Yellowstone National Park hosts more than 3 million visitors a year. As much of a people person as I am, visiting a national park should not be like going to Disneyland. Even though Disneyland hosts an average of 15 million visitors a year, 3 million people in Southwest Montana's prized treasure feels like 15 million. Therefore, I've researched the quietest days to visit Yellowstone National Park and if I'm lucky I won't see you there!
1) Before June 15 or after Labor Day. The great thing about these dates is Big Sky Resort is open June 8 and well after Labor Day, which gives me the chance to do fun activities here one day and go to Yellowstone the next.
2) Not July or August. However, when this is my only option for days to go to Yellowstone then it's best to go on a hike through some of the 2 million acres of backcountry wilderness because 95% of visitors are "windshield visitors" and never venture into the wilderness. Suggested hikes: Purple Mountain Trail is near the Madison Campground and is a moderate 6-mile hike with a fantastic view at the top. Mystic Falls Loop is a scenic overlook 2.5-mile loop hike near Biscuit Basin.
3) Sundays. Yellowstone National Parks Trip Advisor page recommends visiting on a Sunday as that is the biggest travel transition day. The traffic in and out of the park might still be a bit less than desirable, but the park itself remains quieter on Sundays.
The beauty of living so close to one of the greatest national parks is I can pick up and drive whenever I want. But I definitely keep these tidbits in mind to have a full experience of the natural wonders in Yellowstone National Park.
"We're nowhere that I'm familiar with, in country that I've never seen before, yet I don't feel a stranger in it."-Robert M. Pirsig on Montana in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Montana summers are sentimental for me, especially Big Sky summers. From the crisp smell of mornings in the mountains to the smell of a charcoal grill firing up in the evenings, Montana summers encapsulate the human spirit in two words: Beauty and Adventure. I cannot wait to see my first bear, visit Fairy and Upper Waterfalls at Yellowstone National Park, camp near the Gallatin River, and ride the Tram to the top of Lone Peak. This summer will be full of excitement and sentiment as I make new memories with old and new friends, and discover for myself something new about living in the mountains during the summer season. The following video not only shows all the activities I'm excited to experience this summer, but also spurs that summer sentiment so much of Montana reveals. Join me out here.
Video shot and edited by Chris Kamman
I have been a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort for eight seasons and guests always ask me "but what do you do in Big Sky during the summer?" My answer: "winter in Montana is wonderful but summers are something really special." Unlike summers in the east, summer sun in the west is warm on your skin and humidity is low. The average temperature in July is a comfortable 83 degrees making weather in Montana perfect for enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities. I certainly don't miss those hot, muggy summer days of the Midwest.
In the summer I love to hike nearby peaks that yield 360 degree vistas. Imagine snow-capped mountain peaks against a sapphire blue sky or high mountain lakes surrounded by a wide jagged cirque. Hiking is not for everyone. Many of my friends prefer exploring the area on horseback, and my husband enjoys mountain biking in the Porcupine Wilderness area or along the Gallatin River. The Gallatin River sits near Lone Mountain and is one of our favorite rivers in the country to fish. The movie "A River Runs Through It" was filmed on the Gallatin River near Castle Rock introducing Americans to fly-fishing and immediately increasing the popularity of our river. Skilled kayakers love the Gallatin's raging white water during spring run-off. It is fun to watch but I prefer a gentle raft trip down the Gallatin during the summer season when the water is much calmer.
A couple of times a week, I can be found golfing at Big Sky Resort. My favorite hole is nine because of the unique perspective of Lone Peak looming majestically in the distance. The view never ceases to impress me, and even though the views from every hole are spectacular this one in particular stops me in my golf-spiked tracks.
I also love summers in Big Sky as hibernation ends for human and animal alike. Maybe it is because the sun doesn't set until 10:30 at the peak of summer nights or because the sun provides us with our much missed Vitamin D.
Almost each Wednesday and Thursday of the summer I check out the Town Center Farmer's Market and Music in the Mountains, respectively. We take a bottle of wine to Music in the Mountains and enjoy the company of friends and free music as the sun sets over Lone Peak. I love coming to a place where I will see everyone I know.
It is a far better thing to spend summers in Montana than anywhere else. Where the biggest problem of Big Sky summers is there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. What a place to call home.
In 1999, Baz Luhrmann (yes of 2013's The Great Gatsby) wrote the bizarre and popular "The Sunscreen Song (Class of '99)." I recorded this song off the radio onto a tape so I could memorize the lyrics, later that same year I got the worst winter sunburn of my life. I was skiing at Big Sky Resort with my family, and my dad told me to put sunscreen on my face. Dads know best, but multiple factors led to this sunburn: Time of day, altitude, reflective surface, and a lack of sunscreen (because even though dads know best, daughters don't always listen). At the time I did not realize that the sun was most intense from 10am-4pm or that UV exposure increases about 4 percent for every 1,000 feet of vertical, according to WebMD. Thus, we mountain-living folks are like Icarus, sometimes just a little too close to the sun. It's too bad Luhrmann's "one tip for the future" didn't stick with me better on that day in 1999 when I got sunburned while skiing.
As summer approaches in Big Sky the snowy reflective surface fades, but the sun becomes more intense during this time of year and the days are longer. As a redhead the sun and I have a tumultuous relationship, making my freckles pop out without a moment's notice, and can burning my freckly skin as late as 6pm on a peak summer day. Last summer while stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Levinsky (another reflective surface) I neglected to wear any sunscreen at all. It was 4pm on one of the hottest days of the year, yet I thought it was late enough to be out on an adventure without sunscreen. The sun: 2; Me: 0. I highly recommend the paddleboarding, but just with sunscreen.
Protecting ones skin is as important as staying away from salty snacks or greasy foods, and it's a lot easier to do. I managed to stave off any serious sunburns this winter in Big Sky, but summer's just around the corner and the sun taunts me.
This time around I'll be wearing sunscreen (especially at 11,166 feet), and I'll take time of day, altitude, and my dad and Baz's advice into consideration.
After all "the long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists ... trust me on the sunscreen."
I'm spoiled, best to embrace it than deny it. I moved to Big Sky May 2013 and immediately secured a condo off the 18th tee box of Big Sky Resort's Golf Course. Not only do I have the Biggest Skiing in America in my backyard, 7 miles to be exact, but an amazing public golf course right off my deck. Oh, I've played my share of business trip golf scrambles and about 2 years ago, I decided it was time to play my own ball for 18 holes.
The Big Sky Resort Golf Course is an Arnold Palmer designed, 18 hole, 72 par, course winding along the banks of the West Fork of the scenic Gallatin River. Yes, the same Gallatin River the movie, A River Runs Through It was filmed starring Brad Pitt and directed by Robert Redford (swoon). The spectacular views of Lone Peak and the rest of the Madison Range surround this golf course. It's hard to imagine back in the early 1900s cattle grazed where I'm about to tee off at 6,300 feet above sea level. Honestly, I can't help but think my driving game has improved; the ball just flies farther at elevation.
The first tee is right outside the Pro Shop and Bunker Bar and Grill and by the time you've sunk your putt on the first green, the Mountain-Meadow style course becomes a wildlife refuge. Golf is a game of patience and here it is also patience with the animals. By the second hole we kindly wait for a flock of Canadian Geese to move along the river's edge. Fowl and water hazards have to be taken into consideration on this hole.
As we play on, I have to remind my companions to watch my drive, as I'm trying to keep my head down and they are gazing at Lone Peak in their own daydreams. The PGA Head Professional for the golf course, Mark Wehrman, told me I needed keep my head down during my previous week's Ladies Tuesday Night golf clinic (which are an affordable, fun way to improve your game and meet other women who enjoy the sport, after all, it is Man-tana).
The long Montana days allow me to golf into the 9 o'clock hour coming back around to the Bunker to sit on the deck, surrounded by mountains, the sun just starting to go down, and finish off a perfect day with the best burger in town and an ice cold beer (it's worth passing by my condo). Did I mention I'm spoiled?
For the full story on Big Sky Resort's Golf Course make sure to check out volume 7 of Live Big Magazine this summer.
Big Sky Resort's Arnold Palmer designed Golf Course opens May 23. Also, check the Events Calendar for information on Women's, Men's, and Saturday Golf Clinics as well as tournaments all summer long.
Springtime at Big Sky Resort's Golf Course.
Ladies Golf Clinic on Tuesdays at 10am and 5:30pm.
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