Summer is a great time to take a trip to Big Sky, Montana, whether you are traveling as a couple or as a family with kids. Below is a list of our favorite things to do in Big Sky with kids. I imagine if our kids weren’t along, we would have done more hiking, but otherwise, there isn’t much I would have changed about the trip!
- Stay in a Cabin at Cowboy Heaven. We rented a cabin in Cowboy Heaven, a neighborhood of cabins that’s about a 10-minute drive from Mountain Village. Our cabin had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen and living room area, and a hot tub on the deck outside. It was perfect for our family of four on a summer trip, though I imagine in the winter with ski gear it could get pretty crowded and disorganized because there is no place to store groceries or gear. We loved the location and views. The kids loved the cozy interior of the cabin and of course we all enjoyed relaxing in the hot tub each night.
- Scenic Chair Lift Ride in Mountain Village. On our first day in Big Sky, we went into Mountain Village at the base of Lone Peak. It was quiet in the village (it was summer, during a pandemic) but there were a couple of shops open. We purchased tickets for the scenic lift rides and rode the Explorer lift up the mountain, then hiked back down via Huckleberry Trail–about a 45-minute hike. We were entertained at various points by watching the zipliners fly down the hill. Once we were back at the base, we took the Ramcharger lift to the top of Andesite Mountain. We are a family of skiers, and the Ramcharger lift was the nicest chair lift we’ve ever ridden. It debuted in December 2018 at Big Sky and is an eight-seat chairlift (the first 8-seater in North America) with ergonomically-shaped, heated seats and a “Big Sky blue” bubble that can be pulled down to insulate riders from the wind and cold. We walked around at the top of the mountain and snapped some family photos before riding Ramcharger back down.
- Hike to Ousel Falls. Our kids (like many kids) don’t enjoy hiking for a long time, so this hike to Ousel Falls was perfect for our family. It’s an easy walk on a crushed gravel trail and there are lots of places to go off-trail to get down to the river. The falls are beautiful, and we had fun wading into the freezing cold water at various spots along the trail. We liked this hike enough to do it twice during our stay in Big Sky.
- Rafting the Gallatin River with Montana Whitewater. We booked a trip with Montana Whitewater on the Gallatin River. Because it was late August, we did not need wetsuits, and we brought our own water shoes. August is a great time to go rafting with kids because the river is low and the rapids are only Class 1 or 2…nothing scary. We weren’t worried about falling out or the raft flipping. We booked a private boat (so it was just our family and a guide), though we still had to ride a shuttle bus (masks required and bus windows open) filled with about 40 people to get from the office to the entry spot of the river. It was a fun and gentle two-hour trip down the river once we boarded the raft. We enjoyed our rafting trip so much that we came back a few days later to do it again!
- Day Trip to Yellowstone National Park. Maybe we’re a little nutty, but we explored Yellowstone National Park as a day trip from Big Sky. We stopped at as many places as we could, including Lower Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, Gibbon Falls, Norris Geyser Basin, and the Upper and Lower Falls lookout. We saw bison, elk, and a wolf. Except for a few spots, there’s no cell service in Yellowstone. We packed lunches and snacks in a cooler, which was good because the few places that were open had massive lines. Despite the risk of Covid, many people were not wearing masks in crowded areas, like Old Faithful. For our family, one day in Yellowstone was enough. We could have potentially filled another day, but I’m happy we didn’t stay overnight inside the park. We picked up a pizza from Milkie’s in Big Sky on our way back to the cabin. We all loved their pizza and they had a gluten-free option for me. Great day!
- Horseback Riding with Jake’s. I’m not a horse person. As a kid, I spent a week at a working ranch in Wyoming driving cattle and riding in the mountains. During that trip, my dad had an awful accident riding down steep terrain when the horse tripped and rolled end over end, breaking my dad’s ribs as the horse rolled over him. As an adult, I had a horse drop to the ground during a trail ride and roll onto its back, trapping my leg beneath it and injuring my ankle. I have even more bad horse stories that I won’t get into. Before booking, I called Jake’s to make sure this trail ride would be a good option for a nervous rider with kids who have never ridden. Jake was on the phone and barked, “well you’re riding on a precipice” (I had no idea what that was supposed to mean in relation to my question). Because of that negative and unhelpful interaction, I called other nearby places, but they didn’t have rides available on the date we needed. So, we ended up at Jake’s by default. We chose the 90-minute ride and luckily, everything turned out fine. The only time I felt nervous was crossing the river because the horse’s hooves were slipping on the rocks. Our female guide was friendly and great with the kids. The route took us across a small river and up a hill so we could take pictures and enjoy the view at the top. We rode in a group of about 10 people, and by chance, all of us were from Minnesota! Jake’s has an outhouse you can use and saddlebags they can throw over the horse to carry your personal items like a phone or water bottle. Overall, we had a fun experience riding with Jake’s, so don’t let a negative telephone interaction deter you from booking.
We had a great family trip to Big Sky in the summer (even during a Covid pandemic). We stayed 6 nights (so we had five full days) and that was a perfect length of time. Have you been to Big Sky in the summer? What are your favorite things to do?