Big Sky, Montana is “the place”! It is the place with a vast array of activities and splendid majestic mountain beauty. And if there is not enough to do right in Big Sky, you are only a short drive to some of the most fascinating and interesting sights in all of the western states. Big Sky is only eighteen (18) miles from Yellowstone National Park – 50 miles to the West Entrance of the Park - or just a day’s drive to Ennis and Virginia City. If you head in the opposite direction, the road will take you to Bozeman, a thriving college town, just 45 miles to the north.
A great scenic drive with fun stops all along the way is to head south on Highway 191 and then turn to the west on Highway 287, Hebgen Lake Road. Within a short period, you will see Hebgen Lake to the south running parallel with the road. This is a good place to take advantage of the various pullouts along the road to take a break, walk down to the shoreline and do a little wildlife viewing.
Continue on Highway 287 and head north at the Junction. Shortly you will enter Ennis, MT. An authentic Western Town, Ennis is surrounded by three ranges of the Rocky Mountains and three million acres of the Beaverhead National Forest. It is filled with quaint shops and small cafes.
Just 15 miles further west, you will come upon Virginia City, MT. This thriving ghost town is frozen in time. It is a remarkably well preserved old west Victorian gold mining town. Take some time and explore.
After you have spent some time in Virginia City, head back toward Ennis and then head north toward Norris. At Norris, you will find a great open-air hot springs that is open year-round from Wednesday to Sunday. This is a great place to relax under the wide-open skies of Montana.
After a soak in the hot springs, continue on east and depending on the time of day, you can either loop back down south to Big Sky, or head into Bozeman.
This scenic loop is truly a full day so get an early start or plan to spend at least one night out.
Simpler trips that would involve only a day can be made either south toward Yellowstone National Park or north toward Bozeman, MT.
Let’s head SOUTH –
West Yellowstone, MT can be found just 50 miles south down Highway 191. In addition to being the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, there are several attractions right in town that shouldn’t be missed.
Historic Crail Ranch – Just a ways out of Big Sky, you will have the opportunity to visit this historic ranch that has the original buildings built in 1905. However, the ranch is only open weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day, so plan accordingly. To get here follow US highway 191 south from Bozeman or north from West Yellowstone. Turn west at the light onto the Big Sky Spur Road (Highway 64) and continue approximately 2 miles until you reach Little Coyote Road. Turn right onto Little Coyote and follow it until Spotted Elk appears on the left. Historic Crail Ranch is on the left-hand side of Spotted Elk Road, set back from the roadway.
Grizzly & Wolf Discover Center – Located right in the town of West Yellowstone, you can see grizzlies and wolves and get a look at their worlds. This facility is open 365 days a year because the bears here do not hibernate. This is a must see if you are in the area.
Yellowstone IMAX Theater - Found adjacent to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the IMAX has a six-story screen with over 12,000 watts of digital surround sound. This is not a movie, this is an experience!
Yellowstone National Park – Due to the short drive from Big Sky, you will have time to do some exploring in Yellowstone and still get back to Big Sky in time for dinner.
Let’s head NORTH -
Just 45 miles north of Big Sky, is the thriving, college town of Bozeman, MT. In addition to great shopping and dining, Bozeman has other attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
Museum of the Rockies – This is a special interest museum that preserves and interprets the natural and cultural history of the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. Something special to see whether you have an hour or a day.
Gallatin County Pioneer Museum – This is a fun stop! The building itself is part of history as it is an historic jail. Here you can get a glimpse of the past.
Parks and Trails – Spent a little time out of your vehicle, and hike or walk along one of the many paths and trails, which are a part of the extensive trail system in and around the city.
Bozeman Hot Springs – Due to the geothermal nature of this area of Montana, you can find a hot springs on nearly every corner, and Bozeman is no exception. One of the unique things about the Bozeman Hot Springs is that they drain the pools every night and then refill them in the early morning hours. So, here you will find no chlorine or any chemicals added to the waters! This is great place to end your day trip – relax and rejuvenate before heading back to Big Sky.
WINTER DAY TRIPS
When the weather turns cold and the roads are covered with snow, you can still take a day trip by climbing on board a snowmobile or getting a ride on a snow coach. This is a wonderful way to experience Yellowstone National Park in the winter. The pristine white wonderland is filled with buffalo, elk, deer and other wildlife. The geothermal nature of the Park provides a mystical picture of this environment.
Big Sky is in the middle of it all. Take advantage of the easy day trips in all directions and take home great memories!
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