Hike to Ousel Falls: Navigation and Safety Guide

Ousel Falls is a majestic 100-foot waterfall near Big Sky that’s easily accessible to hikers and adventurers. It got its name from the American Dipper bird, also known as the water ouzel, that bobs along the river.

You can reach the falls via a 1.6-mile round-trip hike that is well-kept and offers great views for hikers of all levels. Families love it because it’s not too difficult to navigate.

We’ll share more about the trails around Ousel Falls, the park’s amenities, and how to stay safe while hiking, including tips on gear and wildlife encounters. Ready to discover the enchanting Ousel Falls and its surrounding beauty? Let’s explore together.

6 Key Takeaways on Ousel Falls

  1. Ousel Falls is a 100-foot waterfall on the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, a 1.6-mile round-trip hike.
  2. Ousel Falls is named after the American Dipper bird, also known as the water ouzel, and is easily accessible to hikers of all levels and families.
  3. Managed by the Big Sky Community Organization, Ousel Falls Park remains pristine and offers a peaceful natural environment with picnic spots.
  4. Visiting Ousel Falls in early summer treats you to a colorful trail of blooming wildflowers and a powerful display of the spring runoff at the waterfall.
  5. The hike to the Ousel Falls takes you through a forested area with smaller cascades and cliffs, perfect for nature lovers to explore Montana’s beauty.
  6. Hikers to Ousel Falls should gear-up appropriately with sturdy shoes and bear spray since bears and other wild animals can be encountered in the area.

About Ousel Falls

Location CoordinatesHeightElevationNearby AttractionsLocation
45.2390952°N -111.3416239°W100-feet (30.48 meters)6,614 feet (2,016 meters)Gallatin National ForestGallatin River near Big Sky, Montana

Ousel Falls in Montana is a beautiful 100-foot waterfall on the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River. It’s named after the American Dipper, also known as the water ouzel.

Getting to Ousel Falls is an adventure on its own. A 1.6-mile (2.5 km) round-trip hike leads you to this mesmerizing sight, making it a favorite spot for many. The ease of access means families and hikers of all levels can enjoy the journey.

The path to the falls is nice and has lots of spots to see the waterfall. As you walk, you’ll find places with picnic tables, easy-to-follow trails, and a calm natural area. The Big Sky Community Organization takes care of Ousel Falls Park, keeping it clean and open for everyone.

In early summer, the trail bursts with colors from blooming wildflowers, and the waterfall roars louder from the spring runoff. It’s an impressive sight you’ll remember.

The hike goes through a forest with smaller waterfalls and cliffs, adding to the experience. It’s a great way to explore Montana’s beauty for nature lovers, with something special at every turn.

Hiking Trails to Ousel Falls

A peaceful dirt trail to Ousel Falls winds through a green forest

Ousel Falls in Montana is a paradise for hikers. The trails around the falls offer a mix of challenges and stunning views.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you’ll find a path that’s just right for you. Let’s explore the hiking trails of Ousel Falls and discover the beauty they hold.

1. Ousel Falls Trail

A vibrant, long-exposure photograph captures Ousel waterfall cascading over multi-tiered rock formations, surrounded by lush foliage.
source: flickr.com

The Ousel Falls Trail is a gem for hikers. It’s the most popular hike to the falls, and for good reason. This marked trail spans about 1.6 miles (2.5 km), making it a moderate hike that’s just right for hikers of all levels.

Along the way, you’re treated to breathtaking views of the Gallatin River’s South and West Forks. The trail’s beauty isn’t the only thing that stands out. It’s well-graded and wide, with dirt and gravel paths that are easy on the feet.

You’ll find multiple spots to stop and admire the falls, each offering a unique perspective. The natural setting is incredibly peaceful, adding to the overall experience.

2. Yellow Mule Trail

The Yellow Mule Trail leads to Ousel Waterfall, with wooden steps guiding the way through lush green trees.

The Yellow Mule Trail is a stunning hike that starts at 2085 Ousel Falls Road in Big Sky, Montana. It’s part of the adventure-rich First Yellow Mule Trail. This path isn’t your average walk in the park. It’s a rugged trek through nature, where you might spot some local wildlife.

You can get to the trail from the heart of Big Sky Meadow Village or the Ousel Falls Trailhead. It links up with other trails, letting you dive deep into the gorgeous landscapes of Big Sky and the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Hiking the Yellow Mule Trail is a true wilderness experience. It’s a chance to explore nature at its most raw and beautiful, right from the heart of Montana.

3. Lone Peak Trail

Lone Peak Trail near Ousel Falls shows a snowy mountain with pointed peaks

The Lone Peak Trail is a gem near Ousel Falls, Montana. It’s a paved path that follows the Lone Mountain Trail (Hwy 64) from Town Center to Big Sky Conoco. This trail is a favorite spot for bikers and runners. It’s not too hard, with a 6-mile round trip.

What’s great is you can use this trail all year. In winter, a section gets plowed from Town Center to Meadow Village. So, you can still enjoy hiking or biking even when it’s cold.

There’s something special about the way this trail connects Big Sky’s Meadow Village to Gallatin Canyon. The views are stunning, making every step or pedal worth it. It’s a lovely outdoor experience for anyone who wants to explore the area.

One thing to note is that there’s no specific parking lot or trailhead for the Lone Peak Trail. You’ll need to park in the nearby neighborhoods or at Big Sky Town Center and start your adventure from there.

Safety Precautions When Hiking in Ousel Falls

A red and black backpack sits on a path near Ousel Falls, against the backdrop of a lush green mountain landscape

Hiking at Ousel Falls in Montana is a magical adventure. Yet, it’s essential to keep safety in mind to fully enjoy the experience.

Here’s how to ensure a safe journey:

  • Gear Up Right – The trail can throw different conditions at you, from mud to snow. Make sure you’re ready with the right gear. Wear sturdy shoes with traction devices like Yaktrax for grip on slippery spots.
  • Be Aware of Wildlife – Nature is abundant here, so stay alert. Follow wildlife safety tips and carry bear spray. While bear encounters are rare, it’s best to be prepared.

Remember, a safe hike sets the stage for a wonderful outdoor excursion. Enjoy the beauty and serenity of Ousel Falls, keeping these precautions close at hand.

Directions to Ousel Falls

Getting to Ousel Falls is an adventure in itself. Here are the simple steps to find this hidden gem in Big Sky, Montana.

From Four Corners:

  1. Head south on Hwy. 191 towards Big Sky.
  2. Drive for about 30 miles (48.2 km).
  3. Turn right onto Big Sky Spur Rd.
  4. Continue for 3 miles (4.8 km).
  5. Turn left onto Ousel Falls Rd.
  6. Look for the Ousel Falls Park sign on your left and turn left to reach the trailhead.

From West Yellowstone:

  1. Head north on US-191 through the Gallatin River canyon.
  2. Drive about 40 miles (64.3 km).
  3. Turn left onto MT-64. This road will lead you straight to Ousel Falls.

From Bozeman:

  1. Head south on US-191.
  2. Pass through Belgrade, which is near the airport.
  3. Drive about 40 miles (64.3 km)..
  4. Turn right onto MT-64, and you’re on your way to Ousel Falls.

These directions take you through some of Montana’s most beautiful landscapes. You can see the river canyon from West Yellowstone. Or, you can take a quick trip from Bozeman. Each route has its own scenic views.

Ousel Falls Final Thoughts

A close-up of Ousel Waterfall captures the rushing waters tumbling over rocks.
source: flickr.com

Ousel Falls displays Montana’s natural beauty, offering a quiet outdoor escape. The falls are the focal point of the adventure, with water cascading over rocks. There are varied experiences for everyone around the falls, and the trails provide a range of outdoor activities.

For hikers, the Ousel Falls Trail is a must. It’s known for its stunning views and peaceful surroundings. The hike is great for all levels.

If you’re up for a more challenging adventure, the Yellow Mules Trailhead is your gateway. It leads to rugged terrains and exciting paths. And for bikers and runners, the paved Lone Peak Trail is perfect. It gives you a moderate challenge with beautiful scenery.

Safety is key when exploring these trails. Be ready for the unexpected, like changes in the path or meeting wildlife. Bringing the right gear, including traction devices and bear spray, ensures a safe trip.

The best part? Ousel Falls is easily reached from nearby towns like Four Corners, West Yellowstone, and Bozeman. It’s a welcoming retreat for all who seek the beauty and peace of Montana’s outdoors.

Ousel Falls FAQs

1. How Long Is the Hike to Ousel Falls?

The hike to Ousel Falls is approximately a 1.6-mile hike, making it a relatively short and enjoyable trek suitable for hikers of various skill levels.

2. Are There Amenities Available Along the Trail?

Yes, amenities such as picnic tables, well-maintained paths, and restroom facilities are available along the Ousel Falls Park, enhancing visitors’ overall experience.

3. Are There Guided Tours Available for Ousel Falls?

While there are no official guided tours for Ousel Falls, visitors can explore the trails independently. However, local tour companies or outdoor enthusiasts may offer guided hikes or informational sessions about the area upon request.

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Written by:

Ashley Smith
Hello there! I'm Ashley Smith, born on a chilly winter's day, Montana has been my playground since childhood. The first snowfall of the year always brings back memories of building snowmen and winter hikes. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was my way of sharing the magic of Montana's seasons with the world. While Chris dives deep into the landscapes, I'm obsessed with Montana's rich culture, from the local festivals to the tales passed down generations.

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