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On the Trail: Upper Beehive Basin

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By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director

Ciara Wolfe and her dog Drifter wind their way along the popular Upper Beehive Basin trail which culminates at a picturesque alpine lake surrounded by jagged mountains after a 2.8-mile climb. PHOTO BY MIKE WOLFE

The Upper Beehive Basin, U.S. Forest Service trail #40, is known for its majestic peaks, breathtaking glacial lake and access to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. The 2.8 mile out-and-back trail is a well-used intermediate dirt trail.

Starting at the trailhead, you immediately cross over Beehive Creek on a narrow log bridge and begin to climb past a couple of large homes. The first mile of this trail is a USFS easement located on private property, so please be respectful of the surrounding landowners and the natural surroundings by staying on the clearly defined trail. The wide dirt path climbs gradually though forested meadows with one short stretch of switchbacks up a steeper section.

At approximately 1 mile, you will come to a junction with a sign denoting the direction and distance to both Beehive Basin Lake and the North Fork/Beehive Connector Trail (USFS #402). At this point it is an additional 1.5 miles until you reach the glacial basin and lake. The last portion of the trail passes several large rock outcrops, through a large alpine meadow and a unique dead-tree forest. This portion of the hike affords excellent views of the surrounding peaks and ridgeline, known for climbing and winter backcountry skiing.

As you begin the final climb, a flat, treed area at the top will come into view. This is the edge of the basin and the location of the lake. Once you crest the ridge, you will see a small alpine lake in the middle of a beautiful alpine meadow. The trail continues around the west side of the lake and on to the summit of Beehive Peak. Climbing Beehive Peak is an additional 1.5 miles and has climbing routes from 5.6-5.11 on high quality granite gneiss.

At the lake there are several glacial rock outcrops perfect for taking a break or enjoying a picnic lunch. The lake is also an excellent place to swim or fish for native cutthroat trout. The hike itself is an incredible experience offering beautiful views and plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings.

However, the end destination of a glacial lake surrounded by large rocky peaks is truly magnificent. Wildlife is abundant in this area so please be bear aware throughout your time on the trail. The trail is a popular destination hike, so be courteous and yield to other users as appropriate.

For more information about Big Sky’s Parks, Trails & Recreation Programs visit The Big Sky Community Organization is a local non-profit that connects people to recreational opportunities by acquiring, promoting and preserving sustainable places and programs for all.

Trails Stats

Distance: 6.3 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: intermediate
Elevation: 7,944 feet at trailhead
Surface: dirt
Uses: hikers, runners, horses, bikers (until you reach Lee Metcalf Wilderness boundary), overnight camping, skiing and snowshoeing
Directions: Turning off of Hwy 191 onto Lone Mountain Trail, follow the signs 9 miles to Big Sky Resort. Continue 1.5 miles past the resort entrance and turn right on to Beehive Basin Road just past the brown USFS Beehive Basin trailhead road sign. Continue up this windy road for 1.8 miles until reaching the trailhead on the left.

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