5 of the Best Fall Hikes in Big Sky

Here are 5 Great Fall Hiking Trails in Big Sky Rated from Easy to Hard

Fall is a brilliant time to take a few hikes in Big Sky, Montana. The season brings more vibrant blues to the areas titular skies, which contrast beautifully with autumn colors. Plus, temperatures stay pleasantly mild, and there are far fewer crowds in fall compared to summer and winter.

All in all, you couldn't pick a much better time to enjoy the hiking trails in this mountain paradise. To make your trail selection as easy as can be, we've listed below 5 of our favorite Big Sky hikes you need to check out this fall.

But First! Some Local Hiking Guidelines

With incredible wilderness also comes some incredible wildlife. Montana, and Big Sky in particular, is home to a healthy population of both black bears and grizzly bears. Although bear encounters are rare, you'll still want to be prepared and learn the best bear safety tips. Always pack bear spray, and hike in groups of three or more when possible.

Additionally, you'll want to familiarize yourself with hiking trails before you head out on them. There are a few local trails that feature branching sub-routes or unclear forks that can be confusing to follow without a map. Most of the trails on this list are well-marked and easy to navigate, but you should still at least review the route before hiking them.

1) Ousel Falls Park Trail - Easy

The Ousel Falls Park Trail is located near Gallatin Gateway, 31.3 miles north of Big Sky. It is an out-and-back trail that covers a total distance of 1.7 miles and takes around 45 minutes to complete.

Ousel Falls is one of the more popular trails in the area due to its excellent condition, ease of access, and great condition. Although it can get busy, Ousel Falls Park Trail is fairly wide, so groups and solo hikers can pass each other with ease. Plus, the titular waterfall at the end of the trail is a must-see attraction near Big Sky.

The Ousel Falls Park Trail is ideal for walking your dog, going on a trail run, and families hiking with small children. That said, anyone can enjoy this trail during a fall trip to Big Sky.

2) Reflector Loop - Moderate

The Reflector Loop trail is located on the north side of Big Sky. It is a loop that covers a total distance of 4.1 miles and takes around 2 hours to complete.

Another popular trail, the Reflector Loop makes for a great morning or afternoon hike, especially during the fall. Aspen trees are scatted along section of the trail, lighting up beautifully as a contrast to the deep blue skies. Like Ousel Falls, you can also bring your dog on the Reflector Loop, but they must stay on a leash.

When hiking the Reflector Loop, it's most common to go in a clockwise direction. Keep an eye out for side routes branching from the main trail in case you want to extend the normal hiking distance.

3) Lava Lake (AKA Cascade Creek) - Moderate

The Lava Lake Trail, like Ousel Falls, is located near Gallatin Gateway. It is an out-and-back trail that covers a total distance of 4.1 miles and takes around 3.5 hours to complete.

Lava Lake trail is one of the most scenic trails you can around Big Sky. The route up to the lake features a few small waterfalls, and the foliage is wonderful to admire on the way up. Lava Lake itself is nestled at the base of many surrounding peaks, making for an awe-inspiring scene.

The official trail ends at the base of Lava Lake, but there is a well-worn path that goes along the lake's perimeter to it's upper side. It's definitely worth checking out this path, but don't go further once it starts getting more grown over passed the lake.

4) Beehive Basin - Moderate to Hard

The Beehive Basin trail is located right near Big Sky. It is an out-and-back trail that covers a total distance of 7.1 miles and takes just under 4 hours on average to complete.

Beehive Basin is probably the most popular Big Sky trail, and it's the perfect half-day hike for active families and friend groups. The moderately challenging uphill sections are more the worth the effort to see Beehive Basin's jaw-dropping mountain scenery. Plus, the incredible lake at the end of the trail is a wonderful spot to enjoy a lunch picnic.

In addition to that main lake, you can continue hiking up to find a couple more smaller lakes, provided conditions aren't too dry. Lastly, dogs are welcome on this trail and allowed off-leash in some sections.

5) Garnet Mountain Trail - Hard

The Garnet Mountain Trail is located near Gallatin Gateway in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. It is an out-and-back trail that covers a total distance of 7.7 miles and takes around 5 hours to complete.

With its greater length and elevation gain of 2,814', the Garnet Mountain Trail is certainly the most strenuous hike on this list. That said, most active groups and individuals should be able to hike it without issue. The trail's challenge is also rewarded with some of the most spectacular 360° views around Big Sky. You can observe the scenery from the large watchtower located at the end of the trail.

Although Garnet Mountain Trail is popular, it's strenuous route often makes it less crowded than other trails on this list. Because of this, you'll need to be more attentive for potential bear encounters. Not to worry though, as it's easy to keep your head on a swivel just taking in all of this trail's glorious scenery.

That covers our list of the 5 best Big Sky fall hikes you need to check out during your vacation. Be sure to book your stay with Ascend Big Sky for the best possible accommodations. We have vacation homes and condos fit for every group, and you can browse them all by clicking the link below!