which is located on the northwest side of the LMR parking lot. From there, you’ll head north through a forested area with cabins scattered throughout. Approximately 0.5 kilometers in, you’ll climb a hill and loop up above the ranch buildings on a beautiful open hilltop. This section of the trail is easy and flat, allowing you to take time to embrace the expansive views of Big Sky’s Town Center, Lone Peak and the mountains surrounding the area.
After enjoying the sights, you’ll cross a snow-covered road and come to an intersection. Every intersection on Ranch Loop is labeled with a number and trail directional signs. Using this signage in combination with a trail map (which can be found in the Outdoor Shop or online) will ensure that you stay on route. At this intersection, you’ll stay left on the Ranch Loop to begin the next 2.5-kilometer section of the trail. New to the sport of cross-country skiing, I quickly learned why this trail was labeled intermediate—it has long winding corners with several hilly sections. The combination of an enjoyable trail with the solitude of the location provides an experience that will surely bring a smile and sense of gratitude.
Once you turn the final large corner of this section, you’ll see the Lone Mountain Ranch driveway as it spurs off Highway 64. Ski down your last hill, cross over the driveway and begin a 1-kilometer ski through the forested creek bed back toward the ranch and Outdoor Shop. I shared this portion of the trail with a small elk herd that obviously wintered in the area. Skiing slightly uphill through snow-covered trees provided the perfect end to the experience. Back at LMR, you can follow your ski with a visit to the Saloon for a small bite to eat, a meal with friends, or a warm drink by the fire.
Lone Mountain Ranch is located just off Highway 64 approximately 4.5 miles west of its intersection with Highway 191. After you pass through Town Center, you’ll begin your climb toward the peak and see the Lone Mountain Ranch sign and driveway on your right. The Outdoor Shop and parking lot can be found on your left about a half-mile up the road. You can purchase an annual season pass or a day pass ($20/day) there. All proceeds from pass sales go toward the cost of grooming our winter Nordic trail system. For a complete map of Big Sky’s 85 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails, visit lonemountainranch.com/winter-things-to-do/nordic-skiing.
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.
Elevation: 6,700 feet
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Surface: classic track includes both skate and classic groomed trails
Uses: cross-country skiing
Directions: From Gallatin Canyon/Highway 191, turn west on Highway 64. Drive approximately 4.5 miles and turn right at the Lone Mountain Ranch sign. The parking lot is locate