Big Sky, Montana has a lot to offer in terms of beauty and adventure. However, there are plenty of fascinating attractions located just a short drive from town that are also worth exploring. Here are some of the best places to visit on a day trip from Big Sky.
What’s the Best Day Trip from Big Sky?
One of the best day trips from Big Sky is to Yellowstone National Park. Located just an hour’s drive away, Yellowstone National Park is a sprawling landscape of canyons, rivers, and geysers (including the legendary Old Faithful geyser).
While Yellowstone is known for its natural beauty and plethora of outdoor activities, there are other notable sights in the area that are also worth visiting. Bozeman, Ennis, Virginia City, and Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park also make great day trips from Big Sky.
Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park is a must-see during your visit to Big Sky. At over 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone is home to numerous attractions and a wide variety of wildlife. It’s also an excellent destination for outdoor adventure. Hiking, cycling, camping, boating, and fishing are all popular activities in the park.
One of the best places to visit in Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the country. With multi-layered colors painted every shade of the rainbow, it’s truly an otherworldly sight you need to see to believe. It’s also worth visiting the Upper Geyser Basin, which contains the continuously erupting Old Faithful geyser.
Most of Yellowstone is actually located in Wyoming, although there is an entrance located on the southern border of Montana. This also happens to be the only entrance that is open all year.
The charming town of Bozeman caters to both nature lovers and city dwellers. Head downtown and walk along Main Street, which is lined with boutique shops, local restaurants, and quaint cafes.
Or you can grab a drink at one of the breweries in town. Bozeman is quickly becoming one of the hottest craft brewing towns in the country, and there are a handful of fun places to drink within walking distance of Main Street.
Another option is to visit the family-friendly Museum of the Rockies to admire hundreds of fossils and dinosaur bones. They also have the largest T-Rex skull ever to be discovered!
For those craving a bit of fresh air, we recommend taking the 1.7-mile trek along the M trail. The entire route is stunning and has dramatic views over the Gallatin Valley and Story Hills.
Bozeman is an easy day trip from Big Sky. It’s just an hour away by car.
Despite only having a population of 1,000 people, Ennis is a bustling town that caters to outdoor enthusiasts. Ennis is centrally located on the banks of the Madison River, single-handedly making it the best place in Montana for trout fishing.
Up the river sits the sparkling Ennis Lake. At only 8-feet deep, the waters here are perfect for wade and fly fishing during the spring and fall.
In the winter, the lake freezes over and becomes a popular destination for ice skating and ice fishing. Summer is also a good time to visit if you like swimming and boating. Because of the shallow depth, the lake can heat up to 80-degrees.
The Virginia City ghost town is one of the more unique places to spend the day. For ten years, Virginia City was a booming gold mining town and the Montana Territorial Capital. But after the rush, the town was completely abandoned, leaving behind numerous Victorian and western-style buildings to crumble.
Thankfully, the town has largely been restored and is now considered a National Historic Landmark. As you walk through streets, you’ll see restored churches, hotels, saloons, and houses that look just like they did over 150 years ago.
Although Virginia City is just 30-miles from Big Sky, it’s only accessible by traveling north towards Bozeman. Therefore, you should allow 2 hours to do the entire drive.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
In just 1.5 hours, you can be at the beautiful and mysterious Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. The park is known for its limestone caverns, which contain massive stalactites and stalagmites protruding from almost every angle. It’s only possible to see the caverns during a guided tour, so it’s worth booking tickets early if you want to witness this natural phenomenon.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park also has seven different hiking trails of various difficulties, so it’s perfect for both family trips and adventurous excursions. There is also a campground for those who wish to spend the night sleeping under the stars.
Montana’s capital is just a 2.5-hour drive from Big Sky. Founded during the Gold Rush, Helena makes for a great day trip if you’re interested in exploring more about the state’s history. Some of the best historical sites include the state capitol building, the Last Chance Gulch district, and the Reeder’s Alley area.
In addition, Helena also has a thriving city center with shops, restaurants, and museums.
While you’re there, notice the 5,461-foot Mount Helena looming over the city. It’s a wonderland for hikers, with numerous trails that ascend towards the mountain’s peak. At the summit, you’ll find Mount Helena City Park, which features unparalleled views of Helena Valley and the Big Belt Mountains.
Big Sky, Montana – FAQ
Is Big Sky a good place to stay to visit Yellowstone?
Big Sky is an hour away from the west entrance of Yellowstone, so it’s possible to stay in Big Sky if you’re planning to visit the park for one or two days. But if your main goal is to spend time in Yellowstone, you might find better (and more affordable) accommodation closer to the entrance.
How many days do you need in Big Sky?
It’s important to consider your plans before deciding how many days to stay in the area. If you’re just planning to spend time in Big Sky, you could get away with a long weekend or even a week. However, you might want to add a few extra days if you’d like to take day trips to Yellowstone or one of the other towns or parks on this list.
When is the best time to visit Big Sky?
Big Sky is truly a year-round destination. Winter tends to be very popular with skiers (it’s one of the best activities to do in Big Sky!), although the warmer months also have their advantages. If you’re coming to hike or spend time outdoors, it’s recommended that you come during the spring or summer to take advantage of everything Big Sky has to offer.
Big Sky is centrally located next to many of the best sights and landmarks in Montana. From the picturesque landscapes of Yellowstone to the charming, laid-back towns of Bozeman and Ennis, there are plenty of fascinating things for you to explore on your day trip from Big Sky.