A Travel Guide to Big Sky, Montana

Unveiling Big Sky, Montana: A Traveler's Guide to Montana's Majesty

Big Sky, Montana, is one massive resort town, with a combined three (or four) sets of ski runs over as many peaks, making the town resort the largest ski basin in the United States. Among the small, unincorporated town's resorts is one of the top ten lifestyle estates in the world, the Yellowstone Club. A private community in Big Sky, Montana, whose members include Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Tom Brady, Jennifer Garner, Bill Gates, Dan Quayle, Ben Affleck, and, apparently, Lamb Chop (the sock puppet). I live a short 68 miles from beautiful Big Sky, Montana, and one morning, while sitting on the banks of the Yellowstone River felt an overwhelming urge to make the hour-and-half-drive and see Big Sky for myself.

The drive south on HWY 191 was gorgeous, one of the most beautiful drives I’ve taken, adjacent to the Gallatin River and through parts of the Gallatin National Forest. Along the route are several incredibly photogenic bridges, beautifully designed and constructed, over the Gallatin River. One bridge in particular caught my attention, there were cars parked off the side of the road, and across the bridge were the heads of hiking trails off and into the forest. Dozens of people, of all ages, were jumping off the bridge and into the river. I made a point of stopping at the stop on my way back and sat on a rock by the Gallatin River watching people jump. I hiked into the forest a ways before convincing myself to turn around so I could get home before dark.

Every few miles, between rafters and kayakers, where fishermen fly fishing in the middle of the Gallatin River, it was the first time since moving to Montana that I’ve seen people who have waded out into the river to fish. The sight inspired me to look into a sport I’ve never been interested in. Rafting is also hugely popular here; I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s a sort of right-of-way etiquette between rafters and fly fishermen and how they manage that relationship and share the rivers.

Once I got to, or near Big Sky, maneuvering the roads and my GPS got confusing, I had trouble figuring out where the town was. My GPS was telling me one thing and the signage was telling me another. I drove down HWY 191, trusting my GPS, and passed a school, and several businesses, mostly agricultural, nothing of note so I backtracked and turned down Montana Road 64 (aka Lone Mountain Trail) and discovered that Big Sky is made up of several little pockets of town, at the heart of which is “Town Center.” Making my way to the town center and finding somewhere to park was exciting but also trying to figure out whether I should pocket hop or if the town center was the only area of note left me wondering while I wandered around the town center.

Big Sky, Montana is a winter town, and I got the impression that Saturday nights, at the height of ski season, is really when I should be visiting. Town Center was quiet, a few of the restaurants were closed, including the one I was hoping to sit down at. The Len Hill Park, at the center of Town Center, has an amazing, state-of-the-art stage and sound system (I snuck around a bit with as quiet as it was), and noticed a larger, more luxurious stage a few hundred yards away at the edge of Town Center. And apparently, I had missed the Indigo Girls and Brandi Carlisle who had played the night before at the Wildlands Festival. 

I stepped inside The Rocks hoping to find a table, a cold, strong drink, and some food, and after waiting a little while (surprising since it was just me, but also a good sign), ordered what ended up being the best Taco Flatbread I’ve ever had. I talked with the bartender a little, few people know a place better than its bartenders. When I couldn’t get much from the tenders, I sat across the street at Fire Pit Park imagining what the town was like the night before, during the festival. Fire Pit Park, as you might imagine, has a large round fire pit at the center of the park, and across the street from Fire Pit is Len Hill Music Park where the Indigo Girls played. I could picture people with a drink in their hand, sitting around the firepit listening to the Indigo Girl in the near distance. The music caught between the buildings filling the air and rising above the mountains.

I sat there on a large wooden elliptical art piece that passes as a bench, reading, it was a gorgeous day, and the mountain surrounding Big Sky made for a perfect backdrop, making the blue sky above more momentous. The view is amazing. You could lie there staring out towards the mountains and up into the sky all day, and it wouldn’t be a wasted day. Big Sky, Montana in the summer and fall, is a quiet place, one of the few truly winter towns; in the winter getting to Big Sky from anywhere in either Montana or Idaho is probably very difficult. It's very possible that once you’re there, you’re stuck there, although that might not be such a terrible thing. I’m glad I got the urge to spend the afternoon in Big Sky, the experience opened a door for me and my subsequent trips to the area.

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