Big Sky bike park in Big Sky, Montana is the home to a plethora of steep, rocky, rooty trails. Compared to other bike parks, Big Sky has more natural singletrack than most.
There are still a couple of machine-built jump lines and flow trails, but this place is really famous for its steep, technical terrain. If that’s your jam, you need to plan a visit.
There are three bike-friendly lifts at the resort. The shortest lift, Explorer, takes riders up to beginner-friendly trails.
The main lift, Swift Current, takes riders to the majority of the downhill-specific trails on the mountain. There are a couple of blue rated trails accessible from this lift, including one of the resort favorites, Gambler.
Thunder Wolf lift takes you to the top of Andesite Mountain, and offers similar terrain to the Swift Current lift.
Despite having some of the best raw, technical terrain in the US, Big Sky also has some very well-built jump trails. Gambler and Joker Lips are the two most popular machine-built jump trails.
Gambler is rated as a blue, and is a great way to warm up for the day. These machine-built trails are very high speed, and since Big Sky is quite rocky, the flow trails can be rough on the hands and forearms. These trails have several spots to pull off the trail and shake out your hands, so be sure to take advantage of those spots.
Joker Lips is a black diamond jump line off the Thunder lift. This trail was built about four years ago and is now a favorite at the park. This trail is built very well – there are nice big berms to help you hold enough speed to clear the tabletop jumps sprinkled throughout the trail. These tabletop jumps are bigger than those on Gambler, but not unmanageable. The jumps range from about 6-8 feet wide.
Ninja Marmot is the big jump line at Big Sky. This is a shorter trail, it is an alternate way to finish Gambler. There is a log drop into the trail that shows riders what to expect the rest of the way down. There are some big jumps, some of which are gaps. Unless you are very comfortable in the air, I would suggest sticking to Gambler and Joker Lips.
Natural terrain can be flowy, and some of the trails at Big Sky do fall under this category. The blue trails off of the Swift Current lift are great “intro to tech” trails, and snake down through the high alpine trees below Lone Peak.
These are quite a bit less steep than the black diamond and double black diamond trails, and wind you through some breathtaking terrain. It is a little easier to stop and appreciate the views on these trails than it is on the steeper tech trails.
Otter Slide starts about halfway down the mountain and is one of the funnest trails I have ever ridden. It is a blue trail and has a mix of natural features and machine-built berms and jumps. This is a great last run, since it ends a little farther from the base area than the others. If you are on a full-blown downhill bike, you might need to do a bit of pushing – there are a couple of uphill sections on the traverse over to the trail, and again on the way back to the parking lot.
Snake Charmer, off the Thunder lift, is another effortlessly smooth, and flowy trail. As the name alludes to, Snake Charmer winds through the trees at the perfect grade to let go of the breaks and float through the woods.
Tech & Steep
While I love being in the air, that’s not why I come to Big Sky. I have been to this park several times, and will continue to go back for the incredible technical trails the park has to offer.
Soul Hole is probably the easiest of the black diamond tech trails on the mountain. While not quite as steep as the rest of the technical trails, there are still plenty of tough features to look out for. This trail is very rooty and has a couple of tight sections that can grab your handlebars if you’re not careful.
Buffalo Jump might be my favorite trail at Big Sky. Parts of the trail are marked double black – these sections are pretty steep. There are some incredible views off this trail, but be sure to stop before taking a peek. This steep, rooty trail is going to require your undivided attention.
Nameless is pretty similar in terms of difficulty. Both trails are steep and rooty with some optional root and log drops. There are ride arounds, so if you’d rather keep your tires in the dirt, you can still enjoy these trails.
There are many short off-shoot trails that can be linked together so you never have to ride the same trail twice. Elbow and Lobo are a couple of rowdy double blacks. There are some optional wood features at the top, that funnel into a big field of loose rock and shale.
This is a fun section, there are many different line options, which makes it fun to hit a couple of times. Once you get back into the woods, the trail gets tight, steep and rooty once again. There are a few really tricky sections, not sure I have ever made it through Elbow top to bottom without hitting my own at least once.
Races at Big Sky
This park is tough on bodies and bikes, making it a challenging place to race.
Post Ride Hangouts
Once Big Sky has thoroughly beat you up for the day, there are a couple of nearby breweries that are worth a stop. Lone Peak Brewing and Beehive Brewing are just off the road up to Big Sky, making them the perfect post-ride spot to rehydrate.
Their beer menus do change, but if you get the chance to try the peach sour at Beehive Brewing, you will not be disappointed!
Other Resources For Visiting Big Sky Bike Park
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Kira Maicke has been an avid cyclist since 2010. She started racing road bikes in college for the University of Georgia and switched over to mountain biking after graduating and moving out west. When she’s not on one of her bikes, she’s out playing in the mountains with her husky, Semenuk.