The mammoth state known as Big Sky Country offers incredible scenery, untamed wilderness, and an open expanse of untapped land.
Montana’s size is often underestimated, but the state is the fourth-largest in the country and is mostly an untapped land full of wilderness, open space, mountains, and adventures. In my opinion, it’s like a mini version of Alaska as it contains an incredible amount of nature, some glaciers, and resembles a place for some rugged exploration.
Located in the remote outback, Big Sky is a small resort town situated in Southern Montana, about an hour north of Yellowstone National Park. The drive to Big Sky was through thick, straight lines of trees in a never-ending forest with winding and steep roads. Who knows what else could have lurked in the deep woods. Bears? Wolves? I sure didn’t want to find out.
Big Sky itself is a mountain peak, which I was able to see fully bare when driving into the resort on a curvy road deeper into the wilderness. Rain was a huge factor on the day I visited, as the downpour clouded the trees and valleys and resulted in an ominous scene, as if I was driving into a cabin in the woods in a horror movie. It was August, so Big Sky wasn’t covered with sheets of snow. The peak looked perfectly sharp in the distance, pointing up towards the clouds.
A gondola system was in the back of the resort where a cable line stretched up into the distance before eventually ending at the peak of the mountain. As it was the offseason from skiing and winter recreational activities, my visit to Big Sky was far from adrenaline-pumping activities. A quick walk around coupled with some croissants, wrapped up my experience in Big Sky.
The next stop that day was the bigger town of Bozeman. The drive required more remote wilderness, with curves at every corner and a narrow road through the mysterious jungle. A small river curved its way alongside the road, with water moving ferociously downstream, like it was in a hurry to reach somewhere. Civilization was somewhat apparent, to my shock, as there were some lonely houses and campgrounds set up at various points alongside the road, though no other trace of human commercialization was in sight.
Alas, after an hour, Bozeman appeared. The town itself was reminiscent of any U.S. college town (this one is home to Montana State,) with several popular chains, private shops, a main street…etc. Due to the pesky rain that had been following me since the previous day in Idaho, not many activities were possible outdoors.
Luckily, a brief stop in the pouring provided an opportunity to check out Peets Hill, a place delivering great views of the valley surrounding Bozeman. It was a rather steep, yet brief walk up the first portion where I was afforded a panorama that showcased: the town of Bozeman, portions of Montana State, a yellow grassland in the distance, and mountains as the last feature. The true Montana was right in front of my eyes – a stunning view for such a low amount of energy expended.
The adventurous side in me wanted more, so I decided to sprint further up the trail until I saw the lush green valley basting mountains and forests on the other side – to the east of Bozeman. Just stretched into the distance, profoundly green; processed by me in a tranquil moment blanketed by nature. Still catching my breath, I realized Montana was nicknamed the Treasure State and Big Sky Country for a reason. The views in this open land were some striking valleys and mountains, or treasures, if you will.
While I visited Yellowstone National Park during this overall trip which featured stops in Idaho and Montana, I stayed over in the town of West Yellowstone in Montana for four nights. The town itself was miniature, maybe a mile wide and 0.5 miles long yet packed to the brim with tourists, hotels, restaurants, saloons (it’s the Wild West, after all,) and souvenir shops.
By 9 a.m. each morning, endless traffic rush into Yellowstone. By 5 p.m., the town bustles with tourists catching up on rest after a long day’s worth of adventure. Parents are pushing their strollers, little kids are licking on ice cream, people in their 20’s and 30’s are standing outside of a restaurant with drinks in hand; there was something for everyone in West Yellowstone.
As evening approaches, the signs come to life and the main street – the north to south Canyon Street – is filled to capacity with tourists taking in the “nightlife” of West Yellowstone. Lights are flashing, people are chatting at every corner, business is booming. Seemingly every hotel is flashing a “No Vacancy” sign, which means if you didn’t book something, you were probably going to be camping somewhere in the wilderness. Places like City Creamery, Pete’s Rocky Mountain Pizza, Red Lotus, and Bullwinkles Saloon are hitting their peak numbers of customers.
Most nights, I went on peaceful walks to the west of Canyon Street which transformed into a ghost town as there were very few people walking on those streets, just those who lived in the hotels nearby. It was mostly pitch black. At times, lights from Canyon Street flashed in the slight distance. It was a tale of two cities in a town that wasn’t even a mile big.
Nevertheless, this town was the closest thing to urbanization near the remote and mostly untapped Yellowstone area. In the near distance on all four sides of town, mountains and forests loomed and what lay inside remained unknown to possibly every human. It may be another Montana adventure waiting for me in the future.