After what seemed like endless driving through South Dakota and the Badlands, into a small chunk of Wyoming, and then back into Montana, we made it to Big Sky. This was not my first time in Montana or Big Sky, but it had been over nine years since my last visit!
Big Sky is a retreat for outdoor activity lovers, rugged adventurers, or people who just want to relax with a gorgeous view of never-ending mountain tops. Sitting in the Madison Range, of the Rockies, it’s a must visit if you’re cruising through Montana as a part of a larger road trip, passing through from Yellowstone National Park, or as a destination all by itself for a vacation.
Jake’s Horses & Trail Rides
If you want the full western experience, go for a trail ride at Jake’s. This ranch boasts over 100 horses with a professional staff to help even the most novice riders feel comfortable. They have all the gear you need, including helmets, just make sure you wear jeans or other protective pants and shoes – ideally cowboy boots but they can work with tennis shoes too. Flat soles ideally.
Ousel Falls Hike
This is an easy but gorgeous hike, and a must-do if you’re spending some time in Big Sky. It’s a fairly easy hike to enjoy during the summer or autumn months, just be careful if the path is icy. Check out the waterfalls and the lovely views of the Gallatin River flowing through. It’s a 1.6 mile trail, so not too long, and it’s pretty heavily trafficked. That being said, there have been recorded animal attacks in this area so it’s a good idea to bring bear spray or a noisy bell to hang off a backpack while hiking.
Worth a short visit, this tiny church offers a gorgeous view of the mountains and is right in the heart of Big Sky. It was closed when we stopped by, but it’s a well-maintained spot to check out when driving through Big Sky.
I felt a childlike feeling of giddy excitement every time we saw an Elk or a herd of Elk on the side of the road when driving around Big Sky. Even though they seem much more massive and formidable than deer, they are just as timid and will run off when you get close. It was super fun to try to call them – even if it didn’t really work. Keep your eyes peeled around sunset if you’re driving, they are everywhere!
Not only does this place have amazing barbecue, the prices are also so cheap! There’s a fried chicken special, BBQ platter combos, cheap drinks, and a super fun, western atmosphere. Sit outside on the patio or enjoy the indoor seating area around a dance floor where (in non-COVID times) there is live music. Stop at the Riverhouse for at least one meal or drinks when you’re in Big Sky, you won’t regret it.
Horn & Cantle Restaurant at Lone Mountain Ranch
For a fancier affair, this upscale, cabin-chic steakhouse has it all. We went here for cocktails and an appetizer, to enjoy the ambience in the bar area. The Elk meatballs served in a delectable marinara sauce with bread did not disappoint, and neither did my old fashioned. Definitely worth a visit for just a drink, but also looked like a dinner would be fabulous here too.
Yellowstone Day Trip
How does one summarize a visit to Yellowstone National Park in a paragraph?
From Big Sky you can reach the west entrance of the park in an hour’s drive. There’s so much to see in Yellowstone, planning a visit to hit the highlights you want (if only venturing in for a day) is crucial so that you don’t become fatigued or miss out on a top item of the list.
We saw Old Faithful do her thing. We saw Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, checked out many muddy, bubbling gesyers, and saw an impressive herd of bison cross the road right in front of our car. Yellowstone warrants an entire trip on its own, but if you only have a day, you can still see and do a lot of things that will leave you with unforgettable memories of a natural wonder of the world.
If you do go to Yellowstone on a day trip from Big Sky, GO EARLY. I cannot stress this enough. You’ll want to avoid the insane traffic build up and get a few things ticked off your list before the crowds build. Pack snacks and a lunch – we brought loads of food and drinks to eat along the way which saved time and was way more convenient, as the lodge and dining options were closed.
Cooking & Relaxing on Vacation
While indulging in the best restaurants and bars is something I always love to do while traveling, there’s something so nice about staying in a place where you can cook meals. I loved sipping my morning coffee overlooking the endless expanse of pine trees with the silhouettes of mountains surrounding Big Sky. I’ll admit I did little to none of the cooking on this trip, Nayda did almost all of it, making a delicious Coq au Vin and Lomo Saltado.
And when all else fails – charcuterie boards and fresh salads are always a win.
It was an amazing trip to Big Sky in Montana. The perfect balance of adventure and relaxation, entering the autumn season with some of my favorite people.
Have you been to Big Sky? What are your must-dos there? I’m especially interested to hear from anyone who has been in the winter time. I’d love to go skiing/snowboarding there some year and would love to hear any insights!