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On the Trail: Top five hikes for dogs

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When hiking with your furry friend remember to pick up after them, keep them under leash or voice control and be wildlife aware. PHOTO BY SARA MARINO


Even on days when no one is up for a hike, I can always count on my dog to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s nearly impossible not to have a good time on the trail when you see the joy and enthusiasm of your best friend discovering new sights, sounds and smells. Here are a few of my dog’s favorite hikes in the Big Sky area. A few tips to keep in mind – please pick up after your dog, keep him or her under leash or voice control, and be wildlife aware.

South Fork Loop

If you’re short on time but you and your pup really need to stretch your legs, the South Fork Loop is the trail for you. This 1-mile forested loop provides some solitude and room for your dog to run close to Town Center. The trailhead is adjacent to the South Fork of the Gallatin River, giving your pal a chance to cool off and get a drink before or after your hike. Just up the road, Hummocks and Uplands Trails are also great options if you want to hike a bit further. And Beehive Basin Brewery is a few minutes away from the trailhead if you need a post hike libation.

Cinnamon Mountain Trail

This 8.5-mile out-and-back hike begins at the Cinnamon Creek Trailhead, located 10.5 miles south of Big Sky. With a 2,600-foot elevation gain, it offers a nice workout, and great scenery ranging from forested trail to open meadows with views of Sphinx Mountain, the Taylor Hilgards, and Lone Mountain. The first few miles follow Cinnamon Creek, but be sure to pack extra water for your dog, and don’t forget your bear spray.

Little Willow Way

A local favorite for dogs, this 1.6-mile roundtrip trail starts in the Big Sky Community Park and follows the West Fork of the Gallatin River. This is a great hike for older dogs as it is a flat and well-maintained gravel surface. If you want to keep going, you can add the Black Diamond Trail which will wind through the forest and drop down behind the skate park.

North Fork Trail

Whether hiking or biking, the North Fork Trail offers plenty of fun for both you and your dog. Access this trailhead by way of North Fork Road, just west of the entrance to Lone Mountain Ranch. The mileage and adventure-level opportunities abound—hike a few miles in, keep going 6.7 miles to Bear Basin, or take the Beehive Connector Trail.

Lava Lake

There is a reason this hike is one of the most popular in Gallatin Canyon. This 6-mile out-and-back hike climbs a steady and gradual 1,600 feet through both forest and meadow areas until it culminates at the beautiful alpine lake. There are plenty of water opportunities for your dog along the way, and a great place to swim or fish once you reach the lake. Plan to get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds.

A similar version of this story ran in a 2018 edition of Explore Big Sky.

For more information about Big Sky’s parks, trails and recreation programs, visit The Big Sky Community Organization engages and leads people to recreational and enrichment opportunities through thoughtful development of partnerships, programs and places.

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