It’s incredibly easy to romanticize Montana life. After all, it does offer some of the most picturesque landscapes in the United States. And with nicknames like The Last Best Place, Big Sky Country, and The Treasure State, it’s also easy to understand why those who call it home have such an unmatched pride in it — the majority of the state is downright visually stunning.
Montana may be the fourth largest state in the U.S., but it’s also one of the most sparsely populated. Montana has around 1.1 million permanent residents, as opposed to the nearby smaller Washington State’s 7.7 million residents. People love and prioritize their space here.
They also adore meeting visitors, although they’re equally as happy to see the visitors return home after enjoying their vacations. It’s nothing personal — they just take pride in keeping things the way they are.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Augustus Franklin Crail set up a homestead in what is now Big Sky, which still stands today. For the next 70 years, the area was home to a small group of ranchers — a far cry from the upscale ski resort destination it is today. Still, in spite of its luxurious properties and posh town center, this little town is still big on Old West Charm.
Big Sky, in particular, seems to enchant Montana’s out-of-state visitors, and for good reason: it’s truly breathtaking. The abundant nature and swanky resort village might have you dreaming of packing up, leaving the hustle and bustle of your current life behind, and moving to a charming mountain village for a simpler existence (we would advise looking at average winter temperatures before seriously considering doing so). Sometimes, strolling through Big Sky Town Center feels just like being on a movie set.
And while an actual move to the Treasure State may not be in the cards now, planning a visit is a fantastic way to get acquainted. When you visit, we’re happy to fill you in on the best places to stay in Big Sky, Montana. Waterfall hikes, award-winning skiing, luxury hotels, farm-to-table cuisine, mountain views, and the freshest air imaginable await you here. There’s plenty to see and do every season. There’s truly no bad time to explore.
Overall, Big Sky truly embodies all there is to love about the Treasure State. It has a one-of-a-kind character you won’t find anywhere else in the region. And suppose you have plenty of time to explore. In that case, you’ll also be within driving distance of Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman, and a few great ghost towns, including Bannack, Montana’s first territorial capital that is now an allegedly haunted state park.
If you’re wondering about the best area to stay in Big Sky, just read on.
Show Table of Contents
- TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Big Sky, Montana
- Best Areas to Stay in Big Sky
- Where to Stay in Big Sky, Montana
- 1. The Meadow: The Best Area for First-Time Visitors and Tourists
- 2. The Mountain: The Best Area for Snow Sports and Romance
- 3. The Canyon: The Best Area for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Budget Travelers
- What’s The Best Way To Get To Big Sky?
- What are the most popular things to do in Big Sky, Montana?
- What Is There To Do In Big Sky With Kids?
- Is Big Sky an easy mountain for beginners?
TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Big Sky, Montana
- Best Luxury Hotel in Big Sky: Montage Big Sky
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Big Sky: Rainbow Ranch Lodge
- Best Budget Hotel in Big Sky: The Whitewater Inn
- Best Vacation Rental in Big Sky: This Amazing Mountain House on the Golf Course with Hot Tub
- Best Campsite in Big Sky: Red Cliff Campground
- Best Resort in Big Sky: Big Sky Resort
- Best Family-Friendly Hotel in Big Sky: The Wilson Hotel, Residence Inn by Marriott Big Sky
- Best Pet-Friendly Hotel in Big Sky: Huntley Lodge
Best Areas to Stay in Big Sky
- Best area for first-timers/tourists: The Meadow, near Big Sky Mountain Village
- Best area for budget travelers: The outskirts of town near The Canyon
- Best area for luxury travelers: The Mountain
- Best area for safety: The Mountain Village
- Best area for families: The Meadow
- Best area for outdoor adventures: The Canyon
- Best area for a romantic vacation: The Mountain Village
Where to Stay in Big Sky, Montana
Despite its massive national reputation for breathtaking scenery, being a great location for all sorts of winter sports, a home of great food, and abundant dining options, and a celebrity guest list featuring the likes of Bill Gates, Justin Timberlake and Tom Brady, the town of Big Sky itself is actually quite small. There are only about 3,000 year-round residents, as opposed to the nearby Bozeman‘s 55,000.
Since it’s only about an hour’s drive from the larger city of Bozeman, it’s considered an off-the-beaten-path destination. Still, there are some fun areas and choice neighborhoods to choose from that will help you make the most of your stay. Deciding on the right area for you will help you decide on the best hotels in Big Sky for you.
The three main areas of Big Sky are the Mountain (also called the Mountain Village), the Canyon, and the Meadow. The Mountain part of town is located near the ski areas and lifts, but it’s a great place to stay even during the warmer months.
The Canyon neighborhood is on the east side of Highway 191, offering more seclusion and easy access to numerous hiking trails and biking trails. The Meadow is considered the city center near some of the best restaurants, shopping, and other amenities – and there are Big Sky hotels in each section of the resort town.
See Related: Best Lakes in Montana to Visit
1. The Meadow: The Best Area for First-Time Visitors and Tourists
The Meadow, which is also known as Big Sky Meadow Village, is the heart and soul of Big Sky, a vibrant community full of boutiques, quality restaurants, craft cocktail bars, farmers markets, and summertime concerts. The Big Sky Town Center is geared toward visitors but is also a favorite local hangout.
This is one of the best areas to stay in Big Sky Resort. It’s also close to The Mountain, where you’ll find Big Sky Resort and all it has to offer.
The historic Crail Ranch is a homestead museum that offers a glimpse into Big Sky’s history. Opt for a guided tour (from June – September) or a self-guided tour, then go for a hike (weather permitting) on the Crail Ranch Trail, which connects to the Big Sky trail system.
If you’re looking for some modest exercise, the Big Sky Golf Course is an 18-hole course that stays packed with golfers all summer. The Arnold Palmer-designed award-winning golf course is well-known for its magnificent views. Alternatively, The Big Sky Town Center Ice Rink is perfect for winter ice-skating fun.
Then there’s Kircher Discovery Park, which is easily accessed via the Kircher Park Trail. With access to fishing, picnicking, and a massive tree fort play structure, this is the ideal spot for families to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Center Stage at Big Sky Town Center is where you can enjoy free live music on Thursdays from June – August. Located at the corner of Ousel Falls Rd and Aspen Leaf Drive, this park is a gorgeous summer gathering spot.
At this point, you’ll probably need to refuel. Tips Up is a cool bar venue with a vintage vibe, arcade games, a casino, and the best fried chicken sandwich in Montana.
Tips Up also hosts a lot of local musicians, offering free liver performances to their guests. The Standard: Cocktails and Desserts (both of which seem mandatory for a vacation), is a perfect date night spot, if you’re looking for something more intimate.
And if you’re really famished, Horn and Cantle, a lodge-style steakhouse is worth making the 15-minute drive from Big Sky Resort to try. Horn and Cantle is located at the luxurious Lone Mountain Ranch.
Speaking of the Lone Mountain Ranch, if you happen to be visiting this area in the winter, you’ll definitely want to make a reservation for their sleigh ride dinner. Guests load up in a horse-drawn sleigh and take a peaceful ride to an oil lantern-lit cabin for a tasty prime rib dinner (and dessert) followed by cowboy singers and storytellers entertaining them around the fire. The sleigh ride dinners are popular with locals and out-of-state tourists alike and are available from December through March.
First-time visitors tend to love this area because of its amenities. The most popular attractions in or near The Meadow are:
- Crail Ranch
- Big Sky Golf Course
- Center Stage
- The Big Sky Town Center Ice Rink
- Tips Up
- The Standard: Cocktails and Desserts
- Kircher Discovery Park
- Horn and Cantle
- Lone Mountain Ranch
When it comes to hotels and vacation rentals in The Meadow, you really can’t go wrong in terms of quality and variety. If it does have one flaw, is that terms like “budget” don’t tend to refer to thrifty accommodations. Spendy though it may be, this area is popular for first-time visitors for a reason. However, we do have a few fantastic suggestions:
- Best Budget Vacation Rental at The Meadow: The Silver Bow on the Golf Course
- Best Luxury Vacation Rental at The Meadow: This Amazing Mountain House on the Golf Course with Hot Tub
- Best Pet-Friendly Hotel at The Meadow: Huntley Lodge
See Related: Best Hot Springs in Montana
2. The Mountain: The Best Area for Snow Sports and Romance
Mountain Village is where you’ll find Big Sky Resort, which has become one of the most popular skiing and snowboarding destinations in the West. Each year, over 200 acres of snow blankets the mountains 5,850 skiable acres and entices adventurers from all over the country – and Big Sky is consistently named one of the best ski resorts in the country.
Big Sky Resort opened in March 1974. Tragically, just three days before its dedication, founder Chet Huntley passed away from lung cancer. Huntley was a former television newscaster who helped turn his dream of the resort into a reality.
Since then, the resort has expanded greatly and added some unique and modern features, like state-of-the-art ski lifts. Plans are in the works for making it an even better place to ski (and stay) over the next decade.
A feat of engineering, the Lone Peak Tram was built in 1995. The extreme terrain challenged the entire ski industry’s idea of what was considered resort skiing. The Shedhorn double was also installed, adding a huge expanse of terrain as the first chairlift on the south side of Lone Mountain.
Skiing and snowboarding are obviously the top attraction here, and the resort offers plenty. Here, you can take group lessons or private lessons, buy skiing lessons for your kids, or go on a special guided experience. You can even go Nordic skiing (or cross-country skiing) along the resort’s groomed trails.
But there’s more to this excellent location than just skiing. If you’re looking for something truly unique, try the Montana Dinner Yurtexperience! From the time you’re whisked away to the cozy candlelit dinner yurt on a snowcat to the time you return, you’ll be treated to a mouthwatering multi-course meal, socializing, and stargazing. As of 2021, summer yurt dinners are also available!
If you enjoy a damned good walk, the Beehive Basin Trail is a gorgeous 7-mile round-trip hike that offers some of the most stunning views of Lone Peak, and it’s a fantastic way to explore the area on foot (or by snowshoe, depending on the weather). The trail is moderately challenging, but even most beginning hikers find stretches easy and approachable.
Lastly, Lake Levinsky is a perfect spot for summer family gatherings and fishing, canoeing, and paddle boarding. Plus, it’s simply beautiful!
Top attractions at Mountain Village include:
- Downhill skiing for days!
- Cross-country Skiing
- Montana Dinner Yurt
- Beehive Basin Trail
- Lake Levinsky
- Ousel & Spur Pizza Co.
Considering a stay in Mountain Village? The lodging is remarkable here — but you should know that cheap hotels are critically endangered, so be prepared to splurge on your accommodations. If staying centrally located is a top priority and you have the cash to splash, you’re in luck! Some of the best hotels located in the Big Sky area right here.
- Best Budget Vacation Rental at the Mountain Village: This Cozy Condo with access to a Pool and Hot Tub
- Best Mid-Range Hotel at the Mountain Village: The Lodge at Big Sky
- Best Luxury Hotel at the Mountain Village: Montage Big Sky
- Best Family-Friendly Hotel at the Mountain Village: The Wilson Hotel, Residence Inn by Marriott Big Sky
- Best Resort at the Moutain Village: Big Sky Resort
See Related: Best Breweries in Montana
3. The Canyon: The Best Area for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Budget Travelers
Looking to truly get away from it all? This laid-back area is where you’ll find peace, as well as some more budget-friendly places to stay. If your main goal is to connect with nature, this area is for you.
The Canyon is where you’ll find a lot of locals on vacation, as well as those who would rather go fishing or mountain biking than strike up a conversation with a stranger at a bar. Speaking of fishing, Montana is known for its fly fishing, and this area is perfect for it.
Montana is one of those states that is best explored from the saddle. Jake’s Horses is a privately owned stable outfitter offering private horseback riding tours. You can choose from half-day, full-day, or even overnight trips.
If you’re into hiking or snowshoeing, you’ll find all kinds of tours and trails in the area, like the Deer Lake Trail. Just make sure to read the trail descriptions before you go and stay prepared because there are some challenging hikes here.
And let’s not forget, that you’re just about an hour from Yellowstone National Park, which I don’t have to remind you, is one of the most captivating national parks in the country. It’s well worth a day trip from Big Sky or a private Yellowstone tour if you feel like a real treat.
This also means you’re just about an hour from Bozeman, which is a real hidden gem if you haven’t been. Here you can learn more about Montana at the Museum of the Rockies, get technical at the American Computer & Robotics Museum, or get EVEN MORE skiing done at the vast Bridger Bowl Ski Arena.
One of the most interesting landmarks here is Soldiers Chapel. One of the oldest buildings in Bug Sky, the chapel is typically closed for the winter season, but even looking at the exterior is pretty impressive considering its unique history. This non-denominational Christian church was dedicated by the Nelson Story family in 1955 in tribute to a fallen family member of the 163rd Infantry Regiment of the Montana National Guard.
Hungry yet? Stop by Riverhouse BBQ! This locally famous spot has some of the best BBQ in Montana, and somehow the views are even better. Don’t miss out on a meal (or two) here. The top attractions in the Canyon area include:
- Horseback riding
- Whitewater rafting and ziplining the Gallatin River
- Deer Lake Trail for hiking, biking or snowshoeing
- Riverhouse BBQ
- Soldiers Chapel
- The restaurant at the Corral Bar, Steakhouse, and Motel
- Day trips to Yellowstone National Park
The Canyon area is home to some sensational views, so you might think that accommodations are going to be on the spendy side. Luckily, being divorced just enough from the resort, you’ll find that prices tend to be a little more agreeable here – a little.
- Best Vacation Rental in the Canyon area: This Romantic Gallatin River Getaway Guest House
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in the Canyon area: The Whitewater Inn
- Best Luxury Hotel in the Canyon area: Rainbow Ranch Lodge
- Best Campsite in the Canyon area: Red Cliff Campground
What’s The Best Way To Get To Big Sky?
Big Sky is just over an hour from the town of Bozeman, so the easiest way to arrive from out-of-state is to fly into the Bozeman airport. If there aren’t any convenient flights into Bozeman Airport, visitors can also fly into Jackson Hole (it’s about four hours away). If you’re flying into JAC, you can split up the drive by spending time in West Yellowstone, Montana, which is a busy hub town with lots of accommodations, restaurants, and things to do that’s just over an hour from Big Sky.
Be aware that getting from downtown Bozeman to your hotel in Big Sky will require some planning. An airport shuttle is the easiest way to do it, as the mountains can be tough to navigate in the winter if you’re in a rental car.
What are the most popular things to do in Big Sky, Montana?
Big Sky is definitely a nature lover’s paradise. So you’ll be in heaven if you like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or mountain biking. The Ousel Falls Trail and Beehive Basin are the most popular and scenic hikes in the area.
Other popular attractions are the historic Crail Ranch, the Soldiers Chapel, and the Big Sky Golf Course. The Meadow neighborhood is definitely where you’ll want to stay if you plan to do some shopping in Big Sky. You’ll find everything from locally owned boutiques and gift shops to specialty shops selling you all the ski equipment you’ll need.
Big Sky is also home to plenty of luxurious spas. Solace Spa at the Huntley Lodge, Sanctuary (Big Sky’s only organic day spa), the spa at Montage, and the Solace Spa and Recovery Lounge at Big Sky Resort all take fantastic care of their guests. If you prefer your vacations to include both outdoor recreation and posh pampering, you’ll love your options here.
What Is There To Do In Big Sky With Kids?
The good news is, the entire town of Big Sky is very family-friendly. The area is full of activities for people of all ages to enjoy, from skiing with kids to sleigh rides and zip lines. The Meadow is a good area for families since there are so many nearby amenities, but families tend to be happy anywhere they land.
Is Big Sky an easy mountain for beginners?
Big Sky Resort offers an impossibly vast array of terrain, so there are certainly ski trails for every ability. Advanced skiers will love the diamonds from the summit, and beginners will find that a lesson from the resort’s mountain sports school will have them cruising groomers in no time.
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