Hiking The Ousel Falls Trail in Big Sky Resort
Location: Big Sky Town Center
Trailhead: 2 miles South of Big Sky Town Center on Ousel Falls Road
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Time: 45 minutes
Elevation Range: 6435 – 6590 feet
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
If there is one trail you should hike in Big Sky, it’s Ousel Falls Trail. It’s a community classic that is an easily accessible, multi-use trail that is well maintained. Hiking, biking, running, walking – whatever you choose to do there, you’ll enjoy it.
Ousel Falls Trail is located approximately 2 miles south of Town Center off of Ousel Falls Road. You’ll notice it on your left right before you get to the Yellowstone Club / Spanish Peak pillars. The parking lot is always full of people who want to get out and enjoy a quick and easy stroll outdoors. Kids, dogs, adults, and senior citizens will enjoy Ousel Falls Trail.
Today, I decided to head to the Ousel Falls Trail when I realized that my house was surrounded by moose. They were in the front yard, then at the neighbors, then across the street. It seem the only walk I was going on today was one I had to drive to. Ousel Falls here we come.
Ousel Falls Trail officially opened on to the public on Aug 11, 2003. There is a great information sign supplied by the Big Sky Community Corporation with maps of many hikes in the area. Near the sign is where the Ousel Falls Road Trail meets the Ousel Falls Trail. There are even bathrooms. From the parking lot, a wide, well maintained, and obviously marked trail starts. Be sure to grab an interpretive guide to the trail created by Ophir School students and some Mutt Mitts (dog poop bags) if you’re bringing the dog.
As you head downhill toward the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, you’ll note the active erosion control work in place to support a heavily traveled trail on unstable land. Please stay on the trails! Throughout the trail, there are benches, picnic tables, and well-trodden areas to explore the river and surroundings. As you approach the river, a large bridge crosses the river and heads up the other side.
The trail meanders along on the far side of the river. It will soon split into two trails: Ousel Falls and Yellow Mule. If you’re on a horse, you have to take the Yellow Mule route. The trail continues, passing Cascade Falls, crossing another bridge, and wandering along through the woods. The mellow pitch of the trail makes for quick moving. Be courteous of others as people move at different paces.
Before you know it you are at Ousel Falls. It’s only .75 miles from the parking lot. Be sure to explore. There is an overlook with great views, but you can also head down to the base of the falls or the top, enjoy a picnic, or follow another trail to a South Fork Overlook.
Ousel Falls is impressive. It’s a great place to take a dip on hot summer day or to enjoy the spray of icy Montana river water. Bring a camera and a snack. I wonder what the ice climbing would be like there…
Overall, the Ousel Falls Trail is a pleasant walk or bike in the woods. It covers .75 miles miles one way and a total vertical of 500 feet. It can easily be completed in 45 minutes if you start from the parking lot. You can also leave from Town Center and follow the Ousel Falls Road Trail, which adds another 2 miles each way.
Here are some additional photos from hiking the Ousel Falls Trail:
Learn more about the Ousel Falls in Explore Big Sky.