We can all agree – Yellowstone is beautiful. There are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere on Earth. Bison freely roam its open valleys. The landscapes are majestic and raw. What’s not to like? Well, the crowds. In August, over 800,000 visitors come to enjoy Yellowstone, meaning you’ll likely encounter congested roads, parking, boardwalks, and waits at the gate. Packing your patience with all of this going on can be tough.
The good news is that the area just outside of Yellowstone is also a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a 34,375-square-mile nearly intact temperate zone ecosystem with Yellowstone National Park at the core. Much of the park’s natural beauty and diversity are still there, but without the huge crowds, construction, and traffic. There are ample hikes and adventures to be had in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Gallatin National Forest, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, all within a few hours drive from the park. Make Big Sky or Bozeman your base camp for a few days to escape the park crowd and experience more of Greater Yellowstone
Here are just 14 selected adventures near Big Sky and Bozeman to get you started on exploring Greater Yellowstone!
- Fairy Lake to Sacagawea Peak: Traveling from the beautiful Fairy Lake to the tallest peak in the Bridger Range is sure to be a memorable trip.
- New World Gulch: While close to town, the thick forest of Bear Canyon’s foothills help keep this trail quiet and remote feeling year round.
- Chestnut Mountain: Enjoy a moderate hike along a mountain ridge with excellent views of the Gallatin Valley and nearby mountain ranges.
- Mount Blackmore: The peak offers 360-degree views including the Hyalite Reservoir below, the surrounding Gallatin Range, and the Bridger Mountains and Crazy Mountains far to the north.
- Hyalite Lake: This long day hike passes 11 (yes, 11!) tumbling waterfalls in a forested canyon en route to an alpine lake. Peak baggers can also opt to summit the nearby Hyalite Peak.
- Pine Creek Lake: A tough day hike to an alpine lake cradled in a rocky cirque below Black Mountain. Hikers wanting something easier can head to Pine Creek Falls 1.1 miles in on the same trail.
- Bear Trap Canyon: Hiking through Bear Trap Canyon takes you into a rocky landscape that is unlike much of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Madison River flowing through the canyon also provides ample fishing opportunities.
Big Sky-based adventures
- Ousel Falls: A short, family-friendly hike leads you past a vertical rock wall to the 35-foot cascading waterfall. Ousel Falls is also a prime ice climbing destination.
- Beehive Basin: A lush alpine basin with a small lake surrounded by tall mountain peaks. Catch a different perspective of Lone Peak of the famous Big Sky Resort.
- Cinnamon Mountain Lookout: As the least visited hike on this list, you might see just a few others on this trail (if any). While you cannot go in the lookout, Cinnamon Mountain offers one of best views of the Madison Range from the top.
- Lava Lake: A popular day hike in the Gallatin Canyon offering a shaded trail and a gorgeous lake destination in just a 6-mile trip!
- Storm Castle Peak: A steep day hike to a unique rocky peak with grand views of Garnet Mountain and the Gallatin River.
- Garnet Mountain: A less-traveled mountaintop trek with big views, wildflowers, and a Forest Service lookout where you can make reservations to spend the night.
- Cliff and Wade Lakes: Fed by natural cold water springs, these clear emerald lakes attract abundant water fowl, songbirds, herons, and birds of prey, such as the bald eagle and osprey. The perfect spot for a day of canoeing, paddleboarding, or fishing. There are a few trails in the area to get a hike in. There is boat-only access to the Hidden Lake Trail from the head of Cliff Lake.